Projector Reviews

2017 Holiday Guide to Four Great Home Theater Projectors Over $2000 – Part 2

On this page, we discuss our most affordable projector over $2,000, as well as some smart home gear to enhance your theater experience!

Epson Home Cinema 5040UB – Affordable & 4K Capable with Serious Performance

Epson Home Cinema 5040UB Front

Epson’s Home Cinema 5040UB was a star in last year’s Holiday Guides. This same, excellent projector is back this year, but at a lower price ($2,699)! The value proposition remains unchanged: Excellent Value. Last year, it earned a Hot Product award when reviewed, and in this year’s 2017 Best Home Theater Projectors Report, it took the top honors in the $2,000 – $3,500 price range – the sweet spot, the affordable range for serious home theater projectors, with serious performance.

You can spend a lot more for better, but the 5040UB is the most affordable projector on the market for serious folks who want a great picture, not just color, but also black levels that make the darkest scenes look great.

The 5040UB supports 4K content, along with several other projectors in its price range, but none of them are true 4K. For that, you’ll need the Sony VPL-VW285ES, featured on the first page of this guide, but it’s roughly twice as expensive.

The Home Cinema 5040UB is a native 1080p projector, but it is a pixel shifter, which allows it to provide more detail and also makes it more viable for viewing 4K content. Hook it up to your favorite devices – satellite, a Blu-ray UHD player, a Roku, Apple TV, etc., and enjoy 1080p or 4K. For the price, the picture will almost certainly blow you away.

I have one on loan, mounted in my theater, which I use as reference. It allows me to compare it to different projectors I review at different times, so I can better judge how they compare to each other, since I don’t usually have the luck that direct competitors are here simultaneously.

I asked Epson for the 5040UB because of the performance if offers. Oh, it’s great reviewing other projectors that are much higher end and better, but even when I switch back to this Epson, I’m never disappointed!

The HC5040UB offers about as much placement flexibility as any home theater projector on the market, with a 2.1:1 zoom and tons of lens shift. For some of us, even more important is that the lens features are all motorized, so that the projector offers lens memory, which allows me – and others – to go “wide screen.” This is the same shape as most Cinemascope movies, so there’s no letterbox above and below the picture. Count that as a real plus for 10% or more of us.

But it’s the picture, folks, that really makes this projector shine. This Epson has several modes with excellent color, and the best black level performance anywhere near its price. Calibrating it improves it a bit, but even “out of the box,” it won’t disappoint.

No worries, we publish our calibration information for our subscribers. Once set up, it does look really good.

Believe me, it can’t match the $25,000 Sony true 4K projector I had here, when we also recalibrated the Epson, but you certainly can appreciate the similarities.

Now, there is some competition in the form of new $2500 range 4K UHD projectors. Those aren’t true 4K resolution either, but they are one step up from this Epson when it comes to perceived sharpness and detail. But, while they may have a slight edge there, none come close in features or black level performance.

Warranty is one of the best – it’s two year parts and labor. Should you have a warranty issue, they ship out the replacement the next business day, so you are unlikely to be “down” for more than a few days. No sending it in for repair and waiting weeks.

I could go on, but, instead check out the review for more. Let’s just say, you won’t find a better value under $3,000 with serious home theater performance. Put it on the top of your list for Santa. If Hanukah is your thing, you’ll want this one on the first night of presents.

Either way, the 5040UB will be at or near the top of most people’s short list.

Smart Products for the Home Theater

Let’s take a quick break from these awesome projectors to talk about some stocking smart stuffers you may enjoy. We say “smart” in its dual meaning – smart buys, and smart products. Home automation started in the home theater with motorized shades and screens, so it only seems natural that smart products should have a place in this guide.

If you’re looking at this Over $2000 Guide, chances are you’ve got a pretty badass room to put your new projector in. Whether it’s a dedicated home theater or a media room, you’ve put a lot of thought into the design of that room. If not, you’re starting to think about it, and you’ll find some useful information in this section. We’re going to be focusing on the ambiance of the room, in the form of smart lighting!

A quick disclaimer – this section of the guide contains affiliate links from Amazon. If you choose to buy from these links, we receive a small percentage of the sale, which we will put right back into the site to continue to create awesome content for you. If not, no worries – we’ll continue to create awesome content regardless. A perk of choosing to purchase from these links, however, is that in some cases, the Amazon price is much lower than what you can get from the manufacturers or your local hardware store.

contemporary-home-theater

There are several smart lighting companies of note, more of which are popping up every day, but our favorites come in the form of LIFX, ilumi, and Lightify. All three companies have a plethora of smart lighting products, ranging from smart white bulbs, to colored bulbs, colored and white LED strips, and even lights to go in your garden outdoors. You can use flood lights for recessed cans in your ceiling, smart bulbs for lamps and light fixtures within the room, and more exciting, LED strips that you can put behind your (fixed) screen, or underneath seating to create a futuristic vibe.

LIFX Color and White Smart Bulbs (Wifi)

Let’s start with LIFX. LIFX has a great app – it’s easy to set schedules, pick a specific color – any color – from the entire color spectrum on their wheel, and choose scenes. Setup of LIFX bulbs is painless as well, though I recommend using your 2G network if you’ve got a 2G/5G split as I have. This is because most smart products do not play nice on 5G. They’ve got regular A19 bulbs, a mini A19 (downsized for smaller lamps/shades), BR30 lights and LED strip lights. Bulbs range from $44.99 to $79.99, with deals for buying in bulk. Their LED strip, the LIFX Z, starts at $89.99 for 2 meters.

Ilumi Color Smart Bulbs (Bluetooth)

The next company, ilumi, is newer to the smart product game, and had their humble beginnings in Kickstarter (a trend amongst smart lighting companies). They, too, have an A19, an indoor BR30, an outdoor BR30, and LED light strip kit. Most of these apps work the same, with minor differences, so I won’t get into that. Instead, let’s talk price.

Their smart bulbs range from $49.99 to $59.99, and they even have a smart outdoor flood for $69.99. Their 2 meter LED strip lighting kit goes for $89.99 as well. Something cool I discovered on the ilumi website is that you can choose to pay small monthly payments on the lights, which would be useful if you’re planning on getting a ton of these for your honey’s home theater.

Lightify Color Bulbs and Light Strips

Lightify, a brand by Osram/Sylvania, also has a fantastic app. We have a video of their LED light strips in action, and a demo of the app. The brand offers the same kind of scheduling, color selection, themes, and compatibility with your Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. That’s right, you can activate these lights with your voice (you can also do this with the LIFX bulbs). “Alexa, turn on the theater lights,” is always more impressive than flicking a switch.

Sylvania has tons of lighting products, both for the home and commercial uses, but what should interest you are their A19 and BR30 flood lights, as well as the Lightify Flex RGBW strip lights. These are possibly the most affordable of the bunch, with their A19s being sold for around $36.99, and the strip lights for around $54. They’ve also got their Lightify Gardenspots, if you’re looking to illuminate your outdoor theater or garden.

Nanoleaf Aurora, and Aurora/Rhythm (wall Art)

The last lighting kit we have here for you has not been mentioned yet – we saved the best (well, perhaps the coolest) for last. The Nanoleaf Aurora is a 9-panel, completely customizable smart lighting solution that doubles as a work of art. You can arrange the panels in any configuration you like, add panels to the design with their expansion kits, and choose from an array of color patterns – or create your own. There are a number of presets that range from the festive to the seductive, playful to the-perfect-match-to-your-décor.

The original 9-panel kit goes for $229.99. Upon visiting their website, I’ve discovered that Nanoleaf has recently come out with a new version of the product called the Nanoleaf Aurora Rhythm. This is the same idea as the Aurora, only it will vibe to your music, for the same price. Pretty awesome. If you’ve already got a Nanoleaf Aurora, you can purchase the Rhythm’s sound module to attach to your existing Aurora.

Nanoleaf Aurora fancy
Fancy Nanoleaf Aurora wall art design

Enjoy the video below of the Nanoleaf Aurora in action before we move on to the rest of our projectors featured in this guide.  This Aurora design is in Art’s Living room, although he tells me, he just ordered two extension kits, so he’s pulled the Aurora down, and reinstalling next week with a 15 panel pattern.

In this video clip, the walls really aren’t black, but light grey, they only look dark in this photo because the Aurora is so much brighter than the wall.

Did we mention that Aurora is controllable from Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa?  Well, it is!