The Bottom Line: Which to Buy - Epson or Sony Projector?
I really find it hard to believe most folks can go wrong with either of these two. I consider them the standouts in the $2000 - $3500 street price range. There are a couple of other really good projectors, including the JVC DLA-X35 and the BenQ W7500, each with their own strengths, but these two stand out.
Of course we're looking at a price differential of $800 or more at the time of this writing, favoring the lower cost Epson 5030UB, after one subtracts out the extras. And if you want to run RF glasses with the Sony, that will increase the difference a little, as well. If you choose the Epson Pro Cinema 6030UB, the difference is a little less, but considered still over $600.
So, assuming you aren't buying the Epson solely because the Sony is out of budget, here's how I see your choices, or perhaps your choice if you think like me.
Let's assume that the pricing proposition is the same. In a dedicated theater like mine, where even the Sony has more than enough brightness for my sports and other lights on viewing, I would end up going with the Sony VPL-HW55ES.
Outside a dedicated theater - perhaps in a pretty good family room, or game room, or media room, etc, where most ambient light is controlled, but, for example, you may have more than a little light for daytime viewing, that will favor the Epson, where a good "bright mode" will be roughly 40-75% brighter depending on placement. If sports is more your thing than movies, that too favors the Epson.
I think the Sony has a slight edge in sharpness, perhaps more due to Reality Creation over Super-Resolution, but, folks these are 3 panel projectors, and I aligned both. The Epson out of the box wasn't quite as well converged as the Sony, so that may be the difference. With a different Sony and Epson, it might come out the other way...
Because I'm an immersion fanatic, I tend to sit closer than all but a few of us. My normal sit just over 8 feet from eyeball to screen, whether watching at 100" size or 124" size. That's close. At that difference the LCoS panels which have far less pixel structure, remain invisible, while the pixel structure of the LCD Epson isn't really noticeable except on credits and some unusual scenes, I do get a sense of the Epson sometimes having a pixel structure, not the Sony. At 12-15 feet back, I don't see any advantage to the Sony.
Warranty - interesting. Sony's got a standard 3 years parts and labor, while the Epson comes with 2 years, but with 2 years of rapid replacement program - longer coverage vs. minimal downtime and less warranty hassle. Best of both worlds - by from your local dealer the Pro Cinema 6030UB with 3 years warranty and 3 years of replacement.
Epson lamps cost less and last longer. But that is just another minor factor relating to cost of ownership. Also of note, if you don't really need the brightest mode of the Epson, you can run it in eco mode - making it quieter, and providing a bigger savings in lamp cost.
Placement flexibility - not much of an issue, as you should start off by seeing what will fit in your room. Any place the Sony can be placed, the Epson can be placed as well, but the Epson can be placed further away, and be placed higher and lower relative to the screen than the Sony. And finally, if mounting and placing close - around 10 feet from a 100" screen, the Epson gets a big boost in lumens, the Sony does not, compared to the numbers we provide at mid-point on the zoom.
Remote controls and menus - no advantages for either. Epson though gives you a button for each input, while Sony gives you a button for each preset mode. Different - equal!
Epson gives you a choice - need a white projector for your room - 5030UB, need black - 6030UB. Sony - in the US, black only.
Audible noise favors the Sony at full power, but not by a significant amount. In eco modes both will be fine for pretty much anyone who's not parking their head 12 inches from the vents, in which case their head will melt from the heat.
If the Epsons really sold for the same price as the Sony, I would have to say that the Sony was the better overall value, but they do sell for less - at least at this time.
If I had to say which projector produced the superior, best possible picture under ideal circumstances, then I would pick the Sony, but by a pretty modest amount.
I consider them both excellent value propositions, but I would rank them this way from a sheer value standpoint:
Winner - Home Cinema 5030UB
Runner-Up: Sony VPL-HW55ES and Pro Cinema 6030UB
I know it's great when I can scream "This is the best projector out there for the bucks, no contest, buy it! But that happens not very often. This isn't one of those times. These are great projectors for the money. Buy the one that makes the most sense for your tastes - the mix of the types of content you watch, and how you watch them, your room, and so on.
For those of you who are, or are planning to be addicted to life in your home theater, you might want to also consider that in 3-4 years, you'll be yearning for a reasonably priced 4K projector. That might persuade you to spend a little less today, saving the rest for that future 4K projector, or maybe even for a better screen today?
Don't forget, there's more info in the individual reviews, and we have made videos of each projector, which include video footage from movies, not just stills.
That's it, it's now up to you to decide!
More Sony, Epson Photos
Captain Pike rom the Star Trek Movie - a great skin tone!
The coolest highway interchange in Shanghai, from Skyfall
Catniss in The Hunger Games - again, natural looking skin tones
From Iron Man 2 - Monaco. Good color balance, looks very nicely right
Home Cinema 5030UB
Black and white commercial - great black levels and impressive contrast. Very nicely sharp.
Home Cinema 5030UB
Daniel Craig as Bond in Casino Royale. Good looking skin tone - indirect sun light.
Home Cinema 5030UB
Sports look great. Vibrant, rich colors, note the good looking red white and blue of the mid-field NFL feature.
Home Cinema 5030UB
The "new" Captain Kirk - Star Trek Movie, detailed, vibrant