Projector Reviews

Epson’s Home Cinema 5050UB – A First Look Review – Picture Quality and the Experience.

Picture Quality and the Experience

Welcome to the Home Cinema 5050UB.  While its optics are very good, it inherently is lower resolution than those just mentioned Sonys (not being native 4K).

The Epson is still a fully 4K capable 1920x1080x2 pixel shifter.  Mind you, Epson states it has further improved perceived sharpness and detail with its new Pro-UHD2 processing.  No matter, even with improvements, a 5050UB can’t be expected to match a high end Sony (or any native 4K Sony).  Consider: the Sony’s  F-Arc lens alone, in the case of the VW995ES, is more expensive than the entire Home Cinema 5050UB projector!

I couldn’t help myself, the first content I fed the Home Cinema 5050UB was the IMAX 4K UHD Journey to the South Pacific, truly stunning color.  On that film, none of the daylight video should ever look dim, with all those rich colors and abundant sunshine.   Viewing it (more than once) on the HC5050UB, (as was the case with the Sony VW995ES), it never did look dim at all.  The colors were again, to understate things – stunning! 

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB
Epson Home Cinema 5050UB (aka HC5050UB) projector: 4K capable, loaded with features and abilities!

Thanks to the Tone mapping, and a touch more brightness claimed (we’ll post our full measurements for the full review), the HC5050UB is easily a significant step up in picture quality for 4K content with HDR and P3.   If you are still mostly watching 1080p movies.  You’ll get a little improvement in various ways, but the real difference is the far better treatment of HDR, and that folks, is the future.  

Competition? Not really!

In my mind, no question, even this early, the Home Cinema 5050UB would seem to overall, be the best 4K capable projector around, anywhere near its price.  Yes, you can also consider a number of slightly sharper DLP projectors but none will match black levels, placement flexibility or feature set and in most cases the picture with HDR content.  You’ll be looking at a JVC that’s 50% more money before you find anything that can beat this Epson at black levels, but this Epson should be able to hold its own against that more expensive JVC, in most other areas, and may well prove superior in some.  (I have long favored Epson’s image processing over JVC’s but we’re talking varying, modest degrees of differences in most cases, depending on the type of processing.  JVC’s advantage on black levels, is more pronounced. Still, as I usually repeat – there are always trade-offs.

I’ve only taken a few images, so far, mostly 4K HDR so far (most are in this review). But I also looked at the usual “Bond night train scene” as I call the photo I use from Casino Royale to observe black levels and dark shadow detail.  Black levels  seem about the same as the 5040UB, but then any spec difference is minor so as much as a dramatic improvement in black levels would have been great news, it wasn’t expected.

With the older UB, many enthusiasts calibrating their own projectors chose to rely on the brighter Bright Cinema mode for HDR (sacrificing the wider P3 color gamut).  I admit that is a tempting solution, although I mostly stuck to viewing with Digital Cinema, with barely half the overall brightness.

With the Home Cinema 5050UB, however, even Digital Cinema HDR content looked definitely bright enough at my full 124” diagonal image size!  

The only time I have really worked with HDR content and Bright Cinema mode on the 5050UB so far, has been on the few movies I always found the most troublesome in terms of brightness/dimness, including the first Star Trek with Chris Pine, because faces almost always look too dark when on the bridge of the Enterprise because of all the very bright background lighting.  (A similar scene – in Passengers when Chris Pratt is outside of Jennifer Lawrence’s room, before their first date, also usually looks to dim, but not on the 5050UB.  On the other hand, using Digital Cinema and a tone mapping setting of 7 (I didn’t feel the need to try 6) instead of 8 solved those scenes to my satisfaction. We’ll take a look at some comparison images on the next page.

great color boat scene
Colors are rich, almost riotous, but not over the top when viewing this scene from Journey...

The new HC5050UB slayed both of those scenes using Digital Cinema mode!  

Let’s talk color.  Tech first: First, P3 – the same color standard used in the movie theaters is better, than good old REC709 that has long been our color standard (HDTV, Blu-ray disc…)  That said, viewing content at P3 instead of REC709 while it makes a visible difference, please understand that the difference will seem slight compared to using HDR vs not using HDR.   As a result, you can understand why some would opt (on the 5040UB) for the significant extra brightness of Bright Cinema, over the slight color improvements of Digital Cinema modes.

When it comes to the overall picture quality (specifically 4K with HDR), the  Home Cinema 5050UB produces a real, and obvious improvement over the best results I could come up with in 2+ years of playing with the 5040UB.  Most of that folks, is due to the new tone mapping.

Epson claims other improvements as well.  The new HDMI adds more color depth to the picture for a lot of HDTV, streaming and gaming (but not to the usual lower frame rate 24fps movies on disc.)

I said let’s talk color.  Right out of the box, the color performance of this Epson is definitely a cut above.  Epson has long been reported in many reviews, as putting out home projectors with really good color “right out of the box” without adjustment, for many years.  No, they aren’t the best.  Overall, I’d say Sony HT projectors offer the closest to calibrated color, of any brands, without doing any adjustment.  But, that said, Epson may well be the closest to them.  

The Bottom Line

First, here’s my take, if you have been waiting a few years to move to a 4K capable projector – and your budget doesn’t allow for native 4K:  This is probably your ticket!  I do believe your time has come to make the upgrade!  While the Home Cinema 5050UB, despite excellent image detail processing, will not match the sharpness/detail of a very good 4K UHD DLP, or a native 4K LCoS projector, it looks far sharper, with definitely more detail than say older Epson’s like the non-4K capable 5030UB.  What I’m saying is that a pixel shifting 1080p projector like this Epson, or, for that matter, most of the “4K UHD” DLP projectors, produce 4K content that looks dramatically sharper than watching 1080p content as you would on older Epsons or even this Epson. 

So, you folks with plain old 1080p, this is probably the projector you have been waiting 3-5 years for.   By comparison, the older 5040UB, as similar and  feature laden as it is, seems very “rough around the edges” compared to the 5050UB!

(Note: native 4K projectors start at $5K for a Sony which can’t match this Epson’s black level performance. Then the next least expensive native 4K projector is a jump to $7K for the least expensive native model with better blacks than this Epson!

The final word:  Epson has nailed the HDR! The picture quality overall is excellent, especially for the price point. Black levels are still a key strength, but now so is 4K with HDR, especially as many (make that most) 4K UHD DLPs laser are struggling attempting P3 color, while most of the lamp based 4K UHD DLPs still can’t quite accomplish the much lower REC709 standard. P3, btw has 50% more color space than REC709.

This is a projector that is easily at its best, doing 4K HDR content.  

This HC5050UB is a projector that is also at its very best in a dedicated, really dark theater, but it also has the muscle to play well in most rooms with decent lighting control, when paired with a proper type of screen for the room. 

For example, I can definitely see pairing the Epson Home Cinema 5050UB with a “Ambient Light Rejecting (ALR) screen like my Screen Innovations Slate that I had mounted in my very bright, sun drenched living room until recently. Just don’t expect this Epson, even with the right screen, to perform great in an environment that tough (I used a 15,000 lumen projector for my 2019 Superbowl party in that room.  

Hey, that is only fair, considering even bright OLED and LCD TVs take a real hit in rooms as bright as my living room.

cityscape
HC5050UB handles a night cityscape from The Black Panther: 4K HDR P3 content.

So, sure, if are more sports or gaming, than movie fanatic, no problem moving this projector out of the theater/mancave/person-cave.

To really get the most out of the Home Cinema 5050UB on movies, do try to feed it 4K HDR content in a darkened room, but the 5050UB will happily double as an all around, really large “TV” for general viewing as well.

I cannot wait to unmount my 5040UB and replace it with this HC5050UB, as soon as I get it back from being calibrated.  We will, of course, post our calibration settings in the upcoming full review.

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