The Astonishing Epson Pro Cinema 4040 Home Theater Projector – Review

The Epson Pro Cinema 4040 is perhaps the most overlooked “breakthrough” home theater projector available today.  I’m not saying that it is the best, but it is truly unique at this time.  Because of it’s “uniqueness,” it becomes an important projector to consider for those with $2499 or less to spend.

The Pro Cinema 4040 comes in a black case, and is bundled with a cable cover, spare lamp, and a ceiling mount for the quoted price.

Here at Projector Reviews, we’ve long been fans of Epson’s more expensive UB series, the current iterations being the Home Cinema 5040UB and Pro Cinema 6040UB – two near identical models (performance wise).  As a result, I almost managed to not notice the importance and value proposition of the PC4040.  And it’s a shame.  It should have gotten recognition in last year’s Best Home Theater Projectors report. My bad!

This is going to be a relatively short review.  As I start writing this I’m going to try to keep it to three pages, not my usual 9-15 pages for a home theater projector review.  I can do this because I’m simply going to refer everyone to our much more in-depth review of the HC5040UB/PC6040UB projectors.  That’s because the Pro Cinema 4040 is basically 90+% the same as those other two.

Pro Cinema 4040 - the Basics and Feature Comparison to HC5040UB

To give you a quick idea – before we get into the differences – here’s what’s mostly the same between Epson’s Pro Cinema 4040 ($2499 with bundle) , and the more expensive Home Cinema 5040UB ($2999)  and Pro Cinema 6040UB ($3999 with the same bundle the 4040 comes with).

pro-cinema-4040_hdtv_victoriassecret_bikinis_bright-cinema

  • Motorized 2.1:1 zoom lens – identical
  • Inputs and connectors – identical
  • Physical size and layout – identical
  • Lamp – identical
  • Light engine – identical*
    • *Except different 3LCD panels
  • 4K support including HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2, HDR (10 ghz) – identical
  • Menus – virtually identical
  • Lens Shift, Lens Memory features – identical
  • Dynamic iris – (unconfirmed) identical
  • Remote control – identical
  • Lamp Life – identical
  • Brightness – almost identical – 2300 lumens vs 2500 on UBs
  • Warranty – identical compared to PC6040UB (one extra year compared to HC5040UB)

What Makes the PC4040 So Special? - 4K

I had incorrectly pointed out in the 5040UB/6040UB that the least expensive projector on the market at the time, that was capable of playing 4K UHD discs, and supporting HDR was the 5040UB.  That’s because I had overlooked the Pro Cinema 4040.

If you can’t afford true 4K at this time (Sony at $9999 is still the least expensive true 4K projector), and if you can’t wait any longer for those single chip DLP projectors referred to as 4K UHD projectors to start shipping (pixels 2X the size of true HD, but use pixel shifting), then the only other game in town are the 1080p pixel shifters – from JVC and Epson, including the UBs and this PC4040.

So, if you want to check out 4K with HDR for a different experience, if you want to have a projector that thanks to a lot of fancy processing, can seem to be about as sharp as true 4K (I’m not claiming equality, of course), then we’re talking about pixel shifting 1080p projectors.

The Epson 4040, is simply, by far, the least expensive projector you can buy today, that you can hook up a true 4K Blu-ray player to, and pass that 4K content to the the projector for processing.  From a pricing standpoint, it is $2499, but compared to the 5040UB, remember, you are getting an extra year warranty, a ceiling mount (value about $200) and a spare lamp (another $200+ value).  And the cable cover is a nice touch, too.  So, all considered, the 4040 nets out to being right around $2000 for the projector itself.

That’s about a grand less than the 5040UB.

So, why pay the extra grand for the 5040UB, or inversely:  how is the 4040 so much less?

It really comes down to this:

The Pro Cinema 4040 has new 3LCD panels.  These new panels are than those in all less expensive Epson projectors (except the HC3900 which we haven’t tested yet, but which does not support 4K), but they do not rival the higher native contrast panels that go into the Epson UB projectors.  The contrast claim says it all:  Epson UBs:  1,000,000:1 contrast.  The PC4040:  160,000:1

What that means is that the PC4040 just can’t begin to match the black level performance of the 5040UB and 6040UB.  But it rivals those projectors at everything else – except coming in at 2300 lumens, which is only 8% less bright than the UBs (and plenty bright in its own right).

So, while you will have to (at this time) look to the $3000 5040UB if you want 4K handling, and great black levels, or the JVC X570 (at $3999) for even better black level performance and 4K handling, You can have all that 4K capability for “dirt cheap” by comparison, by going Pro Cinema 4040.

In other words if you have a good but not great room for viewing (some ambient light always present, etc. the PC4040 may come very close to the 5040UB. But in a fully darkened room on dark scenes, the difference is quite noticeable, and favors the 5040UB.

A lot of folks ask about whether to wait for true 4K, etc. to come down in price, but many are hungry to upgrade from 3-8 year old projectors.   Some don’t want to spend much, since they could a purchase now as a temporary purchase to hold them over.  That means the more they spend now, the less they will have for the move in a couple of years.  That makes the 4040 an attractive choice, and perhaps most importantly:

One that allows owners to start collecting 4K content, whether Blu-ray UHD or other sources.

Pro Cinema 4040 Special Features

Since the Pro Cinema 4040 doesn’t have a single special feature that isn’t already on the 5040UB and 6040UB, I’ll just list them here.  If you want to read more commentary in each of them, click here to go rightto the first of the UB review’s “Special” Features pages.

  • 4K Support
    • HDR
  • 4K UHD (aka Blu-ray UHD)
  • Image Enhancement Controls
    • A comparison of 1080p, 4K, image enhancements
  • CFI – Creative Frame Interpolation (aka “smooth motion”)
  • Performance as a Gaming Projector
    • (pretty good – 30.9ms input lag)
  • New lens, lens memory, light engine
  • 3D
  • Picture In Picture
  • HDMI Link
  • Lamp Life (5000 hours in Eco, 4000 in Medium, 3500 at full power)

So, just click on over there to read about any of these.  That will save me a few hours of rewriting paragraphs to say exactly the same thing I said in the other reviews.  -art

Time to get into the differences – the next page provides photos, and talks about the color performance, black level performance, and more, and how they differ from the PC4040’s “big brothers” with their fancier 3LCD panels.

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News And Comments

  • Jeffrey L Hurst

    I’ve heard that the major TV manufacturer’s are not releasing new TV models with 3D this year! Are projector companies going to keep the flame alive, or do we 3D enthusiasts need to RACE to buy a good 3D projector while we still can?

    • ProjectorReviews.com

      Hi Jeffrey – my bet is that projector manufacturers will continue to support 3D. The failure of 3D on LCD TVs was likely from the beginning. The fundamental problems were always two fold – some folks don’t want to wear 3D glasses – nothing you can do about that. But the other reason is that 3D and the “big screen” go hand in hand – it’s all about immersion in the content. It’s easy to get immersed in a 110” screen sitting 12 feet back. It’s not going to happen though sitting 15 feet back from a 65” or 71”. Those TVs at normal seating distance just don’t occupy a large enough area of your vision, so they fail to immerse, and fail to provide the immersive benefits of 3D. It’s sad to have to live with a small screen size! -art

  • Pat

    Thanks for the review Art
    I have a Panasonic AE8000 that I use with
    multiple screens in a bat cave home theater and am interested in the
    Epson 4040. I am interested how you would compare the black level and
    contrast between the two of them and would it be a upgrade to go from
    the Panasonic to the Epson. Thanks