Projector Reviews

Best In Class Winner: Best Value ($2000 – $4000) Epson Home Cinema 5040UB Projector

The Home Cinema 5040UB is the most advanced, best bang for the buck, for those on a  $3000 budget. Handling 4K content, pixel shifting, and Lens Memory sets it apart from anything else around it’s price.  You have to go up to the almost identical, but bundled Pro Cinema 6040UB, or JVC’s RS400U, both $1000 more, for this Epson to have any competition as a serious home theater projector.  For $1000 less there’s the really nice Sony HW45ES, but the Epson is better in almost all areas, but the 4K handling and lens memory put it in a higher class.

These new Epsons are, I like to say “revolutionary”.   Not in the sense, though of having breakthrough technology, but in offering recent breakthrough technology at at a price point many can afford.  In that sense, it is the biggest upgrade to the Epson UB series, in it’s 8 years around.  Only the addition of 3D one year, can even begin to compare to all the changes the 5040UB brings to the party.

Epson 5040UB
Epson 5040UB – the least expensive 4K content capable projector – plus bright, great black levels, lens memory and more

 

Motorized lens, and with it Lens Memory so if you prefer, order a wide, “cinemascope” type screen so you can watch most movies with no letter boxing. That’s great, but the improvements in the lens and optical path are significant.  Epson says overall resolution hasn’t necessarily improved, but blooming is greatly reduced, and that translates into better useful contrast, that is very noticeable on many scenes.

The HC5040UB is simply dripping in features.  It starts out with very good color in best modes, right out of the box, and calibrates easily for 1080.  We’re still all learning 4K with HDR, which this Epson supports with four HDR modes.

You get outstanding black level performance, of course, that’s what Ultra Black stands for.  Better comes only from JVC starting $1000 higher.  Certainly the Epson – which is capable of up to 2500 lumens, could be brighter, for 4K HDR which demands a lot, but then, even the $60,000, 5000 lumen  true 4K Sony projector comes up short in terms of the recommended brightness for 4K HDR.

Technically all projectors (that aren’t in the high five figures price range), and almost all of todays LCDTVs don’t meet the recommended brightness for HDR.  We all just have to get by with less.

But when reviewing the Epson and the JVC, while I found the JVC has the black level advantage, Epson’s pixel shifting, and processing of 4K content comes across as sharper, more detailed looking than the JVC.  True lower resolution pixel shifters can look sharp, but will not be as natural looking on 4K content as a true 4K projector for 3+ times the price.

HC6040UB_PC6040UB_endersgame_classroom
4K content from Ender’s Game in Blu-ray UHD

Overall, you not only get a great 1080p projector for your $2999 retail price, but a projector that is relatively “future proof” compared to anything 1080p only out there.

HC6040UB_PC6040UB_5thelement_secretary
Leeloo from The Fifth Element – A favorite for viewing skin tones. As noted in the review, the Epson images captured on digital camera show a bit stronger reds than what the projector put on the screen

 

Bottom Line

Epson continues to dominate this price range with their UB series, for at least another couple of years.

By my take, this is the projector to own for best long term value.  Depending on your specific needs and desires, of course, another projector may be the best fit for your setup, but for most spending upward of $2000 and say up to $7000-$8000, this Epson has to be considered a serious contender.

If your budget comes up a little short (and you are serious about good home theater), you might want to dig deeper.  If you have enough budget, just know, you can spend more, and get better, but you won’t get more value for the dollars spent. For many, this is the projector to buy now, then hold off a couple/three more years until true 4K projectors are truly affordable.