Projector Reviews

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB 4K Capable Home Theater Projector Review – Special Features

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB Projector Review – Special Features 1:  4K Capable, Handling 4K Content, As Gaming Projectors, New Pixel Shifting Hardware

4K Capable

The Home Cinema 5050UB is 4K content capable, but at its heart is a pixel shifting 1080p 3LCD panel (aka chip).  It supports HDR (both the HDR10 and HLG standards) and claims it can achieve the new higher standard P3 color – rare for lamp based projectors. Epson fires each pixel a second time (aka pixel shifting) to put 4.15 million pixels on the screen.  That’s still half of the 4K UHD standard of 8.3M, but the differences are relatively slight.

The low cost DLP 4K UHD projectors are also 1080p pixel shifters, but hit the screen four times for 8,300,000 overlapping pixels.  For example, the BenQ HT3550 – my previous review – and the LG HU80KA (4K UHD laser)  have the same native resolution, but pixel shift four times.  Such differences, when looking at sharpness and detail are, at most, very light.  If anything, the usual disadvantage of 3LCD and LCoS projectors compared to DLP is that the three color paths (Red, Green and Blue) are never 100% perfectly in alignment, making “single chip” DLPs inherently sharper, all else being equal.  Trade-off #1: DLP causes some folks (like poor me) to see rainbows, etc.

The truth is that both technologies, 3LCD and DLP, have its own advantages and disadvantages.  Note that PRO-UHD is the name Epson uses for their suite of 4K capabilities.  The DLPs are 4K UHD (UHD of course means Ultra High Definition), while Sony and JVC now both off a lineup of true, Native 4K projectors; that is to say they have 8.3+ million pixels, with no overlapping pixel shifting.

Faster pixel shifting adds slight brightness, and a theoretically cleaner image.
Faster pixel shifting adds slight brightness, and a theoretically cleaner image.

I’m not a big fan of trademark names it comes to describing technology – the terms are quite convoluted and they all essentially say the same thing, while trying to say that a particular manufacturer is the only one with a feature that everyone else offers, if slightly differently.  

For example, when one company describes its technology with “We’re the only company with ‘SuperDuperSmooth’ processing”, is just that – they are the only one with “SmoothMotion-Plus,” because that is what someone trademarked – but in reality it’s still just someone’s name for their variation of good old CFI.  When it comes to Native 4K versus 4K UHD, it is true that if you are not sitting particularly close to your screen, say 15 feet from a 100-inch diagonal screen, you almost certainly can’t tell which projectors are sharper.  But the same image at 8 feet, the difference will become much more apparent, with one image appearing slightly sharper than the other. 

Here’s the kicker though – due to the large amount of image processing that’s going on here, the image we perceive as sharper may not actually be the one with the higher native resolution.

Bottom line: The Epson, which has some very good optics, appears very sharp on 4K content using pixel shifting.  The HC5050UB’s image processing is definitely high performance, often making it seem sharper than 4K UHD competition.  When comparing to other projectors at a similar price point, your final decisions should likely be based on other features, as any perceived sharpness differences will be minor – or not visible at all – especially if you aren’t sitting relatively close. By comparison, things like brightness and black level performance vary dramatically from one projector to the next.

4K Content: HDMI with 18Ghz speed – a game changer for Epson

Passengers opening
5050UB: Opening of Passengers - 4K HDR / P3 color

Epson’s 4K capabilities, as with many projectors, is not unlimited.  The HDMI on the HC5050UB is one of the real improvements that isn’t found in the lower performance HC4010/PC4050 projectors.  

The Home Cinema 5050UB is Epson’s first model with full 18 GHz.  (The Pro Cinema 6050UB, of course also has it.) Now, this isn’t important to most folks but it certainly is major for serious gamers among others.  Without 18 GHz, 4K content will work all the way up to 60fps, but it cannot do HDR/P3 at that speed.  The older 5040UB and the 4010/4050, had that limitation.  The HC5050UB though, with its 18Ghz HDMI, can handle anything HDMI 2.0 can throw at it, at least in anything that is normal content whether streaming, broadcast, disc, or cable/satellite.

Other companies also weren’t using 18Ghz until recently.  Consider:  Sony’s under $25K 4K projectors had not been capable of projecting 4K, 60fps content with HDR, either, until their new models launched in Q4 2018.   You are able to watch 4K content at 60fps, but only with HDR turned off.  Right now, there isn’t a whole lot of 4K content like that, although Netflix does stream 4K content at 60fps without HDR (ie. Blacklist).

As Gaming Projectors

Spider-verse

The news here is all great news.  When it comes to input lag, the HC5050UB is reasonably fast, at 27 (varies from 25.8 to 26.9) ms, per my Leo Bodner input lag measuring device.  That’s considered to be very good, and is less than one frame behind on 30fps games, or two frames on 60fps games.  Great low input lag times are considered to be a bit more than half of the Epson’s lag – around 16ms.  If you want something faster than that, it’s likely not going to be with a projector – consider looking into a high-speed gaming LCD/LED monitor.  Those input lag speeds are with 1080p content (and pixel shifting on), also Fine color mode.  I also tried Fast color mode. Surprisingly, this slowed things down a “smidgeon”  or to be specific less than 2 ms.  So, both modes are definitely under 30ms!   Good job.

Previously Epson used a 10 Gbps HDMI, and while that’s fast enough for just about everything, (not being a gamer, (and the older lacked HLG for broadcast/streaming), I never needed more than the HC5040UB (and 4010/4050) offered.

But the Home Cinema 5050UB will be used by users for broadcast, streaming as well as disc and cable, and should handle everything we can throw at it there.  

There are games now that take full advantage of both 4K and HDR.  Nikki was mentioning to me how great one game looked in 4K, 60fps without HDR, and another person I know commented to me (who plays that same game),  that she would like the picture even better if she saw it in HDR.  

Bottom line for Gamers – the Home Cinema 5050UB is an extremely good gaming projector.  All but the most professional players should be thrilled, and even those demanding the fastest will find this reasonably close.

Nothing like low input lag times great color, plus full 4K 60fps content with HDR and P3! The HC5050UB does all of that!

horizon zero dawn
Image from game Horizon Zero Dawn. (not taken with the Epson projector), From a lower cost 1080p model.

New Pixel Shifting Hardware

This is one of the three significant improvements Epson is touting in the Home Cinema 5050UB projector compared to previous UB models.  With pixel shifting, we are talking about a physical shifting.  In this case – the faster the better.

What Epson has done is, per their description of it, is significantly reduce the time it takes for each pixel to go from one pixel position to its other.  That means each pixel spends more time correctly centered on where it should be, which will – they tell me – result in less distortions and a slightly brighter picture.  Epson gave me a more detailed rundown at CEDIA 2018, but the rest is more of the technical stuff.  I’m not sure if Epson has published any details about it, but suffice it to say the end result (even on the HC4010 when I reviewed it) looked better in sharpness than the 5040UB. So the HC5050UB definitely will be even better.   If you are an audiophile, think of the Epson improvements in pixel shifting like higher end power amps that can better do square waves.  The faster times may be where Epson is finding those extra 100 lumens, compared to its predecessor!