Winner: Best in Class ($1000 – $2000): Epson Pro Cinema 4030

The Epson Pro Cinema 4030 may be one of Epson’s oldest and best kept secrets.  As a Pro Cinema series, it’s sold only by Epson’s authorized local installing dealers, so it doesn’t get much publicity online.

That’s right – no internet sales.  It’s very similar to the Epson UB projectors but mostly not quite as bright.

 

The Epson Pro Cinema 4030: Why It Won

The Pro Cinema 4030 is Epson’s solution to providing a first class home theater projector with excellent black level performance at a price that most can afford.  Over $1000 less than the Pro Cinema 6030UB, and a bit less than Epson’s Home Cinema 5030UB (available online), without this model, Epson wouldn’t have a serious home theater projector for their local dealers to sell, at a price under $3500.

The Pro Cinema 4030 offers really good brightness for a dedicated home theater projector but more importantly, it offers the best black level performance under $2000 which makes it a really great projector for the money.  To me, that also makes it generally the most desirable to own home theater projector under $2K>

The Pro Cinema 4030, like all Epson “Pro Cinema” projectors is sold only through Epson’s extensive local dealer network in the US.  By comparison, the just mentioned 3020 and 3020e are sold online as well as locally.

The Pro Cinema 4030 may be twice the price of the the most entry level home “theater” projectors, but if its in your budget, it’s definitely and obviously worth the difference, compared to, say the old BenQ W1070 (or newer HT1075).   That’s only fair, as this 4030,  being twice the price, would be expected to be superior.  Consider the Pro Cinema 4030 to be the high performance projector in the class.

We gave the PC4030 a tie, with the other projector being Optoma’s new HD161X / HD50.

Here’s the thing.  the Optoma’s an excellent single chip DLP for the money, and a very sharp one at that, but it can’t touch the Epson in terms of black level performance.

From a which is overall better as a projector, the Epson is definitely my choice, but when one compares price, that Optoma is about $1300, so far less expensive.  Different products, different advantages, different prices.  Tie!

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The 4030 is capable of great color, and overall excellent picture quality.  Another thing it has going for it is by far the best warranty in the class.  3 years parts and labor, with a rapid replacement program for all three years.  Wow!

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For many the question will be what are other alternatives.  There’s one of the winners in the under $1000 price point – the BenQ HC1200.  A great projector for the money, but no match at things like black levels – strictly entry level compared to this Epson projector.  Epson’s own HC3500/HC3600 are fine projectors, but more “home entertainment” than home theater – they are brighter, have built in speakers but are no match in black levels.  For a few hundred more, look to Epson’s own Home Cinema  5030UB, or Sony’s VPL-HW40ES.  This Epson will beat the Sony at black levels, but the Sony has some real strengths of its own.

Bottom line:  After netting out the extras, this is probably the least expensive enthusiast projector with great black level performance.  And as has oft been said, great black levels are the holy grail of home theater projectors.

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