Posted on November 6, 2013 By Art Feierman
Although there are minor feature differences and price differences this year again, we have to consider all of the “UB” versions together from an award standpoint. Before we talk about why these Epson’s received the win – the Best In Class award, let’s look at those minor differences.
The core projector is the white with dark gray trim Home Cinema 5020UB. For a couple hundred dollars more, you can by the exact same projector but for one feature: The Home Cinema 5020UBe, adds wireless HDMI. Then there’s the $900 more expensive (by MAP price) Pro Cinema 6020 UB, which is sold only by local dealers. For your $900 extra, in addition to a knowledgeable, supportive (we can only hope) dealer, you get a black case, a third year of warranty and replacement program, and full support for an anamorphic lens. Then there are the extra goodies with the “Pro”. While all come with 2 pair of 3D glasses, the Pro also comes with a spare lamp ($299 value) and a ceiling mount ($100+ value). As you would expect, the non-internet version nets out to more, but the value proposition is almost as good.
The real question that must be answered is how these Epsons, and the Sony VPL-HW50ES end up in a tie. Allow me to explain: Without a doubt, in this price class, my two favorite projectors are that Sony, and the Home Cinema 5020UB.
But, there really is a dramatic difference in price. Let’s call it at least $800. Overall, I’d have to give the Sony a very slight edge as my favorite of the projectors in a theater enviroment (if I was to put one of the two in my living room it would have to be the Epson due to brightness). While the Epson is great in the “family room” or the dedicated theater or cave, the Sony is a touch more great, in the theater, but not the match for the Epson Home Cinema 5020 in brighter rooms.
Epson’s overall picture quality is really impressive, and properly calibrated colors are excellent.
Black leves are outstanding for the price. The Sony, while more money, at its very best, comes up a little shy of the Epson’s black level abilities, and these Epsons have some other advantages as well. I didn’t go with the Best Value Proposition award for the Epson Home Cinema 5020UB, because I normally assume the value projector is by no means the best, but good enough that it’s price is a big factor. Here I could make a strong argument for either the Epsons or the Sony to be superior to each other, but I do consider the Epson to be the better value.
These Epsons have placement flexibility that is 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 an advantage of the Panasoni and JVC projectors. Note: If wireless hdmi will simplify your life or save you installation dollars, go for the Home Cinema 5020e. The Sony can’t match the Epson projectors for placement flexibility, not as much zoom range, and less lens shift, giving the Epsons the placement flexibility advantage.
The Epson Home Cinema 5020UB is bright. Calibrated its impressive with a measured 678 lumens, even if not near as bright as a calibrated Sony. On the other hand, it blows away the HW50ES when it comes to maximum lumens, as it breaks 2100 lumens at maximum. The Epson Home Cinema 5020UB has the horsepower to tackle decent family room environments, even on some pretty hefty sized screens. Can you say 130″ diagonal, no sweat? Only the Panasonic PT-AE8000 can match its “brightest” mode, lumen for lumen.
In my theater, the Epson cruises on my 124″ screen while calibrated. It’s not even a challenge for it.
Switching to 3D though, really makes the HC5020UB shine brightly. Even at the full 124″ diagonal, 3D viewing is reasonably bright (no not great, but very watchable). In reality, the Epson handles my 124″ screen in 3D better than most projectors can handle a 100″ screen in 3D. That’s a huge plus for those of us who just adore 3D content. Again, for 3D only the Panasonic comes close in 3D brightness.
The Epson projectors have full CMS and calibrate easily and very well. Thank you Epson for putting the THX mode in the Home Cinema 5020 models this year, last year only the Pro had THX! That was something I really complained about.
Despite the calibrated measurements on the Epson looking as good as those on the Sony, when it comes down to the subtleties, I would have to give the Sony the slight advantage on having the more natural looking image and skin tones. Quite honestly, if I felt the final Epson picture in terms of skin tones was exactly as good as the Sony, the Sony likely would have had to settle for a Runner-Up award, due to the many Epson advantages..
The Epsons are pretty loaded. CFI is pretty good, but not best in class – that’s probably the Panasonic PT-AE8000. Super-Resolution, Epson’s dynamic detail and sharpness enhancement is competent, but not as good as Sony’s Reality Creation.
These Epson Home and Pro Cinema 5020UB/e and 6020UB are the latest versions of projectors from Epson that have been the standard of our middle “sweet spot” class for several years in a row. That’s been due to black level performance, which Epson has long set the bar for projectors under $5000. Today, the Sony and JVC entries can rival the Sony but both are almost 1/3 more! Some of you may need a different projector due to a specific need, but Any of these three should serve just about everyone with the budget, extremely well.
At the moment on the home front, I’m looking to add a motorized screen and projector to our living room, which is absurdly bright. Plans call for a Screen Innovations Black Diamond 1.4, and a Home Cinema 5020UB, or UBe (off white ceiling) Because of the need for maximum lumens, the Panasonic is the only other projector in this class that I could consder as an alternative for my room, for anywhere near the Epson’s price.
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