Epson Home Cinema 5050UB – The Best Home Theater Projector Value Yet? – A First Look Review

Hot off the presses – Epson launches the Home Cinema 5050UB, to replace their bestselling 5040UB.  Our first conclusion:  The performance bar for all other under $3000 projectors just got moved up quite a bit.

This is my short, First Look review of the Home Cinema 5050UB.  Yes, it is a modest two long pages.  The full, in-depth review, should go live before the last week of April, so stay tuned.  Between now and then, the 5050UB will be calibrated, and then most of the pictures will be taken (I’ll be sneaking away for a week of well deserved vacation).

I’ve been using this new Epson projector but while under a Non-Disclosure  Agreement – so I couldn’t leak info ahead of the official launch (today – April 9).

In the two plus weeks I’ve had it, I’ve already logged over 40 hours of viewing.  Let’s say I’m really “getting the hang” of the 5050UB and how it compares with the 5040UB.  In fact, I have both here, and have done a couple of split screen images, although its been tough – the older Epson has well over 2000 hours on the lamp, so is dimmer even at full power, than the 5050UB in lower power modes.

On paper, the 5050UB is not a significant improvement over its predecessor.  The reality is quite different.

View Full Specifications Here >>
Epson Home Cinema 5050UB Specs
Price$2999
Technology3LCD
Native Resolution1920x1080
Brightness (Manufacturer Claim)2600
Contrast1000000:1
Zoom Lens Ratio2.10:1
Lens ShiftYes
Lamp Life3500
Weight24.3
Warranty2 years overnight replacement

Overview

The older Epson has been in the hands of both “normal folks” and enthusiasts, going back to the fall of 2016.  I add my voice to others who have been waiting for the update:  It’s about time!

I (and many others) certainly expected HC5050UB to replace the older UB, but six months ago at the CEDIA show, not now in the spring of 2019.  We all expected, because Epson launched the similar looking but lower performance Home Cinema 4010 and (and the Pro Cinema 4050).

That said, the new HC5050UB  has arrived, sporting an official list price of $2999!

Jennifer Lawrence close-up
Aurora – Jennifer Lawrence in Passengers – HC5050UB; 4K UHD HDR P3 content. Digital Cinema mode: Default settings yield impressively good skin tones!

Before I forget, there is a second version of the projector, the HC5050Ube, with a $3299 list price.  As was the case with the older 5040Ube, this model adds wireless HDMI capabilities, a very nice extra capability that will simplify life for many owners. Ube versions aren’t new they’ve been around for years.

From Passengers - 4K HDR P3 content.  Very good black levels...
From Passengers - 4K HDR P3 content. Very good black levels...

Seems that Epson added a few extra performance related items to the new Home Cinema 5050UB that weren’t ready when the HC4010 launched six months ago, or we might have seen it launch at CEDIA last September.

So, I waited, and you waited, and now, the HC5050UB is here. Let’s take a closer look:

Highlights

  • 2600 lumens at full power enough to deal with some ambient light
  • Color filter for improved color in “best modes”
  • Almost 2000 lumens calibrated in Bright Cinema mode (the best “brightest” mode)
  • Handles 4K content, including support for HDR, REC2020, P3, DCI standards
  • Uses pixel shifting to enhance both 4K and 2K – 1080i and 1080p content
  • 3D
  • “Ultra Black” – Excellent black level performance on dark scenes
  • Lens Memory – Motorized zoom, focus, and lens shift
  • Extensive amounts of lens shift, vertical and horizontal for placement flexibility
  • Excellent Warranty and Support – 2 years with 2 year replacement program
  • MHL on one of the HDMI for working with streaming sticks, mobile devices
  • More money than predecessor, but performance and feature improvements easily worth the difference
  • Improved gaming performance (less input lag)

The Basics

3LCD design, 2600 lumens (white and color, of course – it’s 3LCD).  All lens features of the 15 element all glass lens with its 2.1:1 zoom ratio, are motorized.  That provides Lens Memory abilities for working with wide screens (such as my 2.35:1 screen).  Lens Memory is a rarely found feature in under $5K projectors. Additionally, when considering the lens system, you will be hard pressed to find any projector offering more vertical and horizontal lens shift than the HC5050UB, and that translates to describing this projector as having more placement flexibility than any competitor, including many projectors costing several times as much.

HC5050ub on shelf
The 2.1:1 motorized zoom lens with massive amounts of lens shift, gives the HC5050UB excellent placement flexibility" Ceiling, Rear shelf, or Table top placement. Very few projectors will work on a rear shelf.

For a great picture, of course, the HC5050UB supports HDR (high dynamic range) – both the HDR10 standard for 4K UHD Blu-ray discs, and now Epson has included  support for the newer HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) – a second HDR, optimized for over the air broadcast and streaming.  That will come in handy as more Netflix and other streaming content start using HDR on their 4K offerings.

Two HDMI inputs – these have been upgraded to a full 18Ghz speed allowing for the full capabilities of HDMI 2.0.    With this improvement, the new Epson is capable of running 4K content at 60fps with HDR and P3, so able to work with the fastest/best/highest res games out there today.

Before I forget, for comparison purposes, the less expensive HC4010 launched last fall, lacks support for HLG, and does not have 18Ghz HDMI, so can’t do the full 60fps HDR gaming content with P3 color (it can run the games without HDR).   That makes support for both HDR standards and the faster HDMIs, the primary new performance improvements to the 5050UB.  The UBs, (Ultra Black) of course, have always had a big advantage over the HC4010 and the HC4000 before it, in terms of black levels.

No this Epson does not have the brand new HDMI 2.1.  I know someone would ask if I didn’t mention it.   

Please click here, to read Phil’s technical discussion about HDMI  2.1, and whether it should important to you.  (Hint, probably not, unless you are a hard core gamer, and even then, not for a while.) For the rest of us, it can probably wait for 8K projectors.

Here’s what is really important:  As those of you who own a 40 series UB know, Getting HDR right has been a major challenge for projector manufacturers.  It relates to brightness and other things, but the challenges for all manufacturers have been significant, with many producing dim looking content.  On the older 5040UB/6040UB, Epson did two separate user firmware upgrades to improve the look of HDR content.  Both made real improvements, before the first one, almost all HDR content was at least a bit dim looking.   On the most recent version, though, HDR looked pretty darn good.  I was still messing with “gamma” – EOTF, to further lighten the lower mid-ranges, but the HDR content overall was very satisfactory, and rarely dim.

Welcome to a brave new world where HDR looks killer!  The Home Cinema 5050UB uses tone mapping and doing more expansively, it seems, than on the HC4010.  (Tone mapping is being used by others now, including BenQ, but especially Sony, who seems to have pioneered tone mapping for HDR in projectors, and, I assume,  also in their OLED TVs.

A quick story about dealing with HDR.  I recall, two years and change ago, heading down to Sony corporate, where Phil Jones, their lead engineer there for Sony projectors (training and support), was kind enough to spend hours bringing Eric – our calibrator,  and I, up to speed, best he could at the time, regarding dealing with HDR, trying to get it right.

I mention that now, because some of you may recognize Phil’s name, as he is our newest reviewer!  Phil will be primarily focused on higher end commercial and education projectors but will also do some home theater reviews as well, and blog on technical issues.  (His first review for us just published – Epson’s 15,000 lumen L1755UNL laser projector, and he’s working on two more reviews right now.)

But I digress. This is about Epson’s Home Cinema 5050UB, so let’s get into more of the details.

Tone mapping HDR – You can now adjust the tone mapping on this Epson, with a series of 16 settings, which tend to either lighten or dim the mid and lower mid ranges. With the default setting of 8, most HDR content looks great, I would say as well balanced as most of those higher end Sonys, which I have been extremely impressed with for their HDR handling.  The most recent, their $40,000 VW995ES.   I commented back then that the older 5040UB looked more than a little like the Sony, just that the Sony was clearer, brighter, better balanced (HDR), etc.   Similar but a major magnitude difference.

Much to my surprise, I even found some content where the default tone map of 8 made the picture a bit too bright overall, but changing the setting to 9 did the trick.  On a few of the darkest looking HDR movies, a setting of 7 did the trick.

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