Test Report: Epson Pro Cinema 9700UB LCD Projector Page 3

The image put out by the 9700UB is immediately pleas- ing to the eye: punchy, with accurate-looking colors and very little noise. Test patterns were my first, um, test. The projector was able to reproduce a 1-pixel on/off pattern, meaning that it revealed all the detail in a 1,920 x 1,080-rez image. That said, contrast between the white and black pixels in this pattern was significantly reduced compared with the overall contrast. In other words, the transitions between edges (fine detail) are not going to be as sharp on the Epson as with some other projectors. But, as I'll discuss in a moment, this didn't seem to be a problem when watching movies and TV.

Focus was consistent across the entire screen, with individual pixels showing little to no smearing both in the center and in the extreme corners. It wasn't too many years ago that a projector at this price point wouldn?t have been able to make that boast. With full-field test patterns, there was a slight greenish tint at the extreme edge of the image. Color uniformity also wasn't perfect. As with the resolution test patterns I checked out, I never noticed either of these two issues with actual video.

On to video processing. Using the Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray, the 9700UB picked up a 3:2 sequence quickly and correctly deinterlaced a 1080i image. With the rotating bar pattern on this same disc, there were no visible jaggies until the bar rotated past 10, which is the begin- ning of the "green" area. (This is really good.) Performance was even better when I used the 1080i video clip of the sailing ship on this disc, with almost no jaggies appearing in the rigging.

To test the projector's handling of 480i-format standard-def, I used the HQV Benchmark DVD, which you'd certainly hope this projector would do well on given that it uses HQV processing. Sure enough, the rotating bar and flag tests on this disc showed minimal jaggies, while the bricks in the background on the flag test showed good detail and no noise. As expected, the 9700UB had no problem picking up a 3:2 sequence and correctly deinterlacing 480i signals. All in all, an excellent result, and one that could be verified by watching reference scenes from movie DVDs like Gladiator and The Fifth Element.

Video measurements told a similar success story: The Epson's color points were highly accurate, with only green showing slight oversaturation. As a result, colors were natural and skin tones appeared neutral and realistic.

Toy Story 3 on Blu-ray showed up in my mailbox while I was reviewing the 9700UB. In one of the scenes where Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) escapes Sunnyside, colors looked vibrant. The azure sky, lush green trees and grass as well as the earth tones of Woody's outfits came across as realistic (or as realistic as can be in a computer-generated image).

Detail was excellent, with no extraneous picture noise (anywhere, on any content, actually). The amazing transfers of Alien and Aliens in Fox's new Blu-ray anthology have massive amounts of detail, and the 9700UB reproduced it with aplomb. I noticed a slight drop in detail on scenes with motion, but it wasn't as severe as I've seen with flat-panel LCD TVs that have a 60-Hz screen-refresh rate - the same as the 9700UB. I am extremely sensitive to motion blur, and I wasn't bothered by the 9700UB's performance in this regard.

The shadows in these dark movies were deep, deeper than I've seen on an LCD projector. Take Chapter 29 on the Alien Blu-ray. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is cautiously trying to make her way back to the shuttle. As she makes her way down the corridor, she and the bulkheads are alternately bathed in light or masked in shadow. In both cases, all details came through; nothing was lost. The projector's black level and contrast ratio were both so good as to make this scene a joy (terror?) to watch.

Bottom Line
The Pro Cinema 9700UB is the latest in a long line of excellent budget projectors from Epson. I used it as my main video display for several weeks and never once thought of changing it out for something else. From contrast ratio to color points to video processing, there is very little this projector doesn't do well. It's a fantastic value for just over $3,000; you'd have to step up quite a bit in price to get a noticeable increase in performance.