Projector Comparison – Affordable 4K Content Capable Projectors – Meet the Projectors

We’re talking affordable projectors that can accept 4K content. None of these are true 4K projectors, but all provide a sharper, more detailed image than you would get with a standard 1080p projector and source. On this page, we have an overview of each projector to give you a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses. By our count at this time, there are 5 projectors shipping that can handle 4K content with prices under $3500. This includes three Epson models (two are virtually the same), two Optoma projectors and a Vivitek (the one that isn’t quite shipping yet). The Epsons are 1080p pixel shifters, by comparison, the others are 4K UHD pixel shifters.

Of the six, all claim and implement HDR best they can (technically they would all need to be a lot brighter to do HDR properly, so the “results may vary.” All but the Vivitek attempt to tackle BT.2020 color space, or at least the P3 subset. As to the Vivitek, since it’s not yet shipping, the recent request by them to hold off on the review, perhaps indicates that they may have decided that since their closest competitors, the Optoma’s do tackle the wider color space, they might have felt it necessary to add that capability. Well, we should learn how that turns out over the next month or two, whenever they Vivitek starts shipping. Also as it turns out, at CEDIA I finally found out the difference between the HK2288 and HK2299 Viviteks. At first I thought the HK2288 was white, the HK2299 black cased, but like the Optoma’s one will be under $2000 (the HK2288) and the HK2299, a $2495 price.

The Epson 4K Capable Projectors

The oldest is the Epson 5040UB, which started shipping just in time last year to make last year’s report. At this time, I have no reason to believe it won’t be around for another year. Note that they reduced the price a few months ago, from $2999 to $2699.

Epson Home Cinema 5040UB Front
The Epson Home Cinema 5040UB is a 1080p pixel shifter, and is currently the best performer at this price range on the market.

Next, comes the Epson Pro Cinema 4040 – sold by Epson’s authorized dealers and some big box houses, but not the internet. This projector is $2499, but for that price, it comes bundled with a spare lamp, a cable cover, and a quality ceiling mount.

Epson Pro Cinema 4040UB Front
The Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector is available from authorized dealers and is not found for sale online.

Newest from Epson, which I just published the review a couple of weeks ago, is the Home Cinema 4000. Let’s say it looks and cooks just like the Pro Cinema 4040, but it lists for only $2199, comes in white, and doesn’t come with the extras. That makes these two almost identical values, one with the “convenience” of being able to buy on the internet. The other, with the benefit of having a local supporting dealer. It’s nice to have a choice.

Epson Home Cinema 4000 Front
The Epson Home Cinema 4000 is similar to the 4040 but can be found online.

The main performance difference between the three Epsons is that the 5040UB has superior 3LCD panels for much better black level performance. To look at them, the white HC5040UB and HC4000 are identical but for the model number! The Pro Cinema 4040, also appears identical in all ways but for having a black case instead of white.

All three Epson’s have motorized lens features including focus zoom/lens shift, and offer Lens Memory – the Optoma and Vivitek do not.

We reviewed all three of the Epsons at different points over the past year.

Of particular importance to know is that these Epsons are all pixel shifters, but start at 1080p, so they put 1920×1080 x 2 pixels on your screen (4.15 megapixels). The others are higher resolution.

The Optoma 4K Capable Projectors

We reviewed the more expensive of the two, the Optoma UHD65, with its $2495 list price. Its little brother, the UHD60, lists for $1995, making it the least expensive (based on MSRP) of the six projectors. You may find it interesting that the less expensive of the two is the brighter one. More on that later.

Optoma UHD65 Front

The hardware difference is in the color wheel. These are single chip DLP projectors, and that means using a color wheel. The UHD60 uses one with a “clear slice,” in addition to red, green, and blue, while the UHD65 has one without the clear slice – yielding less white lumens, but more color lumens.

Optoma UHD60 Front
The Optoma UHD60 is a 4K UHD projector that we've seen in action, but have not reviewed. It has many similarities to its sibling, the UHD65.

We did not yet review the UHD60, but I’ve seen it in action. Plus, knowing the difference between it and the UHD65, I felt it needed to be part of this comparison. And, let’s not forget that the UHD60 is the least expensive 4K content capable projector (that I am aware of) that’s shipping.

When it comes to the 4K content handling, the most important thing to know is that these Optoma UHD projectors are inherently higher resolution than the Epsons, as they use TI’s new “4K UHD” chip – the Epsons do not. The Optomas serve up 2716 x 1528 x2 pixels, which works out to 8.15 megapixels. The important point is that each pixel is smaller – about 30% smaller in diameter than the 1080p Epsons, so they have one immediate advantage in sharpness when playing 4K content.

The Vivitek HK2288/HK2299

What I originally thought were two model numbers, but essentially the same DLP, 4K UHD projector, turns out to be two slightly different projectors. The HK2288 will be $1995, and will have a color wheel with a clear slice for more white lumens (but less color lumens), while the HK2299 will have a color wheel without the clear slice, so it will have less white lumens (2200 claimed) but the number of color lumens will be a lot closer to the white lumen count.

Vivitek HK2288/HK2299
The Vivitek HK2288 / HK2299 is a single chip DLP using the higher res “4K UHD” chip from TI

I’ve pretty much been reviewing the Vivitek while also working on this year’s report.  Unlike the other five projectors, the HK2288/HK2299 is not ready to go. I was sent an engineering sample of the HK2299  about six weeks ago. We started a full review, even calibrating it, but after discussing with Vivitek, decided that the sample we had was still “not ready for prime time” so, it was decided to pause the review until a production unit becomes available.

No surprise that the Vivitek HK2299 still had a number of rough edges. Overall, its performance is still well below factory claims for brightness, but that’s hardly surprising with early samples. I expect production models will be at least noticeably brighter. If not, then Vivitek should lower their claim. The best the Vivitek measured was only around 1200 lumens (2200 claimed) and calibrated, it was under 800.

The HK2299 comes with at $2495 list price, putting it right there with the Optoma UHD65.  The HK2288 should be $1995, same as the Optoma UHD60.  Go figure!

By comparison to the others, the Vivitek’s menus are relatively simple. Things like HDR or tackling the larger color space are automatic, while the Optomas and Epsons give you varying degrees of control and options. You could say that it makes the Vivitek the easiest to essentially plug in, power up, and watch, but it also means less options.

Like the Optoma models, the Vivitek HK2288 / HK2299 is a single chip DLP using the new TI “4K UHD” chip, so it starts out with the same resolution aspects. I won’t bother to repeat the info about pixel resolutions, pixel shifting, etc. Its lens has a medium amount of zoom, and the projector also has lens shift, but, like the Optoma, significantly less than the Epson. The lens is not motorized, so no lens memory for those wanting to go “wide screen.”

For the few images provided when comparing, I use photos from the PC4040 and HC4000 interchangeably, but separate images from the HC5040UB, the Optoma UHD65, and the Vivitek.

Conclusions

With the Viviteks not ready for prime time, we end up with the pair of Optomas taking on three Epsons, which really are just two, when it comes to actual performance.

Okay, 2 on 2 seems fair enough. Two just under $2000, and two around $2500!

As are reflected in the awards given out, here are my take-aways, spread across the following 4 pages. Click on over to the next page to begin!

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