Epson Home Cinema 5020 UB Home Theater Projector Review

Epson Home Cinema 5020 vs. Sony VPL-HW50ES

All new for 2012, this time the Epson has to take on what I consider to be the most improved “evolutionary” projector of the year, Sony’s HW50ES.  I talk about it’s Reality Creation engine – for dynamic, and in this case, super-smart, detail enhancement.  Sony with this projector has gone where no 2K projector has gone before.  Not even their excellent $5995 VW95ES can touch the apparent detail of the HW50ES.

True, Epson has Super-Resolution – it’s in the game, but Sony is far more effective.  Sony’s raised the bar If you use Reality creation in modest doses (20-35 is about all I’ll use out of 100), it does produce what seems to be a sharper, crisper image.

Sony has also closed the black level gap.  If the Sony isn’t quite as good as the Epson, it’s so close that on some scenes it’s actually a bit better.  They are close enough to call a tie.

The Epson wins at placement flexibility, thanks to the 2.1:1 zoom vs. 1.6:1.

Out of the box the Sony’s very good, the Epson slightly better.  The Epson “shines” when it comes to brightness – in both 2D and 3D, but there is a critical exception:

Calibrated the Sony’s 992 measured lumens leaves the Epson’s 678 in the rear view mirror.  It’s when you need the most lumens – say for sports or TV with some lights on… that Epson’s a good 50% brighter, and that’s signfiicant.

I could go on, but let me say it’s a very tough call between these two. Epson’s two year warranty has that 2 year replacement program I see as such a consumer friendly thing, but Sony offers a basic 3 years without “the frills”.

What’s the Bottom line?   I think it comes down  to price.  The Sony is technically $3999 compared to the Epson’s $2599, but the Sony does come with two pair of glasses and a spare lamp.  To me that works out to about a $3400 value for the projector alone, $3600 with the glasses.

That makes it exactly $1000 more expensive than the Epson.  Is it worth it to you?  Tough call.  I could live with either.  If I was counting my change to buy my next projector in this price range, I’d almost certainly pick the Epson due to the far lower price up front, and the far lower long term lamp costs (2000/3000 hours for Sony vs. 4000/5000 for the Epson).

But, if someone was saying – Pick your next projector – you can have either one for the same price and we’ll keep you in free lamps, then I do believe I would have to pick the Sony VPL-HW50ES.  Mind you, that’s the first time I’ve encountered another projector in the under $3500 range, in five plus years that I could say that about.

In other words, by my take, the Sony costs more, and seems to be worth the extra $1000. Is it worth the extra $1000 – to some, yes, to others no, but both are excellent value propositions.  You get your money’s worth with either.

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