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Epson Home Cinema 4000 review: No 4K, no problem

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Epson is the biggest projector-maker around, and the plus-size Home Cinema 4000 is one of its most impressive home theater projectors for the money. Yes, lacks the 4K resolution of newer competitors in the same price range like the Optoma UHD60 and the BenQ HT2550, but it still outperforms them in many ways, particularly with HDR content.

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7.7

Epson Home Cinema 4000

The Good

The Epson HC4000 has excellent overall image quality, with very good contrast and black levels for the price, as well as accurate color. Its HDR picture and video processing are better than the competition's, and its deep feature set includes a power lens.

The Bad

The 4K enhancement feature doesn't do much, and with 4K sources its image is slightly softer than competing 4K projectors -- which cost a bit less. Contrast isn't as strong as the Optoma UHD60.

The Bottom Line

Despite lacking 4K resolution the Epson HC4000 delivers a very impressive image for the price.

After comparing the three, however, I like the Optoma a bit better, as long as you don't feed it high dynamic range TV shows, movies and games. It has superior punch and contrast to the Epson with all kinds of content, and some people (with good eyesight who sit close enough and pay attention to certainly highly detailed scenes) will appreciate its slightly sharper image with 4K material. The icing on the cake is that it costs $200 less than the Epson.

The HC4000 is no slouch, however, and if you want a solid performer with HDR, as well as perks like a power lens and superior response time for gaming, it's an excellent choice.

Epson HC4000 projector might lack 4K, but it's still formidable

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Basic specs

  • Native resolution: 1080p
  • Discrete pixels on chip: 1,920x1,080
  • HDR-compatible: Yes
  • Lumens spec: 2,200
  • Zoom: Power (2.1x)
  • Lens shift: Vertical and horizontal
  • 3D-compatible: Yes
  • Lamp life (Normal mode): 4,000 hours

While the HC4000 can accept 4K and HDR sources, the native resolution -- the highest it can actually display on-screen -- is "2K," aka 1080p. That sets it apart from the similarly-priced 4K projectors from Optoma and Benq. Yes, Epson markets a "4K enhancement" function said to improve image quality of non-4K sources, but it doesn't provide a noticeable boost to my eye. 

One minor strength over the DLP-based BenQ and Optoma is lack of the rainbow effect, an artifact where brief flashes of color can appear. It happens rarely in my experience, unless you induce it by moving your eyes around, but some viewers are more susceptible than others. As a three-chip LCD-based projector the Epson doesn't have rainbows.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Although it has the same lumens specification as the BenQ projectors, the Epson can get brighter. It's not as bright as the 3,000-lumen Optoma UHD60, but in our tests it comes pretty close, especially if you compare accurate picture modes.

My favorite feature on the Epson, and something rare at this price range, is the power lens. The ability to zoom, focus and perform both horizontal and vertical lens shift using keys on the remote, as opposed to manual dials on the projector itself, makes setup a breeze compared to the other projectors. I also appreciated the Epson's long zoom, and the fact that you can save two different lens memories for different positions.

To use the 3D feature on the HC4000 you'll need to buy compatible active 3D glasses, and they're not cheap. Epson's own (model ELPGS03) cost $100 each, and third-party versions on Amazon are about $50 each. Glasses compatible with 3D-capable DLP projectors, on the other hand, cost around $25 each.

Lamp life is decent, and as usual you can adjust the settings to dim the image and extend the number of hours up to 5,000 in Eco mode. That maximum is only about a third of the hours BenQ and Optoma claim in their dimmest modes, however.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity and convenience

  • HDMI inputs: 2
  • PC input: Analog RGB
  • USB port: 1
  • Audio input and output: No
  • Digital audio output: No
  • LAN port: Yes
  • 12v trigger: Yes
  • RS-232 remote port: Yes
  • MHL: No
  • Remote: Backlit

Of the two HDMI jacks only one, HDMI 1, is fully 4K/60Hz compatible, with both HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 support. HDMI 2 supports version 1.4 of both specs. I would have liked to see support for MHL but that's not a huge knock.

Yes it's rather large and intimidating, but at least Epson's remote has lots of direct-access keys and full backlighting. I especially like the Blank key, which you can use to black out the image temporarily without turning the projector completely off. The projector's suite of picture adjustments is top-notch too.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture quality comparisons

The Epson Home Cinema 4000 can deliver an excellent big-screen image overall, but not quite as impressive as the Optoma. I preferred it by a nose to the BenQ HT2550, despite that projector's superior native resolution.

The HC4000 can get brighter than the BenQ projectors, making it a better fit for larger screens and/or rooms with some ambient light, but can't quite match the Optoma. In its brightest picture mode, "Dynamic," it measured 251 nits, the equivalent of 2,398 lumens when you remove my screen from the equation (thanks to Chris Heinonen for the lumens calculator). That mode is exceedingly green to the point of being unwatchable, however. The Bright Cinema mode has much more accurate color and still got very bright at 175 nits -- nearly as bright as the Optoma's most accurate bright mode.

To get an initial sense of contrast I used one of my favorite dark films, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" on standard 1080p Blu-ray. In each projector's best dark room default settings the Epson and Optoma were neck and neck (and better than both BenQs). The Epson could get a bit darker in some scenes, thanks in particular to its dynamic iris, but highlights -- for example the face of Voldemort as he looks over Hogwarts, were significantly dimmer than on the Optoma, robbing the image of pop in comparison. Meanwhile the BenQ HT2550 looked less punchy in most scenes, with worse black levels.

Next I popped in the "Thor: Ragnarok" 1080p Blu-ray and the results were similar during the dark opening scene with Thor as a captive in the fiery underworld. The Epson and Optoma ran close in black levels, again beating the BenQ, but the Optoma's brighter highlights gave it a more impressive image.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Epson did beat the Optoma in color accuracy, however. Some of the Optoma's highlights took on a greenish tinge while the Epson's remained true. And in Chapter 4, the pale skin of Hela looked appropriately pasty, where the Optoma rendered it too warm. The green of the grass and the red of Thor's cape also appeared a bit less vivid, and more realistic, on the Epson. The difference was subtle, however.

Speaking of subtle, I really didn't see any improvement in program material when I toggled the "4K enhancement" function on and off. That mode is designed to improve 1080p sources, and indeed, it's grayed-out with 4K sources.

Despite that fact that it can handle 4K sources, the HC4000 is a native 1080p projector, and when I fed it 4K test patterns I didn't see any increase in resolution (see the BenQ review for details). That said it's nice that it can handle 4K, especially for streaming where the 4K version has a better chance of looking superior to the 1080p stream. The 4K BenQ and Optoma do provide a slightly sharper image than the Epson in some scenes, but the difference isn't nearly as noticeable as differences in color and contrast. I didn't compare 4K sources in this review, but you can check the others for specifics.

The Epson has a dynamic iris that adjusts to the image on the fly, and in some cases, particularly fades to black, I noticed it dimming and brightening the image. Watching the movies, however, I didn't really notice the changes, and definitely think it's better left on for the significant improvement it affords to black levels.

Video processing was one of the Epson's strengths, with superior motion resolution when I turned on the image interpolation mode, aka the Soap Opera Effect (note that it's unavailable with 4K enhancement turned on).  It also looked better than the Optoma with 1080p/24 sources, delivering natural film motion as long as I kept interpolation off. Input lag was the best of the bunch as well, at just 29ms.

HDR: Better than the competition

Projectors are naturally dimmer than TVs and less capable of localizing contrast, so it's not surprising that they're not as good at high dynamic range. Of the three HDR-capable projectors I tested, however, the Epson is significantly better than the Optoma and the BenQ. Those two were so bad I'd recommend you avoid feeding them any HDR sources; with the Epson the improvement was marginal, but at least the image wasn't worse.

Watching the HDR version of "Thor," the Epson maintained the same very good contrast and color I saw before, while the Optoma and BenQ looked washed-out. When I switched HDR on and off using my Oppo Blu-ray player while watching the Epson, however, it was tough to see any improvement. Yes, certain colors  like the red fiery skin of Surtur looked a bit more saturated on the HDR version, perhaps due to its wider color gamut, but that was about it.

According to measurements the Epson scoring relatively well on its adherence to the target EOTF and its P3 gamut was wider than the other two, although errors in saturation and color checker were still significant.

Annoyingly the Epson doesn't have a dedicated HDR picture mode, nor does it indicate in any way when it's receiving an HDR signal. After testing all of the settings I found that Bright Cinema offered the best combination of brightness and black level, thanks again to that iris control. Buried deep in the Advanced section of the Signal menu is a Dynamic Range setting that's set to Auto by default, but which performed best in HDR Mode 1. If you want peak HDR image quality on the Epson, I suggest using Bright Cinema and HDR Mode 1.

Geek Box

Test ResultScore
Black luminance (0%) 0.011Good
Peak white luminance (100%) 251Good
Derived lumens 2406Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.12Poor
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.265Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.663Good
Bright gray error (70%) 1.118Good
Avg. color error 0.834Good
Red error 1.461Good
Green error 0.619Good
Blue error 1.308Good
Cyan error 0.53Good
Magenta error 0.648Good
Yellow error 0.439Good
Avg. saturations error 1.2Good
Avg. color checker error 1.25Good
Avg. luminance error 2.22Good
Percent gamut (Rec 709) 98Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) PassGood
Motion resolution (max) 300Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 600Average
Input lag (Game mode) 29.6Good



HDR (Bright Cinema, HDR Mode 1)

Black luminance 0.007Good
Peak white luminance (10% win) 175.42Good
Gamut % DCI/P3 (CIE 1976) 84Poor
Avg. saturations error 12.6Poor
Avg. color checker error 7.6Poor

How We Test TVs

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7.7

Epson Home Cinema 4000

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 10Performance 8Value 6