Epson is undoubtedly one of the most prolific projector manufacturers in the category, offering a wide range of home entertainment and home theater projectors at entry- to mid-level price points. The Home Cinema 5020UBe is one of the higher-end models from Epson’s 2012/2013 home theater lineup. It’s a THX-certified 3LCD projector with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, a rated light output (color and white) of 2,400 lumens, and a rated dynamic contrast ratio of 320,000:1. This 3D-capable projector has an integrated 3D transmitter and comes with two pairs of rechargeable RF 3D glasses. The 5020UBe sells for $2,899 through authorized Epson retailers like VisualApex.com. The “UB” stands for UltraBlack, which signifies better black-level performance and higher contrast than you get from lower-priced models like the Home Cinema 3020. The “e” designates that the projector comes with a built-in WirelessHD receiver. The package includes a WirelessHD transmitter that allows you to send HDMI signals wirelessly from your sources to the projector; WirelessHD requires line-of-sight between the projector and the transmitter and has a range of about 32 feet. You can buy the basic Home Cinema 5020UB, without the wireless receiver, for $300 less.
The 5020UBe measures 18.4 by 15.6 by 5.5 inches and weighs 18 pounds. It sports a squarish cabinet design with slightly rounded edges and a combination black/brushed-white finish that distinguishes it from a basic black box. The unit has a center-mounted lens and uses a 230-watt E-TORL lamp with a rated lamp life of 5,000 hours in the lowest lamp mode. On the top panel, you’ll find dials for manual focus and the generous 2.1x zoom, as well as dials for the horizontal and vertical lens shifting. Epson’s higher-end projectors always have generous lens shifting, and the 5020 is no different. The vertical image can be adjusted up to 96 percent of the screen’s height, while the horizontal image can be adjusted up to 47 percent of the screen’s width, which made it a snap to position the image on my 100-inch, 16:9 VAPEX9100SE screen from a distance of about 14 feet away.
The 5020UBe’s back panel includes two HDMI 1.4a inputs, as well as a single component video, composite video, and PC RGB input. A trigger output and RS-232 port are also onboard. The connection panel comes covered by a black snap-on door that hides all of the video inputs; should you choose to use only the WirelessHD input, you’ll have no need to run any video cables to the projector itself and might as well as hide them away. The WirelessHD transmitter is a small black box that sits in your gear rack and measures seven by five by 2.5 inches. It has five HDMI inputs (which gives the 5020UBe a total of seven possible HDMI inputs), plus an HDMI output so that you can send the signal to a second display, which is helpful if you use both a projector and TV in your HT setup. There’s also an optical digital audio output to pass audio to an older AV receiver or preamp that lacks HDMI. In my case, I ran my sources (Dish Network Hopper, OPPO BDP-103, and Kaleidescape Cinema One) directly into a Harman/Kardon AVR 3700 receiver and then fed the output into one of the WirelessHD transmitter’s HDMI inputs to send video back to the projector. Picture-in-picture is available for sources connected to the WirelessHD transmitter, and the projector also supports a general split-screen mode that lets you watch various input combinations simultaneously.
The 5020UBe is loaded with virtually all the picture adjustments you need, beginning with five 2D picture modes (Dynamic, Living Room, Natural, THX, and Cinema) and three 3D picture modes (3D Dynamic, 3D Cinema, and 3D THX). Advanced options include color temperature presets from 5,000 to 10,000 Kelvin, with RGB offset and gain controls and a skintone control, a color management system to adjust the hue, saturation and brightness of all six color points, five gamma presets and a custom mode, basic and advanced sharpness controls, normal and eco lamp modes, and an auto iris with normal and high-speed modes to automatically tailor the image brightness to suit the content being displayed. The 5020UBe has a refresh rate of 240Hz in 2D mode and 480Hz in 3D mode. Three frame-interpolation modes (low, normal, and high) are available to reduce motion blur and film judder. 3D adjustments include the ability to enable 2D-to-3D conversion, alter the 3D image depth and brightness, and set your screen size.
I began my evaluation of the 5020UBe by measuring several of the 2D picture modes (Epson calls them color modes) exactly as they come out of the box. The THX mode is the closest to reference standards out of the box, with the Cinema mode coming in second. Within the THX mode, the largest grayscale Delta Error deviation was just 3.52 at the brighter end of the spectrum, where the image was a bit blue and the gamma was too light. (For further explanation, check out “How We Evaluate and Measure TVs“. The THX mode’s out-of-the-box color points are far more accurate than those of the Cinema mode or any other mode; all six points had a Delta Error under three with no adjustment. The Cinema mode’s color points were all quite oversaturated, and the grayscale Delta Error deviation was about 6.5. With that in mind, I recommend you use the THX mode if you don’t plan to have the 5020UBe professionally calibrated, at least for dark-room viewing. By calibrating the Cinema mode, I was able to bring all the numbers within reference standards, but they weren’t much better than what the THX mode already delivers out of the box.
One of the major selling points of this projector is that it is very bright – bright enough that, when I used either the Dynamic or Living Room picture mode, I was able to watch HDTV content during the day with room lights on and/or some window blinds open. Out of the box, the Dynamic and Living Room modes served up about 35 and 25 ft-L, respectively, on my 100-inch, 1.1-gain screen and could be made even brighter. Not surprisingly, these modes measure quite cool (blue) and have oversaturated color out of the box, but I was able to calibrate the Living Room mode to reference standards while preserving plenty of light output for daytime use.
The auto iris allows the 5020UBe to also serve up a respectably deep black level for a projector this bright. The high-speed iris mode is quick and quiet, and I was impressed with the black level and black detail I saw in demo scenes from The Bourne Supremacy, Flags of Our Fathers, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. No, the black level wasn’t as deep as that of a JVC D-ILA m
odel or my reference Sony VPL-HW30ES, but those other projectors aren’t as bright as this model, either. The combination of good blacks and great light output made for a rich, engaging image with both films and HDTV.
All of that light output also pays huge dividends with 3D content, which was very bright and engaging through the 5020UBe. I saw a little ghosting around the floating spoon in my favorite demo scene from Monsters vs. Aliens (Chapter 13), but otherwise I did not feel that crosstalk was a major concern here. The 3D glasses are light and pretty comfortable for extended viewing.
On the processing side, the 5020UBe passed all of the basic film and video tests on the HQV Benchmark and Spears & Munsil test discs, although it didn’t correctly handle the more complex cadences. It cleanly rendered my 480i demo scenes from Gladiator and The Bourne Identity, with no major instances of moiré or jaggies. The Frame Interpolation modes help to improve motion resolution up to about HD720, but all of them produce that smoother effect with film sources. The Low mode is fairly subtle, but I still preferred to leave the FI control turned off. The 5020UBe serves up a clean image without a lot of digital noise.
Read about the high points and low points of the 5020UBe projector on Page 2.
• The 5020UBe can produce a very clean, attractive picture. It is very bright, yet still produces respectably deep blacks, and the THX mode measures well out of the box.
• The projector supports WirelessHD transmission of HDMI signals; I saw no difference in detail between a wired and wireless connection.
• The 5020UBe has seven HDMI inputs, counting those located on the WirelessHD transmitter.
• Generous zoom and lens shifting make for easy setup.
• There are lots of picture adjustments and memory settings.
• The eco lamp mode is very quiet.
• Two pairs of RF 3D glasses are included, and the 3D transmitter is built into the projector.
• The 5020UBe’s WirelessHD system is very, very slow in establishing a connection between the transmitter and receiver when you start up the projector and switch between resolutions. Your best bet is to let your AV receiver or source scale everything to 1080p and then send a single resolution on to the projector. WirelessHD requires line-of-sight, so you can lose the signal if something blocks the path.
• The 5020UBe has some obvious LCD panel-alignment issues out of the box that will require your attention. Epson includes an alignment tool in the setup menu, and you should take the time to dial this in as carefully as possible. I never did get things perfect, but I was largely able to improve it.
• The normal lamp mode is much louder than the eco mode.
Competition and Comparison
The Home Cinema 5020UBe’s $2,899 asking price positions it above the very crowded field of budget 1080p projectors from companies like Epson, BenQ, and Optoma, but a hair below newer mid-level offerings from Panasonic, JVC, and Sony. Some competitors to check out include the BenQ W7000, the Panasonic PT-AE8000U, the Sony VPL-HW30ES or VPL-HW50ES, the Optoma HD8300, and the JVC DLA-X35.
The Epson Home Cinema 5020UBe is a very flexible projector, in setup, features, and performance. The combination of great light output and good black levels makes it well suited for dedicated dark-room film viewing and more casual daytime TV watching. The zoom and lens-shift tools make setup a breeze, and the eco lamp mode is very quiet. The WirelessHD feature sounds good on paper and does give you the ability to add a lot of HDMI sources, but I found its implementation to be frustrating. Frankly, I think you’re better off saving $300 and getting the basic Home Cinema 5020UB instead. It’s the better value of the two. There are a number of external wireless-HDMI systems to choose from, including the DVDO Air and IO Gear GW3DHDKIT, if you need that function. Better yet, take the money you save and invest it in a professional calibration of the 5020UB that includes LCD panel alignment and fine-tuning of the grayscale and color for both dark- and bright-room viewing. Invest a little time or money into getting the absolute best out of the 5020UB, and you won’t be disappointed with the results.