Epson 6040UB Review – 4K Capable Projector
In an era of 4K TV standardization to the point where the majority of all new TVs with larger displays being sold are now 4K ultra HD models, the 4K projector market has failed to follow the same trend as vigorously. This is the case even though projector screens would gain the most benefit from all those extra sensor/display pixels (8.29 million of them in total, compared to the 2 million of Full HD) due to their much larger display sizes.
With the above in mind, we have the current consumer projector market, in which virtually all of the consumer models being sold today with full 4K display come from Sony. Other major brands like JVC and Epson have so far with virtually no exception been unwilling or unable to enter the level of true native 4K projection with their “ultra HD projectors. Instead, all consumer models aside from those of Sony are made to deliver a sort of upscaled 4K resolution which delivers less overall sharpness than the real thing.
This is the case with the Epson 6040UB. While this projector model does offer true HDR and pretty much all of the cutting edge connectivity specs that you’ll find in a real native Sony 4K projector, the 6040UB delivers pseudo-4K resolution through what the company calls pixel-shift technology, a mechanism by which UHD resolution is simulated on the output from a native Full HD imaging chipset through rapid movement of colors in pixels between projection frames. Now while pixel-shifting may not be native 4K, this isn’t to say that the perceived display quality offered by the 6040UB is in any major way defective or inferior.
Quite the contrary in fact, since displayed content still looks superbly sharp and the model’s HDR specs are very real indeed. Another benefit of substituting native 4K for pixel-shifted faux-4K is a much more reasonable price for what is arguably a nearly identical perceived level of image sharpness. This is the case with the 6040UB and it’s one major reason to take a good hard look at this projector, especially if you’re a consumer who wants the HDR 4K experience in projection technology but is unwilling to spend $10,000 on the real thing from one of Sony's premium native 4K projectors.
Now let’s take a closer look at the Epson 6040UB to see if it can deliver high end performance for its relatively decent price.
The good parts of the Epson 6040UB are many and well designed, and they definitely make this projector worth considering as a serious home projection theater model even among fans of ultra HD resolution with a minimum of compromises. Let’s start with the single most important “good” feature of the 6040UB, its resolution technology.
As we said, the 6040UB takes either native 1080p Full HD video signals and upscales them to simulated 4K resolution through its pixel-shift technology or it takes native 4K signals from sources like ultra HD Blu-ray players (with which it’s fully compatible) and slightly compresses them so that they fit into the pixel-shifting mechanism for generating projected visuals from the 6040UB’s display chips. In either case, the quality of the generated image is genuinely superb. Yes, it’s not true 4K of the kind you’ll see with Sony’s projectors like the VW350ES but as far as your normal human eye is concerned at normal viewing distances, the difference is very small, possibly not even notable indeed. When you watch native 4K Blu-ray movies on the 6040UB the visual quality of what you’re seeing will look great as long as you’re not closely comparing this projectors display output to that of a true 4K model side by side. For the far lower price tag of the 6040UB, this is more than good enough and in any case, this Epson model produces a far better picture quality than any conventional HD projector from Epson or other brands.
Moving along, what further dramatically helps out the 6040UB in delivering superb, premium looking picture quality is without a doubt the inclusion of HDR in this model. This is one of Epson’s first projectors to come with HDR10 standards support for both color and contrast and the result during movies with high dynamic range formatting is deeply impressive, cinematically so. For example, watching the 4K HDR Blu-ray version of “The Martian” with the 6040UB looked downright impressive, with the rusty red landscapes of Mars itself looking stunningly rich and the dark depths of space presented in deep black with bright pinpoints of light for stars and other objects. In fact, high contrast scenes from any HDR movie shown on the 6040UB actually give a feeling of being better than what you’d expect to see in a movie theater and this is definitely something to enjoy about this HDR Epson projector. The blacks are not only deep but also highly uniform and the highlights seem to positively glow from the projection surface in a way that’s reminiscent of what you’d get from a full HDR TV instead of a projector working from a lens. This is something which makes the pseudo-4K resolution of the 6040UB much more forgivable and a lot harder to notice as a very minor defect about this model.
We should also note that the overall color and contrast performance of the 6040UB are both downright superb. Color in this projector is particularly well represented and the HDR color specs of the device surpass those of many 4K TVs. For example, the 6040UB can deliver full DCI-P3 color space coverage and thus also offers a superior level of Rec.2020 color space coverage to almost any 4K HDR TV we’ve yet reviewed. Its black levels and peak luminance are both also excellent and the native real contrast ratio of this model is simply superb, easily matching the better 4K TV contrast ratios we’ve seen for many of the 2016 HDR televisions from several major brands. We’ll go into more detail on these specs further down in our Visual Specs section.
Next, we loved the remote control of the 6040UB. It’s very user-friendly and has definitely been designed to make using the projector particularly easy for home theater manipulation. The buttons are well-spaced, large and highly functional for all essential controls and they also happen to be backlit for easy use in darkened room. Furthermore, there are specific buttons for easy lens control, access to color modes and image enhancement controls in the menu options of the projector’s user interface. Additionally, Epson has given the remote control a memory button which lets users quickly and conveniently present the Memory menu on the projection display for access to as many as 10 different custom picture and lens adjustment modes for different types of content or different viewing arrangements. These include different aspect ratios like the standard 16:9 and widescreen.
Finally, the 6040UB from Epson is one connectivity and compatibility-rich projector that has been fully designed in these respects for the latest and best in native 4K content and other video sources despite its lack of actual native projected 4K resolution. Thus, the 6040UB delivers full HDMI 2.0a connectivity, full HDR10 high dynamic range support (as already mentioned) and it also obviously enough comes with HDCP 2.2 and HEVC 4K video compression specs for maximum possible playback of 4K UHD content from a wide range of sources.
The most basic and obvious defect of the Epson 6040UB is pretty much its only major issue, since this is quite definitely one generally excellent machine. The problem with the 6040UB is of course the simple fact that it doesn’t deliver native or even genuinely simulated 4K resolution. Not only that but the simulated 4K it delivers through its pixel-shift technology isn’t even a simulated 4K but more of a sort of 2K resolution. Pixel-shift essentially works by using a 2 million pixel Full HD 1080p sensor and then flashing it twice per frame but with the pixels shifting in each individual flash to create twice the detail of a single 2 megapixel flash. In other words, even with their simulation of 4K resolution, projectors like the 6040UB are only taking conventional Full HD and expanding it to just 4 million pixels, or what is technically 2K resolution.
When you’re sitting some 6 to 10 feet from the projected video of the device and watching an HDR movie in particular, you won’t easily notice that you’re not actually watching a native 4K image but up close or in comparison with a true native 4K projection, the difference is notable in the lower quality of the 6040UB’s image. Then there’s the simple fact that even the “simulated 4K” delivered by this model isn’t actually pseudo-4K. It’s 2K instead. The projector never even simulates 4K resolution at all. This isn’t a deal breaker considering the more affordable price of the 6040UB but it is something to ponder if you want the true 4K projection experience for your home theater.
With all of the above in mind, the 6040UB does have a partial claim as a 4K projector in the sense that it accepts native 4K content from sources like 4K Blu-ray discs. The content is essential downscaled to fit the projector’s display resolution technology but it works well enough.
If you’re dead set on genuine 4K UHD or DCI 4K home theater projection power, the 6040UB from Epson is definitely not the projector you should go for but if the pixel-shifted 2K resolution with support for downscaled 4K video sources is good enough for your needs (and honestly, this model delivers some truly great picture quality), then the 6040UB is one excellent choice that goes for a very decent price.
• 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
High Dynamic Range:
While the Epson 6040UB 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 6040UB, 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 6040UB 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 6040UB 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 6040UB 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 6040UB 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 6040UB’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 6040UB, 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 6040UB manages a still very good native contrast ratio of 4600:1
The visual specs of the Epson 6040UB are nothing short of superb almost across the board. This pixel-shift “4K” projector doesn’t offer either native 4K resolution or even its simulated version (since it actually creates a simulated 2K pixel count as we explained further above) but its other specs more than compensate for the lack of native 4K processing technology. Here are the details on color, contrast and black level performance metrics.
In terms of color, this projector 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 6040UB 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 6040UB is also quite good, sitting at between 2.4 and 1.9 depending on how the projector is calibrated.
The black performance, luminance and contrast of the 6040UB 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 6040UB’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 6040UB 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 82 and with a black level of 0.015fL. This amounts to a “Natural” contrast ratio of 5387.1. However, the projector is capable of going either higher or lower on contrast, with a more economical bulb setting of “Eco”, the 6040UB still delivers 76.65 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 6040UB is also capable of a very decent contrast ratio of 4600:1 and still manages 13fL of peak brightness and o.0028Fl of black level.
The connectivity package of the Epson 6040UB is robust and fully equipped for handling a range of content and 4K video sources. All of the connectivity ports offered by this projector are found long a recessed panel on its backside and consist of 2 HDMI ports (one of which is a HDMI 2.0a-capable port with HDCP 2.2 compatibility, HDR10 support and HEVC 4K video compression decoding). Next to these there is a VGA input, LAN port and RS-232C control ports, as well as a 12 volt trigger output. Other connectivity ports include a USB (2, service only) port and a Mini-USB (1, service only) port.
Epson’s 6040UB pixel-shift “4K” projector is retailing for an MSRP of $3999. This is a steep price by 4K TV standards but when compared to the retail tags of even the cheapest Sony 4K home theater projectors, it’s downright cheap, coming out at half the cost of Sony’s most affordable models like the VPL-VW350ES, which offers true native 4K resolution and also comes with HDR support for HDR10 standards.
• Superb color performance
• Excellent HDR support
• Powerful lamp
• Great lens controls
• Easy to use
• Video looks stunning and sharp
• No true 4K resolution and doesn’t even support upscaled 4K