Projector Reviews

Epson Pro Cinema 4040 Home Theater Projector Review – Summary

The value of the Epson Pro Cinema 4040 is first and foremost, being the least expensive projector at this time that can “play nicely” with 4K content from sources such as a 4K Blu-ray UHD player.  I’m not talking some low cost, upscaling 1080 resolution player that can take 1080 content and upscale to 4K.  I’m talking reading a 4K disc, processing, and playing it.

The Epson uses a lot of “advanced processing” to make this happen.  After all, true 4K is 8 million pixels (aka 8 megapixels).  By comparison the Pro Cinema 4040 and other 1080p projectors with pixel shifting, are working with individual pixels 4x the size of true 4K pixels on a true 4K projector.  Thanks to pixel shifting, though, the Epson outputs 4 million pieces of information, not the basic 2 million of straight 1080p.

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Fancy processing creates some artifacts.  Some of what appears as impressive sharpness and detail, is nothing more than “noise.”  But, remember, at the end of the conversation, it’s what you see on that screen.

Personally, I’m no longer the “purist” I once was, when I would pooh-pooh fancy processing.  At this point, I can appreciate that all that processing, despite adding some hardness to the image (noise), definitely gives the impression of a sharper, more detailed image.  And that’s a noble goal, if not as good as having true extra sharpness and detail.

So, I really like these “pixel shifters” capable of working with 4K content, whether they come from Epson, JVC, or shortly, a host of DLP projectors using pixel shifting and DLP’s new 4 megapixel chip.  (That’s right, native 4 megapixel – double 1080p pixel shifters, and still half of true 4K.

Image (uncalibrated) from Victoria Secret’s Swim Suit special, in Bright Cinema mode

Even as the DLPs start shipping, it’s extremely unlikely that any of those will be even close to the $2499 price of the PC4040 – especially if adjusting the real cost of the PC4040 to something like $2000 since it includes a spare lamp, cable cover, and ceiling mount.  Most of those DLP’s have been projected to be $4000 and higher – going past $10,000 for the SIM2, a high end brand.  Of course they are natively higher resolution, but still will rely on advanced processing to get them to look as close to true 4K as possible.

I really haven’t touched on brightness.  Epson rates the Pro Cinema 4040 at 2300 lumens at full power in its brightest mode.

While I didn’t do any kind of full set of measurements of this projector, I did a quick compare with the HC5040UB on a white screen for brightness.  Sure enough the HC4040 measured less – about 4%, in the same mode (Brilliant Cinema).  Now the PC4040 should come in close to 10% less bright, but, by the time I did the measurements, the 4040 had about 60 hours on it, vs. almost 400 on the Epson.  Considering the way lamps dim, that would pretty much confirm a difference of about 10% less if both had new lamps.

The Value Proposition and the Competition

Current 4K capable competition of course includes the Epson 5040UB, and for $3999, JVC’s X570, with even better black levels.

Now if you aren’t concerned about 4K compatibility and HDR, then the most immediate competition is the $1999 list price Sony VPL-HW45ES.  That’s a projector without a dynamic iris.  Like the PC4040 not quite “ultra high contrast” caliber black level performance.  Other than that, I’ll favor the Sony for almost perfect “right out of the box” performance, and being especially natural when it comes to skin tones.  And a lower selling price.

The PC4040, by comparison, has to be considered a couple hundred dollars more, even discounting the bundled extra gear (spare lamp, mount, cable cover).  On the plus side, however for the Epson, is additional brightness, more zoom range – 2.1:1 vs. 1.6:1, and motorized lens features, which allow for having a wide screen, as I, and many home theater movie enthusiasts who have the option, will choose. The extra brightness is also a plus if viewing 3D.

Epson’s own Home Cinema 3900 at $1799 (no bundle), shares the same panels as the PC4040, but to save the extra money, you lose a year of warranty (to only two years), and also the HC3900 lacks 4K content handling.

There are several DLP’s that could also be considered such as the BenQ HT4050, but mostly those are a good deal less money, and none yet, have any 4K capability.

That makes a pretty strong case for this Epson projector.

Summary - Pros and Cons

As I see it, the Pro Cinema 4040 sums up this way:

First, it is the lowest cost way to start using 4K content with a projector.  That is the benefit that sets the PC4040 apart from the competition.  But even forgetting that, the PC4040 is a very respectable projector and also the least expensive offering pixel shifting – a way of creating additional perceived detail and sharpness from a projector of any given resolution. So, even if all you have is 720p, 1080i and 1080p content, there’s still the benefit of pixel shifting.

It has very good black levels, and is very bright – with more than 2000 lumens at its brightest, and it’s Bright Cinema mode – great for HDTV and sports in general, but also great for 4K HDR content, should put out close to 1400 lumens maximum.   (The 8%+ brighter 5040UB measured right around 1500 lumens at full power, in Bright Cinema mode.)  The three year warranty with 3 years of rapid replacement program is completely unmatched anywhere near this price.

The feature set is very capable – 2.1:1 zoom motorized lens features, lens memory, 3D and so much more.  There’s not much you can find on other projectors that the Pro Cinema 4040 lacks.  Oh there are brighter projectors, ones with better black levels, but finding a superior performing projector overall, around it’s price point is likely to be frustrating.

No projector, though is without limitations.  One thing I have to cite the PC4040 for is audible noise.  Like the UBs it’s pretty noisy at full power, so I normally run it at medium power to keep the fan noise down.  Mind you it’s not terrible, by any means, just on the noisy side at full power.  I wouldn’t even think of lowering brightness in exchange for lower noise, if watching sports, but, for a quiet movie, sure.

  • Pretty Bright (2300 lumens claimed)
    • equal number of white and color lumens
  • 4K and HDR capable
  • 10 Lens Memory, motorized lens features
  • 10 User savable picture memories (+ 2 ISF)
  • CFI for smooth motion
  • Many image processing choices
  • Five preset modes + 2 more for 3D
  • Picture in Picture
  • Lens cover closes when power off
  • HDMI-Link to control other HDMI devices
  • Excellent, backlit remote control
  • LCD panel alignment
  • ISF Certified – full calibration controls
  • 3 year warranty with 3 years replacement program
  • Networkable
  • Good lamp life (3500 hours at full power, 5000 in Eco)
  • A whole lot of projector for $2499 – value of spare lamp, mount, cable cover

PC4040 Cons

To me, the biggest “con” is not using the same 3LCD panels as the 5040UB/6040UB, but then, if it did, it would pretty much be a 6040UB and cost at least $1000 more.

So, I see the PC4040 as a compromise projector – give up a bit on black level performance, in exchange for the lowest price on a 4K, HDR capable projector.

  • Black level performance (while respectable) could be better – not quite “ultra high contrast”
    • Epson’s new 3LCD panels not quite up to UB panels, but better than those used in lower cost models
  • Fan noise is a bit high at full power
  • Epson’s decision to bundle mount, spare lamp, cable cover makes the entry point for this projector several hundred higher than if they “unbundled”
  • Could use a 3rd HDMI
  • No Wi-Fi built in (but there is wired networking)
  • Does not support 18 ghz HDMI (that means no 4K HDR at 60 fps, 4:4:4)
    • No content out, or expected anytime soon that would require that, and it would take said content and adjust to play with less color depth, etc.

Obviously the many strengths should easily outweigh the few “cons.”

Remember, there’s a lot more information that relates, if you visit the full in-depth review of the Home Cinema 5040UB and Pro Cinema 6040UB.

That’s it! Thanks for checking out our Epson Pro Cinema 4040 review.