Three main topics seemed to dominate the discussion at the 2011 Cedia Expo in Indianapolis. First, Mother Nature dialed up a weather front that included clouds, wind and sixty degrees (interesting mix for the second weekend in September). Second, Peyton Manning underwent surgery on his neck which may keep him out for most of the 2011/2012 NFL season (don’t bring this topic up around people from IN). Last, both Epson and Panasonic are poised to enter the 3D projector market with formidable products (a big sigh of relief since most of the 3D projectors we saw last year were…well…bad).

  

First up was Epson’s new Pro Cinema 6010 (the Cedia brother to the home cinema 5010). Scheduled to begin shipping in October, the 5010 will be the replacement for the 8700ub. Specs included full 1080p resolution, 3D capable, 200,000:1 Contrast ratio and 2400 lumens of brightness. There will also be an “e” version, 5010e, that comes with wireless HDMI adapter for an additional $200 MSRP.

At first glance it seemed like it might be a little bright. But we quickly learned the added brightness helped negate the drop in brightness one experiences while wearing active 3D glasses. But rest assured, whatever the viewing room or content is, the 6010 has many of the same adjustable settings previous Epson HT models have had. We were shown a clip of the blu-ray disc Yogi Bear in 3D. I’m pleased to report the 3D picture looked excellent. The jittering, crosstalk and 3D noise of previous non-Epson 3D models were not present. In addition, contrast, color saturation and color accuracy looked very good. Unfortunately, that was the only clip we saw on the 6010. I would have liked to have seen some more 2D content on the 6010, particularly something with a black level torture test but until we do I’m going to assume 5010 will excel in these areas just as the 8700 UB has.

Next we headed upstairs for a demo of the high end 2D only Pro Cinema 61000 that Epson which Epson actually announced but never released last year. The Pro Cinema 61000 (Cedia brother to the forthcoming Home Cinema 21000) uses new LCD Reflective Technology, which is slated to be released hopefully by December of this year. Put plainly, Epson’s new reflective LCD technology is like nothing we’ve ever seen in front projection. Without being able to use light meters, grayscale software, etc. we can’t speak to numbers but Epson’s reflective LCD projector might just produce the sharpest, clearest image this side of $20,000. The most impressive clip we saw was Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix, fight scene. The blacks were unbelievable, which they should be with a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. Another nice features on this unit is a lens memory function which not only remembers zoom and focus but also lens shift (yeah!). This project was definitely not as bright as the 6010 we saw so more than likely it’s a better fit for dedicated HT rooms.

 

 

The next stop was the Panasonic’s Booth and after staring in awe at the 152” 4K plasma, we moved over to get a demo of the PT-AE7000U (shipping end of September). After a brief clip discussing the specs and added features (see them here) we moved right into the 3D content. What I liked about the demo was we were able to see 3 different clips, two in 3D one in 2D. By far the best clip was Pirates of the Caribbean in 3D. I’m know I’m not alone in being a little skeptical when shown only animated content so I was pleasantly surprised when they rolled Pirates of the Caribbean. The image was pristine. I had the opportunity to see a sneak preview of the AE7000U a few weeks back and at the time I said it was the best active 3D I’d seen to date. Well, AE7000U at Cedia looked even better. No crosstalk, no ghosting and very easy on the eyes. We finished up with 2D content (Astro Boy) that also looked very good, a definite improvement over the PT-AE4000U.

   

We then stepped out to look at the newly announced PT-AR100, a Full 1080P, 2800 lumen 2D projector. This unit is geared for home theater in the family room. It is very bright, but in our opinion looked just exactly as advertised. It was very bright, clear, crisp and clean. I would have liked to do a direct comparison with other models but the blacks were decent and the colors were still very balanced. A cool bonus feature on the AR100 is the “drop down” lid which allows for easy lamp swapping (see photo).

In summary we came away feeling a lot better about active 3D projection, it’s finally ready for prime time. Both Panasonic and Epson also stressed the fact that 2D picture quality has been improved on their respective models and we agree. So if you’re in the market for a new projector for home entertainment, give the new Panasonic and Epson models a thought. And if you’re traveling to Indianapolis any time soon, don’t mention Peyton Manning’s surgery ;)

 

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