Epson Home Cinema 5050UB 4K PRO-UHD HDR Projector Hands-On Review

There’s much to like about the impressive Epson Pro Cinema 5050UB HDR projector. It’s got an amazing lens and plenty of brightness and adapts to your needs.|

Epson’s Home Cinema 5050UB ($2999) Pro-UHD HDR projector has arrived! It’s been three years since Epson debuted the popular and highly regarded Home Cinema 5040UB. The 5050UB is a dream machine for cinema lovers, it’s designed to easily fit into most small and medium-size home theaters and deliver stunning image quality, especially when considering the price.


Features and Specifications

With the Home Cinema 5050UB, Epson took a good thing and made it even better. This model, and the Home Cinema 5050UBe (that adds wireless video to the mix) are able to output up to 2600 lumens, are designed to make the most of HDR10 content, and feature Epson UltraBlack 3-LCD technology for deep blacks and high overall contrast.

While there is a small bump in spec’d peak lumens (2600 versus 2500), the main upgrade in performance offered by the 5050UB is centered around the Pro-UHD technology, a refinement of the various image processing and resolution enhancement technologies employed by Epson in these 3-chip LCD projectors.

The Epson Home Cinema 5050UB and the otherwise identical but wireless 5050UBe ($3299) support 4K HDR content while relying on a new Pixel-Shift Processor to enhance the resolution of the native 1080p imaging chips, putting over 4 million discrete pixels on screen. While this is not fundamentally different from how the 5040UB handled 4K, Epson does say it has improved the performance of the pixel shifting.

For those wondering, the the 5050UB will not replicate a checkerboard single-pixel 4K test pattern. Technically the projector is putting just over 4 million pixels on the screen (2X HD, but  only ½ UHD), because the imaging chip shifts between two position to offer enhanced detail. You can also turn off the 4K enhancement and directly observe the difference it makes—there’s more detail and furthermore, it eliminates the “screen door effect” that’s visible when 4K enhancement is turned off. In other words, leave it on.

This projector is able to reproduce the P3 color gamut in its entirety when utilizing its cinema filter (with some loss of peak brightness) or else produce highly saturated color with full light output. Moreover, the company touts that it’s UltraBlack Contrast tech allows for a dynamic contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 (in a lab or ideal room, typical real-life contrast numbers are lower).

Full-bandwidth HDMI 2.0 (18GHz) allows for 4K/60 playback, which is great for streaming 4K and gaming. The Home Cinema 5050UBe comes equipped with a Epson WirelessHD transmitter with 4K/30 support and four inputs. This review is of the wired 5050UB. Also, this projector has one HDMI input that’s explicitly for optical HDMI that provides power to the cable.

Epson equipped the 5050UB with its high-performance and flexible powered lens. This allows 47% horizontal-axis adjustment and 96% vertical axis adjustment. Furthermore, the 15-element, 2.1X zoom lens features “zero light leakage” that contributes to the UltraBlack performance of this unit.


The “made in Japan” lens of the Epson Pro Cinema 5050UB projector contributes to its versatility. Photo by Mark Henninger

The motorized lens with memory is in nice feature, especially if you have a 2.40:1 aspect ratio screen. You can enjoy many widescreen Hollywood movies zoomed in, so that the image fills the screen; no anamorphic lens required. And when you watch 16:9 aspect films, TV, or play video games, you can have the projector zoom out and fully show the 16:9 aspect ratio.

Thoughtfully, Epson has included dedicated buttons for the first two lens memory positions (out of 10 total), so if you have implemented a 2.40:1 screen, switching between that and 16:9 ratios only requires a single button push.


Performance

Projection depends on more that just the projector to get a great image. When you have a projector that renders deep blacks, like the Pro Cinema 5050UB, it requires a dedicated space that has complete control over the lighting as well as walls and ceilings painted a dark color (okay, let’s face it, preferably matte black) in order to get the absolute maximum performance out of it.

Screen material choice is key, if you have a blacked-out home theater, then you can use a white screen. However, an ambient light rejecting screen can also be considered, not only because it helps with contrast by “rejecting” the reflected ambient light from a dark theater, but because it allows you to use the projector with the lights on to watch TV or sports or play video games.

While native 4K is great, and home theaters offer an opportunity to sit close enough to the screen where you will see the extra detail when it is present, I need to stress that with most content, the fact this is a pixel-shifter and not a full UHD projector is practically irrelevant. Most of what you want out of 4K HDR content, like DCI/P3 color, smooth gradations and well rendered details during busy action scenes, comes through thanks to higher bitrates. Pixel count is not the only determining factor for picture quality when you watch a movie, being able to ingest UHD is key to how great the image put out by this projector looks.

The behavior of the different picture modes of the 5050UB will not come as a huge surprise to Epson fans. Cinema and Digital Cinema provide true 100% P3 gamut coverage and a very accurate, neutral presentation, with Medium power being highly color accurate out the box (to use High power mode requires a calibration for color accuracy). Natural and Bright Cinema also exhibited good color and add a lot of extra lumens to the mix—more than double the previous two modes. Meanwhile, Dynamic mode is where you’ll find the spec’d peak lumen output.

In Dynamic mode I was able to verify Epson’s million-to-one dynamic contrast claim; yes it depends on dividing peak output by the all-black screen that comes courtesy of the dynamic iris. Dynamic contrast was not as high in other modes, but Cinema delivered a 150,000:1 reading. Native contrast, measured with the iris turned off, is considerably lower but still good enough to put a punchy picture on screen. I measured 6200:1 in Cinema Mode medium power and 8000:1 in Dynamic mode. The lowest native contrast measured was 5600:1 in Cinema Bright; this is about the same native contrast as modern LED-lit FALD VA LCD TVs achieve (viewed on-axis).

I recently watched Bumblebee in UHD, streaming from Vudu, using the Cinema Mode and Medium power on the 2.40:1 StudioTek 130 (1.3 gain). However, since the movie is 16:9 aspect, I used the lens memory feature to zoom out and accommodate that. One benefit is it made the default Cinema Mode peak highlights bright enough to give ’em a bit of twinkle. While it did not have “HDR-like” highlights, every moment of every scene was unbelievably clean—no signs of artifacts or banding whatsoever. Colors were very rich and the details were as distinct as I’m used to seeing from 4K.

The main thing here is that even when fairly close to the screen (10 feet or so from the 96″ diagonal-equivalent 16:9 screen), I can’t make out individual pixels on the 5500UB, ergo you are seeing about as much detail as you are going to see. Anyhow, I say all that because I was impressed by the final product of the 5050UB, what it put up on screen does true justice to UHD movies.

Epson had suggested I check out The Greatest Showman, citing it as a great example of how this projector can handle color, contrast and motion. I own it, and I agree it’s an exceptionally well produced (and entertaining) film… although if you are not a fan of musicals you might not agree. Anyhow, there’s little more colorful than The Circus and the choreographed dance scenes were rendered with cinematic cadence and very clear motion.

I also has a chance to watch a couple of Sixers games streaming in 1080p on YouTube TV. It looked extremely good with the lights out, like a 96″ TV was hanging on the wall… but a 96″ TV with perfect uniformity and no off-axis viewing issues. It’s glorious, and I can’t with to try the same on my 110″ ambient light rejecting screen.


On a Stewart StudioTek 130 screen (110″ wide, 2.40:1 ratio, 1.3 gain) I measured the following peak brightnesses (uncalibrated):

Auto Iris Off (16:9 = approx. 95″ diagonal, 83″ x 46″)

Cinema Bright Medium Power – 208 nits
Cinema Bright High Power – 270 nits
Cinema High Power – 127 nits
Cinema Medium Power – 100 nits
Digital Cinema High Power – 134 nits
Digital Cinema Medium Power  – 105 nits
Natural, Medium Power – 224 nits
Natural, High Power – 290 nits
Dynamic (high) – 400 nits
Dynamic (medium) – 313 nits

Zoomed in (2.40:1 = 119″ diagonal, 110″x 46″ )

Cinema Bright Medium Power – 170 nits
Cinema Bright High Power – 131 nits
Cinema High Power – 77 nits
Cinema Medium Power – 61 nits
Digital Cinema High Power – 105 nits
Digital Cinema Medium Power – 65 nits
Natural, Medium Power – 138 nits
Natural, High Power – 179 nits
Dynamic (high) – 248 nits
Dynamic (medium) – 198 nits


Contrast Ratios

No Iris, In My Theater

Cinema Bright Mode Medium- 5500:1 contrast
Cinema Mode Medium – 6200:1 contrast
Digital Cinema Mode Medium – 6100:1 contrast
Natural Mode Medium – 5700:1 contrast
Dynamic Mode Medium – 7846:1 contrast

Iris On, High Speed, In My Theater

Cinema Bright Mode Medium- 65000:1 contrast
Cinema Mode Medium – 150,000:1 contrast
Digital Cinema Mode Medium – 125,000:1 contrast
Natural Mode Medium – 73,000:1 contrast
Dynamic Mode Medium – 620,000:1 contrast

Also…

Dynamic Mode High – 932,000:1 contrast (Here’s where you find the measurable “up to million-to-one contrast” marketing spec)


Calibration Results…

I will be calibrating the Epson Pro Cinema 5050UB upon return from a 4-day trip and getting into using it with the Seymour-Screen Excellence Ambient Visionaire Black (0.9 gain) wide viewing angle ambient light rejecting screen. There are clearly plenty of lumens available to make the jump from 1.3-gain to 0.9 gain and filling a 119″ diagonal screen with both SDR and HDR imagery that pops.

I expect to see over 100 nits in Natural, Medium Power and should even be able to eke out a DCI compliant 46 nits from Cinema Mode Medium, which is this projectors least bright mode but in reality it’s very useful to be able to “dim” the projector to 46 nits, which is the DCI standard for non-HDR films. Add to that the wide color gamut and high bitrate of UHD content and what’s on screen looks like it’s playing in one of those premium commercial cinema auditoriums.

I’m optimistic this projector will offer even greater performance once it’s fully calibrated.  So stay tuned for all that and more, coming next week.


Conclusion

The Epson Pro Cinema 5050UB is a solid choice for a home theater projector. You can pay a lot more money to get just a little bit more performance out of projectors from other brands, and in some cases you give up features or flexibility (lens memory, for example) as well. In that context, the Pro Cinema 5050UB is an easy pick and a Top Choice for 2019. If you want true 4K, you can pay more and go for it. If you want a projector that can fill multiple rolls, has solid performance right out of the box, and is particularly good at playing 4K UHD movies thanks to how nicely it handles HDR and wide color gamut, this Epson is simply awesome.


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