Pros Big, bright, high-quality picture.
Pretty quiet operation.
Great for low-to-medium lighted rooms.
Relatively easy install for DIYers like me.
Cons A little bulky for low-ish ceiling.
Lens shifting is now quite what I thought it would be.
Summary I have recently renovated my basement and waffled between wall-mounted 3D TV (Samsung was probably leading candidate) and front-projector. Light levels were low enough and 3D content not as main-stream as I like, so I went projector.
In the end, the funny thing is that a 55" 3D Plasma / LCD set is a little more expensive than a non-3D 90" (or more) front-projector setup, including medium screen. Take your extra dough and invest in your sound system, thank you very much.
Current setup is the Epson 8350 with an Elite 90" fixed-frame screen, Denon AVR-791 receiver and Samsung C6500-BD player (that I just reviewed on CNET).
If I understand things correctly, the comparable "dealer" projector is the Epson 9350, which they will install for you. I guess the rule of thumb is if you add 1000 to the model number, you can expect to pay the dealer $1000 or more for the convenience of having them sell it to you.
Anyway, I installed myself with a Atdec ceiling mount. The mount was actually too tall for my purposes (I bought the extra long one since I had never done this before), so I had to cut it down to size with a hacksaw. There are probably better mounts out there, but it did the trick for me after some elbow grease.
I actually bought this projector over a couple others since it could be set someplace other than dead-center in the room. It advertises that its lens can be shifted a certain percentage up/down/left/right so you can put the unit in a variety of locations. I guess so, but it isn't "magic" or anything. Front projection should be straight-shooting to keep the light levels constant. The minor physical tweaks to direction are convenient so you don't have to get your projector mounted EXACTLY on center. I cannot imagine the headaches if I didn't get this feature in terms of trying to adjust from the ceiling mount, so, while it wasn't quite what I expected, it was a handy feature to have. Still, just so you know, there are no digital settings for image location other than upside down / rightside up. Everything else is done from the mount (don't even try it once it is tight and stable) or the X and Y axis rollers on the projector to move the lens slightly.
Once installed, this projector is nearly quiet (especially with my sound system at low-to-eleven volume settings). Economy mode will diminish the picture a bit, but the fan goes from quiet to nearly non-existent (and your power bill goes down to boot). Still, I want bright, bold, etc., to I'll just keep things at their normal settings.
The only other noise thing that I have noticed is the dynamic iris makes some small grunting noises when it is shifting around its contrasts. By the book, it should prevent your bright spots from bleeding into your dark spots, but my untrained eye cannot really tell the difference between "normal" and "dynamic" although having it on "normal" seems to help the image quality a bit.
I have not calibrated anything so I am really getting an out-of-the-box picture, which is really stunning. Sure, you could probably compare this unit to its other Epson cousins, Optomo competitors, Sony / Toshiba higher-end models, but how many people ever have a chance to put them side-by-side? The image is great and probably better than anybody else on the block (or anybody you know maybe) and you will be the envy of anybody setting foot in your home-theater room.
Pros Crystal clear picture
Easy set up
Lots of tweakable options
Cons No manual keystone adjustment
A bit large
Summary Having owned one of the best plasma HDTVs known to man, the 50" Pioneer Plasma, 7th Generation, (non Elite, one generation before Kuro, but still kicks a**) my eyes are spoiled rotten, with inky deep blacks that go into infinity and a color resolution so robust reality pales in comparison, I knew I would be one tough customer to please when it comes to projectors.
My interest was peaked when Costco sent me an offer for the Optoma HD180, which, for $899, offered 1080p resolution at an affordable price. But as I researched and read comments/reviews from other customers, I noticed several complaints regarding black levels and the longevity/reliability of the bulbs. I was hesitant to pull the trigger without seeing the Optoma in action in a real world setting. Determined to see if it would satisfy me, and armed with the knowledge that the Epson 8350 was the slightly pricier competition to the Optoma HD20 (the more readily available sister to the HD180), I visited my local Best Buy store.
I was at first disappointed to find out that they did not have the Optoma model set up for demonstration, but a quick trip to the Magnolia department within Best Buy enlightened me. They assured me that, by far, the Epson was the far superior model, and although they didn't have the 8350 on hand to demo, they had another Epson model with a few more features for a few more bucks, all set up in their showroom to prove to me that projectors were ready to rival plasma technology. The salesperson explained that the features their model were nice to have, but that in terms of the picture resolution, contrast levels, color saturation and picture quality in general they were nearly identical.
Then the lights went off and he cued 'Quantum of Solace' opening car chase sequence. He did not turn all the lights off at once, but one by one, closing the doors, then one set of lights, then another, to highlight how well the brightness of the Epson line could handle moderate levels of ambient light. I was totally blown away. Not only was it able to handle the ambient light, but the 92 inch screen appeared to me to look like a high end HDTV. I could barely believe my eyes. I was sold on the spot. I knew that I could not fit a 92" screen on my wall, so I arranged to order an Elite Screen pull up 80" screen and ordered the Epson 8350 for delivery to the store within 2 days for pick up.
After re-arranging my living room to accommodate my new screen and projector, including moving my LG Blu-ray player into that room, I could barely wait to see what it would look like in my house.
I got it home Friday evening and within 20 to 30 minutes I was watching 'The Incredibles' with my new Epson 8350. Keep in mind this was the DVD version, so not the full 1080p output the projector is capable of, but still, it was simply mind blowing. Having missed The Incredibles on its theater run, I was overjoyed at the result. At nearly three times the size of what my 50 inch screen could produce, and being able to sit so close, our eyes were immersed in the fantastic world of Pixar animation magic.
Next up, the ultimate test, real people's faces in 1080p. For this test I used the Diana Krall in Rio disc. I knew this would be very tough, as there would be lots of close ups of the gorgeous Diana Krall up close, and her skin tone would show any trace of color distortion. Again, this unit did not disappoint. Her skin tone was flawlessly reproduced. No need whatsoever to tweak color level or tint at all. The piano keys were pearly white, and the deep, dark wood tones of her grand piano were likewise accurately reproduced.
I settled on the Cinema Mode and Eco Mode for night time movie viewing and by simply drawing my drapes during the day time, am able to have plenty of brightness from Normal Mode for day time movie viewing so far. I don't have my cable box connected to this set up, so I have not tried watching sports or TV shows, but when I do, will provide and update to this review.
Overall, at a price of $1200, this unit is well worth the money, particularly when you are ready to have a true movie theater experience in the comfort of your own home.
"Great, but..."on by biggnu
Pros image quality excellent, quiet, remote good
Cons big pain, will not allow the ASPECT chance function through HDMI. Cannot always prperly display 4:3 and some 16:9 content. This is intentional, but silly, and VERY annoying. Epson admits this, but has not addressed it. Settings confusing too.
Summary A real shame that such a good box has what is apparently a software limitation so irritating. Try another maker, or complain to Epson BEFORE you buy, they might listen then.
Also, note that all Epson HD projectors are the same (according to Epson).
Finally, the pre-set colour modes are all different, but their "settings" are all the same, so it is virtually impossible to clone and modify, or bring closer these settings, which is very confusing. Fortunately, 2 of the presets are good for my purposes.