Editor's Choice: A higher-end projector worthy of the "home cinema" moniker.
The Epson Home Cinema 5050UB is a serious home theater projector for serious home theater enthusiasts. It features a motorized lens with horizontal and vertical lens shift, plus ample zoom. Its 4K enhancement technology offers lots of detail. Its biggest benefit over less expensive 4K projectors, however, is an excellent contrast ratio for deep, dark shadows and bright, popping highlights.
There are only a few disappointments, and they're minor. It doesn't quite have the color or razor-sharp detail of its direct competitor, the LG HU810P. That's not to say the 5050 isn't sharp and colorful. It is, just a bit less so -- although I liked the Epson's overall picture quality a lot more than that of the LG. The 5050UB is also an absolute unit, several times larger than most of the projectors I've reviewed in the last year (including the LG).
In sum, the Home Cinema 5050UB is an excellent all-around projector that looks fantastic with all content. It offers a significant step up in picture quality over less expensive projectors, like the Optoma UHD35, and costs a lot less than something like the Sony VPL-VW325ES. It even gives its more expensive, laser-powered sibling, the LS11000, a run for its money. More on that below. Overall, the Epson 5050 is my go-to choice for anyone with a dedicated home theater who wants a projector worthy of the space.
Editor's note, November 2022: For its excellent picture and value, we're once again giving the 5050 our Editor's Choice award. While the laser-powered LS11000 offers some additional benefits and performance over the 5050, it's also a lot more money.
The 5050UB is a 4K- and HDR-compatible projector. As such, it can accept 4K and HDR signals, though keep in mind that no projector can do HDR very well.
Like all Epson projectors the 5050UB uses an LCD light engine, not the DLP that's found in most other projectors. The ones used on the 5050UB are not technically 4K native resolution. Instead, they're a technology called "4K enhancement" that "shifts each pixel diagonally to double Full HD resolution," according to Epson. This is done very quickly, so it's just a higher-resolution image to the eye. Here's a deeper dive into the technology. The short version: It looked plenty sharp to me, if not quite as razor-like as the DLP-powered LG; see below for details.
One of the 5050's most notable features that sets it apart from less expensive projectors is a motorized lens. This offers ±96.3% vertical and ±47.1% horizontal movement, which should be enough to let the 5050 fit in just about any home. There's also a significant motorized zoom of 2.1x.
Epson claims the 5050UB can produce 2,600 lumens. I actually measured slightly more than that… in the less accurate Dynamic color mode. In the more accurate Bright Cinema mode I measured roughly 192 nits, or about 1,732 lumens. This puts it among the brightest projectors we've ever measured.
Lamp life is on the low side. Even in the Eco mode, Epson rates it at up to 5,000 hours. Some projectors of similar brightness we've reviewed in the last year were capable of upward of 15,000 hours in their most lamp-conserving modes. That said, 5,000 hours is still over three years of use at four hours a night.
Both HDMI inputs are HDMI 2.0 and can accept up to 4K60. As you might expect from its intended use as a projector for a dedicated theater, it lacks an audio out. Epson assumes, rightly in my opinion, that anyone getting a 5050 would have a traditional projector arrangement with either a receiver or at least a soundbar for audio.
Along the same lines, there are lots of control options for home automation systems, including a 12-volt trigger, RS-232 and a LAN port.
The remote is a big boy (just like the projector it controls) and has a pleasant amber backlight. If you have a 2.35:1 screen, as I do, you might reach for this remote for more than just on and off, since you can zoom the projector and fill the screen with 2.35:1 content without getting off the couch. That's always a bonus.
The LG HU810P is the most notable competition for the 5050. They're the same price but the HU810P uses newer technology, namely two lasers and a phosphor instead of the 5050's more traditional lamp. I connected both using a Monoprice 1x4 distribution amplifier, and viewed them side-by-side on a 12-foot-wide 1.0-gain screen.
Right off the bat, both are great projectors, but their strengths and weaknesses are almost polar opposites.
As far as light output goes, they're very similar. In their respective most accurate modes, the LG can do 166.3 nits to the Epson's 192. Objectively, that's a fair bit of difference, but subjectively, side-by-side, they both just look bright. So we'll call that more or less a tie.
Color, though, goes to the LG. The lasers, with help from a phosphor, are absolutely deeper and richer. Throw on some HDR content and the deep crimson reds and vibrant purples are far beyond what the 5050UB can produce. This is sort of like saying a Porsche is slower than a Ferrari, however, since the 5050UB is no slouch in the color department. On its own it looks great, the LG in this regard looks better.
It's a similar story with detail. The LG uses a 4K DLP chip to create an image, and detail is that technology's main strength compared to LCD with pixel shifting, which is what Epson uses. The image just looks a little sharper, especially with motion. However, if you're not watching them side by side, I'm not sure you'd notice. The 5050UB certainly doesn't look soft, it's definitely 4K to my eye.
The next aspect of picture quality is where the tide turns toward the Epson by a lot. In a word, or technically two: contrast ratio. Even without using its iris, the native contrast of the 5050UB's three LCD chips is significantly higher than the LG -- 10 times higher. So the image has significantly more punch and is less washed out. Even if you dial the LG's lasers and iris back as much as possible, it only just matches the Epson's black level while that projector is in its brightest and most color temperature-accurate mode.
Which is to say, the Epson's black levels are roughly the same while at the same time (in the same mode) it is capable of having highlights or bright parts of the same image that are seven times brighter than when the LG's lasers are dialed all the way down and the iris is closed. Flipping that around, if you match their light outputs, the Epson's black levels in the same mode are nine times darker.
What does this look like? An easy example is watching any movie with letterbox bars. If I set the projectors to be roughly the same brightness overall, the letterbox bars on the LG are gray. If I match their letterbox bars by reducing the LG's laser power and closing its iris, it ends up looking dim compared to the Epson.
So when watching any content, the deep blacks of the 5050UB, while maintaining bright highlights, make for an extremely pleasing image.
While reviewing Epson's own LS11000, I compared it to the 5050. The LS11000 is $1,000 more expensive, and uses a laser instead of the 5050's UHP lamp. Since there will be no lamp replacements for the life of the projector, the total ownership cost difference between these two projectors is less than it initially appears.
Sharpness is one of the most noticeable differences between these two. The LS11000's pixel shift quadruples the pixels from its 1080p chips, so it's 1080pX4 compared to the 5050's 1080pX2. So between those two projectors the LS11000 is definitely sharper, which makes sense because it has twice the resolution. Both are less detailed than a 4K DLP, but sharpness is that technology's biggest strength.
Contrast is a different story, and a surprising one. I measured the 5050's contrast ratio at 5,203:1 vs. the LS11000's 1,808:1, which is significantly worse. Even the LS11000's dynamic contrast is lower, where the laser power tracks the brightness of incoming video signal and adjusts accordingly. However, this mode is more useful on the LS11000, since this adjustment happens pretty much instantly, far faster than the mechanical iris on the 5050. So even though the numbers suggest the 5050 blows the LS11000 away, subjectively and side-by-side they're fairly comparable. That's impressive, especially since the 5050 is cheaper and far older.
With SDR the LS11000 looks a little better and has more natural color. With HDR the LS11000 does a better job reproducing a wider color gamut. However, the difference isn't huge in either case.
All told, the LS11000 is a diagonal step from the 5050. Overall it does look better, but not the 25% better implied by its price. However, if you include the "total cost of ownership," which in this case means $330 lamps every 2.5 years or so with the 5050, the price is eventually roughly the same. So with a bit better performance and that laser keeping the ownership costs in check, the LS11000 is worth considering if you're looking at the 5050, despite being, on paper, $1,000 more expensive.
For more, read our in-depth Epson Home Cinema LS11000 4K laser projector review.
The Home Cinema 5050UB is an excellent projector. At $3,000 it's certainly not cheap, but for those looking to buy a PJ for a dedicated home theater or a light-controlled living room that can do its black levels justice, the image quality is definitely a step above less expensive projectors. Is it, say, over twice as good as the $1,300 Optoma UHD35? Perhaps. The Optoma is very good for the price, but that's certainly the caveat: "for the price." It holds its own, but it has a way worse contrast ratio and doesn't handle HDR nearly as well as the Epson.
I think most people would be perfectly content with the UHD35. But for enthusiasts looking for a more "home cinema" experience the… oh wait, I just said the name of the thing in the thing. Let me try that again. For those looking for a more "home theater" experience, the Epson Home Cinema 5050UB does just about everything right and looks fantastic.
|Black luminance (0%)||0.046||Average|
|Peak white luminance (100%)||192.3||Good|
|Avg. grayscale error (10-100%)||7.624||Poor|
|Dark gray error (20%)||6.223||Average|
|Bright gray error (70%)||7.432||Poor|
|Avg. color error||3.636||Average|
|Avg. saturations error||8.34||Poor|
|Avg. color checker error||8.5||Poor|
|Input lag (Game mode)||28.4||Good|
I found the Bright Cinema color mode offered the best combination of light output and accuracy. In the six-color temperature mode, the 5050UB was pretty spot on D65 across the grayscale range. In addition, all primary and secondary colors were spot on their Rec. 709 targets. This is one of the most accurate projectors we've reviewed in the last year.
The native contrast ratio was excellent for a projector, with an average of 5,203:1 across various modes. For comparison, the second best contrast ratio we've measured recently was the BenQ HT2050A with a native contrast ratio of 2,094:1.
With the lamp mode (called Power Consumption) set to High and the iris off, the 5050UB puts out an impressive 192.3 nits, or roughly 1,732 lumens. The Eco mode drops the light output by about 30%. If you turn on the iris, which opens with bright images and closes with dark images, the dynamic contrast ratio rockets up beyond 100,000:1.
While the Bright Cinema mode looked better overall, the Cinema mode offered wider colors for HDR content. However, it was also much dimmer. I didn't find the ~10% greater color gamut for ~60% less light to be a worthy trade-off, but feel free to check it out. The contrast ratio was about 40% better in this mode as well, which was only slightly noticeable.
If you need even more light, the Dynamic color mode puts out an impressive 323.6 nits, roughly 2,914 lumens, though the overall image isn't as good or accurate.