Epson Home Cinema 3500 1080P 3LCD Projector
Projector Central Highly Recommended Award

Highly Recommended Award

Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.

  • Performance
  • 4.5
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value
Price
$1,299 MSRP Discontinued

The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 is the newest home entertainment projector from Epson and has already been attracting a lot of attention. Priced at $1,699, the Home Cinema 3500 has a lot to offer: 1080p resolution, high light output, powerful speakers, and the excellent zoom and lens shift that folks have come to expect from mid-range Epson projectors.

The Home Cinema 3500 is not the only projector in this new line. Epson released the Home Cinema 3600e ($1,999) with WirelessHD and the Home Cinema 3000 ($1,299) which is the replacement for the Home Cinema 8350. As the mid-range model, the Home Cinema 3500 offers a killer picture for rooms with ambient light, and its high brightness is a boon for big-screen 3D movies.

The Viewing Experience

The Home Cinema 3500 establishes its home entertainment bona-fides right up front with a brilliantly bright image. The 2,500 lumen rating is conservative, at least on our test unit, and performs very well in rooms with ambient light The other thing that immediately grabbed our attention was the sound. The Home Cinema 3500 has two 10W speakers that are much larger than those found on some other projectors, giving it a clarity that is unusual for on-board speakers. In the past, Epson has released several home video projectors with impressive sound, and it's good to see them continuing the tradition.

Even in a bright room, the Home Cinema 3500 has enough power to light up a fairly large screen. At 100" diagonal, the picture never seemed washed out or dull, despite significant ambient light in the room. During peak daylight hours, some might want to shrink the screen down to a more modest 80" diagonal to maintain good contrast, especially if your living room is covered in windows like mine is. But this trade-off is a matter of personal taste.

With the lights off, the sky's the limit as far as screen size is concerned. This can be quite dramatic, especially when you zoom the projector to fill up the entire wall and gather the family for movie night.

Key Features

Great 2D Image. The Home Cinema 3500 is engineered to look great in the living room or anywhere ambient light is present. The projector's high light output keeps the image from getting washed out, but black level and contrast are solid enough that the picture has plenty of pop for nighttime use. The stock color calibrations aren't perfect, but they're definitely in the ballpark, and the projector's calibration controls are a bit coarse but otherwise easy to use. Super Resolution makes everything look sharp and detailed, and even helps standard-definition material look better.

Great 3D Image. The Home Cinema 3500's super-high brightness gives it a striking 3D picture. Using the same radio-frequency 3D technology as Epson's higher-end projectors, the Home Cinema 3500 produces a 3D image with minimal crosstalk. 2D to 3D conversion is included, and while we're not fans of this feature in general it is executed well on the Home Cinema 3500.

As far as the hardware is concerned, the Home Cinema 3500 uses an internal RF emitter to synchronize the 3D glasses. Both the 3500 and the 3600e come with two pairs of the same ELPGS03 glasses used on all current Epson 3D projectors, and additional pairs are $99 direct from Epson. The glasses are comfortable and rechargeable via an included USB cable. Glasses must be paired to the projector before use, but this process takes seconds and you only need to do it once.

Bright image. With over 2500 lumens to work with, you can use the Home Cinema 3500 to create a giant picture in a darkened room or a theater-sized image in your living room. Even with some ambient light, image sizes of 80" to 100" diagonal are attainable and look great. And the extra brightness helps when you want to use 3D, too.

Picture-in-Picture. P-in-P can now handle two HDMI sources simultaneously. It's now possible to watch a Blu-ray movie on the main screen and keep a football game on the subscreen even though both sources use HDMI. As for limitations, you can't watch 3D movies with P-in-P, and you can't use the "Fast" Image Processing feature.

Onboard speakers. With 10W stereo speakers featured prominently on the rear panel, the Home Cinema 3500 has better audio capabilities than most projectors regardless of price range. Most projector speakers are small and tinny, with distorted, crackly sound whenever the volume is pushed too high. The Home Cinema 3500's 10W speakers are louder and larger than most, making them more akin to the speakers on your television than the ones in your laptop. And for what it's worth, we pushed volume all the way to maximum without any serious distortion or breakup in the audio. An external home theater sound system is still preferable for movies, but the onboard speakers are easily good enough for portable use or TV watching.

Placement flexibility. A 1.6:1 zoom lens and H/V lens shift make the Home Cinema 3500 easy to set up and use in almost any room. All controls are manual; the zoom and focus use the typical rings around the lens, while shift is adjusted using large dials on the top surface of the projector. The Home Cinema 3500 also has front-mounted exhaust vents, so it can be placed in a bookshelf or other tight enclosure without overheating. This is also ideal for coffee table placement, as the projector will not kick hot air back towards the audience.

WirelessHD. For an extra $300 over the price of the Home Cinema 3500, the 3600e includes WirelessHD. Epson's implementations of wireless high-definition video have been consistently excellent in the past, and that's still true; the included transmitter has five HDMI inputs as well as an optical audio output for folks who want to use their own sound system. You switch inputs using the projector's remote control.

Projectors are a secondary display for a lot of folks who still use a TV for their day-to-day viewing. With this in mind, the WirelessHD transmitter includes an HDMI output port so you can wire the box into your existing system. Switching to the projector becomes seamless -- just press a button.

The price gap between the 3500 and 3600e models is in line with the cost for an aftermarket wireless HDMI solution. And the receiver is built in to the projector, not hanging off the back. Overall, Epson's implementation of WirelessHD is quite well executed.

Super Resolution. Epson's Super Resolution system applies selective enhancement to an input signal to increase apparent detail. The Home Cinema 3500 allows you to adjust Super Resolution between 0 (off) and 5, and the projector comes from the factory set at 3 in Cinema mode. At times, 3 can be a tad too aggressive, so we bumped it down to 2. Super Resolution also works wonders on standard-definition DVDs -- it doesn't make them look like HD, but it does take away some of that softness around the edges that all SD content seems to have developed since HD became commonplace.

MHL. Mobile High-Definition Link, or MHL, is used to connect mobile devices to displays. It is also used to drive streaming media devices like the Roku Streaming Stick without an external power supply. The Home Cinema 3500 has MHL capability on its HDMI1 port, while the 3600e also includes MHL on the WirelessHD transmitter's HDMI5 input. This is especially handy for portable use.

Performance

Light output. Somehow, "bright" seems inadequate to describe the light output of the Home Cinema 3500. Rated at 2500 lumens, our test sample actually peaked at 2778 ANSI lumens in Dynamic mode with the lamp at full power and the zoom lens at the widest angle setting. That's a little more than 10% over the published specification in an industry that is known for optimistic specs.

The Home Cinema 3500 has only four image modes, not including two separate 3D modes. Dynamic is bold and bright, ideal for those times when you really need every last lumen. Living Room mode, at 2083 lumens, has a more balanced appearance and a bluish tint to its grayscale. Natural and Cinema, at 2163 and 2179 lumens, are the Home Cinema 3500's "theater" modes, optimized for use in darker rooms with less ambient light. Even so, they still pump out quite a bit of light.

The Home Cinema 3500's lamp power is controlled through the Power Consumption menu. But in addition to Normal (100%) and ECO (75%) power, there's also Medium (90%), which splits the difference. However, even in ECO mode, light output doesn't drop below 1500 lumens.

Long zoom lenses allow the most light to pass through when they are used at their wide angle settings (when the image is as large as it can be for a given throw distance). In the past, Epson's 2.1:1 zoom lenses have reduced light output by up to 42% at the maximum telephoto setting. So it's a breath of fresh air to see that the Home Cinema 3500's 1.6:1 zoom lens causes a reduction of only 11%, even when used at the extreme end of the zoom.

Contrast. The key difference between the Home Cinema 3500 and the more expensive Home Cinema 5030UB is black level. In head-to-head comparisons, the 5030UB lives up to its Ultra Black moniker, making the Home Cinema 3500 appear lackluster in comparison. This isn't to say that the Home Cinema 3500 doesn't produce a high-contrast image for such a bright projector, because it certainly does. In ambient light, light output has much more to do with overall contrast than black level does.

Color. Each of the Home Cinema 3500's color modes are calibrated to work well in a specific situation. Dynamic mode is for those times when you need every lumen. Living Room mode is less bright and a little bluish, but it's a great mode for television and other non-film content. Natural and Cinema are mostly the same, aside from a little bit of gamma tweaking, and either mode does a good job with photography, video, or film.

Sharpness and Clarity. A sharp image is important, and sharpness can be affected by a lot of things. Our Home Cinema 3500 was quite sharp, and we didn't see any panel misalignment or major chromatic aberration during our testing. The image is sharp and detailed even without enhancement, but Super Resolution can boost the appearance of detail even so. The default SR setting of 3 is a touch too aggressive for our tastes, but 2 was right on the money.

Input lag. The Home Cinema 3500 measured 106 milliseconds of input lag in all of its image modes. That equals six frames on a 60 frame-per-second input signal. Like other Epson projectors, the Home Cinema 3500 includes an option for "Fast" image processing, which reduces lag to 45.9 milliseconds (just under three frames) but also reduces image quality.

Limitations

Black level. The Home Cinema 3500 has a black level that is on par with other home entertainment projectors, making it a good choice for rooms with ambient light. However, in a pitch-black theater space, the limitations of the Home Cinema 3500's black level are evident. For those pitch-black spaces, the Home Cinema 5030UB offers deeper, darker black levels for better home theater performance. In other words, the Home Cinema 3500 and 5030 are designed for different roles. If you're considering the Home Cinema 5030 for a room with ambient light, or the Home Cinema 3500 for a room without ambient light, you should think about switching.

Iris flicker. If you run the projector with Power Consumption set to High and turn on the automatic iris, you may notice flickering in the image as the iris flutters. It manifests every second or two, sometimes less, as a momentary darkening of the image before returning to full brightness a split-second later. This artifact only occurs when using High lamp mode, but either auto-iris mode (Normal or High Speed) will trigger it. The workaround is simple; either use Medium or ECO lamp power, or turn off the iris. Luckily, the occasions that call for maximum light output, i.e. rooms with bright ambient light, would not often benefit from iris use.

Input lag. With Image Processing set to "Fast," the Home Cinema 3500's 45.9 millisecond lag time is low enough for many gamers. But some folks, especially those who play fighting games or fast-paced PC shooters, do require faster performance. Those people know who they are already. If you're gaming on a projector and don't experience detrimental lag, you can likely cope with 45 milliseconds.

No frame interpolation. At $1,699, the Home Cinema 3500 is priced competitively with several projectors that offer frame interpolation. Then again, some folks don't use or enjoy frame interpolation. It's something to be aware of when considering your purchase, at least.

Audible noise. With the lamp at full power, the Home Cinema 3500 is louder than most home theater projectors, but right on par with other home video projectors. Setting Power Consumption to ECO does reduce fan noise significantly. At this setting, fan noise is noticeable but not obtrusive unless you've got your head within, say, five feet of an exhaust vent.

The Home Cinema 3500 is built with its exhaust vents on the front of the case, so hot air is propelled outwards and to either side (away from the lens). So if you're sitting in front of the projector, you'll likely hear a lot more audible noise than someone who places the projector on a coffee table in front of the seats.

Conclusion

The Home Cinema 3500 is built for ambient light and living room use rather than a man-cave home theater. In particular it is less suited to dedicated home theater than the 8350 was, especially since it is difficult to reduce brightness to a level that would be appropriate for dark room viewing. It is also less suitable for gaming; increased image processing means increased input lag, and that can be a problem for serious gamers. The 8350 was one of the fastest projectors around, and those folks hoping for a low-lag replacement model didn't get their wish.

Nevertheless, the 3500 performs admirably for its intended use. If you need portability or you prefer to watch with ambient light in the room, this is your projector. It is an ideal solution for outdoor, backyard movies due to its portability and robust onboard speakers.

Though it is priced a little higher than some other home video projectors, the increased price gets you best-in-class placement flexibility, possibly the best inbuilt speakers we've ever heard on a projector, and higher than typical light output. The Home Cinema 3500 is an ideal option for those who need a bright portable 1080p projector with its own sound system. As a home video projector, it's a solid value that combines a unique set of features in a very attractive way.


For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Epson Home Cinema 3500 projector page.

Comments (21) Post a Comment
EeeTee Posted Oct 23, 2014 2:14 PM PST
One thing not mentioned is the replacement lamp cost. The ELPLP85 lamp for the 3000,3500,3600e is only around $125.00, well below the $200-$400 of most lamps.

That will hopefully keep users from trying the hideous 'compatible' cheap generic lamps.
davidm Posted Oct 24, 2014 8:19 AM PST
Too bad about the fan noise. I really get the impression most critics exclusively watch high amperage action films. Sound is just as important in media appreciation and when low dialogue, music or silent scenes are ruined by a fan sound it's a real drag. If powerful PCs can be made silent, projectors can be made silent too, with large slower moving fans and other techniques (this is especially strange when it comes to LED projectors). Instead I think the industry prefers to artificially create levels to the detriment of many people.
Jeff Posted Oct 24, 2014 11:13 AM PST
So if I read correctly, this would not be a good projector for a light controlled home theater room?
Buck Posted Nov 1, 2014 10:05 AM PST
I really like this projector. Set it up in our small cinema room. 13ft throw. 113 in diagonal picture. Easy to do because of the horizontal and vertical lens shift. It is very bright but using eco mode it seems just fine and of course bright enough to watch in the daytime which we rarely do. It sits right behind me and I really don't notice the fan noise. Great color and 3D. I'm not a connoisseur but am very happy with it.
p c Posted Nov 4, 2014 10:42 AM PST
can anyone please tell me if there is a real difference between the 3000 model and the 3500 model. ty
Bill Livolsi Posted Nov 7, 2014 11:07 AM PST
Thanks for reading the review, everyone.

EeeTee: at the time we wrote this, the lamp price had not yet been published. Epson has now set lamp pricing at $149, which is indeed lower than most other projectors.

davidm: PCs can indeed be made silent, but PCs draw far less power than projectors do, and PC components create much less waste heat than projector components do. While LEDs certainly run cooler than traditional lamps, the other parts of the projector are still the same. Furthermore, there are plenty of near-silent projectors, but the inexpensive models still make noise, much like inexpensive PCs tend to be noisier than higher-end models.

Jeff: Depending on your screen size, it might be much too bright. That's the main concern.

Buck: Glad to hear it! Enjoy your projector!

p c: We are still waiting on the Home Cinema 3000, and we will certainly compare it against the 3500 when we write our review.
wem003 Posted Nov 9, 2014 9:11 AM PST
Concerned with how bright it is as well. I have a short throw distance (11 feet) and a 106" screen. Seems like the lowest this can go in ECO is about 1500 lumens, which is 3x what the calculators on this site suggest I should have (528 lumens to get to 16fL). Is that really the lowest it can be set? We watch movies at night with the lights off...
Tony Posted Nov 9, 2014 6:27 PM PST
I never had 3D LCD or projector before, so my only concern is comfortability when wearing active glass ..... flickering, weight and eye tiredness.

Does this projector require silver screen? My current setup is 2D projection on 3.7m x 2.4m wall (about 175 inch). If it does, then the screen would be more than the projector itself ! Thanks.
wem003 Posted Nov 12, 2014 8:33 AM PST
Is it possible to provide a measurement of the lens assembly? I need to add an ND2 filter, and am curious if a 72mm filter will work, or if I need a different size.

I realize mounting will be a challenge, but if a 72mm fits in the lens assembly, that might work with a bit of tape :-), or if have to get bigger and build some sort of sleeve over it.
Boilerjoe Posted Dec 24, 2014 5:15 PM PST
Was going to buy one..until a friend did and the picture was grainy. Is that normal? I have read great reviews but nothing about poor picture. The grainy-ness would bug me.
judy Posted Jan 9, 2015 11:00 AM PST
I had to buy this after my Epson 710HD failed suddenly. I was hesitant because of cost and almost went with the 3000. I am glad I didn't. This projector is amazing. I want to preface this by saying I was an early adopter of projector instead of TV. I got rid of my TV in 2005 and never looked back. I have owned some very good projectors - Optoma HS20, Sony VPL-HS20, Mitsubishi 1500 and an okay one-Epson 710HD. The 3500 is the best home entertainment/TV projector I have ever seen. It has more than enough lumens for daytime viewing (I have a home with full french doors and a skylight and I can see the image during full sun during the day) and it has great nighttime and theater characteristics. It is a compromise of all of the best aspects of LCD with little down-side and it has lens shift making placement easy. The picture is stunning. My spouse loves it and that is surprising. It is super quiet and even the built in speakers sound decent. I have mine paired to wireless HDMI which is the reason I did not get the 3600e. It paired instantly and works very well. The projector is wide but it is not too heavy. The auto detecting setting for mode works very fast (you can see it changing as you watch) and is accurate. I did not find it grainy but I did turn down the noise reduction. I also did not notice any abnormal tint. I am projecting it onto a custom painted screen and the whites are bright and the blacks are very black. I will watch a movie with inky blacks to determine how accurate the blacks are and update. One thing I will mention is that the picture is dead square right out of the box. I only had the focus (love the manual as it was easy to correct)and then turn on the source and I was watching video content. Like all LCD's it does wash a little in ambient light but I do not consider that annoying. It is head and shoulders above most LCD's. I've only had it a few days but I already know that I love this projector. I am very happy with my purchase
James Posted Jan 17, 2015 6:27 AM PST
I'm sorry but after having this PJ set up for 4 hours I'm not impressed. There is something about the "noise" in the picture-- especially in faces. With the "super rez" set to "0" the image appears "super soft" with it at "2" even it appears artifically enhanced.

Anyone have a lead on some calibrated settings? I currently have the sharpness to -4 and on cinema, is all.

Really hoping I can turn this thing around as the Panny AR100 that it replaced has it beat; hands down, so far.
Mikko Rasinkangas Posted Jan 28, 2015 11:17 AM PST
Hello.

I currently have a Hitachi PJ-TX200 projector which has problems with it's LCD panel so I'm looking for a new projector.

Unfortunately, the city that I live in doesn't really have stores that sell projectors so I would most likely have to buy a projector without seeing it action first.

Since the PJ-TX200 has worked fine until now, I haven't really followed the projector market for like seven years so I'm not sure what to expect from todays projectors.

The max amount that I can spend for a projector is like 1500 euros and due to the placement of the projector there is also a weight limit of approx 7 kilos. The price and weight already rule out a bunch of projectors.

This Epson Home Cinema 3500 seems to be the one that I'm leaning towards, but maybe it's because I haven't discovered good alternatives.

I think I need the projector to be an LCD one instead of a DLP since the possible rainbow effect would bother me too much.

Then there is the question about the audible noise of the projector.

My home theatre setup is so that the projector is located on shelf approximately 50 cm above the sofa so quite close to the viewers. This, unfortunately, I cannot change.

My current PJ-TX200 projector has an audible noise of 28db, which I've become accustomed to and doesn't bother me even with quite movies. This Epson one has the noise listed as 35 db. Is 7db a big increase, considering the that the projector is quite close to the viewers?

In "ECO" mode the Epson generates 24 db noise. In the review a "Medium" mode is also mentioned but not it's decibel level. I'm curious about that.

Thanks in advance.

-Mikko
Sally Posted Apr 13, 2015 6:09 PM PST
Help! Im thinking of buying the epson 3500 but I know NOTHING! Got a screen with a 130 inch screen as a gift. Its for outdoor use only. Has anyone had any outdoor use with this? Any advice will b greatly appreciated!
Marze Posted Apr 30, 2015 9:56 PM PST
Epson 3500 11ft distance with aprox. 104" diagonal in a small room with white walls and average light control.

I originally tested with a matt white 1.0 gain screen and the light reflecting back from the white walls was washing out the image even in eco mode.

I switched to a Carl's FlexGray screen with an approximate gain of 0.9 and it has made a huge difference even when I have a lamp on in the room. I still use it in eco mode to maximize black levels and it is quite brite in my preferred modes (Natural and Cinema). I did find that for some content it is preferable to boost the gamma as high as 2 in order to improve shadow detail. With the FlexGray screen you can boost gamma without washing out the image. I am getting samples of the Carl's silver and ProGray screens next week and I will also be comparing them to a Da-Lite High Power 2.8 because the Da-Lite does a great job of not projecting ambient light back towards the center of the room where most people sit. A 2.8 is useless in my small room, but under the right circumstances a high power silver screen may be useful even with a projector as bright as this one.
sk3731 Posted Jun 21, 2015 10:09 PM PST
Does Eco mode bright enough to watch 3D movie in dark room?
kevin Posted Jun 30, 2015 9:50 AM PST
Since you said the home cinema 3500 put out way too much bright in dark room.According to the review of HC3000,should the home cinema 3000 which is 500 less lumens in cinema mode be a better choice? Thanks!
Buck Posted Jul 12, 2015 12:20 PM PST
Quick question. I'm used to having the projector fan run for a few minutes after shutdown supposedly to aid bulb longevity. This projector just shuts down. Am I doing something wrong?
Steve Posted Jul 15, 2015 4:47 PM PST
Did a installation of this model. It does NOT support dual HDMI inputs for Picture-in-picture as your review stated. It's like the Epson 3020 that uses analog composite, component or PC as 2nd input for P-in-P. The HDMI is grayed out as option in P-in-P source menu. The Epson 5030 however does support dual HDMI inputs.
Patrick Posted Sep 9, 2016 5:40 PM PST
I've owned the Epson 2030 ($699) for 2 years and I've been pleased with it, I wanted to upgrade but was afraid I'd be wasting money, let me tell you the Epson 3500 easily outshines the 2030 and it wasn't a waste of money ($1099). The 3500 has a sharp, well defined picture with colors that pop!
Rich Posted Dec 19, 2016 8:41 PM PST
Very bright projector even in ECO mode. While this projector might be loud in full power mode it was almost too bright in ECO mode (including 3d) so there was no reason to ever use it.

I strongly considered keeping this projector given its value for the price but have moved on to trying more expensive models.

The biggest downside I saw and main reason for return the the 3500 was motion blur and lack of sharpness on text. Text had significant pixelation compared to my much older 1080p H9500BD dlp projector and the Epson 5030ub.

Motion blur was also apparent at times (fast motion would sometimes have streaks) which did not exist on the DLP units or higher priced LCD units such as the 5030ub and ae8000u.

The projector also lacked frame interpolation so some highly compressed content that has judder issues could not be smoothed out. I hate both judder and the soap opera effect so this limiation made me move to a higher end unit.

If this unit had frame interpolation for those times when judder is just too much I probably would have kept it.

For 3D this is probably the best sub $1500 projector out there due to its superior brightness.

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