Epson Home Cinema 5020 Projector - A First Look
Epson's Home Cinema 5020 (and the 5020e) projectors, enter the universe with a leg up on the competition. Why? The HC5020 is hardly an all new projector, just an evolutionary improvement over last year's projector, not some breakthrough. The thing is, last year, the HC5010 / 5010e, along with the Pro Cinema 6010 (three variations of the same projector) shared our highest home theater projector award: Best In Class ($2000 to $3500 projectors). Nothing like starting at/near the top. Where appropriate, in this "First Look" article, you will find some paragraphs identical to those in the other Epson "First Looks" because, in most cases, we're discussing exactly the same thing.
Let's take a look at some of the improvements.
9/5/2012 - Art Feierman
Epson Home Cinema 5020
Where are you going to put your new Home Cinema 5020? The answer, at least as far as it is true of any home projector, is: Wherever you want. Dedicated home theater, or cave? Sure, that's ideal. Family room or bonus room. I can't say "no problem" but, I can say (thinking brightness) "less potential problem than any other 3D capable home projector", which is to say, this Epson is bright. It is a light canon claiming 2400 lumens (same as last year).
It looks like Epson may be bringing back the UB - "Ultra Black" descripter for these 5020 projectors. Some documents cite the Epson Home Cinema 5020, others the Home Cinema 5020UB. Whatever! The important point is blacks area key strength of these Epsons.
Epson promises review units of the Home Cinema 3020 or 3020e as soon as early units are available. I suspect that we will receive both 3020 and 5020 models in September, or early October, and will pound out the reviews asap.
Home Cinema 5020 Specs and Features
- Brightness: 2400 lumens (both color lumens and white lumens - see our Color Lumens video for what that means
- Contrast 320,000:1 - 2D - same as last year
- Contrast 320,000:1 - 3D contrast and blacks improved from 15,000:1 - dramatically improved (iris now operates in 3D)
- 3D and 2D Projector with new 2D to 3D conversion
- 480hz LCD panels for a brighter image (and other benefits)
- Split screen capability
- 2 year warranty with replacement program for both years
- 2.1:1 Fujinon manual zoom lens
- Extensive vertical and horiztonal lens shift
- Very low cost of ownership thanks to long life lamp (up to 5000 hours)
- Includes 2 pair of 3D glasses (active shutter) 3rd party glasses available
- 13.2 pounds
Official pricing is still unknown (9/5), Epson should have that for us tomorrow at our meeting with them. This year all 5 new Epson's come with two pair of their new, lighter, rechargeable 3D glasses.
We will update this article with the formal Epson pricing as soon as we learn it at CEDIA.
Home Cinema 5020 Picture Quality
My first viewing of the 5020 was in a conference room type environment. Different screen, white walls, etc. It really would be impossible to make any definitive statements about subtleties, except to say that Epson's conference room is even worse than a typical family room or bonus room when it comes to viewing content from a good projector. The impressive part is that the projector's 2400 lumens could handle a good deal of ambient light. Note that most home theater projectors are lucky if they have half the brightness of this Epson.
If the Home Cinema 5020 holds true to it's heritage, it will have the best black level performance anywhere near it's price. Epson has upped their contrast claim from 250,000:1 to 320,000:1. That's hardly night and day, but when you are starting with some exceptional black level performance, even a small improvement can be a lot. We don't take contrast numbers too seriously, due to the many iffy ways to measure the effects of dynamic irises. Still, apples to apples. If any company shows a significant improvement in contrast claim, I expect an improvement in blacks. I just don't like comparing this company's 100,000:1 to the next company's 50,000:1. You can't be sure the higher number guarantees better blacks when its two different companies' products. I expect you really will have to spend for projectors like JVC's X70R (approaching $8000) or the $6999 Sony VPL-VW95ES, to get better blacks. (Or whatever new projectorsthose companies launch at CEDIA.) Considering this projector will be priced well under $3000 - that's a lot of value. Of under $5000 projectors, we recently reviewed Sharp's new XV-Z30000, a DLP home theater projector who's blacks come very close to what this Epson can do, but that's the only one I can think of that gets "so close", without spending $5000.
Now some of you will have your shiney new Home Cinema Epson 5020 or 5020e calibrated. Probably more of you will try out the general and grayscale settings we will provide when we do the full review. Historically, our calibration settings, we believe, give you an improved picture quality over the default settings on most projectors.
This year, Epson has brought back THX modes to the 5xxx series. I say "back" because Epson had it in the 8700UB two years ago, but last year, only provided THX in the 6010. This is a significant improvement, as we typically find THX modes to be pretty well calibrated,. That is, they tend to look a lot better than other modes provided. A projector with a THX mode is one where you are less likely to need our published calibration settings. I should also note, that the UB designation for Epson may be back. Epson used the Ultra-Black moniker consistently on their best home projectors for about the last 5 years, going to back to their breakthrough 1080UB. Last year, though, with the 5010 and 6010, the UB expression was dropped. So far, though, this year, I'm seeing references to the UB suffiix in some Epson documents. No matter, whether it's called a Home Cinema 5020 UB, or Home Cinema 5020, it's the same projector, and black performance looks great, based on my preliminary look last week.
Home Cinema 5020 3D Projector
As with all of the new Epsons, there are a number of improvements to 3D. The first and most immediately noticeable, is that Epson's dynamic features are now active - unlike last year. That's right - the dynamic iris works in 3D, as do features like Super-Resolution. Bottom line, when viewing content in 3D, this Epson should now also have the best black levels for the price for 3D as well as 2D. For better, I think you currently will need to spend about three times as much, but still end up with a 3D projector that's maybe half as bright, and often not bright enough for pleasant 3D viewing.
While we're talking 3D, the glasses are a definite improvement. The new glasses look similar to last year's but not the same. More to the point, they are noticeably lighter (and the old ones were already pretty light for active glasses). I wear glasses and found them comfortable.
The real news with the 3D glasses is the switch from lithium battery power to rechargeable. No more batteries to change (roughly every 75 hours). Not surprisingly, the life between charges isn't as good as disposable battery powered glasses. Epson says "up to 40 hours".
Considering few of us will be watching 3D more than even 10% of the time (unless you have lots of small children), 40 hours isn't bad. Better still, though - and I love this: Epson says that if the battery wears down, you won't have to postpone/reschedule your movie while it recharges. According to Epson - plug in the 3D glasses for just 3 minutes and they will get enough charge to make it through a 3 hour movie.
Now that is cool! (I wish I could get 3 hours of fresh talk time, if I plugged my iPhone in for 3 minutes.)
Epson is also now offering some decent 2D to 3D conversion. So far I'm still not a fan of taking typical 2D content and converting it to 3D. On the other hand, if you want to show those 2D video clips from your camcorder or iPhone/iPad/andoid, in 3D, you can do that, and that is a family cool feature.
We were extremely impressed with the 3D and 3D color, overall last year, good color, and one of only 2-3 really bright (say "bright enough" 3D projectors out there). We therefore expect everything else to be at least as good as last year.
Home Cinema 5020 General Thoughts and Features
High brightness, high contrast / excellent blacks / tremendous placement flexibility, long life lamp, excellent warranty... OK, that's all stuff from last year.
Split screen capability. I know that it's hardly a must have feature, but for those that are interested, it does work. When the Home Cinema 3020e comes in for full review, I will use the split screen, with half showing football, and half showing my fantasy football action from my computer. As is typical, you cannot have both sources be HDMI (true of virtually all picture in picture capable projectors-regardless of manufacturer). That is a bit of a challenge for the HC5020, though.
The new Home Cinema 5020 plugs in nicely as a 5010 replacement projector. Although no improved brightness (it's already a light canon), a slight boost in contrast plus a lot of 3D enhancements, should make this new Epson every bit as competitive as last year's projector. That's saying a lot as last year, the 5010e/5010/6010 shared our Best In Class award for projectors under $3500 street price. Panasonic has improved its offerings with a PT-AE8000 replacement for the AE7000. I mention this because the two Epsons -Home Cinema 5020 and 5020e, face off with the Panasonic in this year's annual "who makes the best LCD home theater projector" contest.
We will, once again, pick our winners, in a few months after reviewing both, when it's time for our annual 1080p Home Theater Projector Comparsion report.
I've been using the Home Cinema 5010 in my theater as my basic "reference". Despite owning a JVC. No doubt an Epson 5020 or 5020e will replace it soon enough. Using one of these Epson's works great, as we mostly review projectors from about $900 to $8000. These Epson's strong blacks make it a great choice for comparing as it can take on lower and similarly priced projectors, but also, for comparison, hold its own with most of the "a lot more" expensive projectors.I am hoping for a Home Cinema Epson 5020 or 5020e (or perhaps a Pro Cinema 6020), to arrive in the 2nd half of September for immediate review. Hang in there.