Projectors

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8700 UB LCD Projector

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup of the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8700 UB LCD Projector

The Epson 8700 UB is very flexible and easy to dial in with its generous zoom and lens shift adjustments. All controls are mechanical, which is no big deal except when tweaking focus. I have resorted to using a small spyglass to do this so I don’t have to walk back and forth trying to achieve maximum sharpness. I did discover a quirk during this process. When I first powered up the projector after installation, I was unable to find a really sharp focus point. This surprised me a little since even the cheapest projectors these days have pretty good lenses. I worked on the geometry for a bit and watched the montage from Spears & Munsil while tweaking various calibration settings. After 30 minutes or so of power-up time, the focus improved visibly. This is not the only projector out there that changes focus slightly on warm-up, but this Epson shows the anomaly more than previous units I’ve worked with. Bottom line – let the projector warm up for at least half an hour before adjusting focus. And don’t be tempted to adjust it right after a cold start.

The menu system will be familiar to anyone who has used an Epson projector before. There are seven picture modes which are tailored to how much ambient light you have in your particular room. The most accurate by default is THX and since it allows a full calibration, I used that for all my testing and viewing. The Dynamic and Living Room modes crank up the light output and color saturation to help preserve the image when there are some lights on. As with any projector, total darkness produces the best image quality.

All the calibration controls are in the Image menu. The main screen has the usual brightness, contrast, color, tint and sharpness; plus an advanced selection that takes you to the color management system, grayscale adjustment and gamma controls. Sharpness also has separate sliders for thick and thin line adjustment and horizontal/vertical lines as well. These were left off by default and I saw no benefit to changing them.

The Signal menu is the place for setting HDMI range; which I discovered was set to clip below-black and above-white signals by default. To see this information, I had to select Expand instead of Auto. Video outside the 16-235 range is rare but once in a while, it does appear. I believe every component in a video chain should support the full signal from 0 to 255. Also in this menu are the controls for frame interpolation. I chose 4:4 Pulldown which takes a 24Hz input signal and refreshes it at 96Hz by repeating frames. You can choose the Frame Interpolation option if you want smooth, video-like motion in your content. While this is fine for sports, I don’t like the look it imparts on film-based content.

Unlike most THX-certified displays, the 8700 UB allows full adjustment of all picture options in its THX mode. This made things super-easy since I was working from a fairly accurate starting point. You’ll see in the benchmarks section that you can get a decent image without calibration but there is definitely room for improvement. Calibrating grayscale was quick and painless with RGB high and low controls that did not interact. Gamma was also a breeze to adjust because I didn’t have to create a custom curve. In fact all I had to do was choose the 2.2 correction factor to get an excellent measurement. The CMS also worked properly and allowed me to get all color points and luminance to near-perfect levels. Once the calibration was complete, I had the choice of 10 memory slots to save my settings. I love this feature because it allows me to create Rec 601 and Rec 709 color gamut presets as well as a 5600K color temp for black & white movies. Plus, your carefully created settings are protected from accidental change.

After this, I checked out some full-field patterns to assess the unit’s convergence and field uniformity. In my experience with LCD projectors, this can vary from sample to sample. This particular unit showed a bit of green tint down the extreme right side of the screen. It was far from being a deal breaker and it never bothered me with actual content. The rest of the field was excellent. Convergence on cross-hatch patterns looked quite good with the all-important center of the image looking the best of all.