Epson Home Cinema 5030UBe LCD 3D Projector Review Highlights
For 2014, Epson has refreshed all their Home Cinema projectors with incremental performance upgrades. Contrast is greater and black levels are lower thanks to tweaks in the 3-chip D9 LCD light engine. The tremendous light output in both 2D and 3D makes the 5030UBe one of the brightest sub-$3000 projectors I’ve ever tested. There are THX modes for both 2D and 3D that offer decent accuracy out of the box and are fully adjustable so users can achieve perfect color with little effort. Also returning is the extremely handy wireless HDMI transmitter which allows connection of up to five additional sources. For 3D fans, two pairs of RF-type glasses are included. Read here for more of Secrets’ Projector Reviews.
Epson Home Cinema 5030UBe LCD 3D Projector Highlights Summary
- Almost 50 footLamberts of output available if you wish to watch with some ambient light
- Decent out-of-box accuracy in THX and Natural modes
- Excellent calibration results in THX mode
- Conforms to the newer BT.1886 gamma specification
- MHL-compatible HDMI input for connection to smartphones and tablets
- Super-responsive remote
- Wide zoom range and lens shift makes for easy and flexible installation
- Lower black levels than last year
- Auto-iris does not impact gamma performance
Introduction to the Epson Home Cinema 5030UBe LCD 3D Projector Review
With flat-panel prices at historic lows, many people are opting for the inexpensive solution and outfitting their home theaters with a TV rather than a projector. But there is still no substitute for the big-screen experience. When the image tops 100 inches diagonal and you can sit 10 or 12 feet away, it truly exceeds the immersion factor found in most commercial cinemas.
EPSON HOME CINEMA 5030UBE LCD 3D PROJECTOR REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: 3-chip D9 LCD Projector
- Native Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Native Resolution: 1920 x 1080
- Anamorphic Lens Support: Yes
- 3D formats: Frame-Packing, Side-by-Sside, Top-Bottom
- 2D-3D Conversion: Yes
- Throw Ratio: 1.34 – 2.87
- Lens Shift: 96% Vertical, 47% Horizontal
- Light Output: 2400 Lumens
- Contrast Ratio: 600,000:1
- Iris Control: 2-speed Auto
- Image Size: 30″ – 300″
- Inputs: 2 HDMI 1.4a (1 MHL), 1 x Component, 1 x Composite, 1 VGA
- Wireless Inputs: 5 HDMI
- Control: 1 RS-232, 1 12V Trigger Out
- Lamp power: 230 watts
- Rated Lamp Life: 5,000 (Eco) / 4,000 Hours (Normal)
- Dimensions: 5.5″ H x 18.4″ W x 15.6″ D
- Weight: 18.9 Pounds
- MSRP: $2899.99 or $2599.99 w/o WirelessHD
- 3D Glasses: 2 Pairs Included
- SECRETS Tags: Epson, Epson Home Cinema 5030UBe LCD 3D projector, Projector reviews 2014, 3D projectors, THX
Front projection does take some commitment and a bit of cash but there are several high-performing models out there that don’t cost much more than a decent HDTV. The largest panels are at the 80-inch mark and will set you back $3000 or more. For the same money, you can buy a decent projector and screen. Choose a room you can make dark and you’ll have movie nights that are far better than anything you’ll experience at the Giga-plex and you can make your own popcorn!
Epson has owned the sub-$3000 projector market for many years mainly because they do not rest on their laurels. Every time I attend CEDIA, they have a completely refreshed line with improvements in contrast, color accuracy, and convenience. Last year I reviewed the 5020UBe, and found it to be a terrific value. Today I’m checking out the latest THX-certified 5030UBe. The “e” means you get a wireless HDMI transmitter that supports up to five sources and a cable-free link to the projector. If you want to save $300, go for the 5030UB that is identical in every other way. Let’s take a look.
Design of the Epson Home Cinema 5030UBe LCD 3D Projector
Like all Epson Home Cinema models, the 5030UBe is a 3-chip LCD design utilizing D9 imaging devices. To deliver high brightness and low motion blur, the projector runs at 240 Hz. It handles 24p Blu-ray discs by repeating each frame 10 times, or you can engage a frame interpolation feature to improve motion resolution. The lamp is Epson’s E-TORL design rated at 230 watts. Through an optimized reflector, it delivers greater output than any other projector in its class; almost 50 foot-Lamberts in Dynamic mode.
The chassis retains the retro-Star Wars look from the last two model years. It’s made from a matte-finished white plastic with black vents on either side of the center-mounted lens. When turned off, a sliding door protects the optics. Ventilation is extremely quiet thanks to internal baffles and a low-speed fan.
On top there are rings for zoom and focus plus two small wheels for horizontal and vertical lens shift. Installation is very easy thanks to the wide range of these controls. They are all manual and very precise in operation. On the right side is a small control panel with keys for power, source, and menu navigation. There are two adjustable feet on the bottom and four threaded fittings for a ceiling mount.
Around back is a well-stocked input panel with two HDMI ports (one is MHL-compatible); one each of component, composite, and VGA; plus RS-232 and 12v trigger control options. Since this is the UBe model, it includes a wireless HDMI transmitter that supports up to five sources and connects with the projector at distances up to 32 feet with line-of-sight. It also has a USB port which is handy for charging the 3D glasses. If you go all wireless, Epson includes a snap-on cover that conceals the input panel.
Two pairs of 3D glasses are included. They sync by RF and only need to be paired the first time they are used. The battery is rechargeable via the included micro-USB cable and lasts for about 40 hours. They’re fairly light and comfortable and fit easily over prescription spectacles. If you want additional glasses, Epson sells them for $99 each.
I’m always impressed by the responsiveness of Epson’s projector remotes and this one continues that tradition. Bouncing commands off the screen works every time even in 3D mode. Starting at the top we have discrete power keys and the backlight toggle. Next are keys for PIP and each individual input including the wireless transmitter. A set of transport buttons come next for use with the 5030UBe’s HDMI Link feature. In the center is menu navigation along with one-touch access to 3D mode, color mode, and Super Resolution. At the bottom are more projector function keys along with controls for WirelessHD.
Setup of the Epson Home Cinema 5030UBe LCD 3D Projector
I installed the 5030UBe right-side up on a stand behind my seating. The lens was just above the screen’s centerline. To connect sources I used both the traditional HDMI inputs and the WirelessHD transmitter which adds five ports to the two on the projector. It worked fine set about six feet away. Its range is 32 feet and you must have line-of-sight for it to operate. You can check the signal strength in the projector’s menu.
The menu system is exactly what I saw on last year’s 5020UBe. There are six picture modes in 2D and three more available for 3D signals. In a dark environment, THX or Natural is the best choice. They’re reasonably accurate without adjustment and top out at around 18 fL. If you have some ambient light, Dynamic can provide almost 50 fL of output. The same mode exists in 3D though the glasses will cut brightness by about 40 percent.
Brightness and Contrast controls can be left at zero if you turn on Epson Super White. This allows rendering of all above-white information with no clipping. Sharpness has an advanced setting where you can tweak vertical and horizontal information separately. It does improve image clarity without obvious edge enhancement when used sparingly.
The Color Temp slider works in 500K increments which makes it too coarse to be useful. There’s also a Skin Tone adjustment which can reduce the red push in some content. Of course an instrumented calibration eliminates the need to adjust either of these.
In the Advanced sub-menu you’ll find gamma presets plus a curve editor; RGB gains and offsets, and the color management system. All calibration controls produced excellent results during my tests. The CMS works much better than its predecessors in that I was able to adjust color saturation properly. When using any of these features, you should employ the proper tools and test patterns; don’t try adjusting them by eye.
Epson has always done a decent job with its auto-iris and this one is the best yet. Turning it on typically alters gamma so that highlights are brighter and blacks look blacker. The 5030UBe achieves the effect without changing the actual gamma curve. It also more than doubles the contrast ratio so it’s well worth using. It has two settings, Normal and Fast. Fast works well to hide any brightness pumping but during quiet scenes, you’ll hear its operation. It didn’t bother me and I enjoyed the improved image depth it provided.
The Signal menu has options for 3D, aspect ratio, deinterlacing, frame interpolation, and a feature called Super Resolution which turned out to be another form of edge enhancement. 3D options include three brightness settings (I used High) along with a depth slider that helped correct parallax errors in one film I watched. You can also convert 2D content to 3D in this menu.
In the Advanced section there is an option called Image Processing. If you plan to connect a console or PC, I suggest setting it to Fast. This will reduce input lag significantly. With all other content, use the Fine setting for better image clarity.
In the Aspect menu, you can enable support for anamorphic lenses. Unfortunately there are no lens memories available for zooming out cinemascope content since the adjustments are manual. Frame Interpolation has three settings plus off. It works well at improving motion resolution without artifacts but like all displays with the feature, it imparts the soap-opera effect. I do like to use it for watching sports or playing games though.
In the Extended menu is a Panel Alignment feature, also known as point convergence. If your particular 5030UBe has issues, you can adjust the alignment of the red, green, and blue sub-pixels to improve uniformity. It will also reduce resolution so only use it if you absolutely have to. My sample looked great so there was no need.
The Memory menu has 10 slots to save your preferred configurations. You can base your calibrations on any picture mode you want and rename the memories too. It’s a great way to create day and night modes, or custom color setups for specific content or sources. I wish all displays had this feature.
For calibration purposes, I chose the THX mode which is fully adjustable. I turned on Epson Super White and set Contrast to 4 for a little extra brightness. Gamma was left at 0 since it matched BT.1886 out of the box. I adjusted both the two-point grayscale sliders and four of six colors in the CMS to achieve a fairly high level of accuracy. I also used the Sharpness Advanced settings to add a little clarity to the image. You can turn them up slightly without introducing any ringing. After completing all adjustments, I turned on the auto-iris to improve contrast.
The Epson Home Cinema 5030UBe LCD 3D Projector In Use
I thought I’d start with some challenging material so I cued up the less-than-stellar transfer of Apollo 13. There is a fair amount of film grain present that softens the image and really tests a display’s image processing ability. The 5030UBe rendered everything very cleanly. The grain was still present but much less noticeable than usual. Color looked nicely saturated and warm which is appropriate for the period of the story. The image wasn’t particularly sharp but given the transfer, I doubt it could look much better.
I took this opportunity to experiment with the Super Resolution feature. It works more subtly than a sharpness control. It still should be used in moderation however. It has five settings and the first four levels added a little crispness without causing edge enhancement.
Gravity is a great contrast torture test. The entire film takes place in orbit around the Earth so part of the picture is always a star field. I could see subtle shifts in black levels as the auto-iris did its thing but ultimately, it improves contrast without calling attention to itself. As you’ll see in the benchmarks, it doesn’t harm gamma like most irises do. I left it on for all my subsequent viewing.
Using CGI animation to test a display is a little unfair because just about any display looks good with this sort of content. But I couldn’t resist watching How To Train Your Dragon. It’s a Dreamworks film so it doesn’t have the textural detail of a Pixar movie but it does offer lots of bright color and fantastic dark scenes with loads of shadow detail. The surface of the Night Fury dragon was particularly well-rendered with all its scales clearly visible. I also enjoyed the pop of color in all the brighter scenes.
The 5030UBe can convert 2D content to 3D and it does a fair job but nothing can compete with native 3D content. Last year’s 5020UBe proved to be the brightest 3D projector I’d reviewed and the 5030UBe achieves around the same light output. It’s at least twice as bright as any other 3D projector I’ve watched.
The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey is loaded with dark content that looks murky on most 3D projectors. The extra punch provided by the 5030UBe took it to another level. Peter Jackson may be a long-winded storyteller but he does know how to film in 3D. Foreground objects were positioned just right and the entire movie looked natural without any gimmicky effects or in-your-face moments. I had no trouble sitting through the entire thing without a break. It’s so nice when you don’t have to strain to see detail.
Wreck-It Ralph is a CGI animated film but its 3D is somewhat understated compared to other family movies. Some displays barely show any depth but the 5030UBe had no trouble. Since I was able to preserve accurate color and gamma in the 3D THX mode, the picture didn’t suffer from oversaturation or blown-out highlights.
Dial M For Murder is a vintage 3D film from 1954. It was originally released in a two-strip format as well as Stereovision. Its effects are crude at best and the image is very grainy and soft with obvious parallax errors. Fortunately I was able to remove the crosstalk by adjusting the 3D Depth control. Three clicks aligned the left and right images perfectly. Again the 5030UBe’s image processing managed film grain well and prevented artifacts.
The Epson Home Cinema 5030UBe LCD 3D Projector On The Bench
I installed the projector right-side-up at a 12-foot throw distance. Test gear included an Accupel DVG-5000 pattern generator, i1Pro spectrophotometer, Spectracal C-6 colorimeter, and CalMAN 5.2 software. Measurements were taken off the screen; Carada Brilliant White, gain 1.4.
With any THX-certified display, the THX mode is usually the best choice when you’re not calibrating. Fortunately the 5030UBe enables all its picture adjustments in that mode so you can tweak it to near perfection if you have the right tools. I also measured the Cinema mode just to see the effect of its expanded color gamut. All the results are below.
Here are the grayscale and gamma charts for THX mode, pre-calibration.
I could see even before I took the measurements that the grayscale was too warm. All brightness levels have a reddish cast that is obvious to the eye and even more so to the i1Pro. Gamma tracking is fairly close to the BT.1886 spec but runs a tiny bit dark. Since there’s plenty of light output, it isn’t a problem. I am surprised to see grayscale tracking this far off in a THX mode however.
As an experiment, I attempted to straighten out the grayscale with the color temp control but it moves in 500K steps; too coarse to hit D65. A traditional calibration using the RGB controls cleans things up nicely though.
After adjustment to the RGB gain and offset sliders, the results are near-perfect. The small spike at 60-percent is not visible to the naked eye. The average error is now 1.13 Delta E; excellent performance. Gamma tracking is a little flatter as well. The more I watch content using BT.1886, the more I like it. I’m glad Epson has included support for it in their latest model.
Turning to color, I first measured the Cinema mode. Epson uses a filter in the light path to expand the gamut a little. The net effect is greater vibrance and saturation at the expense of accuracy.
You can see the gamut is just about large enough to meet the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) specs. Luminance is bumped up significantly as well. If you have a dark theater like I do, you won’t need the Cinema mode but if you want to have a little ambient light present, it’s just the ticket to maintain image integrity. Paired with a high-gain screen, you could have a decent Super Bowl party with the 5030UBe.
If you don’t plan to calibrate, THX is a decent fire-and-forget mode for color. The hues of cyan, magenta, and yellow are a little off due to the warm grayscale tracking but saturations are fairly close to their targets. Only blue show some under-saturation in the 20 to 80-percent values. The resulting error is a low 3.43 Delta E.
I had greater success with the CMS than in past Epson models. I was able to correct saturation errors in red and blue as well as fix all the secondary hue issues.
Red is still a little over-saturated at the 100-percent mark but it’s right on at the other levels. All other colors are spot-on for both hue and saturation. I also tweaked the luminance levels to a high degree of accuracy. The average error is now only 1.83 Delta E. The 5030UBe’s color performance is as good as any high-end display I’ve reviewed. Once again Epson has achieved stellar results at a very attractive price point.
To get maximum output from the 5030UBe, you’ll need to use the Dynamic mode. It removes the neutral density filter from the light path and cranks out a searing 49.789 foot-Lamberts. The black level is .0143 fL and the on/off contrast is therefore 3473.5 to 1. This is pretty good contrast performance for a torch mode. Of course, you’ll need a completely dark room to see it which defeats the purpose of such a bright setting.
After calibrating the THX mode without the auto-iris, I measured a maximum white level of 17.5302 fL, a minimum black of .0051, and a contrast ratio of 3460.5 to 1. Turning on the iris produced a max value of 17.8807 fL, a black level of .0021 fL, and a contrast ratio of 8705.6 to 1. Usually I avoid auto-irises because of their negative effect on gamma but Epson has achieved un-altered gamma with theirs. I saw no difference in the measurements so I left it on its Fast mode for the entire review. Since it more than doubles the contrast, I recommend using it for all content.
In the 3D THX mode with 3D Brightness on medium I measured a max output of 5.2293 fL through the glasses. This is about half what I saw on last year’s 5020UBe. Turning 3D Brightness up to High gave me 9.3487 fL which is higher than any other 3D projector I’ve measured except the 5020UBe which cranked out over 11 fL for me.
Checking out the Accupel’s crosstalk pattern showed a vanishingly low figure of .39 percent. If you see any ghosting in 3D content on this projector, it’s the fault of the transfer.
Most sources today do a decent job with interlaced and non-HD content but it’s always good to see attention paid in the engineering of any display.
The 5030UBe revealed a couple of minor flaws in my tests. The Overscan failures are due to a single pixel cropped at the bottom of the image in all signal modes. In the 4:2:2 Chroma Burst test, the single-pixel vertical lines were rolled off. The 2:2 pulldown failure is very common as is the Mixed Content Vertical. To pass above-white information Epson Super White must be turned on. Below-black detail is rendered at either setting.
Conclusions about the Epson Home Cinema 5030UBe LCD 3D Projector
- High contrast and accurate color
- Sharp image with plenty of depth
- Lots of light output
- WirelessHD makes installation easier
- Wide zoom and lens shift range
- Terrific value
- Manual lens controls make precise focus a little time-consuming
- THX mode could be more accurate without calibration
The Home Cinema 5030UBe really has no flaws of consequence. It’s an exceptionally bright projector with excellent optics and accurate color. Installation in a wide variety of environments is possible thanks to flexible lens controls and a set of well-thought-out picture modes. Whether your room is a black hole like mine or you have some ambient light bleeding in from an adjoining space, you can get an excellent image with little fuss.
Even though Epson hasn’t made major changes, contrast seems better than last year. The biggest improvement comes from the new auto-iris which doesn’t alter gamma and more than doubles the on/off contrast ratio. In fact the black levels are now within a hair of my reference Anthem LTX-500 LCoS unit and that’s saying something.
I think my favorite thing here though is the 5030UBe’s 3D presentation. You’ve undoubtedly read dozens of 3D display reviews all talking about importance of light output and how the 3D glasses really cut that down. That is the negative aspect of active 3D and this Epson is not immune, but to get nearly 10 fL max in 3D mode puts it ahead of any projector I’ve tested to date except last year’s 5020UBe. That’s huge because it makes 3D truly enjoyable.
As much as I raved about the contrast and image quality of JVC’s X500R, it just didn’t deliver enough light in 3D to compel me. I don’t currently own a 3D display mainly because it does nothing for me in television form and projectors are just not bright enough to do it well. Epson is the exception to that. While I’m not ready to replace my Anthem just yet, if it were to be abducted by aliens tomorrow, I would probably hang a 5030UBe in its place.
LCD projectors used to be found solely in conference rooms and churches where quality cinema was far from a priority. Epson has worked the technology into something that can truly anchor a high-end theater with a jumbo screen and lots of seating. That they can do this for under $3000 continues to amaze me.
For its continued tradition of ever-improving image quality, rock-solid value pricing, and killer 3D, I give the Epson Home Cinema 5030UBe my highest recommendation.