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Epson Home Cinema PowerLite 1080 UB Projector
Sanyo PLV-Z2000 Projector

Projector Showdown Review

Epson Home Cinema PowerLite 1080UB
MSRP: $2,999.99
Sanyo PLV-Z2000
MSRP: $2249.75
Epson Home Cinema PowerLite 1080p Sanyo PLV-Z2000
Epson 1080UB by the numbers - 1920x1080P, 50,000:1 advertised contrast, 1600 ANSI Lumens Sanyo PLV-Z2000 by the numbers – 1920x1080P, 15,000:1 advertised contrast, 1200 ANSI Lumens
  • Excellent furniture value (looks great!)
  • Very quiet operation
  • Simple to setup and very adaptable to virtually any environment
  • Large horizontal and vertical offset capabilities
  • Excellent picture quality. Insane black levels with incredible subtlety in darker areas.
  • Vivid, lifelike wide gamut colour reproduction
  • Incredibly strong presets
  • Works well even in moderate ambient light
  • Easy to adjust with well laid out backlit remote
  • Unbelievable performance at an incredible price
  • $300 mail in rebate
  • Redundant connectivity
  • Easy to install
  • 3 year warranty
  • Quiet low lamp mode, but poor colour performance in low lamp mode
  • You’ll lose friends who paid twice as much for a Sony or JVC front projector
  • Expensive when compared to the almost as good Epson 1080
  • Poor factory presets
  • Difficult to adjust picture settings
  • One more Sanyo with that strange little retractable door
Manufacturer: www.epson.com Manufacturer: www.sanyo.com

Epson’s PowerLite Home Cinema 1080UB is a new kid on the block. Originally intended as an improvement over the 1080, the 1080UB is in a class of it’s own. It represents excellent value for dollar, if your original choice was a much more expensive Sony or JVC. We feel that given the current packaging, the 1080 is a better value, but if picture quality is your main goal and you’re comfortable with the higher price, the 1080UB projector is the way to go.

The 1080UB features Epson’s 3LCD technology, which is licensed to other manufacturers. Epson seems to have reserved the best for themselves, combining their 3LCD technology with Pixelworks x.v.Colour, and 1080P 24-frame support.

Like the 1080, the Epson 1080UB has incredible lens offset capabilities allowing for a variety of installation options. Combined with a 2.1:1 throw ratio, you can literally put the 1080UB almost anywhere and still get a great picture.

First Impressions

Epson seems to have cornered the market on styling. These things look really cool! So cool that Epson has used the same chassis for all three of the Home Cinema models, the 720, 1080, and the 1080UB. The only way to tell them apart is a small sticker on the top of the projector - until you turn them on, of course. This is where the 1080UB demonstrates its quality and flexes its muscles.

Picture quality is incredible, even using the factory presets. We generally start with Colour Mode Theatre Black One as the basis for our calibrations, which starts the 1080UB in low lamp mode for best black levels. It’s hard to come up with good bright room presets as there are way too many wall colours and colour temperatures to account for, but the PowerLite 1080UB does a nice job there too, with several perfectly useable full lamp mode presets. We still recommend small adjustments, but at least you can put the 1600 ANSI lumens to good use.

Epson advertises an extended colour gamut with the 1080UB, and it’s easy to see. Colours are rich and vivid with unbelievable flesh tones. Where Epson sets the standard though is in the quality of their black levels. The Ultra Black designation is well deserved – the 1080UB has an HD black level of 0.003 foot lamberts with a 106” projected image size. The best we could get out of our PLV-Z2000 is over 4 times that, at 0.013 foot lamberts. It doesn’t sound like much but in a completely dark room on a true HD black screen, the 1080UB is almost indistinguishable from the room around it, where Sanyo’s PLV-Z2000 is noticeably brighter.

Out of box performance for the 1080UB is impressive, and you probably don’t need anything more than one of Epson’s handy presets. Being the home theatre nuts that we are, we’re always looking for more. Epson’s Home Cinema 1080UB projector delivers, with an easy to use menu system appropriate for novices and experts alike. Sanyo seems to have missed the memo on including good presets and strong menus. Ironic, given that between the two, the PLV-Z2000 requires the most adjustment.

Geek Speak!

As we mentioned, the presets are strong, but any projector benefits from calibration. With the Epson 1080UB it simply made something great that much better. We initially dialed in absolute colour temperature to 6500 degrees. White balance was within a few hundred degrees at 20 IRE and brighter, with a bit of a red shift at 10 IRE and a blue spike at 0 IRE. Initial calibration got us closer to D65 but it wasn’t until we set absolute colour temperature to 7000 degrees that we were able to peg the 1080UB right where we wanted it. Final calibration got us to within a few degrees at 40 IRE and up, but we weren’t able to calibrate out the lower IRE shifts. No big deal – they weren’t huge shifts and they favoured blue, which is perfectly forgivable, particularly in the 20-30 IRE range.

It’s interesting that both the Epson 1080UB and Sanyo PLV-Z2000 represent the flagship units of their respective manufacturers. It’s interesting because the 1080UB is so much better. True, the PLV-Z2000 is more directly comparable to the less expensive 1080, but given that we wanted to compare the best these two manufacturers had to offer, we felt that the Sanyo was simply outclassed. It’s worth mentioning here again that at 0 IRE, which is the blackest black possible (possible only with an HD signal) the PLV-Z2000 was over four times as bright as the Epson 1080UB. Put another way, the 1080UB has over 4 times darker black as the PLV-Z2000. Combined with the superior colour performance and ease of use, there really is no comparison between the 1080UB and PLV-Z2000. Sanyo knows how to make a good home theatre projector no doubt, but it appears they simply were caught sleeping with their only 1080P model.

The Bottom Line

The Epson 1080UB is a great projector. It does everything very, very well. It’s a perfect replacement for more expensive Sony's and JVC's, which can cost twice as much. Do yourself a favour and at least consider the non Ultra Black Epson 1080. Our initial impressions of the two projectors are the same – incredible black levels and rich, lifelike colour. It’s in the details where the 1080UB really begins to shine and separate itself from the competition. The 1080UB is a fun piece of gadgetry that delivers on its promise of incredible picture at an affordable price.

Review by Mike English

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