What many home theater enthusiasts want to know more about are front projectors, and not just any front projectors, but affordable front projectors, specifically ones costing less than $3,000. To fulfill reader requests, I reached out to online retailer
and procured a bevy of affordable front-projection options. Among them was Epson's entry-level workhorse, the PowerLite Home Cinema 8350 reviewed here.
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Retailing for $1,299, the 8350 is among the more affordable full-HD front projectors available today. The 8350 is clad in Epson's trademark white and grey, with an off-set manual zoom lens. It measures 17.7 inches wide by 15.5 inches deep and just under six inches tall. It weighs a respectable 16 pounds, which makes it heavy enough to feel sturdy and well-built, but not so heavy as to make it incompatible with many of today's universal projector mounts
. Around back, you'll find the 8350's input options, which include HDMI (2), component, S-Video, composite, PC, RS-232 and a trigger output. A standard AC receptacle and a master on/off switch round out the 8350's back panel options.
Behind the scenes, the 8350 is a 3LCD or three-chip design with a reported brightness of 2,000 lumens via its 200-watt UHE lamp, which is said to be good for up to 4,000 hours. It is a 1080p native projector (1,920x1,080), with a stated contrast ratio of up to 50,000:1 (dynamic). Color processing is said to be full 10-bit, though any 10-bit color is upsampled from eight-bit, as that is all that is allowed for by our current broadcast and Blu-ray standards. Those using the 8350 in conjunction with a desktop or laptop computer may experience true 10-bit color, but for home or home theater use, it's merely upsampled. The 8350 does not support nor play back 3D content (thank you), though you can find such functionality in other Epson projectors, albeit at higher price points.
In terms of performance, the 8350 has the same initial issues as its fellow stable mates, in that there are some minor panel alignment issues, whereby the internal LCD panels are not resting in perfect alignment with one another, resulting in visible colors - in my case, red - to be seen along edges of text and/or the like. The projector on a whole has a decidedly blue shift to its color palette. This can be corrected with proper professional calibration, though with a projector costing this little, I have to assume most users are looking for the best out of the box performance they can get. In this instance, the best out of the box setting for accuracy when dealing with the 8350 is its Cinema picture preset. In its Cinema mode, the image is still plenty bright, though not as bright as Dynamic or Living Room, with largely natural-looking colors that err on the side of over-saturation, which some may like. Black levels are good, better than average, in fact, though not class-leading. Contrast is also good, thanks in part to the 8350's overall brightness, though it does give up a little in this area when it comes to low-light scenes or dark visuals. On the opposite side of things, highlights aren't immune to blooming, although many of these issues are lessened post-calibration. Motion is smooth and edges, once the alignment issues have been reeled in, are fairly sharp, although again not the best, even for a budget projector such as the 8350. Good enough to be enjoyed from proper viewing distances? Yes, without question, but under close scrutiny, there are some flaws. Overall, the 8350 is simply a good all-rounder and a great entry point into the front-projection game. If you shop online, via authorized retailers such as VisualApex, the 8350's value is almost unprecedented. Read about the high points and low points of the Epson 8350 projector on Page 2.