Projector Reviews

Winner: Best in Class ($2000-$3500): Epson Home Cinema 5030UB/Ube, Pro Cinema 6030UB

The Home Cinema 5030UB is my personal favorite projector value in the $2000 to $3500 price range, and the least expensive “serious” home theater projector with excellent black level performance.

The Epson UB series projectors remain my idea of the best combination of high performance That’s been the case for something like 6 years now.  Challengers?  I’m waiting.

It’s important to mention that these projectors are back for the second year, but Epson has provided a significant firmware upgrade relating to detail enhancement.  And it’s easy for you to upgrade your older 5030UB/6030UB if you have one.

The Epson Home Cinema 5030UB/Ube, Pro Cinema 6030UB: Why They Won

Epson’s UB projectors win again, and for the second year tie with the Sony VPL-HW55ES which sells for about $1000 more than the Home Cinema 5030UB.

The HC5030UB and the HC5030Ube are identical but for the extra $200 for the “e” which gets you wireless HDMI.  That can make for a real savings if it saves you a lot of additional installation costs.

The Pro Cinema 6030UB, of course, is sold only by local authorized dealers, and has only minor differences from the HC5030UB, notably it comes in a black case rather than mostly white with black.  And, as a Pro Cinema projector, it comes with a ceiling mount, a spare lamp, and a 3rd year of warranty with a 3rd year of rapid replacement program.  Like the HCs the Pro comes with two pair of Epson’s 3D glasses.

These Epsons have a great value proposition.  From a performance standpoint, the Home Cinema version is the bargain in the class.

Not only did these projectors get a firmware update late last year (after our last year’s report), that provided noticeably improved detail enhancement, with the standard 5030UB, but the official price dropped $200 to only $2299!

Black level performance – the “holy grail” of home theater performance is excellent and is unbeatable at this price point.  Consider that there are a number of other projectors some costing several times the price that can’t match these Epson’s abilities on really dark scenes!   There are only a few projectors that do better at blacks and the least expensive of those is our Runner-Up in the more expensive price Class, and that one sells for twice the price.  The Epsons look pretty great out of the box. They have a THX certified mode,  and calibrate beautifully, producing about as accurate a picture as we get to see.

Although not the brightest “home theater” projectors calibrated, they are capable of almost 800 lumens when calibrated, and that’s enough for a 130” diagonal screen without breaking a sweat.  When I watch movies on it, I’m usually at 124” diagonal, so I can attest to the lumens to spare.  Low power costs about 1/3 of the lumens, and even that does a respectable job at 124” diagonal.  I typically watch widescreen movies in Eco mode, although for a good action flick I’ll go full power.

These Epson’s are also the brightest projectors in the class, when in brightest mode.  That makes these projectors great if you don’t have that “theater” setup, but rather the typically less lighting controlled family/bonus/living/media room.  The Epson has no problem putting up over 2000 lumens, and with calibration of one of its bright modes (not quite as good color) it’s almost twice as bright as the better “best” mode.  Tweaking brightest mode itself (dynamic) for improved color still allows for more than 1800 lumens at full wide angle.  Count these Epson’s as light canons.  Want to watch sports with some lights in in your theater – or family room, these Epson’s have the advantage of the other category winners.

The HC5030UB and HC5030Ube don’t have the longest warranty of the class (two years with two years of rapid, free freight replacement program), that honor, instead belongs to the Pro Cinema 6030 with its extra year of both warranty and replacement.

These Epsons aren’t perfect though.  They could be a quieter at full power, and their iris can rumble a bit, but those tend to be minor things compared to the overall capabilities and value provided.  While a year ago I wrote that “on the downside, the Epson’s aren’t the sharpest of the field, typically a little softer than some of the others,” with it’s improved Super-Resolution and Detail Enhancement upgrade, it definitely looks sharper this year.  You’ll really need a single chip DLP to truly be visibly sharper, and there aren’t any such projectors near the Epson’s price that are in its league in terms of those rich, deep, black levels.

I use an Epson provided HC5030UB as a reference projector.  I’ve talked Epson into leaving one here for a full year so I have a projector for shooting side by side comparisons.  I couldn’t have picked a better choice without going to a much more expensive projector.  I was watching it last evening and still marveling about it’s black level performance considering it’s low price point.  BTW I really like the wireless HDMI, on the “UBe” version.  Sadly, the one Epson loaned me is a standard UB. Tsk, Tsk.