Epson Pro Cinema 6050UB 4K Capable Home Theater Projector Review – Special Features

Epson Pro Cinema 6050UB Projector Review – Special Features: 4K Capable, Handling 4K Content, As Gaming Projectors, New Pixel Shifting Hardware, More HDR Than Before, Excellent Calibration Controls, Lens Memory – For Wide Screens

4K Capable

The Pro Cinema 6050UB is 4K content capable, but at its heart are three pixel shifting 1080p 3LCD panels (aka chips). The projector supports HDR (both the HDR10 and HLG standards) and claims it can achieve the new higher standard P3 color – rare for lamp-based projectors (and the standard for commercial movie theaters).

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, especially compared to what advanced image processing can accomplish.

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 HT5550 and the LG HU85LA (4K UHD laser) – both recent reviews – have the same native resolution, but pixel shift four times. Such differences, when looking at sharpness and detail are, at most, slightly detectable. 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 their own unique 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, and projecting pixels that are ¼ the size of 1080p based pixel shifters (whether PRO-UHD or 4K UHD).

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 their technology with “We’re the only company with ‘SuperDuperSmooth’ processing” which is true because it is trademarked – but in reality, it’s still just someone’s name for their variation of good old CFI – creative frame interpolation!

Journey to the South Pacific
Epson 6050UB 4K/HDR/P3 – full frame. next image is close-up to show great sharpness.

 

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 is 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.

Sharp image
Zoomed in higher res photo of previous 4K/HDR/P3 image. Looks as sharp as almost any 4K UHD projector.

 

Bottom line: The Epson, which has some very good optics, appears very sharp on 4K content using pixel shifting. The Pro Cinema 6050UB image processing is definitely extremely well done, often making it seem sharper than 4K UHD competition, although other aspects including optics quality are also factors 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.

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

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

This Pro Cinema and the Home Cinema version are Epson’s first model with full 18 GHz. Now, this isn’t important to most folks but it certainly is too serious gamers, and some 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 and PC6050UB though, with their 18Ghz are built to 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 late 2018/early 2019. You were 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. Netflix does stream 4K content at 60fps without HDR (ie. Blacklist).

As Gaming Projectors

Great news for gamers: When it comes to input lag, the PC6050UB is particularly fast, at 27ms, per my Leo Bodner input lag measuring device. That’s considered to be very good, and is less than a one frame behind on 30fps games, or two frames on 60fps games. Truly great low input lag times for projectors are considered to be a bit more than half of the Epson’s performance – around 16ms. If you want something faster than that, it’s almost certainly not going to be with a projector – consider looking into a modest sized, high speed gaming LCD/LED monitor.

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 streaming), I never needed more than the HC5040UB (and 4010/4050) offered.

But the Pro Cinema 6050UB will be used (by some) for broadcast, streaming as well as disc and cable, and should handle everything out there.

There are games now that take full advantage of 4K, HDR at 60fps. Nikki wrote how great one game looked on the older 5040UB she owns, running 4K, 60fps without HDR. Most interesting, a another person (who plays that same game), commented that she would like the picture even better if she saw it in HDR. Fair enough!

Now that the new UB projectors have the 18 Ghz HDMI’s and full support for 4K 60fps with HDR, the Pro Cinema 6050UB, is a serious projector for serious gamers.

Bottom line for Gamers – Both the Pro Cinema 6050UB and the Home Cinema 5050UB are extremely good gaming projectors. 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! These new Epsons do all of that!

New Pixel Shifting Hardware

This is one of the three significant improvements Epson is touting in the Pro Cinema 6050UB projector compared to previous UB models. With pixel-shifting, we are talking about 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 fewer 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 the end result (even on the HC4010 when I reviewed it) ls that The PC6050UB (and HC5050UB) appear just a touch sharper than the older UBs.

If you are an audiophile, think of the Epson improvements in pixel shifting, in the same way as to how higher-end power amps that can reproduce square waves are better than those that aren’t as quick. The faster times may also be where Epson found those extra 100 lumens, compared to the older series.

More HDR Than Before

Everyone supports HDR10, so this is the primary HDR standard that most people are talking about today. It is the same one used on BluRay UHD discs, and is found in uses elsewhere.

For broadcast, and I believe most streaming, a second “software” based HDR called HLG, or Hybrid Log Gamma, is utilized. So far, the Netflix movies, etc. that I have watched have all lacked HDR, but I expect to see a shift over the next couple of years – likely sooner than later. With projectors, at least, it’s only been about a year since anyone has supported HLG. I assume Netflix, Prime and others will want a decent installed base of “TVs” that can handle it.

The third method is DolbyVision, which is hardware based. You will find that in X-Boxes, but few (I think) consumer TVs at this time.

Superior Color vs. Competitors

The Epson Pro Cinema 6050UB supports and achieves the DCI/P3 color standard. (Eric says they got extremely close – closer than any other lamp-based projector we’ve calibrated.)  That is thanks to a Cinema filter that slides into place when you demand the best possible color.  While lamp-based DLP competitors can barely get to REC709 (the older color standard and a lot don’t even make it to that!) P3 offers a 50% larger color range, delivering color quality comparable to what the better digital projectors at your local theater complex deliver!  True, there are some trade-offs: for instance, the Cinema filter drops the projector’s brightness by about 40%.  

From that perspective, you get to choose either more brightness or better, P3 color.  I love that you get the choice, unlike the competition.  By the way, if you go with a really good laser DLP UHD projector, you can find P3 or close, but those typically run $3K to $6K.  Interestingly BenQ’s HT3550 – reviewed earlier this year, has added a “cinema filter” so offers the same type of brighter, with no P3/less bright with. That BenQ is half the price and a favorite, but it is definitely a step down overall. (It’s not as bright, it’s too slow for serious gaming, can’t match black levels, lacks great placement flexibility, etc.  But, I think the option with/without a filter, is great because it allows many of us to move projectors out of a dedicated theater. 

Many might watch movies at night – if less than a fully darkened room, with “best mode” Digital Cinema with the filter in place, and Using Bright Cinema or Natural without the filter in place for REC709 color during the daytime with more ambient light present.

Excellent Calibration Controls

Eric, our calibrator, confirms that the Epson projector starts out with impressively good color. It can, of course, be improved with calibration. It calibrates extremely well, in part thanks to a full set of image controls that do not exhibit bad habits, or lack the range needed. Not just color, gamma, etc. The PC6050UB has tone mapping controls for adjusting the HDR as well, that work far better than previous Epsons. (Note: HDR was a real challenge (primarily to not look dim) on almost all first gen 4K projectors supporting HDR.)

Lens Memory – for Wide Screens

Most movies, less some of those made for TV and those from the Casablanca era – and many animated films, are typically much wider than HDTV. As a result, serious movie fans may wish to go with widescreen for the purpose of filling the entire screen with a Cinemascope type movie. When projecting 16:9 content, you’ll end up with a letterbox on the left and right, so that football game or HDTV program will use less of the screen. What you get is the maximum size for wide movies, and a bit smaller for everything else.

With Lens Memory, you can set the image size separately for each aspect ratio. Two can be quickly changed with one-button operation on the remote control. There are 10 memories in all, although few users will find a use for more than three or four of them. I only have two set up myself.

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