Four Great Home Theater Projectors Compared
Notes on the above images: In the first image, the Epson (left) is on normal power and the Sony (right) is on high power. In the second image, the Epson’s lamp is on extra bright and the Sony is, again, on high.
OK, we’ve spent way too much time brightness as it relates to great color. What about when you need the maximum lumens for fighting ambient light?
When that’s the case, the Epson has the advantage, but not by a great amount. The Sony doesn’t really get any brighter – Photo will get a 15% boost, but Photo will look better than Epson’s Dynamic mode. That said, Mike did a “quick-cal” of Dynamic, which cost some lumens but results in respectable color.
The lens designs and throw ranges again are a factor, but we’ll give you one set of numbers – wide angle on the zoom:
Sony Game mode unadjusted: 1740 lumens
Epson Dynamic/”quick-cal” : 2110 lumens
While the Epson does have the advantage here, it’s hardly dramatic, as the difference is only about 20%.
Now let’s get practical. Even the Epson’s 710 lumens at mid point on the zoom has no problem filling a 130” diagonal 1.3 gain screen, so unless you want a huge screen, say 150” diagonal or even a little larger, either projector is great in a dedicated theater.
Epson has two “best” 3D modes – 3D Cinema and 3D THX, but I often run 3D Dynamic for the extra brightness – at the cost of color accuracy), (always at my full 124” diagonal, and occasionally if projecting at 100” diagonal. I don’t like my 3D on the dim side. The Sony therefore will offer up better color for 3D viewing while bother are going for a bright image.
For maximum brightness – family rooms, etc., or for 3D viewing, the Epson has a slight advantage. And it has the advantage of being placed much further back in a room, although it costs, in terms of lumens. Far more folks will have set ups where they can rear shelf mount the Epson, than the Sony. Of course that means nothing to you, unless you plan to rear shelf mount.
Note that we have images and video clips showing relative brightness, including “best calibrated” against “best calibrated” but also Sony’s “best calibrated” against a “tweaked” Living Room. For some images we reduce the size of the Epson when it’s less bright, so that the brightness of the images are approximately the same for comparison.
OK, we’ve covered Color, and Brightness, and, in part, placement flexibility. Let’s finish off that placement flexibility by saying that the Epson also has more lens shift range. For a 100” diagonal screen, the Epson can be up to about 22 inches above the top (or below the bottom) of the screen surface, while the Sony is limited to about 8 inches for both.
That’s some difference that you might appreciate especially if you have a ceiling that’s more than the usual 8 or 9 feet from the floor, as the Epson can be mounted up higher by about that foot and change (for a 100” screen). That’s a plus for the Epson, but not a significant one for most folks.
Black Level Performance
This one’s a win for the Epson. It’s Sony’s “fault”, in that in creating a less expensive projector than their HW55ES, they stripped out some features, changed other things. The big missing feature though is the dynamic iris.
In terms of black level performance discussions, and in comparison photos taken, I’ve said a number of times that the Epson 5030UB and the Sony HW55ES are for all practical purposes a tie when it comes to black level performance especially on dark scenes. Well, the HW40ES isn’t a match, for the HW55ES because it lacks that iris. And that means that the HW40ES also can’t match the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB either.
More than any other capability, that’s my reason for picking the Epson projector overall as my favorite of the two projectors, and for ranking it first in our four way. As I often say, better black levels in bright and medium brightness scenes, are nice to have, but it’s the really dark scenes that separate great projectors from good ones.
Ergonomics and Style
I like both projectors’ remote controls, and their menu systems. I could nitpick, but both are well thought out, and generally very friendly Physically the Epson is definitely a little smaller, the Sony a bit sleeker.
A bigger difference is color. The Sony is all black/dark gray, while the Epson is mostly off white, with black trim (more black than white on the front of the projector).
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