The Epson Home Cinema 1080UB is a 1080p LCD projector, designed with superior black levels in its class as the main selling point. Epson dismissed the square, blocky look of most projectors (and, for that matter, Epson’s newer models) in favour of a sexy, contoured look. The projector has no sharp edges, instead implementing rounded sides and corners, and is white. The design is aesthetically pleasing and easily distinguishes the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB from other projectors.
Looking at the unit from the front, the lens is edged off-centre to the right side, while the left side shows the vent for the fan. The infrared receiver is neatly squeezed in between these two. Sidling to the rear, the various inputs can be seen. 2 HDMI v1.3 inputs are included, typical for 1080p projectors. Next to those are a PC input, as well as an RS-232 input. One component, one S-video and one composite input are clustered together on the left side of the rear panel. A 12-volt trigger is also on the back for use with a motorized screen.
All the necessary buttons for proper functioning are placed on the top of the 1080UB. Power, Source, Menu and Aspect buttons, as well as the directional buttons needed to navigate the various menus are all arranged in a straight line. The whole unit weighs only 12 lbs, which makes it very light and easy to put on a single-shelf wall-mounted component shelf without worry; if ceiling-mounting the projector is not an option for you. The overall look and design is very sleek and appealing, with every button and input easily accessible, even if the unit is mounted on the ceiling.
The design of the unit has one major drawback. Unlike, say, the Panasonic PT-AE2000, the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB does not support anamorphic lenses. This means a constant-height home theatre is not an option for this projector. However, the intended demographic are not those who would opt for this type of setup. Based on the design and simple setup, Epson was trying for mass appeal, as opposed to hardcore theatre buff, with this projector. However, people who prefer a 2:35:1 home theatre should avoid this model.
Once the unit is turned on the lens offers focus and throw distance rings, which can offer any screen size from 40 to 150 inches, depending on the distance between the unit and the screen. The 2:1 zoom lens can easily fill a 100-inch screen from as little as about 10 feet away and as far as 22 feet away. The unit also gives the user the option to shift the image, if the projector’s position is far from optimal. At around 15 feet, I can nudge my image about five or six feet in every direction without losing picture quality. This gives the projector great flexibility in placement and a distinct advantage over most DLP projectors on the market.
Another advantage that most LCD projectors have over DLPs is the noise level. The color wheel in DLP projectors is often prone to higher noise levels than LCDs, which don’t utilize the wheel. Unfortunately, the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB has a loud fan and, depending on the Color Mode, can get distracting. On basic settings, however, the noise is tolerable and will not be noticed, especially if the movie watched has a relatively active sound field. By the same token, if the unit is about 5 feet from the audience, noise should not be intrusive.
Another slight problem with the unit is involved with the initial calibration. Out of the box, the color temperature on every mode is a tad high. For example, on Theatre Black 1, the best choice most people would find for color film viewing, the color temperature is 7500K out of the box, as opposed to the proper 6500K. With slight modifications, the colors come out looking spectacular, though. The differences in this setting are very slight, but videophiles will enjoy tweaking the picture quality.
Upon entering the Main Menu, there are Signal, Settings, Memory and Info tabs. The Signal tab gives various scaling and noise reductions options, while Settings offers convenience features such as Child Lock, Sleep mode and High Altitude Mode. The Memory tab saves and loads the Color Mode settings previously configured.
The Info tab gives information about the present signal coming to the unit. It accepts every signal known up to 1080p/24. I have used the projector to watch standard definition DVDs output in both NTSC and PAL, to watch Blu-rays and HD DVDs outputting at both 1080p/60 and 1080p/24, and have hooked up my laptop using the PC input. Using all those forms of input, I have never encountered any compatibility problems. Lamp life is included in the menu as well. Epson states each lamp should last between 2000 and 3000 hours.