Epson Home Cinema 3800 4K LCD Projector Review Page 2

The available options for tweaking sharpness and "detail enhancement" on the 3800 are confusingly numerous, with settings spread out between Image Enhancement, Detail Enhancement, and Super Resolution sub-menus. Even so, Epson does offer five preset options to help make this easier, and I was able to reach a combination of adjustments that helped to bring forth extra detail from images without adding any noise or ringing artifacts. Frame interpolation with high, medium, and low presets is available for HD sources, though applying any of these to content with a 24-fps "film" frame rate results in the anticipated "soap opera" effect. Fan noise with Eco Power Consumption selected was low enough to be barely noticeable at 35 dB, while the Medium and High settings boosted that level to 40 and 41 dB, respectively.

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Although the 3800's setup menu offers a Rec.2020 option to display the extended color gamut, color measurements indicated only 78.27 coverage of the DCI-P3 color space (within a Rec.2020 container) used for Ultra HD sources. DCI-P3 coverage measured significantly higher with the last two Epson projectors I reviewed, so this is one area where the 3800 reveals its budget-projector status.

Even with the 3800's comparatively limited extended color capability, I noted no serious shortcomings on discs and video streams I checked out. Animated programs on Hulu like Rick & Morty (a pandemic pleasure-binge) had a bright, crisp, clean look that highlighted the lurid hues used to depict alien worlds and their inhabitants. Reference Blu-rays revealed appropriately vivid color and balanced, natural-looking skin tones. When I watched the recent remastered version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I noted good black depth in the cave scene where the proto-human apes huddle together, along with a fair amount of detail in their black fur. And when the action later abruptly shifted to modern-day outer space, the white space vehicles also showed good detail and stood out in marked contrast against the black background of space.

The Chinese film Shadow, another black-level and shadow detail reference, also came across impressively when I watched the Blu-ray version. In a scene where the intoxicated king shows off his calligraphy skills to a gallery of fawning sycophants at court, the ink that he applied to paper in broad, loose strokes came across as a deep black. There was also a good range of near-black tones visible in black robes worn by the king and other officials, and gray tones in the transparent banners hanging from the ceiling.

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Ultra HD/HDR Performance
Watching the films mentioned above on Ultra HD Blu-ray, I noted improved black depth in the 2001's cave scenes. Outer space shots also looked more vibrant, with starfields displaying greater pop against the rich, black background. Watching the court scene from Shadow, the image looked noticeably more solid and detailed than it did on Blu-ray. While the improvement here could mostly be seen in the hanging banners, which displayed a greater range of subtle gray tones, the picture quality boost that Ultra HD Blu-ray provided on the 3800 extended to many other aspects as well. One thing that needs to be noted here is that getting the best image quality with HDR content usually involved experimentation with the projector's 16-step HDR10 adjustment. Fortunately, the menu for that control can be called up via a dedicated remote button for quick, on-the-fly tweaks.

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The Meg, an Ultra HD disc used by S&V's resident projector guru Kris Deering in many of his reviews, is a good example of a title that pushes the limits of a projector's ability to process HDR highlights. Watching it on the 3800, the displays in the control room and submarine had a bright, vibrant look that really made the image pop. And in the scenes where the Rover is sending back live images, the lamps used to illuminate the ocean floor stood out powerfully against the black background and gave the image a strong sense of depth.

The recent release of Sam Mendes' WWI drama 1917 may not flex the black and white highlight extremes of HDR—much of the film's action is set against a dismal gray backdrop—but it's nonetheless a solid Ultra HD Blu-ray title due to its remarkably crisp 4K master and, of course, Roger Deakins' fluid, virtuosic cinemaphotography. Viewed with the 3800, the camera's motion in and out of battlefield trenches revealed excellent detail in the weapons and uniforms of the soldiers waiting on their turn to advance. Natural materials such as grass, brush, and rubble also displayed rich textures that helped create a heightened sense of realism and added to the visual immersion.

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Conclusion
At just $1,699, Epson's Home Cinema 3800 is an excellent option for anyone seeking to assemble a big-screen home theater system on a budget. This budget projector's very good overall picture quality is marked by strong contrast courtesy of an Auto Iris feature that delivers mostly transparent performance, and it provides a noticeable resolution boost when viewing 4K sources such as Ultra HD Blu-ray. Setup features are generous for a budget projector and include a 1.6x zoom, horizontal and vertical lens shift, and an easily accessible adjustment to tweak the overall look of HDR programs. The 3800's low input lag also makes it a great option for gaming while its high light output bodes well for viewing sports in rooms with a high level of ambient light. Given its low price, my only real complaint is its limited DCI-P3 color space coverage compared with other budget projectors like the BenQ's HT3550 and even other models in Epson's lineup. Aside from that, the 3800 is a clear Top Pick and also an outstanding value.

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COMMENTS
EManT2200's picture

Mr. Griffin, you state in your review that this projector cannot perform at 8,294,400, yet, Epson states that it supports resolution of 3840 x 2160 and up to 4096 x 2160. Why do these statements differ ?

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