Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 6500 UB LCD Projector
Epson is one of the major players in the business projector business, and it’s now making inroads into the home theater market as well. Its Ensemble HD Home Cinema System, which includes a projector, screen, speakers, and electronics, is priced to tempt consumers who would not have otherwise considered a projection setup. The company’s UltraBlack (UB) projectors have also made a big splash at recent electronics trade shows.
The PowerLite Home Cinema 6500 UB is one step down in the Epson lineup from the top-of-the-line PowerLite Pro Cinema 7500 UB. The latter is $1,200 more expensive. However, apart from some added features (an anamorphic aspect ratio option and ISFccc Day and Night modes), a black case, a year longer on its warranty, and a spare lamp ($300 if bought separately), it does not appear to add anything that would enhance its basic performance relative to the 6500 UB. The 6500 UB is clearly the bargain buy.
Like the 7500 UB, the white-cased PowerLite Home Cinema 6500 UB moves away from the swoopy, Dali-esque, melted-plastic look that most of Epson’s lineup has had for the last year or more. Instead, it wears more business-like, rectangular threads. All of its lens functions are manual. The top-mounted horizontal and vertical lens shift have midrange detents, which make it easy to find their neutral positions—a useful feature that many manual shift controls omit.
The zoom lens, which is located off center opposite the front heat exhaust port, has a throw-distance range of 9.8 to 20.9 feet for a 100-inch (diagonal) 16:9 screen.
As with most video displays, the Epson includes a variety of preset picture modes. But Epson calls them Color Modes. Most of the video controls for each of these Color Modes are individually adjustable. They’re also separately adjustable for each source and for SD and HD resolutions within each source.
One Color Mode that is not fully adjustable is x.v.Color. It locks out most of the important video controls. This includes all of the projector’s color adjustments (including the Advanced controls for gray-scale calibration and color management), along with Brightness, Contrast, and Gamma. Even so, the manual recommends that you use the x.v.Color mode “for the most natural color reproduction when viewing movies through HDMI.” My measurements showed that it was quite inaccurate with conventional sources, and it also clipped below-black information. Since there’s no present or anticipated x.v.Color consumer source material, I recommend that you ignore this mode for now.
Within its fully adjustable Color Modes, the Epson offers an unusually useful and wide range of controls. It has Auto Iris, with Off, Normal, and High-speed settings. An HDMI Video Range setting worked best in Expanded (however, as with a number of other controls mentioned here, it’s grayed out and not accessible in some situations).
An unusually flexible Sharpness menu provides Standard and Advanced settings. The latter has four separate controls: Thick and Thin Line Enhancement plus Vertical and Horizontal Line Enhancement. I found this flexibility impressive but unnecessary for good sources. The default (0) position of the Standard setting produced the most accurate result. It also has three types of digital noise reduction: Conventional NR, Mosquito NR, and Block NR.
The Gamma control has five fixed settings from 2.0 to 2.4, plus it has a Customized option that lets you make your own custom adjustment from an onscreen graph or an actual source image.
There are two different lamp modes, Low and High. These are selectable by an adjustment that’s somewhat confusingly labeled Brightness Control, with a capital C. This is separate from the normal Brightness control.
A 4:4 Pulldown control gives you the option of repeating frames to eliminate the need for 3:2 pulldown. When it’s engaged, each real frame of a 1080p/24 source repeats three times for a displayed refresh rate of 96 hertz. When 4:4 is turned off, the projector’s refresh rate is 120 Hz for all sources. A 120-Hz refresh rate makes another feature possible: Frame Interpolation. This mode has three active levels, Low Normal, High, and Off. It inserts an interpolated frame between each real frame. The Epson will not interpolate a 1080p/24 source unless you first have the player convert it to 1080i or 1080p/60.
Since the Frame Interpolation mode functions only at a 120-Hz refresh rate, you can’t select both 4:4 Pulldown and Frame Interpolation together. While I did use 4:4 for most of my viewing, I did not use the Frame Interpolation mode (apart from checking it out). I’m not a fan of the feature, which is now common in 120-Hz and higher rate flat-panel displays but is rare in projectors. It smooths out motion, but it makes film-based material look like video in the process.
The color controls include Skin Tone (best ignored) and the more useful Absolute Color Temperature. The latter offers settings at 500K increments from 5000K to 10,000K. RGB controls, at the high (Gain) and low (Offset) ends of the brightness range provide calibration adjustments that you can use to fine-tune the selected Absolute Color Temperature.