Secrets Product Review

Epson Home Cinema 1080 LCD 1080p Projector

Part I

October, 2007

Steve Smallcombe



● Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
● Display Type: Three 0.74" LCD
● Brightness: 1,200 ANSI Lumens
● Contrast Ratio: 12,000:1
● Lens: Zoom Lens; f/2.0 - 3.17; 2:1
● Lens Shift: Vertical and Horizontal
● Keystone Correction: Digital
● Inputs: One Each HDMI, Component,
   S-Video, Composite, RGB, RS-232
● Dimensions: 4.8" H x 15.6" W x 12.2" D
● Weight: 18.5 Pounds
● MSRP: $2,999 USA

Available at ProjectorPeople for $2,499




The Epson Home Cinema 1080, based on LCD technology, is one of several breakthrough projectors that now offer 1080p (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) resolution for less than $3,000.


That is remarkable given the time that many of us have waited for a projector with 1080p resolution at anything close to an affordable price. I bought my first projector, a Sony 10HT, a bit more than seven years ago (although it seems much longer than that). The 10HT featured a widescreen 16x9 format with 1,366 x 768 pixel resolution, and very quiet operation compared to the business projectors of its time.


The Sony 10HT was based on LCD technology and therefore had a limited contrast ratio, making dark scenes look washed out, and had the Screen Door Effect (SDE), such that one could see the pixel structure in brighter scenes, i.e., one could see the individual pixels and the spaces between them as a fixed pattern on the screen. To my eyes and brain, SDE made the projected image look less film-like.

Over the last seven years, projectors optimized for use in Home Theaters have improved dramatically in terms of contrast ratio, but not necessarily resolution or SDE for LCD-based projectors (Panasonic's smooth screen technology is the notable exception here).


For the last few years, 720p projectors with 1,280 x 720 pixels became the defacto standard for reasonable cost High Definition (HD) projectors, despite the fact that most HD material was being broadcast in 1080p format! So, 720p was actually a step down in resolution from my 10HT! I could definitely see, and was bothered by, SDE on 720p projectors, especially LCD projectors.


It has been obvious to many for some time now that projectors with 1080p resolution were really needed to take full advantage not only of HD sources, but to present standard definition sources such as DVDs at their best.

Three years ago, I saw Sony demonstrate a 1080p projector, the Qualia 004, at the CES show in Las Vegas. The image was remarkably smooth and film-like . . . in fact, better than film-like! There was no doubt that 1080p was where I, and most everyone else who saw that demonstration, wanted to be. Only problem was the $30,000 price tag.


Over the next three years, the price for 1080p projectors dropped to $15k, to $10k, then $5k, and now below $3,000 (street price) with the Epson Home Cinema 1080. It took a while to get to 1080p projectors, but now that they are here and affordable, I highly recommend the upgrade to 1080p. I have. My current projector is a Sony VPL-VW50 ("Pearl"). 1080p is definitely worth it if obtainable for an affordable price. Which of course brings us back to the Epson Home Cinema 1080.

Besides its 1080p resolution, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 also has a remarkable set of features and specifications for that price, including up to 1,200 lumens brightness and 12,000:1 (dynamic iris) contrast ratio. The very generous (manual) 2.1 zoom range and the vertical (46%) and horizontal (96%) lens shift capabilities of the Epson make it remarkably easy to place in the room. And finally the Epson offers HDMI 1.3 compatibility for expanded image bit depth (10-bit).

It should also be noted that the Home Cinema 1080 has a strong resemblance to the more expensive Epson Pro Cinema 1080 that comes with a darker finish, an ISF calibration, a ceiling mount, and a spare bulb for essentially $1,000 more.



Inputs and Connectivity


The Epson's inputs are located on the back of the projector. The following set of inputs is provided: composite video, S-Video, component (RCA), and HDMI (1.3 and HDCP compliant). The Epson also has a 15 pin Mini D-sub analog RGB connector (VGA) for connection to a PC, a 9-pin Mini D-sub connector for RS-232 control, a 12V trigger output, and a D4/SCART connector (mainly used in Japan). A Kensington® Lock Port is also located on the back of the projector.


Remote Control/Projector Panel/Other Controls


The Epson's remote has discrete buttons to select the desired input, much better than an input toggle, and the expected buttons to access and navigate the menu system, arranged in a familiar pattern, as well as a number of handy buttons that directly select critical menu pages, e.g., color mode, aspect ratio, gamma, color temperature, skin tone, and contrast.


Another button brings up a test pattern that is very handy in making manual focus, zoom, and lens shift adjustments. Thankfully, the pattern stays on the screen until dismissed, unlike my current projector where the pattern goes away after a few seconds! The Epson's remote buttons are backlit and are easily readable in the dark. The buttons are well laid out, with good spacing for my larger than average hands.

A subset of the buttons found on the remote control is replicated on the projector. In addition to the buttons, there are two lens shift dials, which can be used to manually shift the image up or down, and left to right. Zoom and focus are familiar rings on the lens.

This is probably the easiest projector to set up I have yet to experience, and I was able to quickly mount the projector, right side up, on a high shelf a the back of my viewing room. Adjustable feet on the bottom allowed me to quickly level the projector, and the lens shift levers and zoom ring allowed me to quickly obtain an image that filled my screen with proper geometry.


The main ventilation ports are on the front of the projector. Infrared ports are on the front and back.


Go to Part II.

© Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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