Shootout: Three 1080p Front Projectors Page 3

The Short Form

Price $5,000 / epson.com / 800-463-7766
Snapshot
A forward-looking projector that provides solid performance and comes loaded with perks.
Plus
•Deep blacks •Rich, natural-looking color •Flexible setup options •Future-proof HDMI 1.3 input and Deep Color support
Minus
•Priced $2,000 higher than nearly identical Home Cinema model
Key Features
•2.1x Zoom lens •Manual Zoom, Focus, and Vertical/Horizontal lens shift •Auto Iris control •ISF calibration memories •Inputs: HDMI; component-, composite-, and S-video; VGA; RS-232C •16 x 5 x 12.3 in; 12.3 lb Full Lab Results
You also get a huge range of video options to tweak the Pro's picture. Of the projector's six Color Modes, HD delivers the most accurate color, and its brightness and contrast settings are best optimized for dark-room viewing. I started out my evaluation by selecting Low lamp, Enhanced HDMI video range (this setting displays video black for a 0-IRE signal, whereas the Normal option puts black at the old 7.5-IRE level standard for U.S. NTSC broadcasts), HD Color Mode, 2.2 Gamma, and 6,500-K color temperature. These settings - the combination of which delivered a punchy, natural-looking picture without additional adjustments - were stored as a preset in the projector's memory.

PERFORMANCE The Epson impressed me right off with its rich, accurate color across a wide range of scenes from the Blu-ray Disc of The Departed. For example, when Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) and his henchman Mr. French (Ray Winstone) discuss plans in Costello's home, each character's distinctly reddish skin tone was easily distinguishable - even in the warm interior, with its yellow walls and cherry furniture. And in a scene where the gangsters meet outside a warehouse complex at night, both the projector's solid black level and its ability to flesh out shadow details such as creases in their dark clothing gave the image a good sense of depth. The Epson's performance here was a notch below that of the best projectors I've tested, and I occasionally found myself craving a bit more brightness and "snap." But for the most part, that was only when watching dark scenes like this one.

Picture detail on the Epson was also very good with HD sources hooked up via HDMI. In a shot from the movie where an old man peers into a store window, I could easily see the ornate patterns of a Persian rug on display - as well as the rough and smooth textures of the brick exterior. When I watched regular DVDs, the Epson's noise reduction also did a great job cleaning up grainy images without eliminating detail, although the picture looked somewhat too smoothed out on shots with horizontal camera pans.

BOTTOM LINE About the only downside of the Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 1080 is that it costs $2,000 more than its near-identical sibling. But if you're going the custom-install route, this stylish projector - with the solid blacks and rich colors of its crisp 1080p pictures, not to mention its future-proof HDMI 1.3 input and Deep Color support - won't disappoint.

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