Projectors

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5010e LCD Projector

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The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5010e LCD Projector In Use

Anyone who has read my previous projector reviews (thank you!) knows that I usually have favorable impressions of nearly every unit I evaluate. While projectors vary widely in price and features, the overall image quality spans a very narrow range from pretty good to stunning. There are several major factors that contribute to perceived image quality and the number one for me is dynamic range. I won't state this as a fact. Others may deem color saturation or resolution to be of greater importance. When I was trained by the ISF, they preached contrast and I've subscribed to that. That being said, I have yet to review a projector that displays blacks as deep as my Anthem LTX-500. The Epson 5010e however, comes really, really close. Given my almost-perfect room conditions (total darkness, black walls, 1.3 gain screen), most projectors will look pretty good but this one is one of the very few that achieves the stunning level.

I started with reference material in the form of a certain sci-fi franchise from a guy named George. Last September the world moved ever-so-slightly closer to perfection when all six Star Wars movies were released on Blu-ray. After watching all the films previously, I've decided The Empire Strikes Back is the best transfer of the lot. The Epson's high light output was a plus here during the bright scenes on Hoth and in the interiors of the cloud city on Bespin. Detail was awesome with a very sharp picture that left nothing to the imagination. Facial textures, dark fabrics, spaceship hulls, Wookie hair; it all looked fabulous. Star fields looked nice and inky, especially when the iris was turned on. Its effect was slight; space scenes looked pretty good with it off as well. I left it on and observed no artifacts, nor could I hear it operate. The two settings, normal and high speed, looked the same to me. Fast-motion resolution was also excellent thanks to the 5010e's 120Hz refresh rate which flashes each frame five times when interpolation is turned off.

Next up was The Matrix Trilogy in their original Blu-ray release from 2008. This is another reference-level transfer and all three films looked amazing on the Epson 5010e. With the green tint that pervades throughout, they can often look flat and murky on lesser displays. With the ample light output available and superb black levels, they simply popped. I spent some time watching them with 3D conversion turned on. Then I thought image quality took a step backward. I tried maxing the 3D depth and turning on the 3D Dynamic mode which helped brighten things up a little but it still didn't have the impact that the 2D image did in Natural mode. I also noticed some ghosting artifacts. These did not occur when watching native 3D material. High contrast edges showed jaggies which surprised me a little. There must be some serious number-crunching going on when the conversion mode is active. Another feature I tried out was the frame interpolation. Low had a very subtle effect; I could barely tell it was on. Normal was very obvious in operation. I didn't see any artifacts and resolution was fantastic. Though I don't like the look for movies, I would use it for sports.

For native 3D material, I had my familiar stack of titles to choose from. I watched Monster House, A Christmas Carol and Imax Wild Ocean. In all cases, the 3D effect was excellent. With the high light output, brightness was not an issue. Even in the torturously dark Christmas Carol, I never strained to see low-level detail. Blacks were a bit washed out; which is no surprise given the lamp is in high mode and auto-iris is disabled. I also noticed the frame interpolation was unavailable. Normally I don't use it but a few camera pans looked juddery to me and I was disappointed I couldn't smooth things out. Overall motion resolution was fine however so I didn't miss it too much. 3D is engaged with a button on the remote. This automatically puts the 5010e in either 3D Cinema or 3D Dynamic picture mode. 3D Dynamic is plenty bright but color is very bold and cartoonish; extremely over-saturated. 3D Cinema shares grayscale and gamma settings with Natural mode which is nice. I didn't have to tweak the calibration and 3D Cinema looked great.

Overall I liked the 5010e very much with native 3D discs and not as much with the 2D-3D conversion. The list of 3D titles is growing and I expect many of our favorite blockbusters will be available in the coming years. Epson has done a great job by providing plenty of light and a super-sharp lens; all of which enhances the 3D effect. This is definitely a cut above first-generation products.

I continued on with season three of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a series that makes great CGI demo material. Color looked particularly saturated and lush on the 5010e. I really enjoyed watching such excellent material on a bright projector. While 18 fL is plenty, 24 fL looks even better. Blacks held up extremely well, mainly thanks to the excellent iris control. During very quiet scenes I could hear its motor in operation. Depending on where you mount your projector, it might be audible. Mine is directly overhead so I'm a little closer than most. I will say the fan is the softest I've ever experienced. You really have to strain to know its running. Optical quality was also quite good with an extremely sharp CGI image. The lens is definitely a step up from the last Epson projector I reviewed. It's impressive how little improvements sneak in to newer models without a corresponding price increase, bravo!

I like to watch at least one DVD for every display review so I chose some concert footage from Led Zeppelin. Shot on very grainy film stock, this sort of image is an extreme challenge for both the player and the projector. To further test the 5010e, I zoomed the image to fill the screen since this particular disc is non-anamorphic. To say it looked fantastic would be an understatement. I quickly forgot that some very heavy-duty scaling was going on as I watched Robert Plant and Jimmy Page belt out their dulcet tones. The black background of the Earl's Court concert hall provided a great contrast to the bright stage lighting. Color also held up extremely well with great depth and vivid tones. I compared the video processing of the 5010e to my Oppo BDP-93 and found it very good. You could choose to let the projector handle scaling duties with no loss of quality. Film grain, although extreme, never distracted or flattened the image. I also checked out Fleetwood Mac and their 1997 concert called The Dance. This is a great performance with some of the softest SD video I've ever seen. Often, such poor quality will lead to distracting artifacts like line twitter and crawling edge enhancement. Fortunately the Epson displayed none of these. The image was hazy to be sure but quite stable and free of irritation.

My last title was the 2011 re-boot of The Three Musketeers. What the film lacked in refinement it more than made up for in image and sound quality. It is a feast for the eyes and most assuredly the stuff of home theater demos. Color and detail popped like few Blu-rays do. This disc easily attains reference-plus status. Occasionally though I saw slightly elevated black levels. It was only here and there but the 5010e showed them faithfully. I'm a firm believer in GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) in both video and audio components. Epson obviously agrees with me.