Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 3LCD Projector Review

Epson PowerLite Home Cineam 3500 Video Projector
Epson PowerLite Home Cineam 3500 Video Projector - Front and Rear Views. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 is a 2D/3D video projector from Epson that utilizes 3LCD technology as a foundation to provide 1080p native resolution, further supported by strong B/W and Color light output, and up to a long 5,000 hour lamp life in standard operating mode.

On the connectivity side, there are two HDMI inputs (one of which is MHL-Enabled), separate VGA and Component inputs, a traditional Composite video input, and a USB input.

Of course, there is a lot more. Continue reading the rest of this review to find out if the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500, is worth consideration for your home theater setup.

Product Overview

1. 3LCD Video Projector with 1080p native pixel resolution, 16x9, 4x3, and 2.35:1 aspect ratio compatible.

2. Light output: Maximum 2,500 Lumens (both color and b&w), Contrast Ratio: up to 70,000:1.

3. Lens: F=1.51 – 1.99. Focal length 18.2 – 29.2 mm

4. Optical zoom ratio: 1.0 – 1.6 (manual adjustment), Throw Ratio: 1.32 to 2.15.

5. Optical Lens Shift: Horizontal 24% (left or right of the center point), Vertical 60% (up or down from the center point).

6. Digital Keystone Correction: Horizontal and Vertical - 30 degrees on either side of the center point. Adjusts the angle of the horizontal and vertical sides of a projected image (only use if the lens shift adjustments, and projector's feet do not result in perfectly rectangular image).

7. Projected Image Size Range: 30 to 300 inches.

8. Fan Noise: 35 dB db in Normal mode and 24 dB in ECO mode.

9. NTSC/PAL/480p/720p/1080i/1080p60/1080p24 input compatible.

10. 3D display capable using the Active Shutter LCD system, supported by Epson's 480Hz Bright 3D Drive Technology. Compatible with Frame Packing, Side-by-Side and Top-and-Bottom 3D signal input sources.

Two pairs of RF Active Shutter Glasses included.

11. Inputs: HDMI, HDMI-MHL, Composite, combined Component/VGA, USB, and Wireless LAN (via optional adapter). Also, a set of analog RCA stereo inputs and a 3.5mm audio output is provided.

12. Lamp: 250 Watt Ultra High Efficiency (UHE) E-TORL (user replaceable). Lamp life: Up to 3500 hours (normal mode) - 5000 hours (ECO mode).

13. Audio: 10 watts x 2 (speakers mounted on the rear of the projector).

14. Unit dimensions: (W) 16.1 x (D) 12.6 x (H) 6.4 inches; Weight: 14.9 lbs.

15. Wireless remote control included.

16. Suggested Price: $1.699.99

Setup and Installation

Projector Placement: Although larger than many compact home entertainment video projectors, set-up and installation requirements for the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 are pretty straightforward..

Step 1: Install a screen (size of your choosing) or use a white wall to project on.

Step 2: Place projector on a table/rack or on the ceiling, either in front or rear of the screen at the distance from the screen that works best. Epson's screen distance calculator is a great help. For review purposes, I placed the projector on a mobile rack in front of the screen for easier use for this review.

Step 3: Connect your source. The 3500 provides wired connectivity (HDMI, HDMI-MHL, component, composite, VGA, USB), but also allows an additional wireless LAN connectivity option via optional Wireless USB WiFi Adapter.

Step 4: Turn on the source device that you plan to use - The 3500 will then automatically search for the active input source. You can also access the source manually via the remote control or use the onboard controls located on the side of the projector.

Step 5: Once you turn everything on, you will see the screen light up, and the first image you will see is the Epson logo, followed by an message that the projector is searching an active input source.

Step 5: Adjust the projected image. To fit the image onto the screen, raise or lower the front of the projector using the adjustable feet located on the bottom left/right of the projector. You can further adjust the horizontal and vertical image placement by using the Optical Lens Shift features (the adjustment dials are located on the top of the projector, immediately behind the exterior lens assembly. In addition, you can also use horizontal and vertical Keystone adjustments, located on the top of the projector with the onboard controls.

Next, use the manual Zoom control located above and behind the lens to get the image to fill the screen properly. Once all the above procedures have been done, use the manual Focus control to fine tune the image appearance. The Zoom and Focus controls are wrapped around the exterior lens assembly. Lastly, select the Aspect Ratio you desire.

Video Performance 2D

I found that the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 performed very well with HD sources, such as Blu-ray Discs. In 2D, color, especially flesh tones, were consistent, and both black level and shadow detail were very good, although the black levels could still use some improvement.

On of the capabilities of the Epson 3500 is that it can project a viewable image in a room that may have ambient light present, which is often encountered in a typical living room. Although there is a compromise in contrast and black level in order to provide a sufficiently bright image in such a situation, the projected images do not look as washed out as you would encounter on most projectors.

Of course, in a room set-up for home theater viewing that has no, or very little, ambient environment, 3500's ECO mode (for 2D viewing) projects plenty of light for viewing.

Deinterlacing and Upscaling of Standard Definition Material

To further check the 3500's video processing performance, I conducted a series of tests using Silicon Optix (IDT) HQV Benchmark DVD (ver 1.4).

Here the 3500 passed most of the tests, but did have trouble with some. There were inconsistencies in deinterlacing, as well as detecting some of less common frame cadences. Also, although detail enhancement looked good from standard definition sources connected via the HDMI, the 3500 did not enhance detail as well with sources connected via the composite video input.

For a more complete run down of the video performance tests I ran on the Epson 3500, refer to my Video Performance Report.

3D Performance

I used the OPPO BDP-103 and BDP-103D Blu-ray Disc players as 3D sources, in conjunction with a one of the RF-based Active Shutter 3D Glasses that come packaged with the projector. The glasses are rechargeable (no batteries required). To charge them, you can either plug them into the USB port on the back of the projector, or you use an optional USB-to-AC Adapter.

I found that the 3D viewing experience was very good (very comfortable glasses), with very little instances of crosstalk and glare.

Also, it must be noted that the Epson 3500 definitely puts out a lot of light, even for 3D. I found that there was very little brightness loss when viewing through 3D glasses.

Not only does the Epson 23550 automatically detect a 3D source signal, it switches to the 3D Dynamic picture mode setting which provides maximum brightness and contrast for better 3D viewing (you can also make manual 3D viewing adjustments). However, when moving to the 3D viewing mode, the projector's fan does become louder.

NOTE: The Epson 3500 also provides 2D-to-3D conversion (works with HDMI inputs). However, this feature does not provide as good a 3D viewing experience as when watching a native 3D content source. Although adding depth to 2D images, it is not that accurate - some objects, or even portions of objects, many times seem a little out of place with respect to which depth plane they belong to.

MHL

The Epson Home Cinema 3500 also provides MHL compatibility on one of its two HDMI inputs. Users can connect MHL-compatible devices, including many smartphones, tablets, swell as the MHL version of the Roku Streaming Stick directly to the projector.

Using the capabilities of the MHL/HDMI port,  you can view content from your compatible device directly on the projection screen, and, in the case of the Roku Streaming Stick, turn your projector into a Media Streamer (Netflix, Vudu, Crackle, HuluPlus, etc...) without connecting and external box and cable.

Audio

The Epson 3500 comes equipped a 20-watt stereo amplifier with two rear mounted speakers. Epson actually gave some thought to audio with this projector as it is definitely loud enough (and clear enough to fill a large room with sound.

On the other hand, the accent is definitely on the midrange as the highs are definitely subdued, and bass is pretty-much non-existent. It would have nice for Epson to include a dedicated subwoofer output (although a stereo line output is provided) to help in this category.

However, providing the built-in sound system it does have, definitely adds to the flexibility for this projector in terms moving it around to different rooms (or even outside), can also be effective for business or classroom use. Also, another interesting audio feature is the Inverse Audio setting, which reverses the left and right channels depending on how the projector is mounted (such as upside down on a ceiling).

Of course, for the full home theater experience, I would definitely suggest that you forgo the built-in speaker system and connect your audio sources directly to a home theater receiver or amplifier.

What I Liked

1. Very good image quality for HD sources out of the box. Very good color and detail with high definition material. Flesh tones very good and natural.

2. Bright images in both 2D and 3D mode. Acceptable viewing of both 2D and 3D when some ambient light is present.

3. Very good 3D Performance - minimal crosstalk, and very little in terms of motion blur effects.

4. Inclusion of both Lens Shift and Keystone Correction functions.

5. Inclusion of one MHL-enabled HDMI input (works with Roku Streaming Stick) and adaptable for Wifi connectivity for access to network-based content.

6. PIP (Picture-in-Picture) Display capability - Allows two video sources to be displayed on the screen at the same time (Does not work with 3D - and I couldn't get it work with 2 HDMI sources).

7. Inclusion of 2 pairs of 3D Glasses.

8. Decent built-in sound system for a video projector.

9. Very Fast cool down and shut-off time. The start-up time is about 30 seconds and the cool down time is only about 3-5 seconds.

10. Remote Control has backlight function for ease-of-use in dark rooms.

What I Didn't Like

1. USB-Wifi Adapter not included (requires separate purchase).

3. No Motorized Zoom or Focus Function - must be done manually at lens.

4. Noisy when shifting between picture modes and when switching between 2D and 3D operation.

5. Some inconsistencies with deinterlacing/scaling performance with lower resolution content.

6. The projector is rather large considering the trend towards more compact units being aggressively marketed.

Final Take

The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 is a well-rounded video projector. Its strong light output provides a great 3D viewing experience (whether you are 3D fan or not, you have to check out how well this projector displays 3D), as well as providing some added flexibility for rooms that may not be completely dark.

Also, the inclusion of real optical lens shift is big bonus as this allows additional installation flexibility where the projector cannot be mounted directly to the center point of the screen.

In addition, the inclusion of an MHL-enabled HDMI input tuners the projector into a media streamer with the addition of plug-in devices, such as the MHL version of the Roku Streaming Stick, as well as providing a convenient way to access content directly from compatible smartphones and tablets.

However, along with the positives there are some negatives, such as inconsistencies with video processing of lower-resolution sources, and there is noticeable fan noise when viewing in 3D or high-brightness modes.

On the other hand, taking it total feature package and performance characteristics into consideration, The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 is definitely worth consideration. In fact, if you watch your movies in the living room where light control may not be optimum, instead of a dedicated dark home theater room, then Epson 3500 may be the right choice for you. Also, the Espon 3500 makes a great outdoor projector for those warm Summer Nights.

For an additional look at the 3500's features and video performance, check out my supplementary Product Photos and Video Performance Test Results.

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Additional Components Used In This Review

Home Theater Receivers: Onkyo TX-SR705 and Harmon Kardon AVR-147.

Blu-ray Disc Players: OPPO BDP-103, OPPO BDP-103D Darbee Edition.

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System (5.1 channels): 2 Klipsch F-2's, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center , Klipsch Synergy Sub10.

DVDO EDGE Video Scaler used for baseline video upscaling comparisons.

Projection Screens: SMX Cine-Weave 100² screen and Epson Accolade Duet ELPSC80 Portable Screen.

Software Used Used to Conduct Review

Blu-ray Discs (3D): Brave, Drive Angry, Godzilla (2014), Gravity, Hugo, Immortals, Oz The Great and Powerful, Puss in Boots, Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Adventures of Tintin, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Blu-ray Discs (2D): American Sniper, Battleship, Ben Hur, Cowboys and Aliens, The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Jaws, John Wick, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Pacific Rim, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Dark Knight Rises, Unbroken .

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander (not to be confused with the TV series), U571, and V For Vendetta

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