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Epson 8500UB 1080p Home Theater Video Projector Review

Epson Powerlite 8500UB Video Projector

Epson 8500UB Review By: Mike English

Verdict:  PASS! Epson’s 8500UB is a good home theater projector that’s getting long in the tooth and is showing it’s age. Picture quality is good with excellent black level. Build quality is marginal, suitable only for fixed install – don’t travel with it and expect it to last. Menu interface hasn’t changed since 1080UB. It’s time for a re-fresh. If you don’t have a PT-AE4000U to compare it to, it’s a great projector. Pay the extra $200 for the Panasonic and you’ll be happier in the long run.

Epson 8500UB Projector By the Numbers:Epson 8500UB 1920x1080P, 1600 ANSI Lumens, 200,000:1 Advertised Contrast <cough>



Excellent picture quality

Large chassis

Easy to install – excellent horizontal and vertical lens shift, 2:1 throw

Cheap lens shift that likes to tilt. In fact the whole thing feels plastic and cheap.

Good out of box performance

No real improvements over 6500UB

Very bright in Dynamic mode

Deep dark blacks crush most of the shadow detail

Good connectivity, although you should be using a good HT receiver anyway!

Busy remote with a lot of functions. Backlight has a small, discreet button very close to on/off button.

Very dark blacks – see cons


Colors are good, if a little muted


Film like picture quality


Avoids the color offset issues of the 8100. Not really a “Pro” but it’s worth mentioning


Epson 8500UB Overview

Several years ago Epson released the 1080UB. My opinion is that this was a watershed projector. It was that good. Time marches on though , and the competition has improved. Epson, strangely enough, seems content with staying the course. I appreciate that they 1080UB was a good projector, but it’s time to move on and innovate. Epson makes printers primarily, and it shows in their business model. This particular segment is very crowded – you have to do something really special to stand out. The black levels are good, slightly better than the 8500UB’s chief competitor, the PT-AE4000U from Panasonic. It’s a slight difference that’s difficult to see when you’re looking at the big picture, pun intended. The PT-AE4000U is noticeably better, even out of the box, and costs only slightly more. I simply expected more, and didn’t see it.

The Fifth Element - Epson 8500ub interface
“The Fifth Element”, showing Epson’s dated interface

In fact, the one progression I can point to with successive incarnations of this projector, is build quality. It’s steadily been getting worse, cheaper, and that’s not a good thing. It’s fine if you’re installing the 8500UB on your ceiling, but this projector is not built to travel to the cottage or your buddy’s house. It’s not made from spun glass but best to exercise caution if you’re moving it.

Epson PowerLite 8500UB Set Up:

Like previous versions, set up is quick and easy. Lens adjustments are a little frustrating given the highly wonky (technical term) lens shift mechanism. You dial in perfect horizontal position and the image tilts. Adjust for vertical, and tilt. It’s irritating. You’ll get there, eventually, but after playing with the precise adjustments on the PT-AE4000U anything less is unacceptable.

Connectivity is good, but in my opinion this is the least important feature of a home theater projector. You should be switching in the receiver, not in the projector.

My test 8500UB was ceiling mounted about 15 feet from the screen. The projector was about 2 feet higher than the screen. Given the expansive vertical lens shift, no keystoning was required. The screen used is a Draper Permwall 0.9 gain High Def Grey 106”. Materials used were Blu-Rays of “The Fifth Element”, “BBC’s Planet Earth” among others.

Epson 8500UB 1080p Projector First Impressions:

Installation was quick and simple. Unlike the PT-AE4000U, the 8500UB has IR receivers front and back, which works well for our installation. Overall picture performance is actually quite good. Blacks are deep and dark, but the colors lack depth. They’re strangely pastel for a LCD projector. The presets are good, with a lot of light hitting the screen in dynamic mode. Theater Black 1 looked the best out of the box in our theater room. I held my breath a little, afraid I’d see more of the weird color offset issues that the 8100 had, but luckily, these problems were entirely absent.

Epson 8500UB Remote
See that tiny little un-lit button at the top right? That’s the backlight button.

I’ve lauded the remote in the past, but like the projector itself, the remote feels dated. It’s large with a lot of buttons. A pet peeve? The backlight. Why would you have a discreet backlight button instead of activating the backlight by pressing any button? I found myself pushing the wrong button instead of the backlight button, and not being able to see the backlight button to fix clear whatever menu command I pressed. Now, you may have better dexterity than I, but I found this particularly irritating. As a result I’d have to put the remote in the lightpath to see the right button to push, which entirely defeats the purpose of a backlit remote.

BBC Planet Earth on the Epson Powerlite 8500UB
“BBC’s Planet Earth”

I used primarily “BBC’s Planet Earth” and “The Fifth Element” for evaluation. Colors were good, more muted than I’m used to seeing on other units like the Panasonic PT-AE4000U and even the Mitsubishi HC3800. As I’ve said, black levels are very dark, which lent the overall image a lot of depth. Overall “pop” was lacking though. It’s hard to say exactly where the “flatness” lies. It may be only that our test 8500UB was installed beside our PT-AE4000U, giving me the opportunity to flip back and forth and do side by side comparisons.

Epson 8500UB - The Bottom Line:

Two years ago, the 8500UB would have been a great projector. Two years ago your computer was probably pretty swanky and new too. I’d like to give Epson a shake and get them to get their collective acts together. It’s time for something new, and the 8500UB isn’t it.

Epson 8500UB Bottom Line
Time to rebuild! Unlike Milla Jovovich, the 8500UB hasn’t aged so well!

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