Epson Home Cinema 5020 UB Home Theater Projector Review
The Epson Home Cinema 5020 projector is a huge improvement on last year's model. Read on to find out how.
10/29/2012 - Art Feierman
Epson Home Cinema 5020 Projector Overview
The Epson Home Cinema 5020, aka the Epson HC5020, aka the Home Cinema 5020UB, is Epson's second generation 3D capable projector. It starts shipping any day (11/12) Like all Epson projectors, it is an LCD projector. Epson is the primary manufacturer of this LCD technology, with most of the worldwide marketshare. They supply LCD panels to other manufacturers, including to their most direct competitor, the Panasonic PT-AE8000. That Panasonic uses the same panels as this Epson Home Cinema 5020 UB.
There are essentially three similar Epson projectors. We received and worked with the Home Cinema 5020e. The standard projector is the Home Cinema 5020 UB (Ultra Black). Next comes the the HC5020e. That version adds wireless HDMI capabilities, That can save some folks money which would otherwise be spent on wiring costs.
Both of those projectors are sold online and locally. There is also the Pro Cinema 6020, which is almost identical (though it has a black case). The Pro Cinema 6020 is only sold through Epson's local dealer network.
Image above taken with a fair amount of ambient light present including some outside light and lights in the back of the room.Epson's Living Room mode was used.
Let's talk brightness. The claim of 2400 lumens makes this Epson Home Cinema 5020 projector a light canon. It is bright. Of the 3D capable home theater projectors, only the Panasonic ties it in terms of manufacturer specs (though the Epson did measure brighter, both calibrated and in "brightest" mode - but more on those numbers, on the Performance page.
The real competition for Epson's HC5020UB are other 2D/3D projectors. That includes other major players besides the Panasonic PT-AE8000, including the Sony VPL-HW50ES, the Optoma HD8300, Sharp XV-Z30000, and JVC DLA-X30 (RS45). Of course there are more expensive projectors as well, but all of these are essentially under $3500 street price, though some by only a few dollars.
Another Hot Product Award for Epson
The Epson Home Cinema 5020 will share it's Hot Product Award with both of its siblings; the Home Cinema 5020e and the Pro Cinema 6020. I realize the Pro Cinema 6020 has a slightly different value proposition, but this year, with the Home Cinema models now sharing features like THX with the Pro, they are similar enough, and have a similar price performance ratio (when considering the various "Pro" value adds), to put them all together.
The HC5020 is designed for your home theatre.
But thanks to its brightness, the HC5020 is just as capable in those not so perfect "media rooms", family rooms, living rooms, bonus rooms, etc.
In fact, this Epson is the brightest of all the over $1000, under $10,000 home theater projectors, with 3D, (and only 1 2D projector - Panasonic's PT-AR100U) -we've ever reviewed. (I'm not talking about those business projectors adapted (a bit) for the home. Those can be far brighter, but they do not approach "home theater" quality.
Epson Home Cinema 5020 Projector Highlights
- 2D and 3D capable with best in class brightness for both 2D and 3D
- THX mode for excellent color, right out of the box
- Great black level performance - as has been the case with each of it's previous 4 generations
- Rated 2400 lumens (and comes very close) making it very bright for a home projector targeted first for a dedicated home theater, but just as happy in a family room
- Excellent placement flexibility thanks to a 2.1:1 zoom and lots of vertical and horizontal
- Long life lamp, reasonably priced
- 3D glasses are RF - radio frequency - they stay in sync when you look away - and the new ones are very lightweight
- Super-Resolution - a dynamic detail enhancement feature
- Excellent price/performance value
Basic Specs for Epson Home Cinema 5020UB
HC5020 UB MAP: $2599 including 2 pair 3D glasses
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: Manufacturer claim: 2400 lumens, 2142 measured max, 678 lumens, post calibration in "best" mode (mid-point setting on zoom lens)
Zoom Lens ratio: 2.1:1 manual zoom
Lens shift: Horizontal and Vertical (manual)
Lamp life: 4000 hours at full power, 5000 hours in eco mode - Lamp replacement cost: $299 (at list price)
Weight: 19.2 lbs. (8.7 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Year Parts and Labor, 2 year replacement program
View full specifications here: Epson Home Cinema 5020
Epson Home Cinema 5020 Special Features
HC5020 Dynamic Iris
A dynamic iris is detectable, sure. They all are to one degree or another. I prefer the High Speed setting (there are two settings).
What's special about Epson's iris, is that it seems to have more range than most others. Consider; the more range to the iris, the more likely it's going to be noticeable. It also depends how clever the design is. The end result, this Epson's iris delivers darker blacks than any other sub $3000 projector I know of. And it accomplishes this while still having one of the least noticeable iris actions around.
Home Cinema 5020e WirelessHD
This is a feature found only on the Epson Home "e" projectors, that would be the Home Cinema 5020e, which we mentioned above. (There is also the lower cost 3020e, a lower performance projector with the same WirelessHD capabilities.) The short version is that the Epson can receive wireless HD signals from the transmitter that is included. Place the transmitter by your (HDMI) equipment, and you don't need to run an HDMI cable to your Epson projector. Very cool, and for those who have older theaters without HDMI wiring, a potential huge cost saver.
The system is lossless - that is, the picture quality should be every bit as good as when using expensive wiring.
For this year, the WirelessHD has been improved with more HDMI inputs, and now, digital audio, compared to last year's projectors.
HC5020 Projector: 3D
Better than last year. As I blogged - 3D is significantly approved with the the HC5020 UB and its siblings, compared to the older 5010 projectors.
How is it improved? Let me count the ways:
- Black levels drastically improved in 3D, thanks to the Home Cinema 5020 UB's dynamic iris, which now works when in 3D (assuming you want it to). Last year's model did not allow the iris to be usable in 3D. I really wasn't happy with that, and complained to all who would listen (including Epson). As I said at the time, why deny users the choice? Considering that 3D is darker to begin with than 2D, last year, Epson wouldn't let you use the iris in 3D.
- New, lighter (and brighter) glasses, which are pretty comfortable, when on the head of a large headed, glasses wearing, reviewer
- Glasses are now RF (radio frequency - no line of sight required) not IR. They don't drop the sync if you look away briefly, or
- Overall a rather noticeable increase in brightness, thanks to the new glasses?, plus "who know's what" other technologies inside the projector.
HC5020 Gaming Abilities
Lag times coming soon. Epson has indicated that this projector would have sub-50ms lag times. Last year they were around 80. Generally under 50ms is acceptable to most serious players of fast games such as first person shooters. I had the opportunity to measure lag times using the same timer that my two gaming bloggers use. These are based on using the timer on my MacBook Pro, feeding the projector via a high quality HDMI cable (8-10 feet). In multiple photos (about a dozen) of the two timers (on the projected image and the laptop screen, almost all cases it measured a 50 ms lag difference, the three cases where it did not, the projector measured 48, 49, and 49. I think at least relative to the MacBook 50 ms should be the number. The 5020UB is on the way now, to one of my gamers, for a more indepth look at gaming on the HC5020 UB.
HC5020 Creative Frame Interpolation
The Home Cinema 5020 has CFI. It seems like previous CFI's on the older UB projectors, which is to say, even the Low setting is too much for most movies, at least for any purist. It does its job nicely for sports viewing. My daughter understands the difference, and can easily spot CFI, but doesn't seem to really mind a good CFI on a movie. For us purists and enthusiasts, though most of us will prefer OFF for movies. In 3D, as was the case last year, CFI is disabled.
Below, an image from the last Star Trek movie.
From the Home Cinema 5020 remote control, you can control other devices such as many Blu-ray players that support HDMI-Link. Note, you'll find a full set of DVD type controls on the Epson remote, which we discuss on next page.
Epson's Fujinon 2.1:1 zoom lens
Epson's been using this lens since the original Home Cinema 1080 more than 5 years ago. It's got a touch more zoom range than anything close (such as the competing Panasonic). The optics do look pretty good. The lens allows a really sharp look at your pixels if you stand next to the screen. This is a 3 chip LCD projector, which means there's never perfect conversion. With the Epson Home Cinema 5010, no issues on the optics, and more placement flexibility than other lenses, very few of which offer more than 1.6:1.
Just remember, if you are going to place the projector at the maximum distance from your screen, as with all projectors with zoom lenses, the optics are at their least bright, and brightest, when the projector is at its closest.
HC5020UB Lamp Life
Lamp life is most impressive. Epson specs their Home Cinema 5020 lamp at 4000 hours running at full power, and 5000 hours in eco-mode. This puts it in a rather select, small group that offer 4000 lumens at full power. I don't believe I have heard of any projector claiming more than 6000 (and only one claiming that).
The lamp lists for $299, which is less than most, and not much more than half the price of some competitors. That combined with the long life makes for a very low cost of operation, and further separates these Epson projectors from several good competitors in terms of overall cost of ownership.
Of course all of these projectors with high pressure lamps lose brightness over time
Bottom line: Excellent lamp life at a most reasonable cost, makes for a very low cost of operation. Compared to projectors with the old 2000/3000 hour lamps, a heavy user can save a couple hundred dollars a year, more if the competition's lamp costs a lot more, considering some sell for up to $500!
Picture In Picture
Once again, Epson offers Picture in Picture, which is always a nice touch for the small percentage who will use it. Keep in mind that you need two sources, but they both can't be HDMI. Epson has 2 HDMI inputs, but, essentially, as with other projectors, there's only one HDMI circuit, with an electronic switch between HDMI 1 and 2.
Other Dynamic Controls
As is the case with most home theater projectors today, there are multiple additional dynamic features, which can come into play for sharpness, gamma, etc. We do most of our testing with these turned off. Every cool dynamic feature takes something else away, when it adds some other performance. There are always trade-offs. That makes most of those dynamic controls personal preference based.
There are almost an infinite number of combinations of dynamic controls when you consider sharpness and detail enhancement, contrast (dynamic iris), gamma, and the others. Adjust one a bit, and something else reacts slightly. Mike found the gamma to be another improvement compared to last year.
Ultimately, the Home Cinema 5020 has a lot of small improvements over last year's, and a couple of bigger ones. Add them up, though, and you end up with a better, more refined projector. Not such a bad thing considering last year's Homc Cinema 5010 was our Best In Class winner - our second highest award, with only our Outstanding Product of the year, being of even greater significance.
There's lots more to discuss, so it's time too take look at the hardware.