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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.

Epson-HC-8700UB-800
Out with the old (Epson HC 8700UB)...

Epson-HC-5050UB-800
...and in with the new (Epson HC 5050UB)?

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.

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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.

Optoma-HD27HDR-800
Optoma's HD27HDR is a 1080p projector that accepts and provides some benefits of 4K content at an attractive $649 price.

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.

Comments (9) Post a Comment
R.H. Posted Jul 18, 2019 11:40 AM PST
Look at the UHD projectors from Optoma. I have a UHD50 ($1,299), and it's FANTASTIC! A HUGE step up from 1080P.
Paul Vail Posted Jul 18, 2019 11:50 AM PST
R.H. - I have to ask what projector you were using before you had your Optoma? This matters a great deal as there is more to an upgrade rather than just the resolution jump. It matters a great deal where you were coming from and it needs to be a part of the conversation. If you've never owned a projector before, then I'm not sure what your basis for comparison is in regards to other projectors. UHD front projection can be awesome with the right content, but entry level DLP projectors have actually seen a slight decline in contrast. Where the BenQ HT2050A will actually have higher reported native contrast than the BenQ 3550, but the 3550 may make up with it with support for 4K including HDR.

But, it matters a great deal what you owned before that you are comparing that Optoma to.
Mike Collins Posted Jul 19, 2019 4:15 AM PST
My wishlist may not exist at this point. I sit 18’ from the screen, in a room that has significant ambient light from windows in both sides. The SMPTE viewing angle of 30 degrees requires a 132” 16:9 UST ALR screen (0.6 gain typical) Due to cable length issues with 18GBS needed for 4K. HDR @60Hz, I am looking for a UST Laser Projector with 3500 lumens of output to hit 40 FL that has HDR mapping. I don’t know that there is anything like that on the market at the moment. Any suggestions?

Issues: UST ALR Screen - largest screen I have been able to find is 120” and the gain is always around 0.6 because it is lenticular. UST Projector - The only thing that I can find that might be close is the upcoming Optoma P1 without going over $10k, and even then HDR tone mapping isn’t present.

Do I just have to wait, or am I missing something?
Paul Vail Posted Jul 19, 2019 8:18 AM PST
Mike,

Be aware that you aren't going to get HDR from any projector on the market at this time. There are some videos online which really help explain this and why proper HDR doesn't exist yet. While you can strive towards HDR, the actual contrast requirements are very difficult to achieve.

But, the great compromise is that your room won't ever be capable of producing the black levels that HDR is looking for and a ALR screen, while a very good patch for a bad room, doesn't fix the baseline issue that a bad room is a bad room.

Theaters aren't painted in light colors. They don't have any windows in them. The big screen companies say time and time again that the ideal screen is their white ones used in a dark theater space.

So, while ALR screens are a patch, you aren't going to get a truly great setup in a room that isn't a theater. You will get a compromise and you need to know that going in. The screen will be a compromise to help, but the screen itself is likely to add it's own defects to the image. I have yet to see a ALR screen that looks as good as a decent entry level white screen in terms of raw image quality. They tend to add sparkling, hot spotting, and visible image uniformity issues. That said, they do maintain contrast that would otherwise be lacking. I consider them the great 'sports bar' screen. But, not ideal for home theater.

In full disclosure, I have not seen a ALR UST screen, so they may have done something different that doesn't do this.

Be aware, that at 18' you will never get the benefits from 4K resolution. You will only get the benefits from HDR, with a screen size of only 132". You would need to sit much closer to that to get the immersion that most are striving for with front projection. 13' or closer would be typical for most.

Yes, the manufacturers are having a hard time coming out with larger ALR screens. Certainly specialty UST ALR screens will also be an issue.

But, in a proper home theater, with dark walls, dark ceiling, dark floors, and proper light control, there would be no need for a ALR screen at all, and instead a flat white screen with high diffusion would be ideal.

You did mention the cabling length issues. This isn't really an issue though as HDMI cables rated for 18Gb/s are readily available in longer lengths. These are all active cables and will eventually need to be replaced, but reviews of the copper and optical versions are very good. If you have to run cabling through drywall, then it makes a lot of sense just to go with a short cable, but cabling length and 18Gb/s HDMI is really not an issue.
Gabe Posted Jul 19, 2019 3:34 PM PST
I was in the exact same situation and wound up buying a refurbished 5040UB direct from Epson. Was definitely the right call for me. The advice in this post is solid. I'll share my experience for what it's worth.

I had been enjoying my 8700UB for many years, using it in a casual living room installation, ceiling mounted with a low-end but adequate Elite Screens pull down screen. My main reason for considering an upgrade was that the 8700UB has never been a great performer with ambient light and I've been wanting something brighter. Also, with the new tech on the market, it seemed worth a look around.

It would be great to have a 4K UST laser projector, but it feels like that tech needs some time to mature and I don't want to invest in a new screen. I'd also prefer sticking with Epson. The 4010 didn't feel like enough of a boost. Lower priced 1080P projectors could've provided the brightness jump, but I needed substantial lens shift for my mount position.

Now that the 5050 is out, the 5040s are seeing a big price drop. The feature bumps on the 5050 weren't deal breakers for me (I don't use it for video games and my room's not really dark enough for HDR performance to be a huge issue) so the 5040 was very appealing. When I saw what the refurbished units are going for on Epson's site I was kind of amazed just how affordable it is. And as I understand it, it still comes with Epson's full warranty and service. On top of that there's a mail in rebate for a spare lamp for the 5040 right now, and I've heard from others that the refurbished units qualify, though I haven't confirmed that with Epson or received mine yet.

I've been using the 5040 for a week and the difference from the 8700 is huge. Not just the brightness boost but the clarity, depth and sense of detail in the image, especially when using 4k source material (I'm using streaming only with a Roku Ultra, no UHD Blu Ray which I'm sure would be even better). So for me, this was a great way to upgrade at a price that felt painless and I feel like I'll be good for 3-5 years easily, and maybe beyond.
B. G. Posted Jul 23, 2019 5:17 AM PST
I currently have a Sony VPL-VW100 projector in a light controlled basement theater. The basement serves multiple purposes so not dedicated to theater, however the screen and speakers are fixed near the wall and the projector is ceiling mounted. It is time to replace the (original) bulb on this projector, however it cost $1,000. Would I be better off putting that $1,000 toward a projector such as an Epson HC5050UB (knowing I'll only have the Epson for a few years while 4K develops) or should I just spend the $1,000 on the Sony bulb and wait out the 4K development? I can afford the Sony VPL-VW295ES but wondering why I would spend the money.
A.A. Posted Jul 23, 2019 7:22 AM PST
I’m currently looking at options of different projectors to upgrade. Would you consider a BenQ HT3550 a step up projector ?
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Jul 23, 2019 8:14 AM PST
B.G.-there may be different opinions on this out there, but that while that Sony VW100 was state of the art in its day (it was released in 2005 and last shipped in 2008), it's 800 lumens of output, 15,000:1 contrast rating, and 1080p resolution are hardly anything to sneeze at these days. $1,000 for a lamp replacement for this projector doesn't strike me as a good investment. If resolution is the concern, you'll likely find the 5050UB a great stop-gap that gets you in the 4K/HDR game and that you won't be rushing to replace anytime soon. It's apparent on-screen resolution is quite good. Or...if you consider yourself in holding pattern waiting for cheaper native 4K machines with higher performance, put the $1,000 toward the Epson 4010 for $2,000 and you'll get most of the performance of the 5050 with less deep blacks, but probably equal or better your now aging SXRD.
Mike McNamara Posted Jul 25, 2019 6:10 PM PST
Mike:

What exactly do you mean when you state "Be aware that you aren't going to get HDR from any projector on the market at this time." If you mean that the high contrast requirements set forth by TV groups such as UHDAlliance can't be achieved by any home theater projectors claiming HDR10 compatibility, then you're correct. However, the contrast requirements for theaters has never been based on a min black of .05 nits--nor would a 1000 nit max white and the resulting 20,000:1 contrast ratio it created be tolerable on a big screen. In a theater, ANSI contrast ratios of 300:1 or higher are considered decent for HDR display, while all other HDR aspects are present in a variety of projectors, including 100% DCI-P3 wide gamut color, high color accuracy, and accurate reverse ST.2084 EOTF tonal response curves. Am I missing something?

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