Epson Home Cinema 5020 UB - Review Summary
Time to wrap everything up. For those of you who have gone though all the previous pages, this could be a good bit redundant, but then we know that the first page and the summary are the most read. (Yes, not everyone reads every word I write - alas!)
10/31/2012 - Art Feierman Happy Halloween!
Epson Home Cinema 5020 Projector - The Bottom Line
Big picture time. Although the Home Cinema 5020 UB is essentially an updated version of the older HC5010, the combination of small improvements, much to my surprise, adds up to a much improved projector. What I'm acutally saying, is that when someone asks me: "Should I buy the older 5010 (assuming they are still available), or is the HC5020UB worth spending more?"
The answer, in my humble opinion, is: You will definitely get your money's worth with the Home Cinema 5020. There are small improvements that really add up, in many areas, and a much bigger improvement in terms of 3D!
Epson HC5020 3D, Overall: I'm starting here, because considering 3D considers all the individual topics such as brightness, color...
3D is better, much better than last year. Dramatically better. I viewed the HC5010 vs. the HC5020, and no contest!
Home Cinema 5020 3D brightness is improved, noticeably. That's not so much the projector's native brightness but improvements in 3D handling and new glasses.
Home Cinema 5020 Color in 3D. Again, improved by virtue of the addition of the THX 3D mode. OK it's not near as bright as 3D dynamic, but if you can deal with the lower brightness, we're looking at some very respectable color, something that has been a real problem with 3D projectors.
What really makes the Epson Home Cinema 5020 UB better in terms of 3D, though, (besides brightness and color), is drastically better black level performance. This year Epson has allowed dynamic features - most importantly, the dynamic iris, to function in 3D. It really makes the blacks as close to black as you could hope for in 3D.
In summary, in terms of 3D: Better color, brighter, and dramatically better blacks! Not bad for a projector we expected to have only minor improvements over last years. You are definitely getting your money's worth in 3D.
I should also point out, that this is by far the brightest projector we've seen in 3D (for the home). While the Panasonic has similar brightness in 2D, due to glasses, or other aspects, the Epson is significantly brighter in 3D.
Speaking of glasses, this year they are much lighter, more comfortable, and, they are rechargeable, rather than battery. And they are RF, not infra-red. When you look over to your friend, you won't lose the sync, and have to wait a fraction of a second for it to return when you look back to the screen. That's a very nice touch, that makes the projector "more invisible" that is, less intrusive during your viewing experience, which, in this case, is the best yet, in 3D, when you combine all the elements.
Epson HC5020UB Brightness:
Light canon! Almost 700 lumens calibrated with zoom at mid-point (well over if at wide-angle) Almost 2200 lumens at brightest, and even after our "quick-cal" to improve the color of the Dyanmic mode, more than 1600 lumens with the zoom only at mid-point, and close to 2000 lumens at wide angle. Only the Panasonic comes close to matching that in 2D. As noted, it's not near as bright in 3D as this Epson when comparing 3D.
Picture Quality of the Epson Home Cinema 5020
Out of the Box - the Epson's THX mode assures you of really impressive, well balanced color, to start with. Gamma is accurate, and very adjustable, including custom settings, should you have the desire.
Color, however, is the key, and THX looks great, if the slightest bit cool. Mike found it easy to adjust, and calibrate properly (better than the older 5010), and the result was very close to dead on color.
OK, color looks great, but that's just the beginning. There's still no projector near the price that can best this Epson in terms of black level performance, even if the Sony can be considered it's equal. Shadow detail was equally excellent. The combination of the two are unmatched so far, with only a JVC to review under $5000 that might compete. If you want better blacks, you'll probably have to start with Sony's much more expensive VW95ES - a $6000 projector - yes, over twice the price, and a higher cost of operation.
Home Cinema 5020 UB Competition
The real competition out there are the Sony HW50ES ($3999 with 2 pair of glasses + spare lamp (we consider it a $3499 projector, for comparison purposes), and the Panasonic PT-AE8000 which is loaded with some extra features, but overall, can't quite match the Epson (at least by my tastes).
To start, the Panasonic is $400 more now at $2995, plus there's no guaranty that Panasonic will renew their free 2 pair of glasses promotion (good to 12/31/12) Any way you slice it, the two closest competitors are significantly more expensive.
There are other competitors out there, including some DLP projectors. (The Panasonic uses the same LCD panels as this Epson, the Sony is an LCoS design - SXRD.) We will explore some of those in the competitors page when it is posted.
Will the Home Cinema 5020 work in your room?
Sporting a 2.1:1 zoom lens, and more vertical and horizontal lens shift than almost anything else out there, nothing can match this Epson as long as you are purchasing a 16:9 screen. If you want to go "wide screen" (2.35:1), you can, as Epson supports anamorphic lens.
This means you can place the projector relatively close, or, in almost any room, instead, place on a shelf in the back of the room. (you will be giving up some brightness placing it far back as is always the case.)
The Very Bottom Line on the Home Cinema 5020 projector:
For the last year, I have been using the older HC5010 as my primary projector for comparisons, as well as the projector I watched most when not reviewing. That worked out great, and I was always pleased, especially as someone big on black levels, and brightness.
I will soon be returning that projector. If Epson figures they are getting this 5020 back anytime soon, however, they are delusional. The only way they will pry this away from me, is by leaving the similar but slightly more expensive Pro Cinema 6020 with me instead.
The combination of excellent overall performance in terms of brightness, color, blacks, shadow detail, and 3D, with a price lower than most of the most direct competitors, makes this a top value. That it sells for a good deal less than the Sony and Panasonic (my next two choices in this price range), should seal the deal for many folks.
Bottom Line: The Epson Home Cinema 5020 is likely to be the best choice for pretty large chunk of the folks that can afford it.
Are you ready for some football? and movies, music videos, Discovery HD, sitcoms, and plenty of sports, and 3D too?
You can investigate further, but if the Epson Home Cinema 5020 UB is about what you want to spend, you probably don't have to.
Epson HC5020UB Pricing:
Epson set the MAP (minimum advertised price) of the Home Cinema 5020 at $2599 with two pair of glasses. For a few hundred more, the "e" version is available with its WirelessHD ability for HDMI. We plan to post a mini-review of the 5020e.
Epson Home Cinema 5020 Projector: Pros and Cons
Epson Home Cinema 5020 Projector: Pros
- Brightest 1080p, 3D capable projector we've seen
- Clean 3D
- Excellent black level performance (2D and 3D)
- 3D glasses are some of the lightest, and brightest, plus they are RF and rechargeable (figure 20+ movies between charges) a quick charge good for a 2 hour movie takes 3 minutes
- Split screen viewing, for whatever fun "floats your boat"
- CFI - smooth motion, (2D only) good for sports and other non-film based content (leave it on for movies if that's your taste)
- Calibrates extremely well
- 2 HDMI 1.4a inputs
- 480hz panels for faster response time, including gaming
- Lagtimes improved for gaming compared to the older 5010 now about 50ms (switch to "fast" image processing)
- Very good, but large, remote control, good backlight and range
- Excellent lamp life (4000/5000 hours)
- Very quiet operation in eco-mode
- Color filter in best modes for improved color accuracy
- Excellent menu layout (which they haven't changed in years)
- A truly excellent value proposition
Image above, from Moneyball
Epson Home Cinema 5020 Projector: Cons
- One of the noisier projectors at full power, but not exceptionally so
- A second HDMI circuit to allow two HDMI sources for Split Screen, would be nice, especially for Picture in Picture
- Those with dark ceilings (many home theaters) would prefer a black case (consider the Pro Cinema 6020 instead)
- Super-Resolution does not work in 3D nor CFI
- Small control panel on the side, not so easy to use when you cant see it, I prefer a top mounted control panels with more room
- Longer than average locking onto HDMI source changes
- Lens shift dials lose/imprecise (but they hold once you get it where you want)
- Those upgrading from a 3010 or 5010 can't use the old 3D glasses
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