You've got to give credit to projector manufacturers like Epson and JVC that try to follow the TV-manufacturer model and introduce completely new lineups each year. On the TV side, manufacturers have lots of bells and whistles at their disposal to add and then upgrade - like smart TV platforms, cameras, speakers, and design choices - to help distinguish this year's offerings from last year's. Projectors don't include as many bells and whistles, so the emphasis lies almost solely on performance improvements ... and that gets tough when you're talking about companies like Epson and JVC that already offer some excellent performers.
While JVC is moving toward 4K with its e-Shift D-ILA projectors, Epson remains firmly planted in 1080p territory for the time being. The company continues to release new offerings at a variety of price points, from the budget-oriented Home Cinema 2030 ($899) to the new Ultra-Bright Pro Cinema models with HDBaseT support aimed at large-venue and custom installations. In between is the new Home Cinema 5030UBe (and its Pro Cinema 6030UBe brother, which is essentially the same projector sold exclusively through dealers, with a longer warranty, extra lamp, and projector mount included). As with its predecessor, the Home Cinema 5020UB, the new 5030UBe is also available in a "wireless" form, designated by the addition of an "e" at the end of the model name, which includes a built-in WirelessHD receiver to receive HDMI signals from the supplied WirelessHD transmitter box. That's the model I received for review: the Home Cinema 5030UBe sells for $2,899, while the standard, non-wireless version retails for $2,599.
The 5030UBe is a THX-certified 3LCD projector that uses Epson's D9 three-chip 1080p LCD imaging engine and has a rated light output (color and white) of 2,400 lumens. Whereas the 5020UB had a rated dynamic contrast ratio of 320,000:1, Epson claims 600,000:1 for the new model, due to an improved auto iris designed to produce deeper blacks. Epson says that the new model also includes a "range of subtle improvements at the engineering level that have refined image processing, frame interpolation, and Super Resolution." We'll see how those upgrades play out in the Performance section.
In both design and connectivity, the 5030UBe is basically identical to the Home Cinema 5020UB that I previously reviewed. The projector measures 18.4 by 15.6 by 5.5 inches, weighs 18.9 pounds, and has a squarish cabinet design with slightly rounded edges and a combination black/brushed-white finish. The unit has a center-mounted lens with an automatic lens cover, and it uses a 230-watt E-TORL lamp with a rated lamp life of 5,000 hours in Eco mode and 4,000 hours in Normal mode. Dials for manual focus and zoom surround the lens, and on the top panel sit dials for horizontal and vertical lens shifting. On the left side panel, you'll find buttons for power, menu, enter, escape, and navigation. The only physical difference between the 5020 and 5030 is that the new model omits the hard power on/off switch, giving you only the power button to bring the projector in and out of standby mode. The supplied IR remote is also identical to last year's version - it's a large, fully backlit remote with dedicated buttons for virtually any picture control or adjustment that you would want.
Back-panel connections include two HDMI 1.4a inputs, a component video input, a composite video input and a PC RGB input, plus a trigger output, RS-232 port and USB port for service only. The connection panel can be covered by a black snap-on door that hides all of the video inputs; if you opt to use only a WirelessHD connection, then you'll have no need to run any video cables to the projector itself. The small, black WirelessHD transmitter features five HDMI inputs (giving the 5030UBe a total of seven possible HDMI inputs), plus an HDMI output to send the signal to a second display, a valuable tool if you use both a projector and TV in your theater room. One of the transmitter's HDMI inputs supports MHL in order to attach an MHL-compatible video source, like a smartphone, tablet, or Roku Stick. An optical digital audio output is available to pass audio to an older, non-HDMI-equipped AV receiver or preamp.
I did most of my evaluations using a wired connection, running HDMI output from my sources to the projector. Those sources included a Dish Network Hopper DVR, OPPO BDP-103 universal disc player. The 5030UBe's generous 2.1x zoom and 96 percent vertical/47 percent horizontal lens shifting made it quick and easy to align the projected image on my 100-inch VAPEX9100SE screen from a distance of about 14 feet away, where the projector sat atop a gear rack that measures 46 inches high. The 5030UBe has a throw ratio range of 1.34 to 2.87 and can project an image up to 300 inches diagonally.
Epson's usual complement of picture adjustments is available, starting with six 2D picture modes (Dynamic, Living Room, Natural, THX, Cinema, and the newly added B&W Cinema) and three 3D picture modes (3D Dynamic, 3D Cinema and 3D THX). Advanced options include multiple color-temperature presets with RGB offset and gain controls and skin tone adjustment, a color management system to adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness of all six color points, five gamma presets and a customized mode, basic and advanced sharpness controls, normal and eco lamp modes, and an auto iris with normal and high-speed options to automatically tailor the image brightness to suit the content being displayed. Epson has oddly chosen to rename some picture settings that were present in previous models, in some cases going with less precise terminology and sometimes using different nomenclature for different picture modes, which could lead to some confusion. For instance, gamma settings are now vague numbers (-2, -1, 0, 1, 2) instead of specific options like 2.2, 2.4, etc. Likewise, in some picture modes, color temperature presets are called 1 or 2, instead of being labeled as a specific Kelvin setting like 6500. The 5030UBe has a 240Hz refresh rate, and three frame-interpolation modes (low, normal, and high) are available to help reduce motion blur and film judder. Aspect-ratio options include auto, normal, zoom, and full; there is no anamorphic mode for mating the projector with an anamorphic lens to watch 2.35:1 movies without black bars.
The 5030UBe is a 3D-capable projector with an integrated 3D transmitter and two pairs of rechargeable RF 3D glasses. Epson's 480Hz Drive technology is designed to minimize the blackout time of the 3D glasses to allow for brighter 3D images and reduced crosstalk. 3D picture adjustments include the ability to enable 2D-to-3D conversion, to alter the 3D image depth and glasses brightness, and to set your screen size.
Click on over to Page 2 for the Performance, the Downside, Competition and Comparison and Conclusion . . .