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Until recently, there were two very distinct categories of projector: 4K, and everybody else. Sony had a firm grip on the ultra-elite market, producing just three projectors that could actually display at 4K for the cool price of $10,000 a pop (or more). These days the best 4K projector is cheaper.
Now, however, as technology always does, the price is finally starting to come down a bit for a new class of projector like the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB. This is a projector that features what the company refers to as “4K enhancement”, a form of upscaling that brings the quality up and the costs down for those who want a 4K home theater system but don’t have $10k laying around in spare change.
So the idea is to make the best home cinema projector on a budget.
But how does 4K enhancement stand up to true 4K, and is it worth the extra cost? Read on in our Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB review to find out!
Price: $2999.00 on Amazon
Summary: The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB is one of the best-looking projectors on the market today, one that gets you near-4K quality at a fraction of the cost of standard 4K projectors.
What We Liked
What We Didn’t
When I first reviewed the Epson 5040UB’s cousin, the Powerlite 1440, I noted how the projector’s (what I thought at the time) massive footprint may not fit on a shelf or coffee table comfortably without you having to move a few things around.
The 5040UB on the other hand may have you reorganizing your entire living room around its humongous 20.5″ x 17.7″ x 7.6″, 24lb frame. I haven’t met a projector mount to date that’s rated for 24lbs, and although I’m sure there are a few that could handle it, for the most part, I would expect to be installing this monolith somewhere very central to your home theater layout as a whole.
The actual design of the Epson isn’t too bad to look at, with rounded white edges and a small lens door that opens on its own when the projector is in use. The automatic whirring to life of the lens door gives the projector more of that cinematic, “curtains unfurling” kind of feel, which is a nice after touch considering how much you have to spend to get a ticket into this theater.
The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB 3LCD projector uses 3-LCD chip technology to create its images at a maximum display resolution of 1920 x 1080 (with 4K upscaling and HDR), alongside a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 and ANSI lumen rating of 2500, with the ability to show an image as large as small as 50″ or large as 300″ across from corner to corner, at a distance of 32 feet.
For such a beast of a projector, the PowerLite 5040UB is suspiciously low on available ports, with just 1 HDMI 2.2, 1 HDMI 1.4, 2 USB 2.0 slots, one mini-USB, and 1 LAN jack on the back.
Related: See also our Epson VS250 review.
The Epson 5040UB’s user interface doesn’t deviate much from what we first saw on the PowerLite 1440, however, I will say that I was sorely disappointed in the keystoning options we were given.
Unlike other projectors (such as the Optoma HD HD28DSE) include the choice of four-corner keystoning, which is far superior to the plain one-axis vertical keystoning on the 5040UB.
For such an expensive projector we would have assumed this feature was a must-have, but guess the lack of it might have something to do with the Pixel Shift technology that’s used to make the 4K enhancement work.
The Epson 5040UB uses what’s known as “pixel shift” technology to create what the company calls “4K enhancement” quality images, which uses a 1080p 3LCD chip and then shifts the number of pixels to approximate 4K resolution. Unfortunately, not all Epsons have this technology, as you’ll find in our Epson VS250 SVGA 3LCD review.
Without getting too technical, essentially this means that while you can technically display at a resolution that looks similar to 4K, in reality, it’s only got about half the pixels or twice that of 1080p.
Regardless of what some 4K purists might say, however, I personally thought the quality on the Epson 5040UB was well worth the price, producing some of the most luxuriously deep and nuanced colors we’ve seen on a projector to date.
One area where the projector could have worked a little harder was in the brightness department. Here, at a distance of 10ft in near-total darkness with the projector set to its own preset “Bright mode”, we recorded a rating of 1,131 lux in the middle of the image, with a variable rate of 900 – 1300 lux around the corners.
Just as good as movies like Zootopia looked on this projector, games like Ori and the Blind Forest looked even better.
This is the game I like to use to test the color and responsiveness of any given device because aside from it being one of the most gorgeous titles to be released in the past ten years, it’s also highly dependent on quick response and reaction times to master its punishingly accurate movement system.
The 60Hz refresh rate, as usual, might rub a few hardcore PC gamers the wrong way, but if you’re running the Epson on a console you shouldn’t be able to notice any glaring issues whether you’re gaming online or off.
3D performance was just as eye-dazzling as what we saw in movies and games on the 2D side of things, however, there was a more discernible difference in the pixel density when we put the glasses on.
This is likely again due to something in the way the 3LCD chip actually upscales the content it displays, but without knowing the technical details of how the pixels are actually being shifted, we can’t say for sure. For another unit with 3D capabilities, you’ll want to check out our Epson Home Cinema 3700 full HD 1080p 3LCD projector review.
Noise and Heat
Being such a loud, proud machine, it’s no surprise that the 5040UB churned out some serious noise and heat during our various testing procedures. The same can’t be said for the Epson PowerLite home cinema 1440 projector, which our review explains in detail.
To keep the pixel-shifted chip and lens cooled down, the fans had to run at around 43dB, just to keep the resting temperature of the projector at 128° F.
If you plan on running this projector without an air conditioner around, be ready to get hot under the collar during love movie watching or gaming sessions in an enclosed space.
When it comes to sound, I guess Epson assumed that if you can afford a $2,999 projector, you’ve probably got at least another $50 lying around to drop on a decent pair of additional speakers because there are none to “speak” of on this model.
If you want additional sound it will need to be external, so keep that in mind before dropping a few paychecks on this Epson.
The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB 3LCD produces beautiful 1080p images that look just about as close to 4K as possible while at this cost.
Look anywhere else (like on our Best 4K projectors of 2019 list), and you’ll see that a normal 4K chip will cost you, at a minimum, $10,000 to get in your home. At just over a quarter of the cost, the Epson projector is undoubtedly the best projector we at Gadget Review have used before…but it’s also the most expensive, so take all that praise with a slight grain of salt.
If you want to be the first person on your block to display 4K content at pictures sizes larger than 80″ across, the Epson is your best bet to make that happen now, without forking over the down payment on a house in order to do it.
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