Posted on September 5, 2017 By Art Feierman
This will be the easiest summary to write in this report, because this is my reference projector. Each year, I talk a company (usually Epson) out of a projector for me to keep for year, or until it’s discontinued, or I talk someone else out of a better one. The idea is that in a perfect world, I would have all the projectors we review that compete with each other here, and run them side by side to tell which is best, and why.
That, of course, won’t happen. Although, it wasn’t but a month ago I had seven models here at once, including one true 4K Sony projector and five other 4K capable projectors. Those included the 5040UB, mounted to my ceiling this year, but also 4K capable projectors from BenQ, Vivitek, and two other Epsons, the HC4000, and their top of the line LS10500 laser home theater projector. I learned a lot that way.
One of those things I learned is there isn’t, at this time, a better performing projector under $3500 on the market today. Thus, the award for Best Performance in the $2000 to $3500 Class goes to the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB.
Oh, don’t get me wrong – there’s some real competition, and, of course, the Optoma UHD65 is a higher resolution projector (2716 x 1528 x2 resolution) compared to the Epson’s 1920×1080 x2 resolution. That Optoma wins the sharpness battle, although the 5040UB’s impressive image processing will fool many in making it seem a sharp as the Optoma.
The Epson is easily the most feature laden. It supports HDR and BT.2020, has Lens Memory and motorized lens functions with 2.1:1 zoom and a ton of lens shift, for the best placement flexibility at its $2699 list price, or at 3 times the price. It has 3D (unlike the Optoma competition), MHL on HDMI, and picture in picture, and that’s just “some” of the goodies.
No speaker on board, but one doesn’t expect a speaker in a serious home theater projector. It does have HDMI-Link though, so I can use it’s remote to control my Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray UHD players, for example. When I turn off my projector, thanks also to HDMI-Link, the player I’m using also turns off.
Certainly, the 4K content handling capabilities with HDR and BT.2020 are truly impressive, although darker parts of some scenes seem a bit dim with the default settings. No worries, when we calibrated it we came up with settings that solve that issue. Those settings are posted in our full review.
But that said, what cements the Epson into the top award in this Class is combining all that 4K, and plenty of brightness overall – with Best in Class black level performance, and that is still my “holy grail.” What separates great from good projectors is those really dark scenes, and the Epson’s black level performance smokes the Optoma, which is the closest competitor in this case.
You want better black levels, you can have them. But, the least expensive projectors I can think of that can best the Epson are the $3995 JVC, and the $8000 Epson laser projector and JVC’s $8000 lamp based model. After that, anything with better black levels is $10K or more.
And that combination, folks, makes the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB a real winner. This is the projector I recommend the most to people looking for a serious home theater projector without far larger budgets. (I recommend those others I just mentioned too, but because of their higher prices, far less frequently).
Personally, that lower cost JVC (an award winner in the next category) is a projector I would choose over this Epson if they cost the same. But if you have to shell out more, that changes people’s decisions.
Hey, I favor the Optoma’s edge in sharpness, but it’s no match for the Epson’s far better handling of dark scenes. End of Game!
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