Epson's UB line of home theater projectors have traditionally bridged the gap between budget and high-end. The Home Cinema 5050UB, priced at $2,999, continues this trend, offering performance and features normally reserved for projectors costing thousands of dollars more. Features such as high brightness, high contrast, a fully motorized lens, P3 color gamut support, a dynamic iris, and support for HDR10 and HLG HDR standards combine to create an extremely value-packed projector.
The 5050UB is an evolutionary jump in performance over last year's 5040UB. The vast majority of hardware and features carry over, but with a few notable improvements. One of the biggest gripes owners had with the 5040UB was the limited 10.2 Gbps HDMI 2.0 ports. The HDMI ports have been upgraded to meet the full 18Gbps throughput, which means the 5050UB is fully compliant with the entire HDMI 2.0b standard. Refinements to the light engine add an extra 100 lumens of light output from the same 250-watt lamp, upping the specified brightness to a whopping 2,600 lumens, all while retaining a claimed 1,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. For HDR, Epson has also added a new 16-step real-time HDR tonemapping adjustment owners can use to alter the HDR10/HLG image to their liking, viewing environment, and/or content.
The 5050UB uses Epson's 3LCD technology, meaning it has separate LCD panels for each primary color. As such, the projector doesn't need to display color sequentially as a single-chip DLP projector does, thus removing the possibility for color separation artifacts, commonly referred to as the rainbow effect. Supplementing the native 1080p LCD panels is Epson's proprietary pixel-shifting technology, known as 4K PRO-UHD, which increases perceived on-screen resolution to near-4K. For those unfamiliar, Epson's 4K PRO-UHD system works by analyzing a 4K frame and flashes two overlapping 1080p sub-frames on screen, with one optically shifted up and over half a pixel to create a single pseudo-4K image. The entire process happens so quickly that the image appears as one seamless, high resolution image. While pixel-shifting can't quite match the single pixel performance of true native 4K panels, in my experience it gets you most of the way there, so I wouldn't let the technology scare you away, especially when you factor in the high-value proposition the 5050UB represents in other areas.
The 5050UB looks and feels the part of a high-end home theater projector. It measures in at 7.6 inches by 20.5 inches by 17.7 inches and weighs 24.7 pounds. The large, centrally mounted, 15-element, all-glass lens offers up 2.1x zoom with a generous throw ratio of 1.35:1 to 2.84:1. The lens is also fully motorized, which is something of a rarity in this price segment. The lens offers a huge ± 96 percent vertical and up to ± 47 percent horizontal lens shift. The 5050UB also gives owners the option to set lens settings to memory (up to ten different memories), making it easy to switch between 1.78:1, 1.85:1, and anamorphic aspect ratios on a scope screen without the need for a dedicated anamorphic lens.
For connections, the 5050UB features the two aforementioned full bandwidth HDMI 2.0b ports, with one of these ports featuring a dedicated 300 milliamp USB type-A port to power an optical HDMI cable. Additionally, you'll find a one-amp USB type-A port, which can power devices such as a Google Chromecast, Roku Stick, or Epson's proprietary wireless HDMI adapter. The remaining connections include a wired LAN port for system control, analog VGA port, RS-232C port, 12-volt trigger port, and a Kensington security lock port if the projector is being used in a public setting.
The included back-lit remote is ergonomic and well laid out, with dedicated buttons for pretty much every feature you'd want quick access to, such as the motorized lens functions, lens memories, inputs, picture preset modes, and image enhancing menus. Should you misplace your remote, you'll find a sliding door on the side of the projector that opens to reveal a set of physical buttons allowing you to control the projector.
Setting up the 5050UB in my theater was a breeze. Behind my theater is a utility room with a shelf installed against the shared wall, with projectors setup to throw an image through a porthole in the wall. As you can imagine, in this type of setup scenario, not having a fully motorized lens makes setup nearly impossible. The 5050UB's fully motorized lens allowed me to stand in my theater at the screen to dial in the image with incredible accuracy. There's even a test pattern available when using the motorized lens functionality that makes it easy to get proper image size, geometry, and focus on your screen. While I was at the screen setting up the projector, I found that the 5050UB's lens did an excellent job focusing down on individual pixels across the entire image.
If you're placing the projector on a shelf like I am, Epson has included a pair of adjustable feet to get the projector's image level with your screen. The 5050UB includes manual keystone adjustment to fix askew image geometry; however, if you want to achieve the best image quality, I suggest physically setting up the projector as close to ideal as possible.
As this projector has separate panels for each primary color, it's important to check for convergence errors. These errors happen when the images from each of the three panels don't line up perfectly before leaving the projector's lens. In my opinion, fixing convergence on the 5050UB is especially important because it's a native 1080p projector using pixel-shifting. I found that correcting convergence errors with the included software helped to aid in bridging the gap between it and native 4K projectors in apparent sharpness and resolution. On my review sample, only minor adjustments were needed to tidy things up.
Inside the menu system, you'll find a whole host of options allowing you to calibrate and adjust the image to your liking. There's greyscale adjustment, custom gamma adjustment, as well as a full color management system for primary and secondary colors should you want to calibrate the projector. I found the lens iris setting option useful when viewing SDR content. The lens iris allows you to cut back on superfluous light output to gain a desired on-screen image brightness. Alternatively, the 5050UB has three lamp modes, giving you an additional way to alter the amount of light leaving the projector. You'll also find other useful settings, such as the dynamic iris (which is separate from the lens iris), vertical scaling modes for use with an anamorphic lens, IP system control options, 12-volt trigger options, smooth motion frame interpolation options, as well as manual color gamut and dynamic range selection options. Additionally, there are several preset picture modes available, each meant to alter the image to benefit different setup scenarios, whether it be dedicated dark room viewing of SDR and HDR content or if the projector is setup in a room with ambient light. I chose Natural and Digital Cinema modes for SDR and HDR respectively.
The 5050UB also includes a suite of image enhancing software options meant to complement its 4K PRO-UHD technology. Most of these settings are meant to remove artifacts in the video and help extract more detail out of the native 4K video being sent to the projector. Epson has conveniently given owners five preset modes to commit custom settings to memory. I'd like to offer a word of caution when using software like this: try and go light with these settings, as they often have a deleterious effect on image quality the more you crank them up. That is, the image can take on a hard, overcooked appearance when set too high, so tread lightly.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, Measurements, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...