Epson Home Cinema 8700 UB Review
Last year, Epson introduced the Home Cinema 8500 UB which combined excellent performance at a low price. It earned our Editor's Choice Award. Now Epson has followed up with the new PowerLite Home Cinema 8700 UB, offering incrementally better performance at an even lower price. It features proven technology - inorganic LCD panels, a killer auto-iris system to bring down black levels, and Epson's Frame Interpolation system. The 8700 UB is a powerful, capable 1080p projector serious home theater that does not cost a fortune--you can pick one up for only $2199, and that price includes a spare lamp.
The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8700 UB is built for home theater in a light-controlled room, and for this purpose it is indeed well suited. THX mode, with its 660 lumens, provides ample light for most home theater needs. Contrast is excellent, and black bars can scarcely even be seen. However, its high lumen output modes can be useful for video games or television in a room with ambient light. The 8700 UB's Dynamic mode not only exceeds the published specification handily (1830 lumens beats its 1600-lumen rating), but it does so while keeping color balance marginally intact. The result is a much brighter picture that has no garish, obvious color bias or tint, perfect for football games or last Saturday's Pacquiao-Margarito fight, which I unfortunately watched on a television rather than a projector.
As far as placement goes, the 8700 UB includes Epson's 2.1:1 manual zoom/focus lens with manual horizontal and vertical lens shift. The 8700 UB can throw a 120" diagonal image from 11' 9" all the way back to 25' 1".
The lens shift allows for the projected image to be cast completely above or below the centerline of the lens; the range is just under three picture heights. This is a perfect setup for rear shelf mounting, as it allows for an optically neutral placement of the projector itself relative to the screen. Ceiling mounts are also possible, and the lens shift range will eliminate the need for a drop tube in a room with a standard eight-foot ceiling. The same applies to a coffee table or low shelf situation. Thanks to the extensive lens shift, the 8700 UB is one of those rare projectors that you really can place more or less wherever you'd like.
That said, not all placement situations will be ideal. The "best" set up for the 8700 UB would be using THX mode in a light-controlled room on a mid-height shelf, such that you don't need to use the lens shift at all, and preferably at a distance where you're in the middle of the zoom range. Light output is curtailed by the zoom lens when it is set at its maximum telephoto position--the projector is 36% less bright compared to its lumen output with the lens at maximum wide angle. This drop-off is more or less linear, so when setting the lens at the midpoint of its range you'll lose about 18%.
If we assume we are using a 120" diagonal screen, the middle of the throw range would put the projector at sixteen feet from the screen. Here you are at the optical sweetspot of the lens, and getting about 540 lumens in THX mode, which is plenty for a 1.0 gain screen of this size. Low lamp mode will reduce lumen output a further 22%. The end result is roughly 420 lumens which is perfectly comfortable illumination on a 1.3 gain, 120" screen.
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