From a casual comparison, the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5020UBe doesn’t seem very different from the Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5010e, 4 stars) that it’s replaced in Epson’s line (although you can still find it online at this writing). Delve a little deeper, though, and you’ll find any number of small improvements, with features like frame interpolation (more on that later) working just a little better than they did with the 5010e. Add up all the small differences, and you wind up with a significant improvement to an already impressive projector. That’s easily enough to make the 5020UBe an Editors’ Choice as well.
Another obvious point of comparison for the 5020UBe is the Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3020e that I recently reviewed. One step down in Epson’s line, the 3020e offers fewer advanced features, like the 5020UBe’s lens shift, which lets you move the image position without moving the projector. However, it shares a similar design. Most notably, both offer native 1080p resolution for 2D and 3D, and both are built around an LCD engine.
One other key similarity is that each is one of two essentially identical models. According to Epson, the only difference between the 5020UBe and the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5020UB ($2,599 street) is that the Epson 5020UB doesn’t support WirelessHD. It also doesn’t come with a separate WirelessHD transmitter, which lets you connect to as many as five HDMI video sources without having to string any cables to the projector. That means most comments in this review apply to both models. It also means that if you don’t plan to take advantage of the WirelessHD, you can save some money by getting the Epson 5020UB.
Setting up the 5020UBe is easier that with most projectors, thanks in large part to the conveniently large zoom and lens shift. With the 2.1x zoom, you have far more flexibility than with most projectors in how far you can put the projector from the screen for a given size image.
Similarly, the vertical and horizontal lens shift, which lets you move the image without moving the projector, gives you lots of flexibility in both horizontal and vertical placement relative to the screen. I measured the horizontal lens shift at not quite a half-screen width in either direction from the center position and the vertical lens shift at just short of a full screen up or down from the center position.
Most of the connection choices are standard fare, with two HDMI connectors plus VGA, component, and composite video ports. If you take advantage of WirelessHD, however, you can connect from up to a claimed 32 feet away without wires. Simply connect one to five video sources to the WirelessHD transmitter by HDMI cable, set the projector to WirelessHD, and wait a moment while the transmitter and projector establish a connection.
If you put the projector in a large room, one other potential setup step is that you may want to add Epson’s optional external 3D emitter ($79 direct) to ensure that the RF 3D glasses stay in sync with the projector. In my tests, however, the glasses worked without problems with the built-in emitter.
With its 2,400-lumen rating, the 5020UBe is potentially too bright for theater dark-lighting with typical home theater screen sizes. As a point of reference, using SMPTE (The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) recommendations, 2,400 lumens would be appropriate for roughly a 225-inch diagonal, 1.0 gain screen in theater-dark lighting.
Fortunately, one of the 5020UBe’s strong points is that it offers a wide range of brightness. Switch the lamp to Eco mode, choose one of the less bright presets, and the brightness is more appropriate for a roughly 120-inch, 1.0 gain screen in theater dark lighting. For still smaller screen sizes, if the room is large enough, you can move the projector further from the screen, and set the zoom to its full telephoto setting, to clamp down the brightness even more.
Very much on the plus side, the brighter settings on the projector make it suitable for using in a family room or living room. The full 2,400 lumens would be appropriate for roughly a 125-inch screen with moderate ambient light, or a somewhat smaller screen size with sunlight streaming through the windows.
2D Image Quality
The 5020UBe’s 2D image quality is nothing short of excellent. Color quality is good to excellent straight out of the box without tweaking, although there are plenty of settings to tweak if you care to, and contrast is excellent, with deeply dark black levels aided by an auto-iris to help make dark scenes darker. The projector also did well on color balance, with suitably neutral grays at all levels from black to white, and it did an excellent job with shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas). It also helps a lot that because it’s an LCD projector, it can’t show rainbow artifacts the way DLP projectors can, with light areas breaking up into little red-green-blue rainbows.
The menus offer a number of sophisticated video processing options that you’ll want to experiment with and adjust to taste. Epson’s Super-resolution, for example, with five settings, improves apparent resolution just a bit, particularly with DVDs, but I also noticed some minor artifacts added at the highest setting.
Also demanding mention is frame interpolation, with three settings. As with similar features on other projectors, frame interpolation smoothes out the judder inherent in 24 frame-per-second (fps) filmed content, but it makes the image look more like live video than film, an issue known as the digital video effect.
This is essentially the same issue that some people complained about in the 48 fps version of The Hobbit. It’s not that the image looks worse; it’s just not the look you associate with movies. If you find the look bothersome, you can compromise with the low setting or turn the feature off entirely. On the other hand, you may find that even if you don’t like it for watching movies, it still improves the look of live or recorded content.
3D and Other Issues
The 5020UBe comes with two pairs of 3D glasses, with additional glasses available for $99 (direct) each. As you would expect, the projector offers full support for HDMI 1.4a, which means you can connect to a Blu-ray player, cable TV box, or equivalent source directly, including connecting by WirelessHD, to watch in 3D.
I tested the projector with both a Blu-ray player and a FIOS box, with the 3D working without problems in both cases. With FIOS, however, I had to manually change 3D Mode settings in the projector, as well as switch between 2D and 3D mode, both to watch in 3D and to switch back to watching in 2D.
Brightness necessarily drops with 3D, because each lens in the glasses is open only half the time, and even when it’s open the lens cuts out some of the light. However, the 5020UBe’s 3D modes are bright enough to let you use a reasonably large image, even when it has to stand up to the ambient light in a family room.
The 3D image quality is good to excellent. The projector offers essentially the same strengths as for 2D images, including good color quality, and also handles 3D-specific issues well. In particular, I didn’t see any crosstalk or 3D-related motion artifacts, even in clips that tend to bring those problems out.
One last issue that demands mention is the lack of an audio system. This is typical for a home theater projector, on the assumption that if you’re paying this much for a projector, you’ll want to install a far better audio system than you can cram into a projector case. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you will need a separate audio system as part of your budget.
The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5020UBe is an impressive projector for the price. It delivers a high-quality image for both 2D and 3D, a wide range of brightness settings, and a long list of advanced features, including an unusually large zoom and lens shift, an auto-iris, frame interpolation, Super-resolution, and more. Taken together, this constellation of features makes it a highly capable home theater projector for 2D and 3D and Editors’ Choice in its price range as well.
|Native Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||320000|
|Rated Brightness||2400 ANSI lumens|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc