Best In Class Award: Epson Home Cinema 5010, Pro Cinema 6010 Projectors
For fun, See Art's Video Summaries of the Epson Home Cinema 6010 and 5010
Twins! The Epson Home Cinema 5010 and Pro Cinema 6010 tie for the top honor in this category. This year the two Epsons are different enough to be treated separately despite having most things in common.
Story time: Choosing these winners! Ultimately, the decision making process had to first, interpret the usual battle between the Panasonic PT-AE7000, and its most direct competitor, the Epson Home Cinema 5010. I addressed that with a direct comparison article between these two, in many ways similar, 3LCD projectors. While I didn't have the PT-AE7000 for long, it was here while I had the Home Cinema 5010. In addition, I had the opportunity to do a second round of side-by-sides, in Las Vegas, during CES in January. No, not on the show floor, but instead, at Evan's place (Projector Central). We sat in his "testing room" and viewed both projectors side by side, on content provided by both Evan (and Bill), and I. Most enlightening. I can't speak for Evan as to his final choice, but the wine was good, and my decision clear
By those things I value most, the Epson Home Cinema 5010 came out on top. More on that further down. I may even have swayed Evan - who tends to favor the Panasonic each year. Remember these two start out the same. In this case, they both use the same Epson 480hz LCD panels...
Let's talk the Home Cinema 5010, and its feature set, then move to the Pro Cinema 6010, which this year, for the first time, I've found the more expensive Pro Cinema, to match the Home version in pure value. More expensive - the Pro Cinema 6010 - but worth the difference for many.
Both Epson's share so many things: Placement flexibility is about as good as it gets, with the longest range zoom lens (2.1:1), and lots of lens shift, vertical and horizontal. The only thing missing, requires that the lens be motorized, and that's Lens Memory. (Lens Memory, is the biggest advantage of the Panasonic, compared to these two Epsons).
Brightness, is stellar, Epson built these projectors to be able to tackle 3D without the usual cries from me of "too dim, too dim", that I have lambasted any number of LCoS projectors with in the last two years (those are getting better but still...thin on 3D lumens). Even after taking Epson's brightest mode, and improving the color, we still measured over 2000 lumens! (Just!). In this regard, the Epson bests the Panasonic in both Best and Brightest modes, although that really didn't translate in terms of 3D viewing where the two seemed close enough to call a tie!
Of course, both the Home Cinema 5010 and the Pro Cinema 6010 are 3D capable. In fact, they both do an especially good job of 3D. Although not the cleanest 3D we've seen (usually that will be a DLP, since those are not prone to crosstalk), "clean-enough", to be much better at 3D than some projectors out there, such as the JVC DLA-RS45. There's no comparison betweeen the Epson and the JVC, by my judgement when it comes to 3D.
As 2D projectors, these two Epsons have that brightness advantage - both calibrated, and in brightest modes - over the Panasonic PT-AE7000. All three have CFI for smooth motion, dynamic iris for improved blacks, and various other dynamic controls for detail clarity, sharpness, etc.
When it comes to viewing movies, I'm sold on the two Epsons. Their black level performance is just plain better than the Panasonic. Darker scenes definitely have a good deal more "pop" to them. When watching with Evan, that was one of my key points favoring the Epson. Note that on the other hand, I recall pointing out the river on the left in the Bond train scene, and how the Panasonic does resolve the detail better, with definitely more texture in the river (ok stream).
Both Epson's have full CMS and calibrate easily. This year, however, the Pro Cinema 6010 differentiates itself in more ways from the 5010, than, the Pro Cinema 9700UB was able to compared to the 8700UB last year. One of those reasons is the THX mode. No question about it, if you don't calibrate your projector (and most don't), the THX mode of the Pro Cinema 6010 was great, out of the box, as expected. (That's not always the case, as will be discussed in the high end priced projector category.)
No question, that THX mode on the Pro 6010, offered not only the best "out of the box" color and picture of any projector we reviewed in the price range, but THX held its own with the 5010 after the Home Cinema 5010 was calibrtated! Well, that could save some of you a few hundred dollars. The 6010 also is ISF certified, assuring you of an inherently good design and ability to be easily professionally calibrated. The 5010 lacks this (the old 8700UB had it). We don't value ISF as much as THX, because THX is also a "pre-calibrated" mode, unlike ISF which guarantees certain control ability, but doesn't give you a finished mode. ISF does give you ISF Day, and ISF Night - two extra modes for the calibrators to save settings in, and those can be locked.
But let's get back to the Epson projectors. The bottom line: Calibrate really well, brighter than most in Best mode (630 lumens measured), extremely bright at Brightest, enough lumens overall for use in a family room / living room environment, as well as a dedicated home theater. Deep blacks, extremely good dark shadow detail, great warranties: The 5010 has 2 years, with a 2 year replacement program, while the Pro Cinema 6010 offers 3 year, with a 3 year replacement program - a definite extra value!
With an official $1300 price difference between the Home and Pro versions, at this point ,let's summarize the differences, and why I feel they are pretty much equal values, though they are mostly the same projector at different price points: