Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 1080 UB front projector

Epson's PowerLites: Home or Pro? 160284947971 Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 1080 UB With its latest 1080p LCD front projector, Epson takes a cue from the airlines by offering both coach and first-class versions. The PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 UB and the PowerLite Pro Cinema 1080 UB are pretty much the same projector. As with coach and first-class, the big difference is in the amenities: The Home Cinema has a 2-year warranty, but the Pro Cinema adds another year as well as a spare bulb, a ceiling mount, and ISF certification. Appropriately enough, the Pro is sold through custom installers (who provide a much higher degree of service than do the so-called "box movers" who sell the Home version), and it costs $1,000 more. We requested the Pro Cinema for review. After all, when's the last time you turned down an upgrade? Epson says the Pro Cinema's contrast ratio is 50,000:1, but comparing that to the ratings of some other projectors is like comparing a Concorde to a Cessna 152. Like other LCD models - and some LCoS and DLP models - the Pro Cinema has to "cheat" with its automatic iris adjustment to get to that elevated number. For the projector to display a bright frame of video, the iris opens up to permit all the light from the lamp to reach your screen. For a dark frame, the iris shuts down so that the black and dark-gray parts of the picture get darker. But the iris can have only one setting per frame, so it doesn't do anything to improve the contrast of still images. (Epson specs the single-frame, or "native," contrast ratio at 4,000:1.) Still, the company's contrast claim is basically legit - after all, you buy a projector like the Pro Cinema for Pirates of the Caribbean, not PowerPoint.
The Short Form
$3,999 / EPSON.COM / 800-463-7766
Snapshot
A compact 1080p projector that offers impressive out-of-box performance and loads of adjustments to make its picture look even better
Plus
• Bright, punchy, yet accurate picture • Plentiful video adjustments • Great remote control
Minus
• Somewhat noisy cooling fan
Key Features
• 1080p resolution • 2.0X zoom lens • Accepts 1080p/24 input signals • Manual zoom, focus, and lens shift • ISF certified • 12-volt trigger output • 170-watt UHP lamp • Ceiling mount and spare lamp included • Inputs: 2 HDMI; VGA; component-, composite-, and S-video; RS-232C • 11 1/2 x 19 1/2 x 17 1/4 in; 19 3/4 lb

With its latest 1080p LCD front projector, Epson takes a cue from the airlines by offering both coach and first-class versions. The PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 UB and the PowerLite Pro Cinema 1080 UB are pretty much the same projector. As with coach and first-class, the big difference is in the amenities: The Home Cinema has a 2-year warranty, but the Pro Cinema adds another year as well as a spare bulb, a ceiling mount, and ISF certification. Appropriately enough, the Pro is sold through custom installers (who provide a much higher degree of service than do the so-called "box movers" who sell the Home version), and it costs $1,000 more. We requested the Pro Cinema for review. After all, when's the last time you turned down an upgrade?

Epson says the Pro Cinema's contrast ratio is 50,000:1, but comparing that to the ratings of some other projectors is like comparing a Concorde to a Cessna 152. Like other LCD models - and some LCoS and DLP models - the Pro Cinema has to "cheat" with its automatic iris adjustment to get to that elevated number. For the projector to display a bright frame of video, the iris opens up to permit all the light from the lamp to reach your screen. For a dark frame, the iris shuts down so that the black and dark-gray parts of the picture get darker. But the iris can have only one setting per frame, so it doesn't do anything to improve the contrast of still images. (Epson specs the single-frame, or "native," contrast ratio at 4,000:1.) Still, the company's contrast claim is basically legit - after all, you buy a projector like the Pro Cinema for Pirates of the Caribbean, not PowerPoint.

I doubt that many people outside of Epson's own engineering staff would know what to do with all the adjustments on this projector. Everything a video technician would want and need is here, and Epson also threw in some exotic touches: a skin-tone control; cyan, yellow, and magenta color-calibration controls along with the usual red, green, and blue; and a cool multipoint gamma adjustment that shows you which part of the image you're adjusting. The color-temperature presets let you tweak grayscale in increments of 500 kelvin (K), ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 K - a level of precision I haven't seen before. And a technician can program ISF Day and Night viewing modes, with four separate memories provided for each mode so the picture can be optimized for up to four source devices.

The back panel hosts a typical set of inputs. Noteworthy inclusions are two HDMI jacks, a VGA jack for computer video, and an RS-232 jack.

The remote control looks like it was designed by a group of professional A/V installers. Not only does it have separate buttons for power on and off and for each input, but it also has dedicated buttons that let you bring up the gamma, color-temperature, contrast, and skin-tone adjustments instantly.

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