Almost as surprising is the black level. A full black screen measured 0.011 ftL in Dynamic mode without the aid of an auto iris. This is decent performance, resulting in a contrast ratio of 4,369:1. In the Cinema mode, Epson’s apparent insanity becomes a little less insane. Though total light output drops to 19 ftL, black level drops to a very dark 0.003. It’s as if someone told Epson that the Cinema mode should be dark because black level is all-important. I think that if you can throw 48 ftL on a screen, do it and then let the user dial it back with iris and lamp settings.
Processing was a little above average in SD and HD testing, with some jagged edges showing up when deinterlacing 1080i material. Upconverting from SD had minimal artifacts but also minimal detail. If you have a good Blu-ray player, its internal scaling will probably produce a sharper image.
But then there’s the bad. The Epson’s uniformity, in both the Cinema and Dynamic modes, is terrible — the worst I’ve seen on any recent display. Parts of the screen are differently tinted. When I used a gray test pattern, the bottom of the screen looked greenish, while the middle and upper left was pink. This was somewhat noticeable when watching some content, especially if there was an image of the sky, a solid color, or white. But it’s not distracting, and I’ll admit that I notice uniformity issues more than most people.
The other is the color: It’s not accurate. In the Dynamic mode, green is yellowish green, while red and blue are both a bit oversaturated. In the Cinema mode, they’re actually worse: All colors are oversaturated, though green is less yellowish. While brightness and contrast ratio are vastly more important in terms of overall picture quality, accurate color can really put a display over the top for me. Most people aren’t used to accurate color, so an oversaturated image won’t look out of place. But everything on the Epson just had a slight tinge of artificiality. Not enough for me to dislike it, but, sadly, it prevents me from loving it.
It’s also surprisingly loud. Most LCD projectors are whisper-quiet, but not this one. The key is to put it in ECO mode, which quiets it down. You lose a lot of light output, but in the Dynamic mode this means a peak of 35 ftL, which is still more than enough.
As you’d imagine, insane brightness and reasonable contrast make for an extremely compelling image. I’ve only stopped playing Star Wars: The Old Republic on my HTPC long enough to write this review, and the game looked incredible through the Epson. Most notably, the space missions, often near planets, had a deep richness in the blacks, while the planets and ships really popped.
That brightness also works wonderfully for 3D. Epson’s regular battery-operated glasses comply with the new M-3Di standard, so they’ll work (in theory) with future Panasonic, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, and other displays. They’re fairly light and not uncomfortable, though they seem to cut down on more light than others I’ve used recently. But that’s not a big deal given that the 3D mode forces maximum light output from the projector. The IR sync signal is sent out by the projector, so no emitter is needed.
Animated movies like Kung Fu Panda 2 looked fantastic. Punchy visuals, dark blacks, and fine detail all added up to one of the better 3D images I’ve experienced at home. (With 3D, it’s all about the light output.) There was a trace of crosstalk, but the Epson’s performance here was well better than average.
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