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Epson 5040UB Review – 4K HDR Projector

by on November 25, 2016
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Overview

Now that 4K resolution has pretty much become a standard feature of all major televisions and the majority of larger new TVs being released more recently, it’s the turn of the home theater projector market to follow the same path. Until very recently, this market has been utterly dominated by Sony’s excellent native 4K HDR and SDR projectors but in exchange for the real 4K resolution and high dynamic range, even the cheapest of the Sony models also sell for some very steep retail prices.

This is where “competing” models like Epson’s 6040UB and 5040UB come into the picture, along with several rivals from the brand JVC. They all offer a type of simulated pseudo 4K pixel count via pixel-shift technology over their native 1080p display sensors and while this may not be quite as good as true 4K resolution, it will be good enough for many users’ eyes. Other premium features like full HDR 4K content viewing support and the ability to display content with full high dynamic range color and contrast/brightness make up for a slight loss of resolution in these competing projectors. So do their much more reasonable prices.

The Epson 5040UB is one of the latest examples of such a budget-friendly premium technology and it delivers on display specs, performance and high dynamic range in a way that many consumers will definitely appreciate in their homes. Furthermore, like its nearly identical twin the 6040UB, the 5040UB is priced superbly, with an even more affordable MSRP that doesn’t go above $3000. In other words, this model, while lacking a certain quantity of pixels for true 4K in its projection chip does offer many other technologies found in top-shelf Sony 4K models but at a reduced cost, and it feels robust to boot. Now let’s take a look at what the 5040UB from Epson hs to offer.

The Good

There are many excellent characteristics and specs of the 5040UB to appreciate from a technical and consumer perspective. Quite frankly, for its price, this model really does offer a high degree of quality and its overall performance as a home entertainment machine is indisputably robust, high-end even. Several characteristics of the 5040UB, most of them revolving around its display power and projection controls are the key positive elements of this Epson model.

First of all, as we’d said above, the 5040UB HDR projector takes its native Full HD resolution as offered in its own internal projection chip and upscales it to double that through what Epson calls pixel-shift technology. As the name implies, this process involves rapidly interposing a second series of pixel colors after one has been displayed in between frames. As a result, footage displayed will show twice the total pixels of Full HD and thus create what Epson calls a “simulated 4K resolution”. In reality however this technology delivers only a simulated 2K resolution over a native 1080p resolution and never even approaches 4K even in an upscaled sense. Thus you ask why we’re describing this in our “Good” section? Well because Epson still pulls off a great level of picture quality that we can appreciate for all the sharpness it produces. 4K has never been a resolution that’s all that easy to obviously distinguish on even very large displays at normal viewing distances so the lack of the real thing here is never notable enough to really be damaging to a user’s viewing experience, and the 5040UB’s ability to fully read and render 4K video sources with their original HDR mastering goes a long way towards creating a superb viewing experience despite the lack of 4K resolution in its true form.

Additionally, because the 5040UB can indeed read and display native 4K UHD video feeds at their full speed of 60 frames per second, it won’t have a problem delivering all the 4K Blu-ray and other native UHD content sources you can throw at it, regardless of its inability to display full 4K resolution. Instead, it slightly downscales these content sources to fit its own upscale 2K projection but with the full benefit of HDR color and other display specs (at least for video with HDR mastering).

This brings us to our next major piece of praise for the 5040UB: it offers full HDR10 support for all content mastered by these standards. As a result, if you happen to run 4K ultra HD HDR Blu-ray discs through the 5040UB via a 4K Blu-ray player and both devices HDMI 2.0 connections, the full glory of the high dynamic range formatted into the BD disc will be displayed on your projection surface with exceptionally good wide color gamut, 10-bit color support and the full range of contrast that the 5040UB is capable of for delivering all the rich shadow and light details of high dynamic range video in your favorite HDR-mastered movies. The overall result of all this is a viewing experience which is definitely above and beyond what you’d find with any conventional native 1080p home theater projector and oddly, in many ways, the 5040UB deliver superior projection quality to some native 4K projectors that lack the crucial specs of HDR display –as we’d said above, HDR capability is far more important to high video quality than the extra pixels of native 4K resolution.

In testing the 5040UB with a couple of different pieces of documentary and stock HDR and native 4K content on the 5040UB, we were able to appreciate just how well this projector offers up vibrant colors, great overall brightness and fairly deep blacks and shadows, even when the room is moderately lit up with ambient light. In fact, viewing of 4K Blu-ray movies produces a visual effect that we’d consider superior to the way that movie was originally shown in a conventional commercial theater in all respects except sheer projection size. With these sorts of performance metrics on the table with the very reasonably priced 5040UB, the absence of real 4K projection resolution becomes a lot more forgivable.

Moving along to things besides this model’s display specs, we loved the connectivity, projection control and remote control characteristics of the 5040UB. Starting with the remote control, it’s very user-friendly and has certainly been built by Epson to make using it as comfortable as possible. The buttons on the remote are nicely spaced, large and also backlit for easy dark-room use. Furthermore, the remote controls all of the 5040UB’s lens controls, color modes, image enhancement controls, menu options and the user interface itself easily and intuitively with specific buttons for many of these functions and their sub-functions on the control surface. Epson has also given its 5040UB remote control a “Memory” button which lets you quickly and easily access the projector’s “Memory” interface controls for access to and manipulation of 10 different custom picture and lens adjustments for different types of content and projector installation variations. These controls allow for different pre-programmed aspect ratios as well, with both 16:9 and widescreen included.

Finally, regarding the connectivity options of the 5040UB. They’re as cutting edge for 4K content viewing as needed in today’s digital content landscape. This model comes with the ability to read and view all major sources of 4K content without problems due to its full support for HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 4K content copy protection, HEVC video compression formatting and support for HDR10 high dynamic range standards as found in today’s streaming and 4K UHD Blu-ray disc movies and programming.

Check the Price of the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB 3LCD Home Theater Projector with 4K Enhancement, HDR and Wide Color Gamut on Amazon:

4.2 - 21 Reviews

The bad

The Epson 5040UB’s single most obvious and fundamental defect is the basic lack of real or even simulated 4K resolution it brings to the living room. Yes, as we said quite clearly above, this model offers a superb level of display performance considering that it comes with pixel-shift upscaling technology but if you’re stickler for the real thing and truly fine levels of native sharpness in all your ultra HD home entertainment, you might find yourself slightly disappointed in the 5040UB. Noting a difference between this projector’s resolution quality and that of a real 4K model from Sony would mean getting closer to the screen and paying some careful attention to what you’re viewing but the difference is indeed there. Then there’s the whole issue of Epson’s slight dishonesty in even using the word “4K” in an description of the 5040UB or its near twin the 6040UB. Again, even with their pixel-shift activated (it can also be turned off), these projectors are not delivering even close to a simulation of real 4K. They top out at an upscaled 2K worth of projection sensor pixels and this does create some difference in the quality of what you’re watching.

Moving along, the 5040UB offers superb rich HDR performance on the 4K content it can display but we were definitely more impressed with the HDR performance of Sony’s much pricier models like the VPL-VW675ES or VW665ES, which both deliver brightness and contrast ratios that we consider better than those of the 5040UB, though both projector types perform similarly on color quality for high dynamic range color in particular.

Finally, the 5040UB lacks one main set of features in comparison to its 6040UB brother. This may or may not be an issue for many users but we consider it worth mentioning if you want a truly professional projector installation. Specifically, unlike the custom-installable 6040UB, the 5040 model doesn’t come with dealer-installed extras like he a ceiling mount and a spare lamp, cable cover, and an extra warranty year for defects and a replacement program to top things off. This why the otherwise nearly identical 6040UB model sells for $3999, $1000 more than the 5040UB. Also, the 6040 version comes in what we consider to be a more attractive black color that’s less obtrusive mounted in a dark room.

Final Thoughts

Unless you’re dead set on making sure that your home theater projector coms with full true 4K UHD or DCI (cinematic 4096 x 2160 pixel) 4K resolution, the 5040UB makes for one superb piece of premium home theater projection technology. We like its visuals, we love the performance of its high dynamic range and we like the overall build of this generally great and decently priced machine.

Specs

• Weight: 24.3 pounds
• Projection Size: 50” to 300” inches
• Resolution (native): Full HD upscaled to 2K via pixel-shift technology, accepts 4K video sources
• Maximum native contrast Ratio: 33,510:1
• 3D: Yes
• Brightness: 350cd/m2
• Throw Ratio: 1.36-2.84:1
• Video Compatibility: NTSC, PAL, SECAM, SDTV (480i), EDTV (480p)
• Lamp Life: 5000hrs Eco, 4000hrs Medium, 3500hrs High
• Lamp output: 2500 lumens
• Lamp Power: 250w
• Resolution: 4096x2160 pixels UHD
• Connectivity Ports: HDMI2.0 w/HDCP 2.2 (1), HDMI 1.4 (1); VGA D-sub 15-pin (1)
• Other: LAN (1), USB (2, service only), Mini-USB (1, service only), RS-232C (1), Trigger out (1)
• Power Zoom/Focus: Yes
• Zoom lens ratio: 2.06:1
• Dimensions: 19.51 x 7.69 x 18.25 in
• 3D capability: Yes

Highlights

High Dynamic Range:

While the Epson 5040UB may not be a true 4K UHD projector, it still delivers on superb video display performance and it pulls this off primarily because it can handle native 4K video sources with either HDR or SDR mastering formatted into them and most of all because the projector itself supports native HDR10 standards for digital video. This makes a world of difference in the quality of movies and other programming you view with this machine. Unlike 4K resolution itself, High Dynamic Range is absolutely noticeable at any distance and with any screen size. It quite simply makes a world of difference in the quality of a movie even if native 4K resolution itself is absent in the content being displayed. With the 5040UB, this HDR inclusion creates a movie watching experience which is just superb despite the projector’s upscaled 2K resolution.

3D Support and 4K Blu-ray support:

The 5040UB offers active 3D support and not only does this but it also does it quite well due to the presence of one fundamental characteristic which delivers quality 3D video performance: it delivers high levels of brightness, to offset the dimness that a lot of home 3D suffers from. With the 5040UB movies viewed in 3D get a solid 12FL of light support in the projector’s 3D cinema mode and this is very close to the formal SMPTE spec of 16Fl for quality 2D projected video. Movies start being decently watchable in 3D at a level of 5fL, so the output of the 5040UB is more than enough.

In addition to this, there is the already-mentioned 4K Blu-ray video support with HDR10 compatibility as a great bonus. Thus even if the 5040UB doesn’t deliver native 4K, you can get the best visual characteristics from the 4K Blu-rays you watch on this machine. 4K is secondary in importance to high dynamic range for an enjoyable movie watching experience.

Motorized lens with position memories:

Naturally enough, the 5040UB’s lens is motorized, as is the case with the majority of premium home theater projectors on sale today. In another premium touch the lens also offers connection to a Memory menu in which 10 different custom picture and lens adjustment settings can be saved up for quick access. This Memory capacity also includes the ability to create presets for aspect ratio and the combination of memorized presets is extremely useful for users who might want different settings for different levels of ambient brightness, different locations or different types of content.

Very high contrast and luminance:

Finally among the main highlights of the 5040UB, we have its superbly powerful luminance and contrast settings. In a deeply dark room this projector can deliver a black level that’s as good as those found in many premium HDR LCD 4K TVs and as a complement to this, the projector’s peak luminance sits at a very bright 2500 lumens and in practical terms can generate peak white levels high enough to reach contrast ratios of over 33,000:1 under the right conditions and iris settings. More normally though in Cinema mode for most movie watching, the 5040UB manages a still very good native contrast ratio of 4600:1

Other notable highlights:

• High-speed 60 fps UHD-ready HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2
• One HDMI port supports MHL for streaming media boxes and portable devices
• New Cinema filter to handle the expanded dynamic range
• 3D, CFI for smooth motion, Epson’s Super-Resolution
• New Optical Engine for improved uniformity
• Excellent range of lens shift: +/- 96% vertical and 47% horizontal
• 10 User savable picture memories (two extra on the 6040UB for ISF calibrators)
• 5040UB has white finish, 6040UB comes in black
• Warranty for 2 years parts and labor, and 2 years for parts replacement program

Visual Specs

Yes, despite its mere upscaling to pseudo 2K resolution and a shaky claim of being a “4K-capable” projector in any display sense, the 5040UB does in fact offer some downright excellent display specs. As we said above, below a certain huge display size, 4K resolution is without a doubt secondary to more fundamental metrics of color, contrast, brightness and motion handling quality. In these regards, the 5040UB delivers the goods quite soundly and for this reason we respect it a lot more than we normally would a 2K projector that sort of claims to be a 4K model. With that said, here are some fundamental details.

Regarding its color performance and especially for high dynamic range color specs, the 5040UB follows Rec.2020 standards for color space and inside of its Rec.2020 standards it also obviously enough covers DCI-P3 HDR wide color gamut coverage. In terms of the actual coverage specs for all these color spaces, the 5040UB is a true HDR performer, with nearly 80% Rec.2020 coverage which nicely exceeds that delivered by the vast majority of 4K UHD TVs sold in 2016. And because the projector’s Rec.2020 coverage is this large, it also covers more than 100% of the DCI-P3 color space. The projector also completely covers the full AdobeRGB color space which is found in between Rec.2020 and DCI-P3 color spaces. The average gamma delivered by the 5040UB is also quite good, sitting at between 2.5 and 1.8 depending on how the projector is calibrated.

The black performance, luminance and contrast of the 5040UB are also nothing short of excellent but also highly variable depending on the projector’s iris, lens and projection mode settings. While the maximum luminance of the 5040UB’s lens is measured at 2500 lumens, another important measurement unit for brightness in this and other projectors is called the footLambert (fL), which is somewhat comparable to the standard TV display brightness unit known as the nit or cd/m2. In terms of these, any projector which can reach above 50 is considered to be exceptionally bright and the 5040UB delivers this with plenty to spare. In the projector’s Natural mode with the bulb set to its medium level, peak fL manages to reach as high as 81 and with a black level of 0.017fL. This amounts to a “Natural” contrast ratio of 5390.1. However, the projector is capable of going either higher or lower on contrast, with a more economical bulb setting of “Eco”, the 5040UB still delivers 77.65 fL of brightness and 0.14fL of black level, with a resulting contrast ratio of 5483.1. On the other hand, going over to 3D projection, the 5040UB is also capable of a very decent contrast ratio of 4590:1 and still manages 13fL of peak brightness and o.0029Fl of black level.

We’d also like to make mention of this model’s very good motion handling specs. The 5040UB natively handles 4K ultra HD video sources at a smooth 60 frames per second and the effect on movies and games played on this device is one of low motion blur, smooth motion nf very little in the way of artifacts or judder. Epson has also added in their so-called CFI, or Creative Frame Interpolation technology for motion interpolation that results in crisper, sharper image handling during faster content playback. This feature leaves a bit to be desired for normal movies and TV programming due to the common “soap opera effect” it creates to some degree but it’s useful for live sportscasts and video games as well.

However, we should note that CFI doesn’t work when pixel-shift is activated, so if you’re going to use it, you’ll be stuck watching whatever content it’s applied to in native 1080p resolution without the benefit of pixel interpolation for 2K resolution. This is another point against CFI when it comes to enjoying movies and especially native 4K Blu-ray films on the 5040UB. Additionally, this particular Epson model is a decent device for console gaming due to its relatively decent input lag of 30.8 milliseconds. We’ve seen better in many 4K TVs and in Sony’s projectors and 30ms is a bit slow for competitive online gaming but it’s good enough for most casual gamers who aren’t fixed on rapid-fire responsiveness during gameplay.

Check the Price of the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB 3LCD Home Theater Projector with 4K Enhancement, HDR and Wide Color Gamut on Amazon:

4.2 - 21 Reviews

Connectivity

The Epson 5040UB’s connectivity package is fully modern and about as good as what you’ll find in today’s newer 4K UHD TVs. It’s not only capable of completely handling delivery and display of most native 4K ultra HD video sources and their high dynamic range mastering wherever it applies, it’s also versatile for a range of other content sources and media devices like Blu-ray players, DVD drivers, set-top boxes and streaming sticks. The 5040UB can also handle external hard drives and even mobile devices for the sake of viewing their content on a giant screen. Thus, the projector fully supports high speed HDMI, USB, MHL and also comes with requisites of a modern 4K-compatible device like HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2, and H.265 4K video compression handling. Epson has also included a VGA port, a LAN port, RS-232C control ports and an MHL port for those aforementioned external streaming box/stick devices, mobile devices and so on.

Here is a breakdown of the 5040UB’s connectivity ports:

• HDMI® x 1 (HDCP 2.2)
• HDMI x 1 (HDCP 1.4)
• USB x 2 (service only)
• Mini USB x 1 (service only)
• LAN x 1 (RJ45)
• Computer/D-sub 15 pin x 1
• RS-232c x 1
• Terminal Outputs:
• Trigger out 12 V DC, 200 mA maximum
• Computer Compatibility:
PC, Mac®

Pricing

Epson’s 5040UB pixel-shift “4K” projector is retailing for an MSRP of $2999. This is a reasonable price even by premium large 4K TV standards and downright cheap when you compare this price to that of even Sony’s most affordable projector models like the VPL-VW350ES, which offers true native 4K resolution but lack the HDR capabilities of the Epson 5040UB. Currently its selling for $2,799 on Amazon.

Check the Price of the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB 3LCD Home Theater Projector with 4K Enhancement, HDR and Wide Color Gamut on Amazon:

4.2 - 21 Reviews

Positives

• Excellent color performance
• Full HDR support
• Good brightness
• Versatile lens controls
• Easy to use
• Video looks wonderfully crisp, sharp

Negatives

• No true 4K resolution or even upscaled 4K
• No pro installation features of 6040UB twin
• HDR could be a bit better
• Motion handling doesn’t work with resolution upscaling

Editor Rating
 
Features
A-

 
Quality
A

 
User Friendliness
A

 
Connectivity
A+

 
Price
A-

Total Score
A-

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User Rating
 
Features
B

 
Quality
B-

 
User Friendliness
C+

 
Connectivity
B

 
Price
B

User Score
19 ratings
B-

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Bottom Line
 

The 5040UB may not be anything close to a true native 4K UHD projector but this really doesn’t matter too much in practical viewing terms, and especially where this device’s HDR capacities enter the picture, quite literally. In other words, what you see still looks stunningly good, crisper than normal native Full HD even on a large display space and all of this comes at one deeply attractive price. Thus, we like the Epson 5040UB and highly recommend it to buyers who aren’t picky about native 4K or want to save some money on a solid premium home theater projector.

Check the Price of the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB 3LCD Home Theater Projector with 4K Enhancement, HDR and Wide Color Gamut on Amazon:

4.2 - 21 Reviews

 
5 comments
 
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  • Mike
    December 1, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Did you perform any tests with an Xbox One S through the wired 5040UB? Were you able to receive a full HDR signal both through discs and streaming services?

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      December 2, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      Hey there Mike. Yes we were able to receive a full HDR signal via streaming media from the Xbox One S and from its Blu-ray component. However, we didn’t test the console for gaming in HDR with the 5040UB.

      Reply

  • Axell
    December 6, 2016 at 2:53 am

    Hi Stephen, great review! There are any chances to test the PJ with one of the Nvidia GeForce GTX cards for HTPC purposes?
    I am interested in GFX card upscaling to 4k and send the signal to PJ.
    Thanks, Axell

    Reply

  • Adam
    March 15, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Would you recommend a grey or white screen with this projector?

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      March 15, 2017 at 11:58 am

      Hey Adam, as a general rule, white screens offer better performance. They allow for the bright spots in projected content to appear more cleanly white and this enhances the perception of high contrast.

      Reply

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