Projector Reviews

Epson Home Cinema 4010/Pro Cinema 4050 4K Capable Home Theater Projector Review – Summary

Epson HC4010/PC4050 Projector Review – Summary: Summary, The Competition, The Bottom Line, Pros, Cons

Summary

These two projectors – identical in performance, but marketed though different channels – with the “Pro Cinema” finished in black, the Home Cinema in white, also differ in terms of price and what comes bundled with them.

Epson’s Home Cinema 4010 (HC4010), is $1999 MSRP, while the Pro Cinema 4050 is $2399.  The Pro is available through local trained dealers, and some big box houses, while the HC4010 is available online and also in some big box houses.   It’s also available through distribution to a lot more local dealers than the Pro’s elite group.

The Pro Cinema comes with four “extras”:

  • A spare lamp
  • Cable cover
  • Ceiling mount
  • An extra year of warranty (making 3 total) and an extra year of rapid replacement program during the warranty period.

My own take is that those extras tend to make the Pro, the slightly better deal of the two (slightly) if you are mounting the projector.  If you aren’t mounting it, I’d call it a tie in value.  The important point is you have choices, and they are all pretty good ones.

OK, having gone over the differences again, let’s talk what these two bring to your party.

First of all, you get some pretty fine color, right out of the box. (Not as good as Sony provides, but a pretty close second, and far better than most projectors.)  These Epson’s calibrate great, but most folks won’t bother, or they’ll try our published calibration settings (to save money).

These projectors, of course, support 4K – with HDR and DCI-P3 color.  Right there, they do  a sufficiently good job on P3 color in “best mode,” that it leaves the competition in the proverbial dust.  These Epsons when doing P3 are a bit more than half as bright as an alternative mode which behaves more like the competition – that is just able to handle the older, far easier REC709 color we’re long used to.  You get a choice – best color, or color comparable to the competition (or a bit better in most cases), but a lot brighter.

Passengers - space ship
Good black level performance on very dark scenes

Black level performance, something I count as very important for enjoying really dark scenes in movies, Game of Thrones, etc., is respectable for the price point.   The thing is, for a few hundred dollars more you can go for Epson’s 5040UB.  Alternately sometime early 2019, we expect the current “UB” projectors to be replaced so that they have some of the newer features first rolled out in these two).  Now if you have a nice “person cave” or dedicated home theater – preferably with dark surfaces, I will recommend spending on the UBs, for those dark scenes, but for most other environments – a living room, family room, etc. lacking the ability to get really, really dark, the HC4010 and PC4050 will often be the better deal, because even small amounts of ambient light will negate most of the UB’s advantage on those dark scenes.

Feature wise, these projectors are loaded:  2.1:1 motorized zoom lens with lens memory for supporting wide screens (and regular HDTV), HDMI-link for controlling other HDMI link devices using the Epson remote (or conversely, using a different remote to control these projectors).

No projector is perfect, or without compromise, and that certainly includes these two.  When it comes to brightness, we’re looking at really good color right around 2000 lumens max, which is better than most out there, or best 4K color for HDR and P3, and even that just beats 1000 lumens.  As I have said elsewhere, you get a choice – best color, and less brightness (you can always want more for HDR), or about double the brightness and merely really good color when you want brighter.

If I have one complaint about these projectors it is that they could definitely be quieter – in terms of fan noise.  Full power is on the noisy side.  Oh, plenty of other home projectors out there just as noisy at full power, or even a bit louder, but that doesn’t mean quieter wouldn’t be an improvement.  For other than 4K with HDR, I recommend running in the Epson’s Mid brightness mode, which makes it a lot quieter. Still not silent, but quiet enough that few will care.  We chose to calibrate a “best” and also a “brightest” mode for 4K with HDR for these Epsons.  That’s because most will want the extra brightness for HDR. Some of you, though will probably use our “brightest” 4K HDR mode with the Mid-lamp setting.

There are tons of lesser features, many of them listed below in the pros and cons section.  There’s closed captioning, various Eco solutions to save lamp life and reduce electric bills.  Then there’s all kinds of user controllable image processing for enhancing sharpness, detail, contrast, etc.

The Competition

All of the competition – that is – 4K capable projectors that support HDR, etc. consists of DLP projectors (aka 4K UHD DLPs), with the exception of the Epson UBs mentioned above (which I won’t repeat), and a couple of significantly more expensive projectors:  JVCs lowest cost 4K capable pixel shifter that uses LCoS panels – $3999 list price – so double the HC4010 on that basis, and Sony’s even more expensive, VPL-VW295ES native 4K projector – the least expensive native 4K out there by a couple thousand dollars.  (The Sony VW295ES was the last review I published – just two weeks ago.)

HC4010_PC4050_4K_Passengers_couple_fire

So let’s talk about the rest of the competition.  That would be dozen or more 4K UHD DLP projectors from brands including Acer, BenQ, Dell, Optoma, ViewSonic, Vivitek, etc.

First, with the possible exception of BenQ, I can easily say that “right out of the box” these Epsons will provide superior color than most of the DLPs.   Fortunately, we provide improved color settings for most of those that we reviewed.  Still, the Epson produces better overall color, and especially so, compared to most, when calibrated. Some of the DLPs, i.e. Acer, and ViewSonic, do not calibrate near as well as these Epsons, but others, once properly adjusted, get pretty close.  Remember, DLPs have to sacrifice more lumens due to their color filter wheels, than 3LCD or LCoS projectors have to, to get very good color.

As such, while there are 3000 lumen and 3500 lumen 4K UHD projectors out there, and that these Epsons only claim 2500 lumens, you can expect the Epsons to be basically as bright or brighter – calibrated (in this case our calibrated Natural mode), than those DLPs claiming far more lumens.   Of course if you go to the Epsons’ very best mode – Digital Cinema, with its own, (but very different type of) color filter, you are down just over 1000 lumens, where many of these DLPs are once calibrated.

When it comes to placement flexibility, it’s no contest, not one of those 4K UHD DLPs comes close.  Most lack lens shift, let alone offer a lot of it.  None so far offer fully motorized zoom lenses with anything near 2:1 zoom ratios, and none offer Lens Memory!

All of those DLPs support HDR (ok, one or two of the originals did not), as do the Epsons, but not one of them, including the three 4K UHD laser projectors, can really do color better than the old REC709 standard (most fall a little short), whereas the Epsons in Digital Cinema achieve well over 90% of P3 color which is to say offer about 40+% wider color range than REC709, or any of those DLPs. Some of those laser projectors, should be able to approach good P3 color, but so far, Eric finds all of them to have at least one primary or secondary color that doesn’t even get to REC709.  (OK, that was too techie:  Short version – these Epsons in their best mode (without using the Cinema filter, offer as good or better color than any of those DLPs. (In fairness they start with list prices as low as $1299, vs $1999 for the HC4010.)

If you can’t spring for the higher price of these Epsons, my choices to save you a lot – the ViewSonic PX747-4K – good but not great color, is the least expensive – very close to $1000, or the BenQ HT2550/TK800 (choose the one that fits your room and usage best). The BenQ’s will cost more than the ViewSonic.  If your budget only gets you to about $1500 look at the very smart Optoma UHD51A.

Or, you can spend more:  If you like the smarts, and the unique design of LG’s HU80KA that will cost you more than these Epsons (or even the UBs), but you are getting both a very smart projector (same menus, features, mostly, as their better LCD TVs and OLED TVs), as well as a long life laser light engine.  Now I definitely lean to the Epson for the better color, though over the LG.  I think of the LG as more of a home entertainment projector rather than serious home theater, despite the interesting, and in many ways excellent feature set.

One area where some of the competition has an advantage – is support for HLG – Hybrid Log Gamma (discussed elsewhere in this review).  That’s a newer (not a replacement) HDR solution than HDR10 which is the standard for 4K Blu-ray UHD discs, among other things.  HLG is for broadcast, and should work well with streaming.  A few of the DLPs, as well as that $4K JVC and the $5K Sony support HLG, but most, at this time do not yet.

You can check out our 2018 Best Home Theater Projectors report for more in each of the DLPs we reviewed.  Also we’ll be publishing an update late January 2019, to compare a number of these projectors that weren’t shipping when we published our report, early Sept, just ahead of the big CEDIA show.  This update, will be created after the even bigger CES show in Las Vegas right after New Year’s.

In fairness, some of those DLP projectors are the same resolution as these Epsons (1920×1080 pixels) but shift the pixels to hit the screen 4 times vs 2 for the Epsons.  Others, such as the more expensive lasers, and the Optoma UHD65, use a slightly higher resolution chip:  2716x1528x2 (they hit the screen twice, like the Epson’s but with pixel sizes half way between native 4K and 1080p.

Truth is, if you are sitting say, 16 feet back from a 100” diagonal screen, you probably can’t tell which of these are sharper, as its more about their image processing than their chip resolution!

So, worry not about sharpness, but overall picture quality, obsolescence, etc.

The Bottom Line

The Home Cinema 4010 and Pro Cinema 4050 share our Hot Product Awards.  Both projectors offer approximately the same value proposition – a very good one.  The Pro does have the 3rd year warranty and 3rd year replacement program, plus the spare lamp, cable cover, and ceiling mount, for the extra $400.  (Fair enough!).

The real strengths of these projectors include the exceptional placement flexibility (including lens memory for those that wish to go wide screen), great out of the box picture quality especially color.  Unlike the competition it not only handles 4K HDR but gets extremely close to handling full P3 color.  Only the lack of a faster HDMI (which limits gaming – you can still do 4K 60fps gaming, but without HDR – and better black levels are somewhat limiting.

Of course, if you want better black levels, Epson offers up their UB series for a few hundred dollars more.  I do prefer the UBs (sold under different model number outside of North America), if you have the extra budget, and have a dedicated home theater. Take your pick, the Home Cinema 4010/Pro Cinema 4050 – and the Epson UB projectors are the sweet spot in Epson’s home theater projector line up. Enjoy one!

Pros

  • Bright enough (measured 3000+ lumens) to work in living rooms, family rooms, etc.
    • Paired with the right types of screens
  • Equally competent in a dedicated home theater
  • 4K Capable
    • HDR with P3 color
      • Both HDR10 (disc) and HLG (broadcast/streaming) standards
  • Very good color and picture right out of the box, in multiple modes
  • Very competent 3D
  • Excellent placement flexibility
    • 2.1:1 motorized zoom and focus
    • Motorized lens shift
    • Lens memory
  • Dynamic iris for improved black level performance
  • Can have two modes optimized for 4K HDR
    • A Bright one with REC709 color
    • A less bright one with full P3 color
  • Motorized dust cover for lens, keeps dust out
  • Two HDMIs, networking and a 12 volt screen trigger
  • Well designed remote with good backlight and HDMI-link
  • 2 Year parts and labor warranty -w/replacement program for both years

Cons

  • Could be a bit quieter in full power mode.
  • Although fast, for gaming, cannot handle 4K 60fps with HDR
    • It can however do 4K 60fps without HDR
  • Lacks 18Ghz HDMI – the UB series has, so can do 4K 60fps with HDR
  • Black levels could be better (that’s why Epson has the higher UB series)
  • Minor de-focusing as it warms up
  • Cannot do CFI – smooth motion, when 4K Image processing is being used
  • It’s time for all these projectors to get smart like a good LCD TV

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