Home Theater Review


Epson Pro Cinema LS10000 Projector Reviewed

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Epson-ls10000-thumb.jpgTake a look at our Front Projectors category page, and you'll see that we've reviewed a lot of Epson projectors over the years--but none of those past models is quite like the subject of today's review, the Epson LS10000. This projector, part of the Pro Cinema line that's only sold through specialty dealers, was introduced back at CEDIA 2014, but it was only made available to a limited number of Epson dealers in its first year. Now Epson has opened up the distribution to a wider number of dealers, so it's a little easier to find and purchase the flagship LS10000.

The first difference that will immediately catch your eye is the LS10000's $7,999 price tag, which is a fairly large step up from other models we've reviewed in the company's Pro Cinema and Home Cinema lineups. What accounts for that price increase? Well, for one, the LS10000 uses a dual-laser light source instead of a bulb, which allows for a longer life span (Epson estimates 30,000 hours), instant on/off in the power department, and the ability to produce an absolute black, faster dynamic contrast adjustments, and a wider color gamut.

Secondly, the LS10000 is not a standard three-chip LCD projector like other Epson models. It uses what Epson calls 3LCD Reflective technology that behaves more like the Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) technology found in Sony and JVC projectors. You can learn how LCoS works here, but one advantage is an improvement in native contrast and pixel density compared with LCD.

The final piece that distinguishes the flagship LS10000 is the inclusion of 4K Enhancement technology that shifts each pixel in this 1080p projector diagonally to improve its apparent resolution. It's not true 4K like you get with some of Sony's home theater projectors; it's akin to JVC's e-shift models like the DLA-X500R we previously reviewed. The LS10000 is the only model in Epson's lineup that uses this technology. The company does offer a step-down model, the LS9600e, that features the 3LCD Reflective technology and laser light source (plus built-in support for Wireless HD), but it omits the 4K Enhancement.

So, how does this unique Epson projector perform? Let's find out.

Setup and Features
When I saw the size of the box that the LS10000 arrived in, I knew instantly that this is a different animal than previous Epson designs. The shipping box measured 27 by 28 by 15 inches and weighed 55 pounds. The projector itself measures 21.65 inches wide by 21.77 deep by 8.85 high and weighs 39.7 pounds. That's a bit larger and heavier than the recent Sony VPL-HW350ES 4K projector I reviewed, but it's notably larger than other Epson home theater models like the Home Cinema 5030UB.

Epson-ls10000-rear.jpgThe LS10000 has a textured black finish with a center-mounted lens, flanked on each side by vents. Controls for power, source, lens, menu, escape, and navigation are hidden in a push-out panel on the left side. Around back you'll find dual HDMI 2.0 inputs that can accept a 4K/60 signal; only one has HDCP 2.2 support, though. You'll also find one component, one composite, and one PC input, as well as RS-232, dual trigger outputs, a LAN port for IP control, and a Type B USB port for service only. The entire backside can be covered with a detachable, slatted plastic panel for a cleaner look once the connections have been made. The only omission to the connection panel is a Type A USB port that allows for media playback or the ability to directly power a wireless dongle like my DVDO Air3C. I was able to use the Air3C with this projector without issue (with sources up to 1008p), but I did have to plug it into a power strip to do so.

As part of Epson's Pro Cinema line, the LS10000 comes with a ceiling mount (which is good because not every ceiling mount will support a projector of this size) and has a three-year limited warranty, with access to Epson's PrivateLine priority technical support and free two-business day exchange with Extra Care Home Service. The LS10000 is also an active 3D projector with an integrated RF emitter, and it comes with two pairs of 3D glasses.

As you would hope to find in a flagship projector, the LS10000 is loaded with advanced setup tools and picture adjustments. It has 2.1x zoom, 90 percent vertical lens shift, and 40 percent horizontal lens shift, all of which (along with the focus control) can be performed via the IR remote control, which is fully backlit and contains direct access to all inputs and lots of useful picture controls. It took just seconds to size and position the LS10000's image on my 100-inch Visual Apex VAPEX9100SE drop-down screen, from a distance of about 14 feet away and sitting atop a 46-inch-high gear rack. The LS10000 has a throw-ratio range of 1.28 to 2.73.

The LS10000 has eight 2D picture modes and three 3D picture modes. Because this is a THX-certified projector, there are dedicated THX picture modes for both 2D and 3D content. There are also Digital Cinema and Adobe RGB picture modes calibrated to those color standards. Advanced picture adjustments include: color-temperature presets from 5,000 to 10,000 Kelvin, with RGB offset and gain controls and skintone adjustment; a color management system to adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness of all six color points; five gamma presets and a customized mode; noise reduction; a dynamic contrast control (aka auto iris) with Normal and High-Speed options to automatically tailor the image brightness to suit the content being displayed; and a manual 11-step lens iris that allows you to further tailor the light output to suit your viewing environment. Frame interpolation is available to improve motion resolution and remove judder from film sources, for those who prefer smoother motion. You can store up to 10 different picture modes in the LS10000's memory.

Aspect-ratio options include auto, normal, zoom, and full, as well as anamorphic wide and horizontal squeeze modes. You can mate this projector with an anamorphic lens and 2.35:1 screen, and the LS10000 allows you to configure, store, and automatically engage up to 10 different lens memories.

Like other Epson models, the LS10000 incorporates both Super Resolution and Detail Enhancement, designed to help improve the crispness and sharpness of the image. Unlike other Epson models, though, the LS10000's Super Resolution menu also includes five 4K Enhancement options that activate the pixel shifting to simulate a 4K resolution. The setup menu lets you choose between five levels of Super Resolution or five levels of 4K Enhancement--or to turn off the feature altogether if you don't like its sharpening effects and just want a straight-up 1080p image. You can make different choices for different sources/memories. 4K Enhancement Level 3 is enabled by default. We'll talk performance in the next section.

Like many three-chip LCD and LCoS projectors, the LS10000 includes a panel alignment control to fine-tune the three panels so that you don't see color bleed around fine edges. I received a well-traveled LS10000 review sample that had made the rounds at conventions and other events, so I needed to perform a thorough alignment during setup. The good news is, the LS10000's alignment system is easy to use, and its advanced controls allowed me to clean things up quite well. In other reviews of the LS10000 that I've read, the reviewers reported no issues with panel alignment in their samples.

Finally, the LS10000 supports picture-in-picture playback of HDMI and a second component/composite/PC source, with the ability to adjust the size and position of the PIP window.

Before calibrating the LS10000, I spent a good amount of time watching this projector in its THX mode, with both HDTV from my Dish Network Hopper HD DVR and Blu-ray content from my OPPO BDP-103 player--and I was very pleased with its all-around performance. The black level, contrast, colors, and detail looked great with the Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation BD, a movie that's filled with dark, complexly lit scenes. At the same time, the THX mode had a solid amount of light output to produce rich, engaging HDTV images in a dim to dark room.

When I sat down to do my official measurements, I began as always by measuring the various picture modes to see which one is the closet to reference standards out of the box, with no adjustment. Measurements confirmed what I suspected from the get-go--that the THX mode was indeed the most accurate in both grayscale and color. The maximum grayscale Delta Error was 3.99, with a gamma average of 2.35. The color balance was solid, but there was an emphasis toward red with darker signals. Color accuracy was very good, with only the cyan color point have a Delta Error above three (3.67 to be precise). An error number below three is considered imperceptible to the human eye.

All of the advanced picture adjustments are available in the THX mode, so my next step was to perform an official calibration--and it yielded excellent results. I was able to lower the maximum grayscale Delta Error to just 1.77, with a gamma average right at the 2.4 target that we use for projectors. It took a little effort to reduce the red emphasis at the low end without adding too much red at the high end, but ultimately I was able to achieve a great color balance across the board. I was also able to further improve the accuracy of all six color points, getting the Delta Error well below 1.0 for every color. (Check out our measurements charts on page two for more details.) Even though the LS10000's out-of-the-box numbers are good, I still recommend a professional calibration to get that Nth degree of performance out of this higher-end home theater projector.

In the brightness department, the LS10000's 1,500-lumen rating is well suited for a variety of screen sizes in a home theater environment. Epson offers a lot of other high-brightness models (2,500 lumens plus) designed for multi-purpose viewing environments, whereas this model is ideally suited for home theater use. That being said, the LS10000 does offer enough light output to produce a respectably well-saturated image in a room with some ambient light. The brightest but highly inaccurate Dynamic picture mode served up 62.6 foot-lamberts with a 100 percent full-white test pattern on my 100-inch 1.1-gain screen. The Natural picture mode is a great choice for those times when you want to watch a little football in a room with some ambient light: It was the second most accurate picture mode behind the THX mode, and it measured 43.8 ft-L in the High lamp mode. Meanwhile, the THX mode that I used for movie-watching measured 26.9 ft-L at its default settings in the Normal lamp mode. During calibration, I switched over to the Eco lamp mode to get the best black-level performance, settling in at about 17.4 ft-L--which I found to be a perfect combination of black level and light output in a dark room.

Now let's talk black level and contrast for the home theater experience. The combination of the LS10000's fast-responding laser light source and auto iris allows this projector to produce a very dark black level. In all-black scene transitions, the laser essentially shuts off to produce an absolute black. Within the darkest demo scenes from Gravity, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and The Bourne Supremacy, the LS10000 did an excellent job keeping dark areas dark while still preserving bright elements, resulting in great overall contrast, and its ability to reproduce fine black details was excellent. I compared this projector directly with Sony's VPL-VW350ES (which lacks an auto iris), and the Epson consistently served up deeper blacks and had better overall contrast. Basically, the Epson's Normal lamp mode matched the Sony's darkest lamp mode, and those two images looked quite comparable in contrast; however, the Epson could get even darker in its Eco lamp mode, with the added ability to use the manual lens iris to step down the brightness even further. This gives you a lot more freedom to fine-tune the light output/black level combo to suit your screen size/type and viewing environment.

Since we're comparing the Sony and Epson projectors, let's talk resolution. The Sony has a true 4K resolution, and the Epson uses 4K enhancement. With 4K test patterns, this difference is obvious. Using test patterns from the Video Essentials UHD USB drive fed through a Roku 4, the Sony passed the full 4K resolution patterns, while the Epson could not. More so, the Sony produced finer, crisper lines throughout all of these patterns. When I compared 4K still photos, if I moved closer to the screen and studied the photos, I could see the places where the Sony offered improved detail and crispness. But let's be honest, that's not how we watch video. At my normal viewing distance of about 10 feet on a 100-inch-diagonal screen, the differences in still photos were much harder to see.

When I switched to moving 4K video from the Sony FMP-X10 media server--scenes from the FIFA 4K/60 soccer film and Captain Phillips--the resolution differences became even harder to see between the Sony and Epson projectors. In fact, the Epson's better black level and contrast gave the image a better overall sense of depth and dimension, which made it seem more detailed. Of course, as you move up in screen size, resolution differences will be more apparent. If your screen is a lot larger than my 100-inch reference, you might be better able to discern improvements in a true 4K projector versus a 4K Enhancement model like the LS10000 (especially when Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives); but, in my case, those differences were just too subtle with real-world moving pictures.

I did the above comparisons with Epson's 4K Enhancement control set to the default of 4K-3. That's medium intensity; you can make the sharpening effect stronger by moving up to 4K-5. However, the higher the number, the more edge enhancement gets added to the picture. I ultimately preferred a setting of 4K-1 or 4K-2, which may not look quite as sharp but adds a lot less artificial enhancement. The same is true if you opt to stay in true 1080p mode and just use Super Resolution: the higher settings can look sharper and more detailed but also show more edge enhancement. To get rid of edge enhancement completely, you can turn off the Super Resolution/4K Enhancement entirely. The point is, you have a lot of options to tailor this effect to your liking, and you can set up different options for different sources.

One issue worth mentioning is that Frame Interpolation is not available when you enable any of the 4K Enhancement choices (it is available with Super Resolution, though). This isn't an issue for me because I don't like the smoothing effects of Frame Interpolation; some people do, however, and they may also want the improved motion resolution that you get with Frame Interpolation enabled. When I ran through the motion resolution tests on my FPD Benchmark test disc, I found that enabling Frame Interpolation did improve resolution in the moving test patterns and made it easier to read the license plates in the moving-car demo scenes. With real-world DVD/Blu-ray content, the Low FI mode is quite subtle in its smoothing, which is a positive in my opinion.

epson-ls10000-dci.jpgOne final note on 4K: As we look ahead, 4K sources like Ultra HD Blu-ray don't just bring higher resolution to the table; they bring better color, in the form of a higher bit depth and wider color gamut. The LS10000 is more advanced than some of its current competitors in this regard because it supports 10-bit color through its HDMI inputs, and the color points within the Digital Cinema picture mode actually measure very close to the DCI/P3 color space that all the TV manufacturers are trying to get to with quantum dots and such (the chart to the right shows the DCI color triangle, with the dots representing the Epson color points).

In other processing news, one thing I've always liked about LCoS projectors from Sony and JVC is how clean and smooth the picture looks--in terms of general picture noise and especially noise in low-light scenes. Epson's Liquid Crystal on Quartz technology does a good job matching that, so the LS10000's image has very little digital noise, even in dark scenes.

Regarding the LS10000's 3D playback, I ran through demo scenes from Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Life of Pi, and I saw no ghosting through the active 3D glasses. The 3D image had nice contrast and depth, and image brightness was solid. The 3D Cinema and 3D THX picture modes render a respectably bright image in a completely dark room; however, if you want to watch 3D with any ambient light in the room, you'll probably want to use the 3D Dynamic picture mode instead.

Thanks to the laser light source, the LS10000 is almost silent in its Eco lamp mode and still pleasantly quiet in its Normal lamp mode. It's also very fast to power on and off. It took longer for my screen to lower and my AV receiver to power on and switch to the correct input than it did for this projector to power on and reach full brightness.

Click over to Page Two for Measurements, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...

continue to page two
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