2016 Holiday Guide To Four Of The Best Home Theater Projectors Over $2500
Once again, the holidays are upon us. This is prime season for folks to fulfill their dreams by buying great home theater projectors – and home entertainment projectors, and enjoying movies and TV like never before! Today we serve up what we consider four of the very best home theater and home entertainment projectors selling for $2500+. And we feature a pair of great screens too!
Now that more than a year of depressing presidential campaigns is behind us, we all deserve a break! Something fun to watch instead! Treat yourself to one of these great home theater projectors. Watch some sports, HDTV, or a great movie and try to forget the torture that has been inflicted upon us month after month.
OK, I’m done with politics, let’s focus on taking you to the next level of enjoyment when it comes to watching great content. Let other foolish people watch spectacular movies on their tiny cell phones and tablets. Or, for that matter, watching a a great movie or sporting event on a nice little 65″ LCDTV, may sure beat the experience of watching it on a phone, but watching it on a 90-130″ diagonal screen is a whole different world of immersion and a higher level experience. You’ll love it!
The US market alone, for home projectors is about 200,000 projectors a year. I expect well more than half, however, are purchased between early September and Super Bowl, as everyone gears up for sports, and people hunker down for a winter of enjoying great movies. It’s the award shows season too: Golden Globes, Oscars, etc. Enjoy in the comfort of your homes on a new home projector. A great experience (in many ways superior to your local theater) can be enjoyed at home whether in a dedicated theater, living room, family room, or cave.
This year all four of our selected projectors are capable of handling 4K commercial content (two are true 4K projectors). They start at $2999/$3999 (Epson HC5040UB/6040UB) then Epson’s Laser projector at $7999. The two Sony’s are $9999 and $60,000! Just over a year ago, the least expensive projector that could claim to run commercial 4K content was $7999! We are making progress.
As to the two light absorbing type screens suitable for both brighter rooms and home theaters, we’ll tell you about Elite Screens’ VMAX Dual, and EluneVision’s 4K NanoEdge.
Forget those tiny 40″, 55″ and 65″ LCDTVs: They belong in the 3rd bedroom or maybe a bathroom or kitchen. Serious sports and movies demand 100″ screens or larger.
If you haven’t owned a projector, you just don’t know what you’ve been missing! Of course, you do know: In reality, you are reminded every time you venture out to your local cineplex.
In this case: Bigger is Better! Yo millennials – STILL watching movies on your phones? Seriously?
Projector Images above: In order:
Epson Pro Cinema LS10500*
* LS10500 not yet reviewed, image from older LS10000
In our annual 2016 Best Home Theater Projectors report published in September, we featured three of these projectors. The fourth model is the just announced Epson Pro Cinema LS10500. As we have not yet received an LS10500 for review, the images in this guide representing the LS10500 were taken with the LS10000 instead (no HDR).
Of our four projectors, in this guide, none are really bright room projectors. One could argue that the top of the line Sony, with 5000 lumens is, but what a waste it would be to put that in a really bright room, as it is at this time it is likely the best dedicated home theater projector in the world.
But all of these projectors are capable of at least 1500 lumens with excellent color, so they can be paired with these optical screens to do a very good job in “intermediately” lit rooms – not theaters, but media rooms and others but where there is at least good lighting control (very good at night).
Epson Home Cinema 5040UB (and Pro Cinema 6040UB)
Meet the Epson HC5040UB. Epson’s white HC5040UB, is our “Best Value” award winner this year, in our $2000 – $4000 “class” and also our Best Value winner for 4K capable projectors! All for $2999. These uses pixel shifting to double the amount of pixels for more detail and a crisp, clean image, and has HDR.
Epson’s succeeded in creating an image that just might convince you that you’re viewing true 4K, as it can seem as sharp or even sharper than comparable true 4K projectors. “The Martian,” “Ender’s Game,” “Lucy,” “Rocky Mountain Express” – all really “wow” in 4K.
We’re talking 2500 lumen projector with motorized everything, including Lens Memory, so you can go standard, or wide screen in your theater or other room. Lots of lumens for sporting, more than enough for a very large screen for movie viewing. The 5040UB and 6040UB support HDR as well, but HDR demands more brightness, so best with screens 100″ or not too much larger for that. It’s got just about all the bells and whistles, pixel shifting and lots of advanced image processing.
This Epson is a major advance in almost every way from its predecessors, which I believe have been the best selling serious home theater projectors out there.
The HC5040UB’s warranty is excellent – two years parts and labor, with two years of rapid replacement. Nice.
Images in this player: The first three are 1080 sources (two 1080 HDTV one Blu-ray). The last four are two pair: A full screen shot from the 1080p disk, and a close-up of one small part of that screen, but from the 4K Blu-ray UHD disk. The last pair (illustration of the Bigalow Inflatable Space Station), were from the 4K UHD disk Journey To Space, full screen and a very close up look.
Then there’s the 5040UB’s twin, the Epson PC6040UB – performance is the same, but it comes in a black case instead of white. It has an even better warranty – three years parts and labor with three years of rapid replacement. True, it costs $1000 more, but is also with bundled with extras (lamp, ceiling mount, cable cover), and sold only through Epson’s authorized and trained local dealers. The Home Cinema 5040UB, though, is also available online, and in many “Big Box” houses such as Best Buy’s internal Magnolia stores.
Tis the holidays, so you want a projector easy to set up, and no hassle down the road. Epson’s rapid replacement program will simply replace your “downed” projector with another one, so you are back up and running in a day or two – no waiting for long repairs. Nice!
Rant: Bigger IS Better--When it Comes to Picture Size - Hey, Millennials...
I know I sound like a broken record: For you younger folk, a “record” would be what music came on before streaming music, iTunes, CDs and long ago, cassette tapes and 8 track tapes – in that order.) Hey, I’m only teasing, we all know “vinyl” has had a resurgence, at least among serious music listeners. Yes, it is true – you can get by in life with a 50 or 65” LCDTV in your media room, or family room, but the big question is: Why on earth would you want to?
OK, end of my usual, annual, rant. But since we’re now talking about screens, and before we turn our attention back our next projector recommendation, let’s take a look at one screen in particular:
Elite Screens VMAX Dual - A Screen with a Special Mission
Elite Screens is a well known, major seller of projection screens, in all sizes and shapes, for all types of normal and some unique applications, but the VMAX Dual is one of the most unusual screens available.
Let me rephrase that: It’s not one screen, but a dual screen system, thus the name VMAX Dual. VMAX Dual screens start at $999. That’s pretty darn good for two motorized screens, not just one.
“It’s back!” This screen was pretty new when we featured it in last year’s guide. Since then it has proven to be a big commercial success, so, it made sense to introduce it to a new generation of readers of our guides.
Here’s the thing: In the real world of home projection, content typically comes in two shapes these days: 16:9, the standard for HDTV (and pretty much the same aspect ratio for wide screen computers sporting resolutions like WXGA and WUXGA.
But then there are also the majority of movies, old and new, which are what we call “wide screen” or Cinemascope shaped. Those movie images are over twice as wide as tall, typically 2.35:1 (16:9 is 1.78:1 – that’s today’s math lesson). When you watch those movies on a typical HDTV type setup, you get black bars at the top and bottom with a 16:9 screen.
So here comes Elite, with a motorized screen assembly with two different screens inside – one is shaped 16:9, while the other is a full 2.35:1. Life is simple – watching sports, or other HDTV – drop down the 16:9 screen…
for those wide screen movies, use the 2.35:1.
Great. The only issue, of course is adjusting your projector image accordingly to fit. Now normally, before the VMAX Dual, to enjoy a Cinemascope “wide” movie with letter boxing at the top and bottom on a 16:9 screen Or you have a much more expensive projector with Lens Memory (most are $3000 – $20,000+), that adjust the lens and lens shift to work with a wide screen, but then, you have a letter box when working with a typical 16:9 picture.
With the VMAX Dual, when you have a widescreen movie, you simply use the widescreen, when watching normal HDTV or a 16:9 movie, use the 16:9 shaped screen. Basically you switch back and forth at the touch of a button. Pretty Cool! And no large chunks of letter boxing!
I know, I do it all the time as in my home theater I have two separate screens, one if which is 2.35:1 and the other 16:9. Believe me, the VMAX Dual is far less expensive than having two separate screens. As to the finer points, it comes with an RF remote control, and it works with 12 volt screen triggers. The standard surface is 1.1 gain. All considered a versatile screen especially great for the movie enthusiast. And since there’s no letter box visible on those wide movies, you don’t have those gray bars to distract from the picture, doubly important with those projectors which lack great black level performance! Cool.
An extra thought or two about projector screens...
In a well thought out room for projection – aka home theater or “cave”, the most common screen surface is a white matte one with a little gain – typically 1.1 to 1.4, but once you leave the theater, you have to typically deal with more ambient light, so other screen solutions can work better. I’ve always tended to recommend high contrast gray screen surfaces for more family room/ living room type layouts, because those gray surfaces are much better at rejecting side ambient light, helping your image have more pop. Those gray surfaces also help lower black levels when the room is dark, making a good projector seem like a better one. For those really challenging rooms there are also light absorbing screens, which can tackle quite a bit of ambient light.
Our other Holiday Guide this year, features one additional screen – in that case an “optical” screen from Elite. (This guide has an optical screen from Elunevision.)
Or, if you want to see how good a picture a bright projector paired with the right screen can be, check out our bright room video! Folks, that bright room is my living room, I can tell you, it worked out pretty darn good, in a room that a few years ago was considered impossible for projection! That video shows how the right screen, paired with a bright (over 4000 lumen) projector can light up a pretty bright room, and produce, a great looking image. (The screen in the video is similar in general performance to the Elite Aeon screen in our other guide).
OK, let’s consider our next two projectors…