Projector Reviews

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

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB 4K Capable Home Theater Projector Review– Summary: Summary, The Competition, The Bottom Line, Pros, Cons

Home Cinema 5050UB - Summary

The Epson Home Cinema 5050UB is Epson’s high performance yet still affordable projector. For a list price of $2999, owners will get to enjoy some excellent picture quality, with best in class black levels for great handling of really dark scenes.

It is loaded with bells and whistles, most of them quite useful. That starts with being perhaps the most flexible in terms of placement of any projectors under $10,000 (along with the HC4010, and PC4050 and 6050UB).  The 2.1:1 zoom lens is fully motorized, and sports an almost obscene amount of lens shift.  Of course, that is all tied together to offer Lens Memory, and making it ideal for working with wide (Cinemascope) type screens, as well as standard HDTV 16:9.

Overall, right out of the box, color is really very good but it can be improved further, with the settings we provide. Most folks won’t be the least bit disappointed with the “out of the box” picture.  But it calibrates almost perfectly.  Skin tones and everything else looks rich – and right.  Picture quality is a key strength, and that includes those black levels.

There are about 2500 really good looking lumens under the hood (3400 lumens when you need every ounce of power, for fighting too much ambient light with still decent color). Even calibrated, you are looking at just about 2000 lumens for SDR or HDR content,(4K) with REC709 color, and a fraction less than 1200 lumens with P3 Color!  I can’t recall any of the lamp based DLP projectors measuring brighter, despite some claiming 3000 or even 3200 lumens.

Projector Reviews Hot Product Award
Our top regular projector award. Our Best of Best Awards are given out only in our reports.

All that horsepower allows the HC5050UB to escape the dedicated home theater/cave, and work in multiple rooms in most houses.  Most rooms with some reasonable light control, that is.  A huge skylight in the middle of your living room isn’t going to cut it.

For perspective, in “the good old days” we needed about 450 lumens to fill a typical 100″ diagonal screen.  Now, with HDR, we go, 2000 lumens, great, got more?

On the downside, Epson is really cutting it close in terms of fan noise at full power. Everyone would be thrilled with a nice 3 or 4 dB drop.  It’s not over the top, and you will normally forget about it until a long silence occurs. The other two modes are nicely quiet. The other thing is I see minor de-focusing (common). I recommend you let the projector fully warm up, set the focus then for the future. You are only likely to spot any softness when you first power up when you have menus open.

south pacific
Taken with the HC5050UB, the image appears to have a certain clarity not found on many projectors. Is the PC6050UB even better?

Overall, the Epson puts a really sharp image on your screen. It excels at what I call “perceived sharpness.”  It isn’t truly as sharp as a single chip DLP (4K UHD) or a native 4K projector, but..they all look pretty close, thanks to image processing.

The lamp is rated 3500 hours at full power (5000 in Eco) they don’t publish a number for Medium lamp.  With a $299 list price (before discounts) should last a good number of years.  (20 hours a week for 3.5 years – at full power) Warranty is 2 years P&L with 2 years of rapid replacement!I’ve been touting the virtues of Epson’s UB series since inception. (I owned the first UB – the 1080UB.)  For me, it is the black levels first, but you can’t beat the 5050UB for features, or overall picture for the price.  Plus, it’s a really good gamer, and it’s got 3D which many of us really love on the big screen.

Bridge screen 4K
This image of Bridge software (Adobe Creative Suite), comes across over Apple TV as 4K

The HC5050UB is improved in many areas, most notably, more fast hardware processors for specific tasks like pixel shifting, HDR processing, and a 12-bit digital image processor.  Ultimately though, the biggest visual improvement is the handling of HDR content. Gamers get the faster HDMI and full capabilities that were missing on all previous Epsons.Bottom Line:  The Home Cinema 5050UB has it all.  It isn’t the best at everything it does – hey, it is only $2999, not $29,999, but iit seems to be very competent at everything of significance, and really excels in some areas, especially for the price.

A Hot Product Award, Of course!  This Epson hits the mark in almost every area.

The Home Cinema 5050UB Competition

The Home Cinema 5050UB is “everyman’s” high-performance home theater projector, which is to say, not unreasonably expensive.  As to the competition, we’ll start with similar Epson models, then consider the 4K UHD DLP projectors, and also JVC and Sony LCoS projectors.

Let’s start by answering a question I’ve already been asked multiple times:

Is the Home Cinema 5050UB worth the price difference – compared to the Home Cinema 4010?

Let’s start there.  Two outwardly identical projectors, $1000 difference.  If you are going to take your home theater seriously, and look forward to watching movies (and anything else you want) in a really dark room, then please go for the 5050UB if your budget allows. I suggest folks ask themselves this type of question. If I buy the more expensive one, will I be sorry?  And, if I save and buy the less expensive one, will I be sorry I didn’t spend for the better one?  What I can tell you, is that for other than gaming, it’s almost completely about how good they look on really dark scenes. Well, there really is a significant difference.

On the other hand – not a great room, never fully darkened (or close), that’s when you save and go 4010.

Next.  What about the new Pro Cinema 6050UB – the near twin.  That’s easy – local installing type dealers for an extra $1000, but also a spare lamp, ceiling mount, and a cable cover, plus an extra year warranty and replacement program.

And, an added bonus – the Pro Cinema is getting the best lenses from quality control, and other things, They claim better blacks (1.2M vs 1.0M to one contrast ratios), which would be slight. I think if you can use the extra’s there’s definite parity in the value propositions, so it’s which works best for you and your budget (and the Pro, is black).

Let’s move past the competing Epson 3LCD projectors and look at the DLP competition. Let’s start by saying they are all 4K UHD.  Most are the same 1920×1080 as the Epson, but use pixel shifting to hit the screen 4 times instead of twice.  More notably, there’s always some slight misalignment of the three color LCD panels, which inherently counts the DLPs as sharper, as long as they have equal quality optics.

The HC5050UB produces very dark blacks and good detail on this bright scene where its iris isn't effective!
The HC5050UB produces very dark blacks and good detail on this bright scene where its iris isn't effective!

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 usually have to sacrifice more lumens due to their color filter wheels, before coming up with great color, than 3LCD or LCoS projectors have to.

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 Epson’s very best mode – Digital Cinema, with its own, (but very different type of) color filter, you are down just about 1200 lumens (full power, wide angle on the lens), where many of these DLPs are once calibrated, produce even lower brightness, despite starting with higher claims.

When it comes to placement flexibility, it’s no contest, not one of those 4K UHD DLPs comes remotely 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 does this Epson, and the less expensive HC4010, but we are just starting to see a few of the DLPs reach out and do decent near P3 color.  Mostly they have come up very short.

And that while this Epson in Digital Cinema achieves over 95% of P3 color which is to say offer about 40+% wider color range than REC709, or most (non-laser) DLPs.

Some of those laser projectors are 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:  If your budget only gets you to about $1500 look at the BenQ HT3550 or 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 this Epson, 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.  On the other hand, the Epson 5050UB, is overall brighter, and has far more accurate color.  And, when it comes to handling pretty dark scenes –  black level performance, the LG is very entry level, compared to “best in class” for the Epson.  aka:  no contest.  The Epson is serious “home theater” while the LG is fun home entertainment.

One area where some of the competition had an advantage over the older 5040UB, but not compared to the 5050UB, is support for HLG – Hybrid Log Gamma (discussed elsewhere in this review).  The 5050UB’s HLG has the same type of tone mapping control as HDR10 – that is, a range of 0-15 with default at 8.  BTW, for those that skipped other parts of this review and are new HDR: HLG is a newer (but not a replacement) HDR solution complementing HDR10 (which is the standard for 4K Blu-ray UHD discs, among other things).  HLG is for broadcast, and also streaming.

Most of the new 4K UHD DLPs, as well as that $4K JVC and the $5K Sony also support HLG. You can check out our 2018 Best Home Theater Projectors report for more in most of the DLPs we reviewed, although we’ve reviewed several since the fall, including the BenQ HT3550, my previous review and perhaps the most interesting projector (in terms of picture) at $1500, for those of you who can’t spring for this Epson.

Other DLPs, such as some of more expensive lasers, and the lamp based 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.

When it comes to LCoS JVC’s $4000 RS540U is similar in design – a 2.1:1 zoom lots of lens shift (not as much) and even better black levels.  The Epson definitely is a good bit brighter, however.  Overall I favor Epson’s image processing abilities over JVCs, but that JVC is a top performing projector. The next JVC up in their lineup is $7000 and native 4K, so not really competition.

Sony, on the other hand has a couple of non 4K capable projectors that straddle the HC5050UB’s price, including their $2000 VPL-HW45ES which we really like – if you can live without 4K.  The real competition though for the Epson is the native 4K VPLVW295ES, at $5000.  A great projector, but, even so, there’s one area where the Epson handily outperforms it – black levels. This Sony does very well considering it has no dynamic iris, but it isn’t close on those dark scenes.  You would have to move up to Sony’s $10,000 entry to roughly match the black levels of the Home Cinema 5050UB.

Again, re 4K handling – sharpness and detail:

Truth is, if you are sitting say, 15 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!  Even closer, any differences are more perception, than reality, and they still aren’t dramatic.

So, you really don’t need to worry not about sharpness, More important should be overall picture quality, placement, brightness, obsolescence, warranty, etc.

On the comparison image below, note how the Epson (top) has deeper blacks.  Also, the spaceship itself seems too bright on the BenQ. When viewing these two live, the difference is much greater than here (due to heavy compression of the images, about 50:1), which requires compromises in dynamic range, etc.

Epson on top, BenQ HT3550 on bottom. Epson has deeper blacks, far more "pop" to the image.

The Bottom Line

Although no projector is perfect, some projectors are especially good at meeting the needs of a small segment of the market, while a few are so capable that they have wide appeal.

The Home Cinema 5050UB’s impressive feature set is only matched by the two less expensive Epson’s and a bunch of more to drastically more expensive JVCs and Sonys.  OK, also some very, very, high end brands like Wolf – who uses JVCs and further enhances their performance, or brands like Italy’s SIM2, also Digital Projection, and Barco’s high end home projectors.

That means there are very few people that won’t be satisfied with the Epson’s placement flexibility and widescreen handling.  It is also about as bright, or brighter than all of the direct competition except perhaps a couple of laser projectors that are a bit more expensive (like the Acer).

The sharpness, as I have said repeatedly, isn’t (despite the very good “glass”), may seem as sharp as some of the better competition, but that is thanks to image processing. The reality is on paper those DLPs with 4K UHD and the native 4K projectors are sharper.  It’s just that you probably won’t notice, or could be fooled into thinking this Epson is among the sharpest.  The point, again – sharpness – close enough to just about everything, making other things more important to your decision – such as black level performance,  a critical area for really dark scenes, where the HC5050UB crushes all the competition short of the $4000 JVC.

That makes the very bottom line simple:  Excellent color – best in class (by far) black levels, great placement flexibility (including rear shelf, high up), Very bright – can be paired with the right ALR type screen to handle most rooms with “decent” lighting control (good shades on windows, etc.

But because of the black level performance, the Home Cinema 5050UB is at its very best in a very dark theater – or other room (typically at night).   Yes, it is flexible.  And it is, for now, still the best value in a high-performance projector around $3000!  The HC5050UB (and the Pro Cinema 6050UB) will remain my top recommendation at this price point.  That is true, at least until someone surprises me with a projector that can seriously challenge it.

Pros

  • Bright enough (measured 3000+ lumens) to work in living rooms, family rooms, etc.
    • When paired with the right types of screens
  • Even more 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
  • Really good gaming projector
    • Under 30 ms input lag, supports gaming to 4K 60fps with HDR
    • Thanks to 18 GHz HDMI 2.0 with 2.2 HDCP support
  • Very capable 3D
    • Minimal ghosting, nicely bright
  • Excellent placement flexibility
    • 2.1:1 motorized zoom and focus
    • Motorized lens shift
    • Lens memory
    • Fast Dynamic iris
    • “UB” – LCD panels = best black level performance near price
  • Can have two modes optimized for 4K HDRA
    • 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

  • Full power mode could be quieter
    • Medium and Eco are nicely quiet
  • Slight defocusing as projector warms up
  • CFI does not work with 4K content
  • 3D shows a slight amount of ghosting
  • No wireless HDMI (but the 5050UBe offers that)
  • Could be slightly sharper
  • Moderately large projector
  • Not available in black finish (Pro Cinema 6050UB is black)