Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB and Pro Cinema 7500UB are the company's latest high performance home theater projectors. Unveiled at the CEDIA show last September, they commenced shipments around the end of the year. If one needed to describe what they are all about in one sentence it would be this: They are very bright, and very high in contrast. Actually, they are among the brightest home theater projectors we've ever seen. They are not without a few flaws, but as far as image quality goes, they are very impressive indeed.
Differences between the 6500 UB and 7500 UB
The Home Cinema 6500UB and Pro Cinema 7500UB are 1080p resolution LCD projectors that are built around the same design. The reason for the two models is that they are intended to be sold through different distribution channels. The 6500UB is in open distribution, and the 7500 UB is restricted to sales through CEDIA installers and specialty retailers. As far as the projectors themselves are concerned, the differences between them are as follows:
* The 7500 comes with a set of calibration memories that can only be accessed by ISF trained installers to fine tune the image. Since the memories are locked, the user cannot accidentally alter or erase those calibrations.
* Precalibrated operating modes on the 7500 are different (or at least differently named) than on the 6500; the 6500 modes include Theater, Theater Black 1, Theater Black 2, and Dynamic (among others) whereas the 7500 has Cinema Day, Cinema Night, and Vivid (among others).
* The 7500UB comes with an anamorphic stretch mode that allows you to use an anamorphic lens without needing an external video processor. The 6500UB does not.
* The 7500UB has color isolation test patterns that enable you to adjust color settings without needing viewing filters.
* The 7500UB is black, and the 6500UB is white.
* The price of the 7500UB includes a spare lamp, ceiling mount, and cable cover. These are options at extra cost on the 6500UB.
* The 6500 UB has a standard two-year warranty, while the 7500 UB is three years.
Specifications for the Epson 6500UB and 7500UB
ANSI lumens: 1600
Contrast (full on/off): 75,000:1
Light Engine: 1920x1080, native 16:9 3LCD, 200W E-TORL lamp.
Video Compatibility: 1080p/60/50/24, 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i.
Connection Panel: Two HDMI 1.3 ports, one 3-RCA component port, one VGA port, one composite video, one S-video, one RS-232c, and one 12-volt trigger.
Lens and Throw Distance: 2.1:1 manual zoom/focus lens. Will throw a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 9.75 to 20.8 feet.
Lamp Life:4,000 hours.
Replacement lamp price: $300.
Warranty: 6500UB, two years; 7500UB, three years.
Overview of Features
Brightness. Both of these models are rated at 1600 ANSI lumens. However, in their brightest operating modes (Dynamic on the 6500 and Vivid on the 7500), they measured even more. The 6500 racked up a whopping 1833 lumens, and the 7500 came in at 1768.
The precalibrated theater modes are nowhere near as eye-scorching as the high-brightness modes, but they all measured in the range of 500 to 600 lumens with the lens at wide angle and a new lamp on full power. That is hefty light output for home theater modes. It is handy if you have some ambient light in the room, but it is too much light for a classic dark theater. However, you can curtail light output two ways. First, setting the lamp to eco-mode will reduce light output by 23%. Second, moving the projector back and using the middle or longer end of the zoom lens will help as well. At the mid-point in the zoom range, light output is cut by about 20% from its maximum at wide angle. At the extreme long end of the zoom, light is cut by 41%.
The bottom line is that by selecting a particular operating mode, and combining it with a lamp power setting and zoom throw distance of your choice, you can dial in the precise amount of light you need, given your screen type and room environment. It is wise to set up your ideal configuration using the lamp's eco-mode. That way, as the lamp dims with age, you can boost the light output by moving to full lamp power.
Contrast. The contrast rating of 75,000:1 has certainly riveted the attention of many prospective buyers. In practice, this is achieved in part by closing down the auto iris when the scene fades to black. Thus, one of the key strengths of the 6500UB and 7500UB is its extreme black levels which are most apparent in very dark scenes such as images of deep space in Star Wars.
We measured our 6500UB at 389:1 ANSI contrast. This is competitive with other high contrast LCD home theater projectors, but it is not the best of the group. Nevertheless, the combination of the iris-driven black levels in dark scenes plus a very good ANSI contrast capability yields a sparkling, high contrast image that is among the best we have seen.
Color saturation and accuracy. The 6500/7500 factory default modes tend to be lower in saturation than would be optimal, and they are biased toward a cooler image than would be ideal. However, with some diligent calibration, they are capable of creating excellent color saturation and balance.
Sharpness. The 6500/7500 delivers a very sharp picture out of the box. The default sharpness setting of zero has some artificial edge enhancement built into it, which causes the image to look extremely sharp. If you prefer to see less enhancement, as many video purists would, you have the option to move the sharpness control down as far as -5.
Connectivity. Connectivity is adequate but not exceptional. There are two HDMI 1.3b ports, and one each of component, VGA, composite, and S-video. There is a 12-volt trigger that many users will find helpful to automatically coordinate the activation of a motorized screen with the powering on of the projector.
Manual Zoom Lens and Lens Shift. The 2.1x zoom lens has the longest zoom range that exists on a home theater projector. Vertical lens shift enables you to move the projected image up and down a total of 2.9 picture heights. Horizontal lens shift will move the image sideways over a range of 1.95 picture widths. All focus, zoom, and lens shift adjustments are manual.
4000-Hour Lamp Life. This is a very attractive feature, especially for those who plan to put a lot of hours on their projector. It is trite to say it, but that's the equivalent of 2000 two-hour movies. At an average of one movie per night, 365 days a year, the lamp will last five and a half years. Epson says the lamp's life expectancy of 4000 hours applies in either full power or eco mode.
The projector uses an Epson-Twin Optimized Lamp (E-TORL). This Epson-designed lamp uses two reflectors to capture more light from the lamp than is possible with a single reflector. Basically, you end up getting more light per watt.
However, keep in mind that you may wish to replace the lamp prior to its end of life due to lumen output degradation. All high pressure lamps lose brightness over their anticipated lives, typically degrading to 50% of their original brightness by their end of life. We don't know how quickly the lumen output on this lamp will diminish. But our 6500UB test sample now has 150 hours on it, and its lumen output is already reduced 15% from the initial readings we took when the lamp was new. Many home theater enthusiasts who want to keep their systems at peak lumen performance will plan to replace lamps more frequently than the official lamp life spec would suggest.
Defocusing. The problem on the initial test units we saw was that they tended to go out of focus as the projector warmed up over a period of 30 to 45 minutes. However, Epson has since made a modification to the tunnel inside the exhaust vent which has improved airflow and cooling capacity. This modification has largely resolved the problem. We still see a slight defocusing on the revised model, but it is not anything you'd notice unless you were closely scrutinizing the pixel structure on a graphic image such as the menu. It doesn't have any apparent impact on the sharpness of the video image. And since we do our testing at 3100 feet elevation, we wouldn't be surprised if users nearer sea level could experience no detectable shift at all in these newly modified units.
Epson does not wish to publish serial number information concerning which units have been produced with the modification. Epson states that their primary objective is a satisfied customer, so if any user is experiencing a problem with his/her projector regardless of its serial number, the company will do whatever is necessary to resolve it to the customer's satisfaction.
Frame interpolation (FI). As noted in earlier writings, FI as implemented on the test units we have seen thus far has two weaknesses. First, it can introduce odd artifacts such as ghosting and momentary flashes that are not part of the image; it can also produce a distortion that looks like stretching during rapid camera pans. Second, apart from the artifacts, the system can impart a very obvious digital video effect that makes a film look more like broadcast HDTV. Some people might like this enhanced reality effect, but it is unnerving to a lot of people, including us. In a way that is hard to appreciate without seeing it, a movie can look disturbingly "live." It seems that the reason people react negatively to this effect is that the extreme reality psychologically interferes with the ability to allow oneself to be taken into the "other time/place" experience the film is trying to create.
Epson plans to release a new version of FI that is intended to address these issues. The new version should be downloadable, so current users can take advantage of it without needing to send their projector in for upgrade. We look forward to seeing the new version when it becomes available, presumably within the next couple of weeks.
Auto iris noise. We currently have two models here, the 6500 UB and 7500 UB. As far as auto iris noise is concerned, they do not sound the same. Audible noise from the 6500 UB's iris is more apparent than the 7500 UB, to the point where the viewer may become aware of it during quiet interludes in a film. Furthermore, inverting the 6500 causes the iris noise to increase for reasons we don't understand. We do not believe this to be a defect in our sample since the same phenomenon has been reported by a reader.
Conversely, on our 7500, iris noise is negligible, and it does not get louder when inverted. We know of no design differences that could account for this, so it may be related to manufacturing variances in our two particular units. If that is the case, with a sample of one each, we can make no assumptions about the average noise level of the iris that you as a user might experience with either model. We have asked Epson for comments on this, and as of this writing they haven't been able to get back to us yet.
Contrast Enhancement. The 6500UB has a feature called Contrast Enhancement. It has four options-Off, 1, 2, and 3, with 3 being the most aggressive. Contrast Enhancement boosts dynamic range, and it significantly increases color saturation. However, it introduces a distracting tendency for the picture to change brightness levels from scene to scene, or even within a scene. The effect is similar to having a flickering lamp with varying light output. Thus, Contrast Enhancement is not a usable feature, at least on our test sample.
The Epson 6500UB and 7500UB are most impressive for their exceptional brightness and black levels in dark scenes. They produce a very sharp, brilliant, dynamic image that is clearly among the best of the 1080p projectors currently on the market. Any buyer will absolutely love the picture quality.
The product has a few flaws that are not specifically related to image quality. Originally, the defocusing problem was quite severe on the first unit we saw, but this seems to have been largely resolved with the modification Epson made mid-production. The frame interpolation system generates too many unwanted side effects, but Epson appears to be in the process of fixing that as well. We don't care for the auto iris noise on our 6500UB, but it is not a problem on our 7500UB. And Contrast Enhancement would be a great feature if only the picture did not flicker. But the good news is that you don't need Contrast Enhancement to get a great picture from this projector, so leave it turned off and you won't miss it anyway.
As far as the 5-star ratings are concerned, we've given the 6500UB 4.5 stars for performance. It was docked 1/2 star due to the weakness of the frame interpolation system. If the new FI turns out to be more substantial, we will upgrade the performance rating to 5 stars. Features was rated at 4 stars since there are not many extras on this projector other than the long zoom and lens shift ranges. No power zoom/focus, no anamorphic stretch mode, no exceptional connectivity, and so on. But put the entire package together, with primary consideration going to the excellent picture quality and price, the Value rating is a solid 5 stars.
With the $500 mail-in rebate just announced this week, the price of the 6500UB is down to $2500. That makes it an outstanding value in today's market. If you can live with the flaws, there is no doubt in our minds you will be amazed and delighted at the quality of the picture.
With the posting of this review, we have also updated and finalized the competitive analysis between the 6500UB and the Panasonic AE3000. For that article, click here.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 6500 UB projector page.