Projectors

Epson Home Cinema 3500 1080p Projector


Hands on Review

Build Quality
Features
Brightness
Black Levels
Color Quality
Detail
Final Thoughts

Until 4k content becomes ubiquitous and plentiful, the Epson Home Cinema 3500 1080p projector is fully capable of keeping up with your need for better video quality in the home.

Overall Score 4.3 Rating
Readers Rating
1 votes
4.8

Since we’re immersed in so much technology and impressive displays of virtual reality, it’s sometimes hard to appreciate just how spoiled we are.  More times than not, we quickly adapt to the latest offerings of jaw dropping sights and sounds, only to discard them days later as passé, boring and irrelevant.  Streaming content is improving by leaps and bounds, and it strives to fulfill our voracious appetites for all things “wow”. Fortunately, the Epson Home Cinema 3500 1080p projector possesses the features and stats to present modern video sources in a stunning and satisfying way.

Obsession

My wife and I installed our home theater several years ago. In comparison to others in our circles, our home theater is our RV, boat, timeshare, etc.  It’s our getaway through which we can literally close out the world.  We can dive into any multimedia experience that modern technology can provide. When I designed the theater, I wanted to make sure there was as much obsolescence-proofing in place that I could afford. I pulled some extra wire, left a little room in the AV cabinet, and anticipated that I would continue to upgrade things like surround receivers and loudspeakers as the years passed. I had an unhealthy obsession with all things home theater for several months following its completion. My wife sat down with me and had “the talk” (Read: knock it off!).

With some minor remote control upgrades, a replaced similar receiver (lost the center channel on the original), my theater has remained functionally original.  I had the opportunity to work on a few other theater installs which kept me current, but the shoemaker’s children  still had the same shoes. Until now.

The Numbers

I’ll post the most practical numbers here for a quick glance at the distinguishing characteristics of the Epson Home Cinema 3500 projector. I invite you to visit Epson’s website for the full run-down.

  • Display technology: 3LCD
  • Panel resolution: 1080p (1920 x 1080)
  • 3D (2 pair of glasses included)
  • Lens shift (horizontal and vertical)
  • White 2500 lumens and color 2500 lumens
  • Contrast ratio: 70,000:1
  • Speakers included (built-in)
  • Video inputs: 2 x HDMI (w/MHL), component video, composite video, D-sub/VGA (15 pin)
  • Audio inputs: Stereo RCA
  • USB connector Type A (for JPEG slideshow, wireless LAN, firmware update)
  • Mini USB (service only)
  • RS-232c
  • 12VDC Trigger out
Includes 2 pair of RF 3D glasses

Includes 2 pair of RF 3D glasses

Setup and Getting Settled

Unpacking and set-up of the Epson Home Cinema 3500 1080p projector was very easy, particularly if you’re using HDMI cables.  Since my installation replaced an existing projector, I already had a mount and wires in place and ready to go.  It was pretty much plug and play with no surprises. My previous projector is also an Epson, but I needed to adapt the discrete on/off command on my Harmony remote for the EPSON 3500. This was actually quite simple given the easy interface Harmony provides.

Since my theater has a ceiling mount configuration, I had to start up the projector and select the proper display orientation.  As with any projector in my experience, they typically arrive pre-set for back of room, table mount (rear). I was good to go once I selected the rear-ceiling option (everything was upside down and reversed in the meantime).

One of the understated marvels equipped on some projectors is the presence of lens shift. I’ve had projectors with and without this feature, and not all projectors have the option. I have to admit that as a purest of sorts, I had judged lens shift as a gimmicky marketing ploy. After more than a few fights with projector alignments and “bumped” projectors, I now find lens shift to be an awesome install hack…it’s that handy. With several years of periodic projector experience under my belt, I can say with confidence that practically all projector mounts will eventually move. I can’t say how, why or when, but it seems to happen, eventually. The Epson Home Cinema 3500 projector provides both horizontal and vertical lens shift, as well as keystone settings, to aid in and ease aligning the image to the screen. Additionally, Epson provides a “pattern” display button right on the remote control.  It projects a bright blue background with white border lines, center circle, and cross-hairs for manual focusing assist.  Within 45 minutes of unpacking, I was able to have an aligned, sharp and “square” image. Lens shift makes setup so much simpler.

A diagonal view of the pattern display which is indispensable when aligning.

A diagonal view of the pattern display which is indispensable when aligning.

Once the Epson Home Cinema 3500 1080p projector was no longer projecting upside down and in reverse, I was ready to get a source on it.  My previous projector is an Epson Home Cinema 2030, which is one category below the Epson 3500. At 500 lumens brighter, and with more than double the potential contrast ratio, I was excited to see what differences I would experience.

A well appointed and backlit remote is provided.  Very helpful for setup but will inevitably wind up in the drawer - unless you use the projector as a standalone projector using its built in speakers.

A well appointed and backlit remote is provided. Very helpful for setup but will inevitably wind up in the drawer – unless you use the projector as a standalone projector using its built in speakers.

First Impressions

The most obvious observation was the extra 500 lumens—which really made a difference. I could see more with a partially darkened room compared to the 2030 model. While my wife likes it pitch black, I can get a little depressed watching a movie or show in a totally blacked out room during the daytime. Further, in the event we watch a sporting event or have a movie playing with company, it’s nice to have it balanced with some daylight to make it less “cavey”. Images were certainly more sharp and crisp given the improved contrast ratio. I quickly learned that the increased contrast ratio statistic—at least in this case—rendered a much better picture.

Beyond the visuals, the cooling fan was not any quieter (or louder) than the 2030. Given the increased brightness and contrast, I wasn’t that disappointed. To assist in noise reduction, I also disabled the auto-iris, which can be an ongoing distraction as it works to compensate for bright and dark scenes. I’m planning to install a noise deflector beneath the projector to reduce the iris noise. In the meantime, however, the disabled auto-iris doesn’t seem to detract from the image in my opinion.

IMG_2272

A popular streaming political drama

Ongoing Impression

The Walking Dead, House of Cards and Mad Men are just a few of our go-to streaming series preferences.  Streaming has come a long way in just the past several months. It wasn’t that long ago that you couldn’t get 480p and stereo sound without buffering delays. Today, you can get HD and full surround sound with 99% buffering-free episodes. Wireless streaming for home theater is here, it’s strong, and it’s the source I use for many of my comparisons (in addition to Blu-ray).

Having watched many an episode of the aforementioned series on the previous Epson 2030 projector, my wife and I had a pretty intuitive sense of its detail, color, and contrast performance. While it took a couple of shows, we could deeply appreciate the difference the Epson 3500 projector brought to our watching experience. With each series and episode, we were more and more impressed by just how compelling and crystal clear the image was, allowing us to really get enveloped in the story. The images were sharp, resolute, rich in color—and immersive.

This revelation had me thinking back to my younger days of watching antenna-sourced over-the-air TV. We were so desperate to get a “clear” picture without any jaggies. While it was a big victory to accomplish this not that many years ago, it lives in stark contrast to what we now have today. Paired with our 106″ Premier Seymour AV Screen with Magnetic Masking Panels, the Epson Home Cinema 3500 projector provides, dare I say it, a better than cineplex experience.

A popular streaming "walking" drama

A popular streaming “walking” drama

The Epson Home Cinema 3500 Projector and Beyond

The Epson Home Cinema 3500 1080p projector is 3D capable, however, I have to admit—I didn’t really explore its 3D capabilities in this review. 3D is “neat” but I simply don’t use it on a regular basis or know anyone who does. This model does come with a pair of rechargeable 3D glasses, which is pretty cool if you want to pay the additional for 3D Blu-ray discs. There are also built-in speakers which appears to be a Home Cinema line standard for Epson. They’ll work in a  pinch, but you don’t want to really relay on them for anything other than a desktop conference room setting. Combined with a 2D or 3D source, even without a surround sound system, the Epson Home Cinema 3500 1080p projector can serve as a plug and play movie night in virtually any setting.

The Epson Home Cinema 3500 is as basic or as sophisticated a solution the user needs it to be. At a retail price of $1599.99, it’s one of the most value-oriented versatile projectors available.

Recommendation

Given that it provides immersive contrast and excellent light output, possesses 3D capabilities, includes 2 pairs of 3D glasses, and even has built-in speakers, I heartily recommend this projector—for just about anybody using a screen under 200-inches diagonal. In terms of cost per vertical inch of display, a TV with similar capability costs roughly $25/inch whereas this projector, at 106″ in my application, is roughly $18/inch. That’s a tremendous value.

This is a well-rounded and obsolescence-resistant projector that will last well into the future. The only foreseeable advancement beyond this projector and features is 4k resolution of which there is minimal content currently available.

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