Epson Video Projectors With 4K Enhancement, HDR, and More

Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 5040 (left) and Pro Cinema 6040 (right) Projectors
Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 5040 (left) and Pro Cinema 6040 (right) Projectors. Images provided by Epson

To get that really big screen movie experience at home, nothing quite does it like a good video projector. With that in mind, Epson has added four models (5040UB/5040UBe, 4040/6040UB) to their video projector product line that are designed to provide top-notch performance for serious movie viewing. The following is an overview of some of the features these projectors provide that make this possible.

What The 5040UB/5040UBe, 4040/6040UB Video Projectors Have In Common

Physical Design

All four projectors have an attractive curved edge design with center-mounted lenses with powered zoom, focus, and both vertical and horizontal lens shift that can be accessed via onboard controls or the provided remote for easier projector-to-screen positioning.

3LCD

In terms of getting images onto a screen or wall, the projectors incorporate well-established 3LCD technology. What this means is that the image is created by sending light through 3 LCD chips (one each for red, green, and blue) in combination with a mirror/prism assembly and a projection lens.

Physical Connectivity

For onboard physical connectivity, all the projectors provide 2 HDMI inputs and 1 PC monitor input. A USB connection is also provided for display of still image files stored on flash drives, as well installation of any needed firmware updates.

Additional connectivity includes Ethernet, RS232c, and a 12 volt trigger, which provide support for network and custom control system integration.

4K Enhancement

4K Ultra HD TVs are now very common, but incorporating 4K capability into video projectors has been slow going. One of the main stumbling blocks is that Ultra HD TV panels incorporate 8.3 million pixels spread across a large surface, but to apply that to a video projector you need to cram the same number of pixels into a single chip that may only be slightly larger than a postage stamp.

This contributes to the slim selection and high price tags for 4K-equipped video projectors.

However, one way to get around this obstacle is to apply a technique known as Pixel Shifting. Using this option, you can enable a 1080p video projector to display a 4K-like image. Epson refers to their take on this technology as 4K Enhancement.

In 2014, Epson introduced its first 4K-enhanced video projector, the LS10000. In 2016, this technology is available on four additional projectors, the Home Cinema 5040UB/5040UBe and Pro Cinema 4040/6040UB.

With the 4K enhancement, when a video input signal is detected, the projector rapidly shifts each pixel diagonally back-and-forth by a half-a-pixel width. The shifting motion is so fast, it fools the viewer into perceiving the result as approximating the look of a 4K resolution image.

For 1080p and lower resolution sources, pixel shifting technology upscales the image. For native 4K sources (such as Ultra HD Blu-ray and select streaming services), the signal is downscaled to 1080p and then displayed using the 4K enhancement process.

However, it must also be pointed out that this type of 4K enhancement technology does not work for 3D viewing or Motion Interpolation.

If an incoming 3D signal is detected or Motion Interpolation is activated, 4K enhancement is automatically turned off, and the displayed image will be 1080p.

JVC has been using a similar technique (referred to as e-Shift) in some of their video projectors for several years, but Epson claims that there are some subtle differences between the two systems. However, visually, the results of the two techniques look the same - but there has been a continuing debate as to whether Pixel Shifting produces the same visually perceived result as native 4K.

Epson has not released additional specifics on their 4K enhancement system, but to give you access to a more detailed technical explanation on how Pixel Shifting works, check out an overview of JVC's eShift (1, 2).

HDR and Color

In addition to 4K-enhancement, Epson has also added HDR technology into this group of projectors. Just as with HDR-enabled TVs, the Epson projectors can display the full video dynamic range of the image from deep black, to white whites without losing detail do due white washout or black crushing. Compatible HDR-encoded content is currently available via Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs.

To further support both 4K enhancement and HDR, all four projectors can also display full sRGB and wide color gamuts. What this means is that these projectors can display accurate color for all major source standards in use for both presentation and home theater viewing.

Home Cinema 5040UB and 5040UBe

The Home Cinema 5040UB and 5040UBe include all of the features listed above with the following additions.

The Home Cinema 5040/5040e can both output up to 2,500 lumens of white and color brightness, which means that they have enough light output to project viewable images even in rooms with some ambient light. Also, Epson projectors retain very good brightness levels for 3D viewing.

To support HDR, both projectors have a very wide dynamic contrast ratio (Epson claims 1,000,000:1).

However, where the two projectors differ is that 5040UBe adds built-in WirelessHD (WiHD) connectivity.

A wireless receiver is built-into the 5040UBe, and the included external wireless connection hub can accommodate up to 4 HDMI sources (including one MHL-enabled source), and it also provides a USB port for charging Epson 3D glasses.

All 4 inputs are 4K resolution and HDR compatible, which is made possible by Lattice Semiconductor's SiBEAM technology

The wireless hub is especially practical if you have the 5040UBe mounted on the ceiling, as it eliminates those unsightly long or in-wall HDMI cable runs.

Hands-On Impressions of the 5040UB

I had the opportunity to use the Epson 5040UB and have the following impressions. First, the projector is large, coming in at 20.5 x 17.7 x 7.6 (W x D x H - in inches) and weighing about 15 pounds. However, in terms of features and performance, the 5040UB performs well.

In terms of set-up, the inclusion of power zoom, focus, and lens shift really make it easier, especially if you are planning on ceiling mounting the projector. Also, the onscreen menu system is easy to use, and the remote control is not only large, making the buttons easier to see, but is backlit making use easier in a darkened room.

In terms of connectivity, the 5040UB does fall a little short in that of the two HDMI inputs provided, only one is HDR-compatible. However, both are 4K and 3D compatible.

The 4K Enhancement process works as advertised, providing excellent detail over that of a typical 1080p projector.

In terms of 2D, the 5040 performs very well, excellent color and lots of light output, but the HDR effect is not as impressive as it is on some high-end HDR-enabled TVs. When HDR is engaged with compatible content sources, you have the option to use the standard default setting or choose from three additional settings that can aid in compensating for room lighting conditions, but the results still aren't as good when viewing on an high-end HDR-enabled TV.

One pair of rechargeable 3D glassed were provided for my use. On the positive side, the 3D images were bright, with accurate color, but depending on the seating angle, there was some occasional haloing.

One interesting feature is that the 5040UB can connect to your home network via Ethernet (WiFi connectivity requires optional USB WiFi Adapter), which allows access to still images and video stored on compatible connected PCs or media servers, as well as content from smart phones that are able to connect through your home network via DLNA.

One additional thing to point out is that the 5040UB is definitely designed to used as part of a true home theater viewing experience with an additional surround sound setup, as it does not have its own built-in speaker system.

Taking the 5040UB's total feature package and performance characteristics into consideration, especially the inclusion of 4K enhancement and HDR for less than $3,000.00, it is definitely worth considering. However, if you want the convenience of additional HDMI inputs via Wireless connection hub, upgrading to the 5040UBe is a better choice.

Pro Cinema 4040 and 6040UB

The Pro Cinema 4040 and 6040UB share the same form factor, physical connections, 4K enhancement, and HDR capabilities that are provided with the 5040UB/5040UBe. However, neither the 4040 or 6040UB provides a wireless connection option.

The Pro Cinema 4040 can output of up 2,300 lumens of both white and color brightness and has a stated contrast ratio of 160,000:1.

On the other hand, the Pro Cinema 6040UB provides a 2,500 lumen light output, additionally supported by a wider Epson-claimed dynamic contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1.

Also, the Epson 6040UB provides additional advanced features, such as ISF calibration tools that professional installers can use to make more precise image quality adjustments for a variety of room lighting environments, as well as a Picture-in-Picture Mode that allows two HDMI source signals to be displayed on the screen simultaneously.

Epson's Pro Cinema line projectors are targeted towards the custom install market and come packaged with some additional perks, including a ceiling mount, cable cover, and an extra lamp.

More Info

The Home Cinema 5040UB/5040UBe and Pro Cinema 4040/6040UB projectors are targeted to the higher-end home theater fan looking for the best possible performance and is best suited for medium and large size rooms.

Epson's Home Cinema projectors carry a two-year warranty, with the exception of the lamp, which has a 90-day warranty. The Pro Cinema projectors come with a 3-year warranty, with the exception of the lamp, which has a 90-day warranty.

The Home Cinema 5040UB/5040UBe carry initial suggested prices of $2,999/$3,299 - Buy From Amazon

The Pro Cinema 4040 carries an initial suggested price of $2,699 - More Info.

The Pro Cinema 6040UB carries an initial suggested price of $3,999 - More Info.

The Pro Cinema Series will only be available initially through certified home theater dealers/installers.

UPDATE 09/24/2016 - Epson Adds The ProCinema LS10500

Following further on the above-listed projectors featuring 4K enhancement and HDR, Epson has added the high-end LS10500 for 2016/17. The LS10500 is the successor to the LS10000 briefly mentioned above.

What makes LS10500 different than the 4040 and 5040 series projectors discussed above is the incorporation of a lampless Laser light source technology.

Another difference is that the LS10500 utilizes reflective chip technology (a variant of LCOS) in combination with the laser light engine, there is support foe more precise color reproduction, the projector run quieter, more energy efficiency is possible, along with instant on/off capability, and the need for periodic lamp replacement is eliminated (the laser light source is expected to last about 30,000 hours in ECO mode).

However, the one drawback is that the projector's light output is not as bright as projectors using standard lamps, so it is more suited to a dedicated darker room home theater environment.

The LS10500 utilizes the same 4K enhancement technology (with HDR compatibility) discussed above (1080p display resolution for 3D), 1,500 lumens of white and color light output capability, and wide high brightness and "absolute black" contrast capability.

In addition, the LS10500 is THX 2D and 3D Certified and incorporates ISF calibration options.

For added ease of setup, the LS10500 also includes powered zoom as well as power vertical (+ - 90 degrees) and horizontal (+ - 40 degrees) Lens Shift with to 10 zooms, focus, and lens shift memory settings.

The initial suggested price for the Epson LS10500 is $7,999 - More Info - Available only through Epson or Authorized Dealers/Installers at the time of publication.

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