Component Reviews

Epson PowerLite™ Cinema 500 Hi-Def LCD Projector — MSRP: $4,999


Published on May 24, 2005

Epson PowerLite™ Cinema 500 Hi-Def LCD Projector — MSRP: $4,999

Epson America, Inc.
3840 Kilroy Airport Way
Long Beach, CA 90806
Phone: 562-981-3840
Support: 800-922-8911
Model Number: EMP-TW500
http://www.epson.com

Intro
The playing field is getting crowded with high quality display
technologies in the high definition projector market. DLP, LCD, D-ILA
and S-XRD all have high performance models available, yet the cost and
performance variables make no single technology completely dominant.
Epson’s new PowerLite™ Cinema 500 High Definition LCD projector is the
best of three new projectors being offered by the company, each
specifically designed for home theater applications. The Cinema 500
offers a true high definition image with its 720p (1280 x 720) native
resolution using a trio of 0.7″ Poly-silicon TFT Active Matrix panels.
The 200W UHE (Ultra High Efficiency) lamp is designed to last up to
3000 hours in the low power modes and up to 1700 hours in the high
power modes. Cool air is drawn from the bottom of the unit through the
user replaceable filter and exits through the front side of the
projector. The contrast ratio is said to be as high as 1200:1 with a
light output of 1000 lumens. The powered zoom (1.5x) and powered focus
sets this projector apart from its competitors. The horizontal and
vertical lens shift options further improve flexibility during
installation. Four standard mounting positions (Front/Rear Desktop or
Front/Rear Ceiling) are available using the menu controls. Fan noise is
very low (27dB) when running in the low power modes and increases
significantly (36dB) when switched to the higher power modes. The
Cinema 500 hosts an array of video processing features including
Faroudja’s highly regarded DCDi® algorithms.

The Cinema 500′s DigiScan™ Processing includes a 3D motion-adaptive Y/C
separator that performs processing on composite signals to greatly
reduce cross color artifacts. The 3D Digital Noise Reduction circuitry
and 3D Y/C separator both compare previously stored frames for
processing. The 3D Gamma Correction improves dark scenes by adding more
gradation levels to the video signal. The design features the highly
acclaimed Faroudja (now Genesis Microchip, Inc.) DCDi® deinterlacing
along with PixelWorks DNX™ technology that uses video processing
algorithms with 3:2 pull down. The result is excellent video processing
capabilities in this high definition projector. Epson’s AccuCinema™
Color Management is said to provide color accuracy and performance that
meet Hollywood cinematic mastering standards for extraordinary picture
quality. The processing includes a Black/White Enhancer, Color
Enhancer, Color LUT/3DLUT, and Edge Enhancer. Priced competitively at
$4999, the PowerLite™ Cinema 500 is designed to please serious home
theater enthusiasts.

InstallationCinema500 Installation on ceiling
The chassis of the Cinema 500 is fairly large measuring 13.6″D x 17.7″W
x 5.8″H, yet the unit weighs less than 14 pounds. The smooth contours
make it more attractive than the rectangular boxes from other
manufacturers. We mounted the projector onto a Peerless PRS Series
Projector Ceiling Mount with the Spider® Universal Adapter Plate. Using
the horizontal and vertical lens shift controls, we were able to move
the image without creating any geometric errors. The vertical lens
shift can move the image as much as 100% upward or 50% downward. The
horizontal lens shift can move the image up to 50% left or right. This
is a huge advantage over projectors that do not offer any lens shifting
capabilities. The image was projected onto our 100-inch Stewart
FireHawk 16:9 filmscreen from a distance of about 13 feet. Although the
Cinema 500 has both horizontal and vertical keystone adjustments, we
avoided using them to minimize artifacts.

The power zoom and power focus worked well and made it easy to
accurately adjust the picture while standing close to the screen. This
is a feature that is not commonly found on most projectors, even those
costing over $10K. The 1.5x zoom lens offers greater setup flexibility
by allowing a large image even in smaller rooms. The Cinema 500 even
has a built-in pattern generator that produces discrete gray level
steps to help properly set the white and black levels.

The factory lens has threads which appear to be designed to work with
optional filters. Although we did not have any for our review,
neutral-density filters can sometimes help improve picture quality by
cutting the light output and deepening the black levels. This of course
is at the cost of reduced light output. Running the projector in the
Theatre or Theatre Black mode effectively accomplished this by reducing
the light output through the iris and increasing the contrast ratio.

Connectivity
The rear panel of the Cinema 500 has a wide selection of inter-connects
including a composite and s-video input that is compatible with NTSC,
NTSC4.43, PAL, M-PAL, N-PAL, PAL60, and SECAM. An HDMI input and two
sets of component/RGB inputs (via five RCA jacks) handle both standard
and high definition signals. There is also a D4 input that is used in
Japan, but not in the USA. The HDMI input accepts 480i, 480p, 575i,
575p, 720p and 1080i video. In addition to controlling the projector
with the IR remote and top panel buttons, the Cinema 500 can be
controlled via a serial or USB connection (defined in the COM menu) or
an ethernet connection. Epson also provides a smooth looking cable
cover that attached with two finger screws to hide the unsightly wires
on the back of the unit.

Cinema Color Editor Software
The
Cinema Color Editor software is included with the projector on a CD. We
received version 1.10 with the projector and loaded it onto our laptop
(Sony Vaio K23) that was also used to calibrate the display. Since we
had a network already installed in our viewing room, we connected the
projector to our local ethernet hub rather than use the serial or USB
interfaces. We quickly realized that we needed to enable DCHP and turn
on Network Monitoring in the Setting/Operation menu to get the
projector to communicate properly. Once we did this, the Cinema Color
Editor software immediately found the projector’s IP address and we
soon gained control over the projector functions. What really made this
great for us is that we could control the projector settings from the
same laptop used to take the measurements for calibration. Using the
ColorVision (formerly Milori) ColorFacts Professional software, we
adjusted the RGB Gain and Offset. We were actually controlling the
projector through a wireless 802.11g link making it very convenient to
adjust the projector settings. We noticed a couple of interesting
things when using the software interface to the projector. First, the
fan on the projector would always run even when the projector had been
powered off and cooled down. We thought this might have to do with the
network electronics needing cooling, but there was absolutely no heat
coming from the fan exhaust. In addition, the fan noise wasn’t
completely consistent when going between high power and low power
Picture Modes.

Selecting the Remote Control
button in the Cinema Color Editor interface enabled basic functions for
choosing the source input and changing the aspect ratio. My only
complaint is rather than opaque the Aspect Ratios that are not
available with a given input source, the software pops up a message
window Projector setting failed when the Aspect Ratio change is made on
an invalid mode.

Selecting the Picture Quality button changes the user interface to more
advanced menu controls. Four menu items (General Setting, Adjustment of
Image, Advanced and Memory Management) are selectable by the user. The
General Setting menu has controls for Input Adjustment, Brightness,
Color Intensity, Tint, Sharpness, Color Temp and Fleshtone, Tracking
and Sync. The Adjustment of Image has allows the user to change the
Color Mode (Dynamic, Living Room, Natural, Theatre, Theatre Black and
sRGB) and access the Color Adjustments (RGB or RGBCMY). The Advanced
menu has controls for Epson’s Super White, Progressive, Motion
Detection, Output Scaling, Setup Level, Noise Reduction, DVI-Video
Level and Auto Setup. The Memory Management menu allows the user to
save and access configuration data used to adjust the projector’s
settings.

Remote Control
The remote included with the Cinema 500 projector has a nicecinema 500 remote
ergonomic design with logically placed buttons. Separate On and Off
power buttons are included with the latter being recessed to prevent
users from accidentally Turning off the projector. Four large buttons
select the Menu, Color Mode, Memory and Aspect functions and are
conveniently located near the top of the remote. Most of the controls
are the same ones found in the Cinema Color Editor software.

The Menu button displays four menus on the screen for Image, Setting,
Info, and Reset. The Image menu has controls for Picture Quality
(Brightness, Color, Tint and Sharpness), Color Adjustment (Absolute
Color and RGB/RGBCMY), Color Mode (Dynamic, Living Room, Natural,
Theatre, Theatre Black and sRGB), Memory (Last Memory and Reset).
display. The navigation buttons include separate Up / Down / Left /
Right with a Select and Escape button. A group of six buttons select
the video input and include HDMI, D4, Input A, Input B, S-video and
Video. The lower four buttons control Pattern, Blank, Zoom and Focus.
Pattern displays the test pattern. The backlight button is located on
the very bottom of the remote making it easy to find in the dark. The
backlight illuminates all the buttons red, except the power buttons.
Power On illuminates green, while power Off button illuminates orange.
There are separate locks that can be enabled for Focus, Zoom and
Operation in the event the user wants to keep these settings from being
changed. The remote must be used to operate the projector when these
features are active.

Top Panel
Cinema500 top panelThe
top panel of the Cinema 500 has the same basic buttons as the remote
for controlling the projector’s functionality. The backlight is great
and very easy to see in the dark . If the lights bother the user, the
backlight feature can be completely turned off in the menu settings.
The power indicator illuminates orange when the unit is in standby
mode. When powered on, the indicator light flashes green while the unit
warms up at which time the indicator constantly illuminates green. When
powered off the indicator flashes orange until the unit cools down and
then it goes back to a constant orange.

Display Primaries
The Cinema 500 has some of the best color adjustment features we have
seen in a projector. Full 6-axis color adjustments for red, green,
blue, yellow, magenta and cyan are available for optimal color
accuracy. Hue and saturation levels for each of the colors allow the
primaries to be positioned virtually ideal on the CIE diagram. We
measured the Cinema 500 primaries using the GretagMacbeth Eye-One Pro
Spectrophotometer and ColorFacts Professional software from ColorVision
(formerly Milori Software). Data was taken directly from our Stewart
FireHawk filmscreen. The CIE chart shows where the ideal primaries
(RGBYMC) are located with the smaller three points making the dark
triangle. The measured primary colors have the red, green and blue
corner markers connected together with the white triangle. Yellow,
magenta and cyan are located between the points along the lines that
make the triangle. The accurate color primaries resulted in natural
looking flesh tones with excellent color saturation. Outdoor scenes
produced vivid colors with lush greens.

Color Tracking
We
set the projector’s Color Mode to Theatre Black for all our
measurements. Our Sencore CP5000 color analyzer and VP403 video
generator connected to the projectors HDMI input. Using the native 720p
video, we set the black level using the PLUGE pattern and checked the
stair step levels to ensure that we had properly adjusted the display.
The Cinema 500 also has a built-in pattern generator for those who lack
test equipment for calibration. Color Temperature can also be selected
by the user ranging from 5,000 °K to 10,000 in increments of 500 °K. We
measured the color temperature in 10 IRE increments starting with 20
IRE. The 6500 °K setting was fairly accurate considering the unit was
brand new with less than 100 hours of lamp time. The high IRE levels
were only a few hundred degrees off from our target temperature. Epson
also includes a Flesh Tone control.

Performance
The
LCD-based Cinema 500 has the same native resolution as most of the DLP
projectors we have reviewed in the past. The technology does have a
more pronounced Screen Door Effect than its DLP counterpart primarily
due to the fill factor of LCD technology. We found that we needed to
sit a bit farther away from the viewing screen to prevent this from
bothering us. Sitting at a reasonable distance from the screen resulted
in an excellent image with a natural looking picture. The LCD panels
produce some very low level fixed pattern noise that could be seen on
the screen up close when viewing uniform backgrounds. It was similar to
vertical banding, but not as obvious as what we have encountered with
some other earlier LCD projectors. Vertical motion also showed some
line structure, but nothing to be alarmed about.

We connected our JVC HM-DH30000U D-Theater D-VHS VCR using the
component video inputs. We looked at several HD-Net and D-Theater tapes
and the picture quality was simply amazing for a projector in this
price range. Colors were accurate and well balanced with outstanding
resolution and uniform brightness across the screen. Virtually no
false-contouring could be seen with the material we watched even from
digital sources such as D-VHS. Using our GretagMacbeth
spectroradiometer, we measured the light output at 10.2 foot-Lamberts
when running in the Theater Black mode. This mode also produced the
best measured contrast ratio of 1009:1 after calibration. The light
output jumped to 13.12 foot-Lamberts in the Dynamic mode, but decreased
the measured contrast to 897:1. Fan noise is remarkably low, yet
increases significantly when the Color Mode is changed to Living Room
or Dynamic. These two modes also cut down lamp life from 3000 hours to
1700 hours.

The Dynamic and Living Room color modes have the highest light output
and work well in situations where ambient room light must be kept at a
higher level. However, this mode does adversely affect the black level
and is not recommended for critical viewing.

Conclusion
The
Epson PowerLite™ Cinema 500 sets a new level of performance for high
definition LCD projectors and is a solution for a cost effective home
theater. The features offered on the Cinema 500 provide customers with
some of the most advanced capabilities including Faroudja DCDi®
processing, power focus and zoom, ethernet control and flexible color
management. Contrast is somewhat limited compared to DLP technology,
but still produces an excellent picture in light controlled
environments. The ability to accept 480i, 480p, 575i, 575p, 720p and
1080i from its digital and analog inputs makes this projector an
excellent choice for today’s high performance home theaters. The low
noise level from the fan when running in the Theater modes is
especially attractive for those who have their seating area close to
the projector. The price is a bit on the high side compared to some of
the competing projectors and should be taken into consideration when
planning your theater system. Epson has done an great job with LCD
technology and the Cinema 500 is a culmination of what can be
accomplished in today’s LCD home theater projectors.

The Cinema 500 includes Epson’s service and support and a comprehensive
two-year warranty. Epson offers its customers a PrivateLine Technical
Support card with their projector purchase. The card includes a 1-800
number along with a Personal Identification Number to help better serve
customers who need assistance. This is said to be a prioritized phone
number that operates Monday through Friday from 6:00am to 6:00pm
Pacific Time. We did not have an opportunity to take advantage of this
service.

– Kevin Nakano

Review System

Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100″ FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall
Video Processor/Scaler: Anchor Bay Technologies DVDO iScan HD A/V Processor
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box: Samsung SIR-T165 Terrestrial HDTV Receiver with DVI
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
D-VHS VCR #1: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
D-VHS VCR #2: Marantz MV8300 D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
DVI Cable: AudioQuest DV-1 20m DVI-D Cable
DVI Extender: Gefen HDTV Extender
HDMI Cables: Accel Corporation HDMI Adapter and Cables
Power Conditioning: Panamax MAX® 5510 ACRegenerator
Video Generator: Sencore VP403 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Color Analyzer #1: Sencore CP5000 ISF Certified All-Display Color Analyzer
Color Analyzer #2: Milori ColorFacts Professional with GretagMacbeth Eye-One Pro

Review – At a Glance

Specifications

Projection System
Epson LCD technology

Projection Method
Front / rear / table / ceiling mount

Panel Size
0.7″ 16:9 format

Type of Display
Poly-silicon TFT Active Matrix with Micro Lens Array

Pixel Density
1280 x 720 pixels

Native Resolution
720p

Aspect Ratio
16:9

Lamp Type
200W UHE User Replaceable Lamp

Lamp Life
Typical 3000H (Color mode: Natural / Theatre / sRGB)
1700H (Color mode: Dynamic / Living Room)

Aspect Ratio
16:9

Contrast Ratio (typical)
1200:1 (Color mode: Theatre Black)

Brightness (typical)
1000 ANSI lumens (Color mode: Dynamic)

Brightness Uniformity: (typical)
90%

Lens Optics
F=2.1 to 4.3, f=21.4 to 31.7 mm

Lens Throw Range
30″ to 300″ (2.9′ to 37′)

Zoom Ratio
1:1.5

Keystone Correction
Vertical ±15°

Composite Video Input

1 x RCA (Yellow)

S-Video Input
1 x (4-pin mini DIN)

Component/RGB Inputs
2 x RCA x 5 (Red / Green / Blue / Black / White)

D4
1 x D4

RS232C
1 (D-Sub 9)

USB
1 (Type B female)

Ethernet
1 (RJ-45)

Operating Temperature
41°F to 95°F (5°C to 35°C)
Cool-down period: Approx. 30 sec
Start-up period: Approx. 15 sec

Power Supply Voltage
100-240 VAC ±10%, 50/60Hz

Power Consumption
Operating: 290W (Lamp high)
Standby 0.7W (Lamp off)

Dimensions Inch
13.6″D x 17.7″W x 5.8″H (includes lens and feet)
13.6″D x 17.7″W x 4.7″H (excludes lens and feet)

Weight
Approx. 13.8 pounds (6.2kg)

Fan Noise
Dynamic / Living Room Mode: 36dB
Theater Black / Theater / Natural / s-RGB Mode: 27dB

Standard two year parts and labor limited warranty
90-day lamp warranty.

Toll-free priority technical support, available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
PST Monday through Friday. Epson Home Service provides a replacement
projector, usually in one business day.

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