Overview

First impressions count, and in the case of the Epson 5020 they're dead-on. This projector's design initially struck me with its kidney-grille facial resemblance to a certain luxury car, and it performs like one.

The image quality of the 5020 is characterized by excellent color, prodigious light output, and very good black levels. You can pay thousands more than the $2,500 or so the 5020 will set you back, but you will only be able to get incremental improvements in the most important area: black levels.

When compared to the cheaper Epson 3020 and BenQ W1070, the 5020 represents a big jump in picture quality. But from the 5020 to the next tier, occupied by the likes of the significantly more expensive Sony VPL-HW50ES and JVC DLA-X35S, there isn't as large a leap. It's also better than any of them in a room with some ambient light, making it the most versatile projector we've tested. Bang for buck, the Epson represents the best balance we've reviewed yet between price and image quality.

Epson ups the value proposition further by including a number of useful extras, namely two pairs of 3D glasses, and in the case of the 5020UBe, a wireless HDMI hub. But while WirelessHD is fun, it's not a significant upgrade. Spend the $300 saved on something nice instead.

If you're looking for a versatile projector at a great price and don't demand the ultimate in dark-room picture quality, the Epson 5020UB is our go-to recommendation.

Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET

Controls

The controls and power button are on the side of the unit, which makes it easier to control if mounted on the ceiling. Ladder sold separately.
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Adjustable feet

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Exhaust fins

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The "top"

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Zoom and manual lens shift controls

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Inputs

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Integrated lens cap

The 5020 includes a motorized lens cover that retracts when the unit powers up.
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CMS

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Memory presets

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Optional WirelessHD unit

The HDMI hub ships with the 5020UBe and enables wireless 1080p transmission.
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3D glasses

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Remote control

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Picture quality

The Epson 5020 offers a dark-room picture nearly as good as both the JVC DLA-X35 and the Sony VPL-HW50, for significantly less money. The only major advantage exhibited by those two is a slightly lighter overall black level.

While I was a little underwhelmed by the Epson 3020 for the price -- its colors were good enough but its black levels were fairly ordinary -- there are no such troubles with the 5020. Yes, you are paying an extra $1,000, but the results are tangible. Colors are excellent -- very close to our reference JVC X35 -- and black levels are much improved on the cheaper Epson but with a better degree of pop than the JVC. Yes, the JVC has better black level and overall contrast, but there isn't the same jump in dark-room picture quality that there is between the two Epsons. Turn on the lights, meanwhile, and the light output potential of the 5020 outdoes any of the others.

Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET

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