Posted on September 22, 2016
Here, we will compare two home theater projectors: the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB and JVC DLA-RS400U.
I consider these two projectors and their variations – the Home Cinema 5040Ube and Pro Cinema 6040UB on one hand and the DLA-X550R on the other – to be the two best choices out there if your budget is between $2000 and $4000 US.
You’ll note that I gave the JVCs the honor of Best Performance award in the “class” and the Epsons the Best Value Proposition in our annual Home Theater Projector Comparison Report. My alternative was to drop the specifics (Performance and Value) and make them co-owners of Best In Class. But, each has its strengths.
OK, the basics – the Epsons are brighter at maximum, but calibrated the JVCs are at least as bright (brighter than an Cinema calibration on the Epson about the same on a Bright Cinema calibration.
I’m going to use the Home Cinema 5040UB as our example, rather than the 6040UB, because the 6040UB is bundled with enough extras (longer warranty, cable cover, spare lamp, and ceiling mount) to make the price slightly murky, depending on what you value those accessories as worth to you.
That technically makes the JVC the more expensive at $3999 vs $2999 – it does have a longer warranty (by one year) than the HC5040UB, but lacks the two years of (virtually) overnight replacement program for warranty issues.
Update: April 2017: Epson just announced a price drop on the Home Cinema 5040UB to $2699. That further separates the two in price, and for some, will make the decision between these two great projectors, a little easier (and for some, a little harder).
Both have motorized lenses with similar zoom range, lens shift, and lens memory. I would have loved to try to compare the optical quality of the lenses, but not having the projectors at the same time makes that impractical for us. I can say that the JVC optics (same as previous JVCs) was a bit better than the previous Epsons, but most likely the significantly improved Epson optics are probably on par with JVC (or maybe a touch better). The point is, they should be comparable. Lens memory works fine on both although the Epsons have the advantage of being faster, a very nice touch, but hardly a game changer.
One smaller part of the Epson value story is the significantly lower cost replacement lamps.
Ultimately, though, if budget isn’t a problem at all, then it comes down to picture.
And that, folks is where I also see trade-offs. No question, the JVC has the superior black levels, noticeably better. That’s a key performance advantage, even if the Epsons are the next best out there anywhere near this price range. Count that as an advantage for movie viewing.
Pixel shifting allows some extra detail enhancement. I won’t discuss how it works, that’s been convered in full reviews. Suffice to say, that the goal is more perceived detail and sharpness. That means we’re talking about advanced image processing, not native 4K resolution, to accomplish this goal.
Any time you start doing a lot of image processing, there are trade-offs, you get more of what you want, and also, hopefully only minimal visible artifacts.
As one ups the perceived sharpness with the various controls, I believe the Epson’s have the advantage here. Yes there is some typical edge sharpening (lighting edge lines) on both, but the Epson controls (especially the Image Presets) seem to allow more perceived sharpness and ability to resolve more fine detail, with less noticeable artifacts.
Here are some real techie thoughts: Strangely, in conversations at the CEDIA show, I was involved in a discussion as to why I find that the Epson tends to appear sharper. Turns out to possibly be a case of “unintended consequences”. You see, LCoS chips (JVC) have a higher fill ratio than 3LCD. That is, the black mask around each pixel (which you can see if you walk up close to any projector), is bigger, and more pronounced. Normally that’s a disadvantage, but with pixel shifting, it can be a real advantage. when mixing the data across the two firings of a pixel, the larger mask of the Epson, creates a sort of additional “state” that can be addressed:
There’s the part of the the area hit only by the first pixel, then there’s the part upward to the right that is only hit with the 2nd pass. And there’s the area where they overlap. But, within that overlap area, the JVC has some masking on each pixel. With the Epson, same thing, but a much bigger mask area. Those mask areas could be taken into consideration with the image processing, to further break out the area and to better control blended colors and also sharpness. I’m thinking sort of like having related smaller pixels that can be partially addressed. How well they may be doing that, I don’t know, but the end result is that I do find the Epson can look sharper/more detailed than the JVC, without being any more “over the top.”
For me, in this case, since I’m a “big screen – all about being immersed in the content” kind of guy, I weigh the Epson’s advantage here, to slightly outweigh the superior black levels.
But each of us will have to decide. Personally, I love my movies, have a huge collection of Blu-ray, and already have more than a dozen Blu-ray UHD movies and comparable (such as Journey to Space, and Rocky Mountain Express).
The other thing though, is I’m a big on watching sports and some other HDTV. On sports, where dark scenes are virtually non-existent the pixel shifting and image processing give the Epson the big advantage.
(Note: As usual, take the images with a “grain of salt.” Too many factors prevent truly accurate representations here. In the images above, the first four are Epson 5040UB, they are followed by the same four images produced by the JVC, for comparison purposes. From a how they come out compared to what’s on the screen basis the Epson images tend to being warmer than on screen, while the JVC tends to be less saturated than on screen. (Same camera, same camera settings – Go figure!) The last two images are from 4K content, and are heavily cropped (the Epson one, more so). The first of the two, is the Epson from Ender’s Game, while the last is from The Martian, with the JVC.
Let me put it this way: If budget is important, I would definitely recommend the Epson to myself.
However, if money was no object, I really would be torn between these two, knowing the superior picture on the darkest scenes (and a very slight advantage in terms of blacks on normal and bright ones) that the JVC possesses I would wish I had, if I chose the Epson. That’s despite that the big advantage is only minutes in most movies (really dark scenes not night cityscapes, etc.) But if I chose the JVC I would definitely not be as happy watching my sports, etc. Also factor in that the cost of operation of the JVC is a bit higher – more expensive replacement lamps.
I mean this is a tough choice. Remember, I normally have an Epson UB to use as a reference projector, and I own a JVC.
Here’s where the technical folks are way ahead of me. As per a comment below, I’ve added this section relating to 4K issues.
There are many formats supported by the new 4K UHD standards, and projectors are differing. Of course this discussion right now is limited to Epson and JVC with their pixel shifters and HDR, and Sony’s true 4K projectors which, it seems support more formats than Epson or JVC.
But JVC does support more standards than Epson, so that needs to be addressed here. In a perfect world a projector doing 4K should be able to handle 12 bit, with 4:4:4, at 60fps. Not that there is any content out there right now, or if there is, it’s probably professional, not your favorite action movie.
So, do you buy the projector with the most compatibility, or what you need? For example, the Blu-ray 4K discs are recorded, I’m told, at 4:2:0, and at 24fps. Great, that’s something the Epson can do. The Epson (per Ron) is limited to mere 8 bit at 60fps, no HDR (at 60fps), therefore.
The JVC can do better – it can handle at least 10 bit 4:2:0, up to 60fps. Will we see content in that format? and when? I am not sure. We waited a decade for studios to put more than 8 bit on Blu-ray discs, few did. What I am trying to confirm, is what I was recently told, which is a device that can output 60fps 4K when it handshakes with a display (like the Epson), it would understand, and send 24fps instead of 60. That could be considered a disadvantage, but in a world ruled by 24fps movies, I don’t suspect that will matter to most.
That brings us to HDR. Best I can tell, it’s not all that great for us projector fans. I got almost no time on the JVC with HDR content (maybe 2-3 hours of watching, etc.), but boatloads on Sony 4K projectors and a fair amount on the Epson 5040UB.
HDR demands brightness, and they use a NITS brightness number – typically 1000 as what is called for – that is, how the discs are encoded. (It’s sort of like different gamma curves.). Some, I’m told, are foolishly set to 4000 NITS, and there are no displays, projector, LCD TV or OLED, that come close to 4000 NITS. (I think the very brightest LCD TVs are around 1400 NITS now, and most around 600 or less. OLED’s are even lower.
A JVC or Epson on a 100″ 1.3 gain screen, I don’t believe will even equal 200 NITS. So what happens to the picture:
That translates to my eye, as images capable of stunningly bright flashes of white and near white, but mid brightness scenes seeming too dark. Normally lit rooms look like someone needs to turn on another light or two – gloomy. Now remember, this is my take on HDR on these projectors. Epson and Sony approach how they handle HDR (taking into consideration the limited dynamic range of the projectors) very differently. I’m still learning those differences.
But brightness on HDR is a real issue for me – I found this to be the case on the Epson, the JVC (however brief), and the Sony VW365ES (which I have here now), as well as the Sony VW665ES which I had about the same time as the JVC, but longer.
Then about four weeks ago, Sony provided me with their flagship home theater projector, the VW5000ES, with it’s 5000 lumens using a dual laser light engine.
Guess what, those too dark mid brightness scenes, still could be a touch brighter, but there is a really dramatic difference between how the VW5000ES handles that content, compared to all those other, 2000 lumen or less projectors. And it isn’t because of black levels, or some other performance difference, other than the big Sony has enough lumens and NITS) under the hood to let you really appreciate HDR. Those others – I’m not convinced.
Maybe you’ll prefer, it, maybe you’ll prefer your viewing to be of a brighter world with HDR off. Love to hear feedback on that from anyone comparing watching a movie in HDR, and then with HDR off. BTW, Epson provides one HDR mode to keep things bright, but in doing so, it’s also reducing the dynamic pop to the image, that HDR promises. I have no clue what options JVC provides, but I’ll check in with Ron, who owns an RS600 in his theater.
Into 3D, for years Epson had a big advantage, as it seemed JVC struggled with 3D, but the latest JVCs are much better than before. Ron, who reviewed the top of the line JVC (and comes from having an Epson before), says the 3D on the JVC is now at least as clean as the Epson, so both are likely fine for all of us.
Gaming: These Epsons are a good bit faster than previous UBs and are now pretty good for gaming in terms of input lag, instead of merely acceptable. The JVC measures (if I recall correctly, only slightly slower than the Epson, close enough as to not matter. As to other aspects of gaming – that’s not something I explored since I don’t play big time games like Legends, COD, Warcraft, sports or auto racing.
That leaves only HDR – High Dynamic Range, which most of us are still tying to get a handle on. Technically none of these traditional home theater projectors, or for that matter almost no LCDTVs are bright enough, to do HDR properly. That said, the Epson running in Bright Cinema (calibrated) vs the JVC calibrated are similarly bright, so neither has an inherent advantage. Best I can figure. We’ve been trying to calibrate HDR on the past couple of projectors – Sony true 4K and the Epson, but between the issues with the only Blu-ray UHD player shipping – the Samsung – until the first Philips and Panasonics are available, I’m not willing to weigh in if either has an advantage with HDR content, and that’s even after attending a calibration class on HDR. When I was reviewing the RS400, just as I got my Samsung player, the Color and gamma were a mess on HDR. (Samsung put out several updates.) The trick though, was JVC posted on their site, some recommended settings, which I plugged in. The picture still wasn’t perfect, I didn’t feel like I had calibrated color, but what a massive improvement in the picture overall. Eric (our new calibrator), didn’t really succeed in “calibrating” HDR content, so I settled for adjusting color slightly by eye, and also the saturation, and gamma. I can’t say that at the end of the day, which one had a more accurate or better balanced picture. I figure in a couple/few months, we’ll have that all sorted out (hopefully).
The Bottom Line: Two standout projectors that can reproduce both 1080 and 4K content. The Epson will know doubt handily outsell the JVC, because I believe it will appeal more, to sports and TV lovers, and even for some/many? big time movie fans. For the hard core fanatics, demanding great black levels, of course the JVC has a real advantage. Those folks (which certainly includes me when it comes to movie watching), will have to trade off between the JVC’s blacks and the advantage in perceived sharpness of the Epson. No matter which of these two you pick, you will almost certainly be thrilled, especially when you consider how great these two are for their price.
That, folks, is my story, and I’m sticking to it!
Post Script: Be aware, Epson also offers a Home Cinema 5040Ube – that version adds wireless features for an extra $300 over the standard UB). With it there are 4 HDMI inputs (up on the transmitter, including MHL for streaming sticks. All of which might be a game changer for some of you. We did not review the new transmitter, but were very pleased in the past with previous Ube’s abilities to transmit wirelessly, especially since there’s virtually no additional input lag.
Post, Post Script: Some of you are probably wondering how the Sony VPL-HW65ES didn’t pick up an award. I like Sony’s color handling, at the very least – right out of the box and un-calibrated, slightly etter than either of these projectors however, the Sony doesn’t handle 4K content at all, and has less placement flexibility and no lens memory thanks to having a 1.6:1 zoom that is manual. Nice projector, but not as capable. And many of us want to be starting to buy Blu-ray UHD sooner, rather than waiting for the “next” projector upgrade after the Sony. Of course Sony is the only game in town with true 4K projectors for the moment, but they start at $9999 list.
Excellent comparison. Thank you!
Have you been able to measure the input lag with HDR turned on? I want to know as I am interested in a PS4 Pro.
Great Comparison! Does JVC ever drop prices? I think they might need to dip a little to compete with this Epson.
I don’t get into pricing beyond list and widely advertised “street” prices. I figure there’s always a dealer somewhere, willing to negotiate, but most of JVC’s dealers, I think are territorial. If you are a good wheeler dealer, you can probably find a way to save some bucks, especially if you are buying more than just a projector. -art
How is native motion compared between them? I tried a 5040 and was not really impressed. Would you say the jvc X7000 would be a big step up?
Hi Andrew, playing catchup, so sorry for the delay. Please clarify what you mean by “native motion” are you talking 24fps, no CFI, or ??? -art
Hi Art, I’m interested in your view on both, with CFI on low and both with it off. I have read currently the CFI on The new Epsons is buggy and Epson are working on a update, when I had the 5040 I did see more artefacts on low than I use to on my old Epson 9500ub on low. Even with it off motion seemed less clear than my old Epson.
I read the LS10000 due to its Reflective panels deals better with motion with CFI OFF and On better. So I’m currently debating to upgrade to a JVC x7000 due to not being impressed with the 5040 or waiting for the LS10500 as that should have better motion and fingers crossed low input lag like the 5040.
I’m not a big CFI user (as noted in many reviews) I use it once in a while for sports when I remember to, and that’s about it. I’ll have to take another look. I just got in a production 5040UB, but am currently working with a BenQ HT6050, and the Sony VW365ES (trying to calibrate HDR). I’ll probably fire up the 5040UB late this week or on the weekend. I’ve got two things to check out now. The other is what sounds like a slow panning problem which did not show up on the 5040UB on the scene from RED where it drives some projectors crazy (notably Sonys). But others are reporting a scene in Transformers 1 that is also a slow pan. stay tuned. -art
I feel like it should be added that Epson can only handle some 4k sources and as of now not one device can provide HDR 4k from both steaming something like Netflix and from a blu-ray. This seems to be due to the ~10Gbps bandwidth of the HDMI chip and the way the signal is received, not something I think can be fixed easily. Where the JVC does not have that problem.
(The source of this information came from an Epson 5040 owners thread and 4k compatibility signals on epson’s website)
Stay tuned. I’m waiting for Epson to get back to me. It wasn’t my understanding that the Epson chip was 10ghz. And yes, no projector it seems can technically run everything, except the new Sony VW675ES which is the first projector I’m aware of shipping with hybrid log-gamma support which may end up the standard for streaming. We shall see. -art
Isnt the DLA-RS500 or DLA-X750R supporting 18 Gbps according to their specs and what i’v read online “The DLA-X750R produces exquisite quality images with JVC’s exclusive 4K e-shift4. It accepts native 4K 60P (4:4:4) content through Full Speed 18Gbps HDMI/HDCP 2.2 compatible inputs”
I actually bought the epson and now feeling buyers remorse PS4 PRO only showing HDR supported for 1080P
Well don’t be feeling too much remorse, contrary to what it has in this review the input lag is MUCH different and so much so that the JCV difference DOES matter. In fact the JCV is almost 70ms slower than the epson, and at about every 15ms is a noticeable difference.
I have lost faith in this sites credibality to post through reviews after my personal experiance with both projectors. He wrote (and apparently didn’t test) the epson’s 4K capabilities (i.e. 4k 4:4:4) or lack of. Then the part about input lags was just untrue, the difference is very large when it comes to gaming.
Hi Patrick, Well, sorry about that. As I said in the piece, re the JVC’s input lag, “if I remember correctly.” Which I apparently didn’t. I had (as reported) borrowed a JVC from a dealer and had to turn it around in just a week’s time. I certainly failed to make a note at the time. You are right, that was sloppy. Sadly, I can’t get review units from JVC. It’s been a chronic problem so I don’t get near as much time with them. Anyway, if you have some input times for the JVC, I’m happy to post, and update this page. BTW I fully agree, each 15ms is one more drop in performance. I was thinking the JVCs around 50ms which is apparently very wrong. A 70ms difference is huge, as I’ve said, anything much over 50 is not for serious gamers. I’m not one, but I know a few hard core.
As to the handling of the 4K, that’s interesting. As I’ve been saying, I have been (like many) trying to get a handle on all of this. I’ve primarily focused on writing subjective reviews. I try to show people the value, and what’s important to their viewing. I don’t calibrate, I have had others do that. I am definitely not an engineer. But I am learning this HDR, etc., stuff from a practical side. I’m working on a piece which goes into more detail, but as pointed out, the Epson’s cannot do 60fps 4K. They support 24fps, and can handle at least 4:2:0 which is what Blu-ray UHD HDR discs are using. I have not yet explored streaming, to see what Roku, etc. are doing, but I just unboxed a Roku Ultra, and hope to get to that soon. But none of these support hybrid log-gamma.I’ve also just added a Philips UHD player, while waiting for the Oppo. So far, I’m describing what I’m seeing. Overall, I favor the JVC, but mostly for the black levels. I definitely like Epson’s various image processing techniques over the JVC though. I think it provides a sharper, more detailed seeming image than the JVC, before all that processing gets out of hand. A question, if you know the answer. I heard that if a source is 4K 60fps, it should recognize a display that can only handle 24, and output for that device. Can you confirm? That’s a big piece in my puzzle. -art
Hello, First off I want to say that in no way was I trying to make a personal attack, I like this website I really do. It’s just hard to find definitive information on projectors and I was a bit surprised when I upgraded from my Epson 5030 to the 5040 and ran into so many problems with 4K that didn’t get addressed here. Now that I recived the JVC things are much better.
Secondly to answer your question I think it would depend on the color bit depth more so than the FPS. [email protected] at 8-bit(4:2:0) should be less than 10.2Gbps and should work on most(all?) 4K displays. However the color bit depth that the original source was at and how a device down converts it (or not i.e. a PC) comes into play and separates 10.2Gbps from 18Gbps chipsets. To my knowledge not every device done coverts in the same way and that’s where 10.2Gbps can be a limiting factor like having Rec 2020 striped out even at [email protected] FPS to fall with in that 10.2Gbps. Then to make things worse HDMI specifications don’t cover [email protected] FPS so its a guessing game. Finding the right cable and having audio come out via an optical source might allow a better color bit depth with [email protected] FPS but I think at that point only content creators and gamers using a DisplayPort really do that.
Patrick, no offense taken. As I had indicated, I think many of us have struggled getting a handle on all of that. To complicate things, the Samsung player doesn’t support all the outputs even at 24fps (per Ron – my “engineer”). But from going back and forth with him, and taking Eric (calibrator) down with me for a half day of education from the Sony product engineering/support team really helped). (that was about 4 weeks ago – they sent me “packing” with the VW5000ES – nice folks. At this point, I don’t have a problem with the Epson’s limitations. Some folks might – most likely gamers who want do work in 4K. (I’m not even close to being on top of that, and I don’t have the ability to measure input lag with 4K content either. I was hoping you would be able to confirm that 4K 60fps source will be delivered at 4K 24fps when handshaking tells the source that the display can’t do the 60. BTW, yes, the Epson’s can do 60fps, but only 8 bit, and my understanding is that 8 bit while not bad) isn’t supposed to be part of the HDR set. So technically, the Epson can do 60fps with limitations, but not 60fps HDR. (I think!) You confused me re one thing. I have no problem doing (Epson) 4K BT2020 HDR. I’m running a second from top of the line Monster 8 meter cable (it’s rated 18ghz). I do send my audio separately out of the digital audio out, but I’m not sure that doing that necessarily means that the audio (isn’t still going out on the HDMI). I had some fun last evening. I watched scenes from the new Ghostbusters on the VW5000ES, then switched to the Epson 5040UB. There were some very interesting differences. But I’ll save that (I took some quick photos with my iphone of the same scene, because what I was seeing is interesting. I think, though I can safely say the VW5000ES is obviously superior to the 5040UB (as it should be for 20x the price!) Do you not find HDR, though to be on the dim side, on medium to moderately dark scenes? I am finding though, that it differs depending on the disc, which may go back to how they encode for NITS? -art
Art, I would love to see that Sony, you definitely are a lucky man. So I’m not 100% on how much bandwidth audio takes up or how much if really gives back when turned off. What I do know is that when using a 30′ monoprice “Luxe” HDMI “rated” (I’m not believing it) at 18Gbps a bandwidth direct from my both my roku ultra, and Xbox one S no signal would pass with with 4K HDR selected in there respective settings even though the device registered the display being able to. However when I had audio go through the optical out I got a picture with the same HDMI. It’s not a definitive answer but it’s certainly does bring up questions.
I also did really like the epson and LOVED their customer service when I had my 5010 and 5030. I could have bought an HD fury to help with the issues but just something about the JVC I like better so I ended up switching to that one.
Now as for HDR I have only watched a two movies thus far and I agree with you on dim scenes. Even after using JVC’s calibration software with my spider 5 and using the recommended settings from JVC. I also just got an LG 55UH7700 and the HDR issues are there too, though the way the back light the display also washes out the display a bit. I have only watched The Mechanic and the new Independence Day so I just may need to get adjusted to it, I don’t know.
As for input lag I have no tester either. I use an ASUS TN monitor with 1ms of lag displaying a timer and my projector mirroring the display. Then I shoot 720p 240fps with my camera and substrate the difference in time from timers. Not 100% accurate but it should get me close to it.
It would be great if we all could have a Sony 4K, JVC, and Epson in our theater room – we would quickly decide (within a day of watching movies) – which worked best for us.
Yes it would be great, or have try before you buy type of deal.
Do you think it’s time I upgrade my Sim2 HT380 (8 years old) projector for Epson 5040UB? Never thought Sim2 to Epson would be upgrade, though.
Hi Reuben, yes, that seems strange – going from an SIM2 to an Epson, but 8 years is a long, long time. You’ll enjoy the better black levels, and the perceived extra sharpness and detail, but you’ll be giving up that DLP “look and feel.” Personally, I’d do it, but you should track down a 5040UB or 6040UB at some dealer, and take a good look first. -art
Home sweet Home JVC – Having purchased my first JVC RS1 in 2008 I thought it was time for an upgrade. I decided on an RS400 which was amazing. Then a couple of weeks later I saw all of the hype on the Epson 5040 and returned the JVC. Biggest mistake ever, the JVC BLOWS the Epson away in color accuracy, contrast, blacks and saturation. You get what you pay for folks. Thanks to VisualApex for allowing me to return the Epson a few days late and repurchase the JVC!!
hi could you help me pick between JVC 4K Theater Projector – DLAX500R & epson tw8300
JVC, no contest.
Which one has the better 3d quality?
Greetings Marlon, Overall, Epson has done a much better job on 3D, but, the last generation of JVCs is reported to be much improved over the RS400. At this point, based on feedback from others, I suspect they are fairly comparable. JVC struggled with 3D for years, but apparently has gotten its act together. -art
Art, I can get my hands on a new RS420 for the same price as a 5040UB. I noticed the RS420 is slightly upgraded compared to the RS400. Slightly brighter, less lag for gaming, dynamic iris (probably leave off), and a few other items. With that said, is the perceived sharpness of the 5040UB worth the slightly inferior black levels? I will be viewing mainly movies in a light controlled cave, however watching a football game or two will happen as well. Go Hawks!
Hi Ryan, Let me put it this way, in last year’s Best Home Theater Projectors report, in the $2K – $4K range, I gave the RS400, the Performance award and the 5040UB the value one. Personally, for the same price, I would definitely pick the JVC. -art
Thank you Art!
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