Epson Pro Cinema 6020 3D Projector Review

epson_projector_pro_cinema_6020_front-angleEpson’s Pro Cinema 6020 is the flagship of the Epson line and enters the universe with a leg up on the competition. Why?  First, it comes with an exceptional 3 year warranty, plus 3 years of Epson’s great replacement program.  Nothing else comes close to that.  It is finished in black rather than white, which is better for a dedicated home theatre where you’ll most likely have a dark ceiling for the projector to blend into.

The 6020 is hardly an all-new projector, just an evolutionary improvement over last year’s projector, not some breakthrough.  The thing is last year’s Pro Cinema 6010 shared one of my highest home theatre projector ranks in the sub-$5000 projectors together with Panasonic PT-AE7000U and Sony VPL-HW30ES.   This year, the 6020 shares the ranks of PT-AE8000U and VPL-HW50ES.  All are evolutionary projectors.

Pro Cinema 6020 Specs and Features
(items in bold are new for this year)

• brightness: 2,400 lumens in both white and colour modes
• contrast ratio320,000:1
• iris control now operates in 3D
• new 2D to 3D conversion algorithm
• significantly improved Wireless HDMI
• 
480Hz LCD panels for a brighter image and minimal crosstalk
• Split screen capability (Picture Out-of Picture)
• 
3 year warranty with replacement program for both years
• 2.1:1 Fujinon manual zoom lens
• Extensive vertical and horizontal lens shift
• 5,000 hours bulb life
• 13.2 pounds
• Black finish
• Comes with spare lamp, 2 pairs of 3D RF glasses and ceiling mount

Pro Cinema 6020 Picture Quality
My viewing of the 6020 was, as usual, in my reference dedicated home theatre using a 1.0-gain screen with viewing distance at both SMPTE and THX optimum recommendations.  The impressive part is that the projector’s 2,400 lumens could handle a good deal of ambient light (even with my theatre light is set on “clean-up” mode where all the lights are set to 100% brightness).  The Pro Cinema 6020 holds true to its heritage, it has the best black level performance anywhere near its price range.   This time Epson has upped their contrast claim from 250,000:1 to 320,000:1.  That’s hardly night and day but when you are starting with some exceptional black level performance, that is still a visible improvement.  As usual, we should never take contrast numbers too seriously, due to the many “creative” ways to measure the effects of dynamic irises.  Still, comparing last year’s Epson to this year’s Epson should yield an apple-to-apple comparison regardless of their measurement method.  I just don’t like comparing this company’s 100,000:1 to the next company’s 50,000:1; again this is due to the inconsistencies and the various creative ways anybody can come up with that contrast ratio.  You can’t be sure the higher number guarantees better blacks when they come from two different companies.

Of under $5000 projectors, I recently reviewed Sony’s new VPL-HW50ES, an SXRD home theatre projector which blacks come virtually identical to what last year’s Epson 6010 can do with less screen-door-effect, or the Panasonic PT-AE8000U with better out-of-the-box colour accuracy, no screen-door-effect but will slightly elevated black levels.  Now all of you should have your new Pro Cinema 6020 (or any projector) calibrated.  Historically, after calibration, the settings will give you a much improved objective and measurable picture quality over the default settings on any projectors.

Once again Epson has a THX mode to this projector.  This is a significant improvement, as I typically find THX modes in projectors tend to be pretty well calibrated when used with 1.0-gain screen. That is, they tend to look a lot better than other modes provided.  A projector with a THX mode is one where you may not absolutely-need-to to do calibration when you are using a 1.0-gain screen in a completely darkened room. Of course when you’re using anything outside 1.0-gain screen and/or have less than completely darkened room, calibration is a must.

Pro Cinema 6020 3D Projector
As advertised with all of the new Epson, there are a number of improvements to 3D. The first and most immediately noticeable is that Epson’s dynamic features are now active – unlike last year’s.  That’s right – the dynamic iris works in 3D, as do features like Super-Resolution. Bottom line, when viewing content in 3D, this Epson should now also have the best black levels for the price for 3D as well as 2D.  For better, I think you currently will need to spend almost twice as much in order to get something that is just slightly better than this projector’s 3D performance.

While we’re talking 3D, the glasses are a definite improvement.  Various scenes from 3D blu-rays such as Dredd (2012), Brave and Resident Evil all showed very clear pop-out effect without too much of a distracting parallax effect as the result of image crosstalk.  The new glasses look similar to last year’s but have been revamped.  They are now noticeably lighter hence making them feel more comfortable.  I wear glasses and found them to be as comfortable as.  This year the new Epson’s come with two pair of their new, lighter, rechargeable 3D glasses which although a welcome improvement, they are still heavier, bulkier and less comfortable than my Panasonic active shutter 3D glasses.

The real news with the Epson 3D glasses is the switch from lithium battery power to rechargeable and also the switch from IR to RF.  No more batteries to change (roughly every 75 hours on the original non-rechargeable Epson glasses).  Not surprisingly, the life between charges isn’t as good as disposable battery powered glasses.  Epson says “up to 40 hours” but when I left it on (and I check-in periodically) it lasts around 30 hours.  Considering few of us will be watching 3D more than even 10% of the time, 30 hours is not bad at all.  Better still, though – and I love this when the battery wears down, you won’t have to postpone or reschedule your movie while it recharges. When I plugged in the 3D glasses for just 3 minutes and they get enough charge to make it through a 3-hour movie.  Again, although these features are new for Epson, there they are still a 2-year-old technology that’s been used by Panasonic and still Panasonic’s glasses are more comfortable than the Epson.

Epson is also now offering some decent 2D to 3D conversion. So far I’m still not a fan of taking typical 2D content and converting it to 3D. On the other hand, if you want to show those 2D video clips from your camcorder or watch your cable programmes in 3D, you can do that, and that is a family cool feature.   In terms of conversion quality, you really can’t compare it with Panasonic (for it being the worst 2D to 3D conversion of any projector) but I can’t make up my mind whether I like the Sony conversion or Epson conversion to be better to be more suitable for you readers.  They have their own strength and weaknesses.  For demo and short-time viewing I prefer Epson which gives more pop-out effect but looking somewhat artificial, and for long-time movie viewing such as watching family videos, Sony yields much less pop-out effect but looking a lot more natural.

Overall, I was extremely impressed with the 3D performance and once again this is only one of only 3 “bright enough” 3D projectors out there (Panasonic PT-AE8000U and Sony VPL-HW50ES being the other two).

epson_projector_pro_cinema_6020_rear-view

Pro Cinema 6020 General Thoughts and Unique Features
Let’s talk Wireless HDMI.  Epson launched wireless HDMI last year but this year, it has a new transmitter and far more capability.  The primary difference is support for 5 HDMI sources (just two for last year).  This is huge, for those of us who do not use an AV receiver or separate switcher for our sources but not truly necessary for a dedicated home theatre which tend to only use one HDMI input.  Another improvement is the addition of a Digital Audio input on the transmitter.  Usually a decent 35-footer HDMI cable that is also CL-2 rated (FT4 in Canada) costs around $400 after tax.  Wirelessly transmit the picture, and save yourself the money of opening up all those walls and ceiling to run wires, then drywall, and touch up the paint… plus that additional $400.  Wireless starts making lots of sense.

This year is an evolutionary year for 3D.  Panasonic has improved its offerings with a PT-AE8000 replacement for the PT-AE7000, and Sony VPL-HW50ES replacement for the VPL-HW30ES.  Once again, I still have to choose the PT-AE8000U as the overall winner with Epson 6020 as the black-level winner and Sony as 2D to 3D conversion winner.  The Epson’s strong blacks make it a great choice for comparing as it can take on lower and similarly priced projectors, but also, for comparison, hold its own with most of the “a lot more” expensive projectors upwards to double (maybe triple) its price.  The distracting screen-door-effect of the Epson when viewed at THX viewing distance or even at SMPTE viewing distance makes it fail to reach the top option for me.  Too bad for a THX Certified projector you can’t watch it from THX optimum viewing distance.

However, if you, like most people, watch the image from distance far greater than SMPTE viewing distance (most people usually watch the screen from 3x screen width), the screen-door-effect may not be distracting at all and this projector is a sure winner.  Add the fact that this projector is priced at around $4,000 MSRP and it includes two glasses, an extra bulb, a projector mount plus being a light-canon at 2,280 lumens after calibration, this projector is an absolute steal.

Movies used for this review:
 Dredd 3D
 Disney’s Brave 3D
 Paranorman 3D
 Resident Evil: Retribution 3D

Video-related equipments used for this review:
 Anthem MRX-700 receiver
 Darbee DVP-5000 video processor
 Epson Pro Cinema 6020 projector
 GrandviewScreen 96” 21:9 1.0-gain screen viewed from THX and SMPTE distances
 Kimber Kable 19e HDMI cables
 Pioneer Elite BDP-62FD blu-ray player

http://www.epson.ca/

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