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Show Review: CEDIA EXPO 2007

Evan Powell, September 11, 2007

New Projectors for the Fall
(in alphabetical order)

Epson Powerlite Cinema Pro 1080 UB
Epson Powerlite Cinema Home 1080 UB

Rated at up to 50,000:1 contrast including the action of the dynamic iris, the 1080 UB projector is without a doubt the finest video projector yet developed by Epson. In addition to high potential contrast, it has a high 1600 ANSI lumen brightness rating as well. The Home and Pro versions are the same projector, but packaged differently, with different warranties and accessories, to be sold through different channels. These models are scheduled for shipment in December, so pricing is not yet announced. However, the Pro version will be under $5,000, and the Home version will be quite a bit less than the Pro model.

You'd think that with a contrast rating of 50,000:1, the most striking aspect of the demo would be spectacular contrast. Not so, believe it or not. Contrast and black levels were indeed solid and impressive, but it was the magnificent natural color that was truly captivating. Of course, there is no way to quantify natural color quality on a spec sheet, so it will go unnoticed by those shopping via spec sheets. But the fact is that having seen the demo, if I were to buy an Epson 1080 UB for my own theater, I'd buy it more for its exceptional color than its ample contrast.

Epson MovieMate 72
Epson MovieMate 50

Epson has also introduced two new projectors with integrated DVD plays and sound systems. The MovieMate 72 is the first 720p resolution projector that comes in this sort of package. The projector itself sits on top of the DVD player, and is designed to swivel 180 degrees, so you can face the connection panel toward the wall while facing the DVD drawer outward--an ideal configuration for rear shelf placement. Or you can arrange the connection panel and the DVD drawer on the same side of the unit which is better for coffee table placement. The price is $1199.

A less expensive alternative is the MovieMate 50, which is a lower resolution model, 854x480 WVGA. This is a great economy model, with a built in handle that makes it easily portable. For just $799 you get the projector, DVD player, and speakers all packaged into a single box.

Epson Ensemble HD-1080
Epson Ensemble HD-720

Epson is doing something unique in the world of home theater--the company is packaging a complete home theater system that includes everything you need, right down to a hand drill. There are two Ensemble packages, one that includes the Epson Cinema 1080, and one that includes the Epson Cinema 400, which is a 720p resolution model. In addition to the projectors, the package includes a motorized screen that can be wall or ceiling mounted and retracted when not in use. It also includes a 5.1 channel surround sound system that has been integrated by Atlantic Technologies, and all of the nuts, bolts, mounts, power cables, HDMI cables, and audio cables you need to put it all together. If you don't want to go into the walls to run cables, you can string them along ceilings and down corners of walls, and hide them with conduits that can be painted to match your decor. The conduits are included also. Epson's objective was to think of everything you could possible need ahead of time, and make it available in one total solution.

The Ensembles will begin shipping in December. The HD-1080 is priced at $6,999, and the HD720 is $4,999.

InFocus Play Big IN82

The IN82 is the first 1080p product from InFocus. Featuring a single DLP DarkChip3, it delivers up to 1500 ANSI lumens, and can be set to a variety of lumen outputs based upon the user-selectable manual iris. It produces a remarkably engaging picture in high ambient light with the iris wide open. However, in a darkened room, the iris can be closed to reduce lumen output and significantly increase contrast. Contrast ratings on this unit are 4,000:1 with the iris open, and 12,000:1 with the iris at its smallest aperture. The IN82 will begin shipping this fall at a price of $5,499.

JVC DLA-RS2 (a.k.a., HD100)

The second generation of the popular 1080p resolution DLA-RS1, the RS2 is basically an RS1 with contrast improved from 15,000:1 to 30,000:1. Unlike many other projectors, this contrast rating is based upon true native 0 IRE and 100 IRE readings without the somewhat confusing interference of a dynamic iris that closes when the image is dark and opens when the image is bright. The demonstration of the RS2 was staged in a pitch black room so viewers could see the full effect of the high contrast, which was indeed remarkable. Other than the increased contrast, there is not much else different between the RS2 and the RS1. They look the same externally, and they have the same lens shift and throw distance. The DLA-RS2 will be shipping next month, and will be marketed by JVC Professional Products. JVC's Consumer Products division will be marketing the same projector under the model name HD100. No firm price has yet been announced, but it will be under $8,000.

Mitsubishi HC6000

The HC6000 is Mitsubishi's second generation 1080p projector, following the release last year of the HC5000. The HD6000 is an improvement over the HC5000 in three ways. First, the contrast has been boosted from 10,000:1 to 13,000:1. Second, the auto iris adjusts to changes in scene brightness much more rapidly than it did on the HC5000. Third, the initial price upon release has been reduced 11%, from last year's $4,495 to $3,995. As readers may recall, the Mits HC5000 was our reference 1080p product as far as image sharpness was concerned. The improved contrast on the HC6000 increases apparent sharpness, and produces a truly impressive, highly detailed high resolution picture. The HC6000 will be one of the first of the new 1080p projectors of the season to reach dealer shelves, shipping by the end of September.

Panasonic PT-AE2000U

Panasonic follows last year's release of the1080p resolution AE1000 with the updated and refined PT-AE2000. This unit has the latest D7 LCD panels, a 16,000:1 iris-assisted contrast ratio, and a bright 1500 ANSI lumen output potential. This unit was being demonstrated with a Blu-ray demonstration disc. The picture was extremely sharp and detailed. However, the most exciting aspect of this demo was the beautifully natural color and contrast. Overall, the image quality can best be described as elegant, balanced, and realistic. These same image characteristics were present in the Epson Cinema 1080 UB demo, which notably is using the same D7 LCD panels. Judging from the impressive strength of these new LCD products, we believe that videophiles who have thus far been most enthused with DLP will begin to recognize LCD as a technology that can match if not exceed the image quality of DLP. The Panasonic AE2000 will be shipping in late October or early November, and the price has not yet been announced.

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