I conducted an exhaustive amount of research before settling on the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5020UB. Given that I would be using the projector in a multi-purpose family room, and not a dedicated...
Outstanding performance, versatile, quiet, THX certified, rechargeable RF 3D glasses
Unable to use two HDMI sources in ‘Split-Screen’ mode, some latency when switching between sources, cable cover not included
I conducted an exhaustive amount of research before settling on the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5020UB. Given that I would be using the projector in a multi-purpose family room, and not a dedicated theater room, I needed something versatile. I wanted a projector that would deliver a great movie theater experience when I wanted it, yet be flexible enough to be used every day for watching TV and playing video games, all at a reasonable price. Let me tell you, the 5020 delivers! When it comes to ‘value,’ you will be hard pressed to find anyone more frugal than me. This projector is the best value in home theater projectors, hands down. Below are my thoughts on the 5020’s key features, setup, ease of use, and performance. Hopefully my review doesn’t come across as a ‘sales pitch,’ I am just so pleased with my purchase nearly everything I have to say is positive!
2D to 3D Conversion: I was a bit skeptical of this feature at first, never having owned a 3D capable device before, I wasn't sure what to expect. My initial assumption was that this would be a gimmicky feature I might play with a few times, but rarely ever use with any frequency (like Siri on my iPhone). I thought to myself, “How can a processor take a two-dimensional image and determine what depths certain pieces of the picture should be?” Apparently I need to frequent the forum more because was absolutely blown away! It is unreal how accurately the 5020 can convert a flat image into something that looks like it was originally filmed in 3D. This feature brings new life to many of my favorite programs, I find myself using all the time!
Rechargeable RF 3D Glasses: The 5020 comes with 2 pairs of rechargeable radio-frequency glasses, although 4 would have been nice, beggars can’t be choosers! The glasses are a nice upgrade from previous models as I had read frustrations from users of the older IR glasses that moving your head too much or using remotes could sometimes interfere. I also like that they are rechargeable, I charged them when I first got the projector 2 months ago and have been using them on and off ever since. Regardless, I've read that you can ‘quick charge’ them for only a few minutes and get hours of use, which is great for those moments you forget to charge them, but want to show off your sweet new projector. The glasses are light and very comfortable to wear over extended periods of time.
Frame Interpolation: Similar to the “Motion Flow” feature on my Sony Bravia LCD TV, Epson’s “Frame Interpolation” adds frames to smooth judder commonly experienced in camera pans and fast moving scenes. There are 3 settings to choose from; Low, Normal, and High. Depending on what I am watching, I usually set this to ‘Low’ or ‘Normal’ as setting it too high can give an unnatural appearance, making the picture look more like a home video (commonly referred to as the “soap opera” effect), which sounds cool, but just doesn't look right. When used appropriately, this feature does effectively reduces motion blur commonly experience on LCD displays.
Super Resolution: The “Super Resolution” feature is one of those I’m still trying to figure out, I don’t fully understand how it works. It magically adds ‘sharpness’ without significantly increasing the amount of ‘noise’ through the rest of the picture, essentially, it appears to add ‘resolution.’ I typically have this feature set to 2-3, as setting it higher can add a bit of noise and unnecessary sharpness to purposefully out-of-focus scenes such as backgrounds.
Auto-Iris: Another feature I don’t know a whole lot about, the “Auto-Iris” feature monitors the brightness of the projected image and automatically adjusts the intensity of light from the lamp. This helps adjust the brightness of the image from scene to scene. Some have commented on the noise produce by the feature, but I haven’t noticed anything audible myself.
Split Screen: Another one of those potentially gimmicky features, the split-screen feature is one of those I am not likely to use all that often. Regardless, finding out that you cannot use two HDMI sources was a bit frustrating! This must be an impassable barrier as I can’t imagine Epson would tolerate this on purpose. Hopefully this is something that can be overcome in the future, but until then, I guess I’ll have to dig my old component cables out of storage on game day.
Epson Reliability and Support: This is where I might sound a bit ‘pitchy,’ but one of the intangible benefits I sought was Epson’s infamous reliability and support. Everyone I spoke with couldn't say enough about how well Epson took care of their customers in the event of a problem. Although I hope to never experience it, I take comfort in knowing it is there if I need it.
Installation and setup was extremely easy. I hung the projector using a Peerless PRG-UNV-W Precision Gear Universal Projector Mount, which I used because it was low profile and white (keeps the projector close to the ceiling to maximize headroom and the white helps it blend in). My application was very straight forward, mounted 14ft back and dead center of the screen, I didn’t have to take advantage of the 5020’s lens shift capabilities (which are phenomenal for those needing the flexibility). The screen I chose is an Elite Screens 110” white 16:9 Sable fixed-frame, which I opted for based upon its price point and favorable reviews on Amazon. So far I am happy with both the mount and screen (I’ll save additional comments on them for other reviews). Other than adjusting the LCD alignment (aka convergence), which was a bit off out of the box, I have not performed any other calibration yet, I have been very pleased with the presets available on the 5020.
When purchasing my projector, I also got the $50 white rear cable cover (V12H003011), which are available through authorized Epson resellers (or online if you want to pay up to twice as much). I realize Epson likely doesn't include this in an effort to further set the 6020 apart from the 5020, but it really makes the install much ‘cleaner.’ And, while I am on the topic of ‘clean,’ a white power cable would also be a nice finishing touch as it would further help the projector blend in for those of us mounting them against white ceilings. Regardless, I will happily use the Amazon gift card I win writing this review to purchase one.
The remote control that comes with the 5020 is designed fairly well, providing instant access to commonly used features and adjustments without having to access the full menu. I haven’t played with the ‘HDMI Link’ capabilities of the remote, but being able to control a Blu-Ray player or audio receiver is a nice feature for those of use with a multitude of devices.
The menu system is very straight forward and intuitive, granting easy access to detailed adjustments. Although some adjustments are a little ‘deep’ (i.e. advanced settings, 3D depth, 3D brightness, etc), these aren't commonly accessed adjustments, so the inconvenience is minimal.
Brightness: The 5020 delivers 2400 lumens of white and color brightness, which is one of the brightest projectors on the market. This is important to me because I am using it in a basement family room with 2 large windows. Even with the blinds drawn, some ambient light still finds its way through during the day, however, the 5020 easily blasts through to provide an excellent picture that can be viewed in nearly any lighting condition (‘Living Room’ works best for me in high light situations).
Color: Out of the box, color accuracy is excellent in “Natural” and “THX” mode, but can be overpowering in “Dynamic” and “Living Room” modes, when the projector is at its brightest. Nevertheless, during the situations you might want to use brighter modes, you need the power to blast through the ambient light.
Black Level: Black level is one of those measurements that is difficult to quantify, as it’s a matter of perspective and relativity. Regardless, in a darkened room with the projector in “THX” mode, blacks are truly black.
Shadow Detail: With a contrast ratio of 320,000:1 (compared to only 200,000:1 on the previous model), the variance between different shades of black is very evident. Although more difficult to see in “Living Room” mode or with higher levels of ambient light, when watching a movie in “THX” mode in a darkened room even the darkest scenes are easily viewable and the variance between shades is easily apparent.
Motion Detail: With the “Frame Interpolation” feature turned off, the 5020 acts like most other LCD displays, there is some blur during fast motion and camera pans, this is why I typically set the feature to ‘Low’ at a minimum, but rarely higher than ‘Normal’ to avoid the unnatural “soap opera” effect.
Overall Detail: The overall picture quality on the 5020 is nothing short of amazing. Like blowing up a 4x6 picture to make a poster, I was afraid that stretching a 1080p image to 110” might make the picture look less sharp (I’ve experienced this on many of the 60-70” LCD displays at my local wholesale club). To be honest, I was afraid I might be able to count the pixels close up! Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised just how good the picture looked even close up, with nearly nonexistent “screen door” effect.
Visible Artifacts: No visual artifacts or defects that I can see, the picture quality is flawless.
3D: As mentioned above, having never owned a 3D capable device before, it’s difficult for me to objectively judge the 5020’s 3D capabilities. However, I can tell you that I experienced some ‘shutter’ effect when demoing a 6010 at a local home theater shop and was afraid that the 5020 might exhibit something similar. To my surprise, it’s nearly non-existent. While watching 3D content (as well as that converted from 2D to 3D), the only time I experienced any type of ‘shutter’ effect was during fast motion and camera pans, but even then it is not distracting.
Noise: In ‘Eco’ mode, the 5020 is virtually silent. Though, even with ‘Eco’ mode off, the projector is not overbearingly loud, similar to a typical PC fan, and is easily washed out even at very low listening volumes.
I am extremely happy with my purchase, I highly recommend the 5020UB to anyone who is looking for a projector that performance exceptionally well, is versatile enough to be used every day, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. I genuinely believe that this projector is the best value for a home theater projector on the market today.