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Epson HC 5040UB and PC 6040UB Projectors w/4K Support, Announced At CE

Epson's new Home Cinema 5040UB and it's non-identical twin, the Pro Cinema 6040UB represent a dramatic upgrade from Epson's previous UB ("Ultra Black") series.  Make that massive upgrade.  These projectors, while reminiscent of the models that came before, are more revolutionary, than evolutionary.  Epson showed them for the first time, today, at the CE Show in NYC. Check out our full review of the Home Cinema 5040UB and Pro Cinema 6040UB here.  Also here's a short highlight reel from our videos of these projectors
Home Cinema 5040

Epson's Home Cinema 5040UB accepts 4K content including DCI and HDR! It offers pixel shifting for a more detailed image.

Until now, Epson has been improving performance of the UB series for about eight years now since first launched, but the hardware basics hadn't changed much - for example their Fujinon 2.1:1 manual zoom lens, and the maximum supported resolution has always been 1080p.  No more! The most fun part in this story is I had a chance to preview the new projectors at Epson's US headquarters in Long Beach, CA earlier this month.  Epson gave me a pre-product announcement type briefing, but then I got to see a demo. I'll tell you this, for now (more below), it was well worth the almost two hour round trip to see it in action. The fun part for some of you - these projectors - and two others will be shipping before the end of summer.  For the sports fans among us, that's great news - they will be out before the football season starts, before the World Series, etc.  For us movie fans, it will be time to go out and get a 4K UHD Blu-ray player, or start streaming 4K from Netflix and Amazon.  Too often projectors are first shown at CEDIA in September with many not shipping until December or January. It's a whole new world with the 5040UB and 6040UB.  For those familiar with the older "UB"s, the manual zoom has been replaced with a new motorized zoom lens, and now that it's motorized, the new UB's finally have Lens Memory.  This means these Epsons will work for those of you contemplating the benefits of a wide screen, such as a 2.35:1 ratio. These projectors are still native 1080p projectors like their predecessors, but now they have pixel shifting, like Epson's $7999 LS10000 flagship laser projector. But what really makes these new UBs a big step up, is that they are fully prepared for 4K content, with support for HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 copy protection.  On the image side of 4K, they support DCI, the same standard as used in your cineplex.  HDR is also supported (and auto sensed), for the maximum dynamic range. Before I forget, there's another Home Cinema model, the Home Cinema 5040UBe.  This is the version with wireless HDMI, complete with four 4K inputs.  The 5040UBe is $3299, so you are basically paying 300 for what should prove to be a capable wireless solution.

Epson's wireless HDMI transceiver for the Home Cinema 5040UBe projector

  For these "next generation" capable projectors there is a price to pay.  The Home Cinema 5040UB will be sold online and through authorized dealers with a price point of $2999.  The Pro Cinema 6040UB will only be sold by Epson's authorized installing local dealers.  The 6040UB will come with a ceiling mount and a spare lamp, cable cover, and an extra year of warranty and replacement program, for $3999.  In both cases that's a noticeable increase over their award winning, yet dramatically less capable predecessors. Highlights in a Nutshell:
  • 2500 color and white lumens (up 100 from previous models
  • Contrast of 1 Million to 1, (a 2/3 increase from last models)
    • Thanks to all new dynamic iris. Should deliver deeper blacks
  • 4K HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2
    • One HDMI supports MHL for streaming sticks and portable devices
  • New motorized zoom lens with lens memory
  • Support for DCI and HDR content
    • New Cinema filter to handle the expanded dynamic range
  • All the usual:  3D, CFI for smooth motion, Epson's Super-Resolution
  • New Optical Engine for improved uniformity
  • Excellent amount of lens shift:  +/- 96% vertical and 47% horizontal
  • 10 User savable picture memories (two extra on the 6040UB for ISF calibrators)
  • 5040UB has white finish, 6040UB comes in black
  • Warranty - as usual, Epson's 2 years parts and labor, with 2 years of their excellent rapid replacement program (3 years of both with the 6040UB)
The all new lens, Epson says, is designed to handle the more demanding images that a pixel shifting projector being fed 4K content can produce. I could go on with the details from the press kit we all get sent, but I'd rather tell you about my impressions watching it at Epson. [prsku sku="V11H713020"]

After the briefing, we went next store, to a room fully covered in black surfaces, very much like the theaters within booths at trade shows.  Now I've got a very dark theater, but this is more total black out.  I mention this because for the most accurate analysis, I need to work in my environment, using content I'm well familiar with.

I expected everything to look great there.  It looked at least that good.

I must admit I wasn't paying attention, at first I thought the UB was their Laser, being shown for comparison. From that I expect to conclude that the new UB's lens is definitely sharper than before. It didn't take long before I realized the black levels weren't as good as the laser, but, the iris seemed smoother than older ones, on the content Epson put on, I really couldn't spot the iris action.

Looking at the 4K content, it looked great, for, as I already learned from Epson's LS10000, that while true 4K is true 4K, and this isn't true 4K, pixel shifting combined with 4K content, and some great image processing can still deliver a picture this is immediately perceived as easily sharper and more detailed than anything pure 1080p.  I've come to appreciate HDR from watching the Sony 4K VW665ES ($14,999), and the $3999 JVC, and it looked even better in Epson's facility, because their "theater" is just superior to mine.  BTW, we really liked that JVC RS400, but the HC5040UB is going to give it some competition for a $1000 less.

An Epson Pro Cinema 6040UB home theater projector

A provided brochure image of the Pro Cinema 6040UB in action


Or more simply stated, The Home Cinema 5040UB or the Pro Cinema 6040UB, watching a movie like The Martian, from a Blu-ray UHD disc, with HDR, is going to be a dramatically superior experience to the older UBs doing a standard 1080p Blu-ray disc.

The bottom line, the Home Cinema 5040UB (being the less expensive of the two), is simply the lowest priced projector on the market that can handle commercial 4K source material, and more specifically including DCI color and HDR processing.

Sure, true 4K will be better, but now we get to start collecting 4K content, and enjoy watching it sharper and more detailed than we could before at this price.  There are few pixel shifting projectors out there that can handle commercial 4K content, but they all cost more!

This represents a major step up in performance for a sub $3000 projector (or a sub-$4000 one that comes with lots of extras).  So, what are we waiting for?

I am so looking forward to getting in a review unit.  With luck my full review will post before the first shipments.

Look for a second blog in the next few days, where I'll go over the capabilities of the briefly mentioned wireless HDMI HC5040UBe, and also the new $2699 Pro Cinema 4040.

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