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Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 LCD Video Projector Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 August 2007
Article Index
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 LCD Video Projector
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Movies And Television
As I settled in for my first evening with the Home Cinema 1080, I had to take a moment to enjoy the silence of this projector. In the Theatre Black 2 mode, the Home Cinema 1080’s fan is almost inaudible. It grows louder as the color modes get brighter; however, even at its loudest, the fan is much quieter than that of my first-generation TW100. Fan noise may not seem like a big deal, but it can be extremely distracting if the projector is located anywhere near the seating area. There’s nothing worse than having the subtle sound cues of your several-thousand-dollar speaker system drowned out by a projector that sounds like a hair dryer running in the background.

The next thing to grab my attention was just how much better the Home Cinema 1080’s black level is, compared with previous Epson models and other budget projectors. On my 67-inch screen, in the darkest Theatre Black 2 mode, this projector measured 0.002 foot-lamberts with an all-black test pattern; it would likely measure even better on a larger screen. I immediately reached for one of my new favorite black-level demos: the opening chapters of the V for Vendetta HD DVD (Warner Home Video), in which we first meet V and Evie as they first meet each other on a dark night. The projector’s good black level gave the entire image a wonderful depth and richness, and it did a very good job rendering the varying shades and textures of black within V’s coat and the surrounding skyline.

The Batman Begins HD DVD (Warner Home Video) is another fine transfer that presents some nice challenges for a display, often switching between dark and bright scenes. The Home Cinema 1080 ably captured the detail within dark backgrounds, yet had enough light output that colors and whites still had some pop in brighter scenes. On my smaller screen, the Home Cinema 1080 measured a respectable 16.85 ft-L of light output in the Theatre Black 2 mode, with the auto iris on. That gives the projector a relatively good reported overall contrast ratio of 8425:1, much better than previous Epson models, but lower than the absurd contrast numbers you might see on other projectors’ spec sheets. Real-world measurements made with the best tools by the best calibrators in the world on top of the line, $30,000 video projectors result in far lower contrast numbers (with highs of 200:1), so it is important to not over-value an 8500:1 measurement from a $3,000 projector. Obviously, home theater projectors are designed for light-controlled environments; even in a moderately lit room, they usually lack the light output to produce a well-saturated image. In its brighter color modes, this projector had enough light output to watch HDTV content during the day, particularly brighter sporting events – with my blinds shut, of course. Black level and black detail are lost in these brighter modes, though, so I wouldn’t try to watch a darker DVD like The Prestige (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) during the day.

The projector’s good black level helps colors look rich and vibrant in a darkened room. Color accuracy isn’t spot-on, but neither is it so far off the mark as to be problematic. As was the case with the Cinema 550, greens are somewhat oversaturated, which gives the image a slightly greenish-blue bent. The green grass in ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, as well in the opening of chapter three in Kill Bill Volume 1 (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), was a bit too vibrant. In contrast, the reds in chapter five of the Phantom of the Opera HD DVD (Warner Home Video) looked wonderfully deep, without veering off toward magenta or orange. The color temperature, at the 6500 K setting, was generally on target, except with the darkest content. In CBS’s 1080i broadcast of Jericho and in the Batman Begins HD DVD, skin tones took on a reddish hue in dark scenes but looked natural throughout the rest of the spectrum. You may want to experiment with the color temperature and skin-tone controls to find the color combination that best suits your taste.
One quality I’ve appreciated about every Epson projector I’ve seen is their bit depth, or how many colors the display can reproduce. Even though we’re talking color, we evaluate bit depth by looking at how many shades of gray a display can render; I use the white-to-dark ramp in title 18, chapter 7 of Video Essentials (DVD International). The smoother the transition from white to black, the more colors the display can reproduce. The more colors it reproduces, the less digital it looks, meaning you won’t see a lot of digital noise and dithering effects in grays and solid colors. Through both the component video and HDMI inputs, this projector produces a smooth white-to-black ramp, and it did a great job with my DVD test scenes, smoothly rendering the shadow-filled faces from Lost: The Complete Second Season (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) and allowing the smoke that hangs over chapter 10 of Ladder 49 (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) to actually look like smoke. A 1080p display can also reveal more high-frequency noise in a signal, but the Home Cinema 1080 consistently rendered a clean, noise-free HDTV image.

Last but not least is the projector’s processing and de-interlacing ability. The Home Cinema 1080 correctly de-interlaces 1080i content, which means it correctly combines the fields when producing the 1080p signal. In the Film/Auto mode, it picked up the 3:2 film cadence in my 480i and 1080i test discs. With the standard-def Gladiator DVD (DreamWorks Home Entertainment), it ably handled the flyover in chapter 12, producing only a little shimmer in the rooftops and Coliseum archways. The HQV HD DVD test disc includes a pan of an empty stadium that can be filled with moiré patterns if a display doesn’t pick up 3:2 with 1080i content; this projector did an excellent job, creating only a hint of shimmer in the upper decks. The projector does accept 1080p through the HDMI input, but its de-interlacing is good enough that you don’t have to feed it a 1080p signal if you purchased a first-generation high-def player that only outputs 1080i. The projector’s video-based processing is average at best; I saw some jaggies in TNT’s 1080i NBA playoff coverage, as well as video-based 480i SDTV and DVD content.


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