Posted on August 28, 2018 By Art Feierman
Nothing like a perennial winner. As the 5040UB enters its third year (or perhaps it will be replaced, soon? Considering that the CEDIA show is only a week away as we publish this report).
When the 5040UB first came out, it was the logical successor to the 5030UB, which already had established itself as the best affordable home theater projector with really good black levels – and therefore excellent handling of very dark scenes. In truth, the 5040UB and its siblings, are mostly new projectors.
Not only did the 5040UB add 4K capabilities, including support for HDR and BT.2020/P3 color space, but the HC5040UB – and also the Pro Cinema 6040UB, HC4000 and PC4040 – received a new lens (still 2.1:1 zoom however), which has motorized zoom, focus, and lens shift, and lens memory.
The HDMI also was upgraded, and for you gamers – a significant reduction of input lag to the low 30 ms range – making it a very good gaming projector.
And while all those extras resulted in a higher price point than the older 5030UB, today, Epson’s list price is $2,499, lower than the 5030UB was. And you are getting far, far more projector for the bucks.
Brightness has never been a problem for Epson’s UB series. Claiming 2,400 lumens, the Epson can produce some very good calibrated color at around 1,800 lumens, and right around 1,000 lumens in its best mode – Cinema – post-calibration. Cinema is better able to handle expanded color space (BT.2020/P3) than any other lamp-based projector that Eric has calibrated for us, including perhaps 8+ 4K UHD DLPs.
By the way, even the Epson’s brightest mode – Dynamic – isn’t as bad as most competitors (definitely too much in the way of greens, but not near as bad as most). Dynamic measured well above Epson’s claim, so you’ve got one really powerful mode if every lumen is needed, and it looks reasonably good for sports viewing, etc.
The Epson, even in Bright Cinema, produces some excellent, well-balanced color. None of the 4K UHD projectors sporting the better RGBRGB color wheel can match the Epson 5040UB’s brightness, nor the accuracy of the color when up there in the 1,800 lumen range of Bright Cinema. Even Cinema, calibrated, is as bright as any of the 4K UHDs (with RGBRG wheels), in their best modes.
This Epson – and its related models, are user upgradable, which separates them from almost all of the competition. Epson has upgraded the projector’s firmware in the past year since our last report. This year’s update has brightened up HDR viewing with new firmware. The improvement is impressive. Previously I was really tweaking gamma to keep the Epson from being a bit dim. This last update provides very good results at default! Nice improvement!
And for non 4K content, the Epson rocks, and it’s loaded with features, including pixel shifting/detail enhancement CFI for smooth motion, and so much more. It is a truly feature-laden projector unlike almost all of the sub-$2,500 competition. It’s rather awesome for sports viewing, in addition to movies, etc.
A scene from The Hunger Games, projected by the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB.
A scene from Ghostbusters, projected by the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB.
HDTV Victorias Secret model, projected by the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB.
HDTV sports, projected by the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB.
Now, when it comes to perceived detail and sharpness, in theory, the true – native 4K projectors (Sony only under $25K), and the 4K UHD DLP projectors (larger pixels than native 4K) – have an inherent advantage. The Sony, because its got by far the smallest pixels, and the DLPs for being single chip – no alignment issues with 3 separate panels.
But, that’s not the whole story. Epson has some impressive image enhancement software. As an example of how well things are implemented, the recent Epsons have consistently seemed sharper than JVCs which also use 3 panels, and the same 1920×1080 x2 pixel shifting resolution (the JVC has darker blacks, but is $1,500 more).
Too much processing can give a slightly hard look to close-ups of faces, but you’re only likely to notice if you sit very close (no more than 10 feet from a 100” screen).
No matter. I’ve been using the 5040UB here, mounted to my ceiling for over a year, as a “reference” to compare all other projectors against (some better, but most inferior to the Epson). It comes across as very sharp, if not quite as clean as those 4K UHD DLPs, but particularly those using the higher res chip – 2716×1528 x2.
Close enough! Because what really matters for serious home theater enthusiasts, is being able to do a great job on very dark scenes (black level performance). And to beat the Epson 5040UB or other Epson UBs at black levels, there’s only the JVC at $3,999, and even more expensive JVCs. Even Sony’s native 4K projectors don’t outperform this Epson on those dark scenes, until you get up around their $15K and $25K projectors.
And that keeps the Epson 5040UB as the highest performance, serious home theater projector you can buy under $2,500 list price (or under $3500 for that matter).
Until they eventually replace it. We’ll keep you posted. Meantime:
This is still the projector to beat if you take home theater seriously, are on a budget, and want 4K capabilities. Lens memory and its many other features only further enhance its value. And let’s not forget the 2-year parts and labor warranty with 2 years of replacement program. If you buy, instead, a Pro Cinema 6040UB from a local dealer, you’ll get an extra year of both warranty and replacement program, plus a spare lamp, cable cover, and ceiling mount. But all that puts the 6040UB into the more expensive price Class. You’ll pay a slight premium for the Pro Cinema version. That decision is up to you.
For the serious home theater person with a proper room (and even many without a “proper” theater/cave), for now, I consider this the best choice short of spending for the $4K JVC which also wins an award, but in the more expensive $2,500 – $5,000 Class.
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