What's the Best Upgrade for my Epson HC 8700UB?
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I’m looking to upgrade my Epson Home Cinema 8700UB for a new Epson projector. Which is the best option and why? Or is it better to wait a few months to see if a true native 4K Epson projector will be released? I only have a $2,000 budget.
Walas, Projector Central Forums Member
Walas, variations of this question are among the most common that I have seen in the past year. As more and more manufacturers are releasing projectors rated for 4K resolution and more content becomes available, the question of “Which great new model should I buy?” is definitely at the forefront for many owners of 1080p models.
But, of course, there’s a problem.
While televisions, with sizes that are growing ever larger, are able to pack the 8 million pixels of a 4K image into their screen size, it’s much, much more difficult for projector manufacturers to do the same on a chip that is less than one-inch diagonal. They have done so, with their newest models, by pixel manipulation—mostly on the less expensive DLP and LCD models. But, to get native 4K resolution on a single chip still runs in the ballpark of $5,000 for an LCoS based projector.
So, while 1080p is starting to slide to the side of the road, there are now some very solid models going for extremely low prices. Many of these projectors have a background rooted in years of development behind them. So, a first time purchaser may see a model which is similar in quality to your Epson 8700UB for less than half the price that the Epson originally sold for, and very good models are out there starting right near $500 that can deliver a 120-inch, 1080p image that looks very good.
So, for that extra $1,000 or so, you would think that 4K delivers a lot more. In reality, that $2,000 price point is scraping the very entry level of a very new resolution class that will have several years of growth ahead of it. For example, there are a host of entry level DLP models all using one of a few available chip 4K sets to deliver their image. They all look good, but their native contrast isn’t an improvement over the previous generation of 1080p DLP chips that were fully developed over the years. What they offer up is support for 4K HDR content, perhaps the extended colors which 4K offers, and the added resolution which front projection can take advantage of. But, it is not always a huge jump in quality, and can feel like a step backwards if you drop to an entry level model from a projector that was better in other key performance areas.
Your Epson 8700UB was not entry level, and was about the best that Epson had to offer during that model's 2010-2012 life span, when it sold for around $2,200. It has good resolution and very good contrast. Epson may match that today with their new HC 4010 model for similar money ($1,999)—it has the same rated contrast—but it will take a good, dark room and a side-by-side comparison to really tell. To get a more serious upgrade, you'd need to spend more ($2,999) for the Epson HC 5050, or perhaps go into the better Sony or JVC models, or maybe one of the better DLP models with a really good lens and iris control.
This means that it comes back to budget, expectations, and what you have right now.
My recommendation for those who are looking to upgrade is always that they should do so with a budget which will give them a significant improvement over their existing projector. This won’t happen by looking at entry level 4K models, but with the more premium models on the market.
For those looking to buy for the first time, 4K entry level models offer the latest technology for a reasonable price. There are many options, and much of the new development from manufacturers from here out will be in the 4K arena. Still, 1080p projectors haven't gone away. As I said, fully developed 1080p models are out there for a lot less money. For those who want a great price with 4K support, consider a model like the Optoma HD27HDR ($649), which accepts 4K resolution, but then converts it down to 1080p resolution. It retains a great deal of the color benefits and added detail that 4K can offer, but does so at a fantastic price point.
Not discussed here is the question of how much 4K content is actually on the market and the discussion of what is truly required to achieve HDR...and how projectors have a very long way to go to get there.
Paul Vail has been a professional audiovisual engineer since 1999. He works day-to-day for a commercial integrator and runs his own residential installation company, AV Integrated, out of Chantilly, VA, covering the greater Washington D.C. area. He has been the moderator of the ProjectorCentral Big Screen Forums from their inception more than ten years ago and has installed hundreds of projectors over the years, from entry level basement setups to 4K simulation systems using the latest in 3-chip DLP technology. He enjoys helping others learn about how to get the most value for their money, and setting realistic expectations and goals for the setup they are working toward. You can submit your question for Paul and ProjectorCentral Q&A by clicking here.