Posted on August 29, 2015 Art Feierman
The Home Cinema 5030UB is my personal favorite projector value in the $2000 to $3500 price range, and the least expensive “serious” home theater projector with excellent black level performance.
The Epson UB series projectors remain my idea of the best combination of high performance That’s been the case for something like 6 years now. Challengers? I’m waiting.
It’s important to mention that these projectors are back for the second year, but Epson has provided a significant firmware upgrade relating to detail enhancement. And it’s easy for you to upgrade your older 5030UB/6030UB if you have one.
Epson’s UB projectors win again, and for the second year tie with the Sony VPL-HW55ES which sells for about $1000 more than the Home Cinema 5030UB.
The HC5030UB and the HC5030Ube are identical but for the extra $200 for the “e” which gets you wireless HDMI. That can make for a real savings if it saves you a lot of additional installation costs.
The Pro Cinema 6030UB, of course, is sold only by local authorized dealers, and has only minor differences from the HC5030UB, notably it comes in a black case rather than mostly white with black. And, as a Pro Cinema projector, it comes with a ceiling mount, a spare lamp, and a 3rd year of warranty with a 3rd year of rapid replacement program. Like the HCs the Pro comes with two pair of Epson’s 3D glasses.
These Epsons have a great value proposition. From a performance standpoint, the Home Cinema version is the bargain in the class.
Not only did these projectors get a firmware update late last year (after our last year’s report), that provided noticeably improved detail enhancement, with the standard 5030UB, but the official price dropped $200 to only $2299!
Black level performance – the “holy grail” of home theater performance is excellent and is unbeatable at this price point. Consider that there are a number of other projectors some costing several times the price that can’t match these Epson’s abilities on really dark scenes! There are only a few projectors that do better at blacks and the least expensive of those is our Runner-Up in the more expensive price Class, and that one sells for twice the price. The Epsons look pretty great out of the box. They have a THX certified mode, and calibrate beautifully, producing about as accurate a picture as we get to see.
Although not the brightest “home theater” projectors calibrated, they are capable of almost 800 lumens when calibrated, and that’s enough for a 130” diagonal screen without breaking a sweat. When I watch movies on it, I’m usually at 124” diagonal, so I can attest to the lumens to spare. Low power costs about 1/3 of the lumens, and even that does a respectable job at 124” diagonal. I typically watch widescreen movies in Eco mode, although for a good action flick I’ll go full power.
These Epson’s are also the brightest projectors in the class, when in brightest mode. That makes these projectors great if you don’t have that “theater” setup, but rather the typically less lighting controlled family/bonus/living/media room. The Epson has no problem putting up over 2000 lumens, and with calibration of one of its bright modes (not quite as good color) it’s almost twice as bright as the better “best” mode. Tweaking brightest mode itself (dynamic) for improved color still allows for more than 1800 lumens at full wide angle. Count these Epson’s as light canons. Want to watch sports with some lights in in your theater – or family room, these Epson’s have the advantage of the other category winners.
The HC5030UB and HC5030Ube don’t have the longest warranty of the class (two years with two years of rapid, free freight replacement program), that honor, instead belongs to the Pro Cinema 6030 with its extra year of both warranty and replacement.
These Epsons aren’t perfect though. They could be a quieter at full power, and their iris can rumble a bit, but those tend to be minor things compared to the overall capabilities and value provided. While a year ago I wrote that “on the downside, the Epson’s aren’t the sharpest of the field, typically a little softer than some of the others,” with it’s improved Super-Resolution and Detail Enhancement upgrade, it definitely looks sharper this year. You’ll really need a single chip DLP to truly be visibly sharper, and there aren’t any such projectors near the Epson’s price that are in its league in terms of those rich, deep, black levels.
I use an Epson provided HC5030UB as a reference projector. I’ve talked Epson into leaving one here for a full year so I have a projector for shooting side by side comparisons. I couldn’t have picked a better choice without going to a much more expensive projector. I was watching it last evening and still marveling about it’s black level performance considering it’s low price point. BTW I really like the wireless HDMI, on the “UBe” version. Sadly, the one Epson loaned me is a standard UB. Tsk, Tsk.
How does Epson’s 5030 compare with Epson’s 1985WU?
Easiest question all month. Epson 5030UB – serious home theater – great black levels, superior color… Epson 1985WU: Brute force – a projector designed to tackle rooms with ambient light (at least some – so where black level differences are fairly irrelevant.) It’s really that simple. -art
What are your thoughts on the 5025UB?
Hi, 5025UB is basically the same projector as the 5030UB, but not quite as bright. I first thought it was too similar to the 5030UB and was only, therefore, a different projector for a different distribution channel. I was wrong. The 5025UB (like Epson’s Pro Cinema 4030) has the same black level performance greatness as the 5030UB, but claims 200 less lumens. Also it doesn’t come with 3D glasses (the 5030UB does).
But the price point is $300 less. I think you’ll find the 5030UB more widely distributed – easier to find, but those are pretty much the differences. I’ve often recommended to folks on a very tight budget that the 5025UB might be the better solution! This holiday guide I wrote a year and change ago, covers the differences as well: https://www.projectorreviews.com/the-art-of-home-theater-projectors/epson-home-cinema-5025ub-projector-holiday-treat-2/ -art
Art, Thank-you for the feedback. I have it narrowed down to the 2045, the 5030UBe, and the 3500.
Well, unless you need maximum brightness, I strongly recommend the 5030UB(e) over the other two despite the price difference. I see you like the wireless HDMI, or that sometimes hard to find 5025UB would be a money saver… Good luck! And let me know what you end up with, and, after you’ve had it a few weeks, how you like it, etc. The more of you that post your comments from your own experiences, the more useful our site is to those (like you) trying to figure out their best options. -art
Would the 5030 be a side-way purchase if I am coming from a 6500UB? I’ve nothing but good things to say about the 6500 — it’s still going strong and with an exceptional picture. Thoughts?
I am trying to follow the advanced calibration settings for my Epson 5030 UBe, which I just purchased after weighing your reviews. I believe I have followed all of Mike’s settings but I have doubts.
First, I guess it is not necessary/suggested to adjust the Color Convergence (Panel Alignment) as it is not mentioned in the review?
Second, I adjusted RGB as Mike documented for THX and also, the Quick Cal of Dynamic and saved both of those under Memory. I don’t see RGB settings for Living Room, Natural, Cinema, or B&W Cinema? Is there a link to the Calibration that will help me calibrate the unit in a more step by step fashion? Thanks for your time on these questions. Sincerely,
Hi Fred, You should do the panel alignment. I’m surprised that I didn’t point that out. (I don’t consider that part of “calibrating” the projector – in that I’m talking color, brightness, contrast etc, Just follow the instructions. To do a basic alignment takes less than five minutes. If you really want to tweak it, you can probably spend up to 15 minutes (for only slightly better results).
Regarding the rest of your questions – the CMS – calibrating each primary and secondary color separately, affects all modes, as it seems you have determined. As to the grayscale balance – adjusting the gain/bias of red, green, and blue… Here’s the thing.
Technically (let’s forget the Cinema filter in the 5030 that only works in “best modes” (Cinema, THX etc.), but not in the brightest modes (living room, dynamic, etc. Technically if you individually calibrated all modes the end result is that they should all be identical so why calibrate more than one?
Because of the filter, which eats up lots of lumens in those best modes, for some, it makes sense to “calibrate” one of the bright modes. Since those bright modes lakc the filter they won’t be quite as good, but will be over 2x as bright. That’s why we do a “quick cal” – the goal is not perfect color, but improving the color of one of the bright modes, as much as possible without significantly dropping brightness.
Got it? Enjoy! -art
Hi, I was planning on getting the JVC DLA-X550RB or the X700RB. But I also would like to game on the big screen. Would the Epson 5030 be a wiser choice, taking into account the Lag issue? I’ll probably game twice a week, watch Netflix everyday and watch Blu-ray once a month. And Pseudo 4k (2k) maybe even rarer. Its great to have the best blacks possible ofcourse but would the lag be insufferable? I’m no professional gamer but look forward to playing Uncharted 4 on a 100 inch screen! Thanks, H
Hi Hubert, It’s always a tough call. The JVC’s do not have a good rep as game players. The Epson is better, but at 50ms approximate lag, still not great (but acceptable to most like you or I). Still, I see the 5030UB as a step down, so where possible I’d say, JVC and a really great separate $800 DLP that’s really great for games. Of course that’s hard to rationalize for occasional gaming.
On the other hand, I am aware of a couple of new projectors being announced that I can’t speak of due to being under non-disclosure agreements. Circle back in 30 days or less… Might just have something interesting for you. -art
Thanks! I’ll go with the JVC and try gaming with all the processing turned off. If the lag is bad, no worries. I’ll still have an awesome projector.
Good plan! -art
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