Hands On: Epson PowerLite Projector Big on Features
CE Pro editor Arlen Schweiger reviewed the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5030UBe Projector (MSRP $2,599), which features 2,400 lumens color & white brightness, a contrast ratio up to 600,000:1, 2.1x zoom lens, THX display certification, wireless HD transmitter and more.
Addressing both points with a wide-ranging selection, it’s no wonder Epson is perennially at or near the top in the category among our annual CE Pro 100 Brand Analysis, which gauges the most used brands by the industry’s highest revenue integrators (in 2014 Epson was No. 1 with 50 percent share, while this year it was second behind Sony but actually increased to 60 percent).
The $2,599 PowerLite Home Cinema 5030UBe that Epson sent me is a perfect reflection of this — it delivers beautiful HD images that won’t break customers’ banks, while offering a slew of integration- and user-friendly attributes.
FeaturesLike other models from Epson, the 5030UBe employs three-chip 3LCD optics that the company says helps to deliver a good balance of high color brightness (up to 2,400 lumens) and white brightness (up to 2,400 lumens), with solid black levels and contrast — in this case, specified to 600,000:1 ratio. While those numbers are all well and good, they are further enhanced by all of the calibration and adjustment opportunities afforded by Epson.
Not only that, the company worked with THX on certification and included a THX mode that lets integrators or users implement those associated settings at the press of a button. Other color mode presets within the Image menu include Dynamic, Living Room, Natural, Cinema and B&W Cinema — the latter refines classic black and white imagery.
Though I did test various modes, I kept coming back to the THX as the most lifelike, accurate and natural in my theater, paired with a Screen Innovations Black Diamond ambient light-rejecting fixed 16:9 screen and Elite Screens Kestrel motorized 2.35:1 screen. For rooms that need more of a blast of brightness and colors that are a bit saturated, something like Dynamic mode comes in handy, while Natural gets closer to the THX spec but doesn’t quite reach some of the nuances of the flesh tones, for instance.
Other settings within the Image menu further enable a dealer to dial in the picture. These include the usual suspects such as brightness, contrast, color saturation, tint, sharpness, color temperature and skin tone levels; as well as power consumption for normal or extra bright; auto iris (off, normal or high speed); and advanced settings for extra precision with gamma, RGB, RGBCMY and Epson Super White on/off. You can load, save, erase and rename memory settings.
Another menu pros may want to dabble in is Signal, which lets you dig into settings for 3D setup, aspect ratio, frame interpolation, super resolution (to clean up some low-resolution content), advanced (covers noise reduction, which I typically find best left off in general and confirmed that again here), overscan and image processing (fine or fast).
Setup & ConfigurationThe projector offers typical inputs/outputs, with two HDMI ins, one component and one composite, a PC port, RS-232 and trigger out on the rear panel. There is more flexibility with Epson’s inclusion of Wireless HD (we’ll get to that), but to start I simply connected a Samsung Blu-ray player to the HDMI 1 port so I could play 2D and 3D Blu-ray discs as well as access Netflix; I also connected my laptop PC via HDMI at times.
More custom options abound to aid in the physical setup. You can place the 5030UBe almost anywhere within reason and manage to fire off an aligned picture thanks to wide lens shift that provides for nearly 100 percent vertical (+/- 96.3 percent) and 50 percent horizontal (+/- 47.1 percent), with the manual adjustment knobs. Also just above the lens are the manual rings for using the zoom and focus functions.
Back to the Wireless HD, this is a nifty little add-on device that lets you streamline and de-clutter setup, but with some conditions. As the name suggests, you can wirelessly send HD video — uncompressed 1080p — by connecting sources to this box. It operates on a dedicated 60GHz band to avoid interference, but it is limited to 32 feet and needs to be in the same room as the projector; in fact, the face of the transmitter must face the front of the projector (I tested and confirmed). However, the transmitter accepts up to four HDMI sources including an MHL-enabled device and has HDMI and digital optical outputs.
Plus, as you switch sources up pops a preview mode, and as with the hardwired I/Os there is even an option for Picture-in-Picture viewing, which is a nice bonus for projection. I can see scenarios where the Wireless HD option is a problem-solver in less-than-ideal wiring conditions and as a simple way of expanding source options.
Performance & ConclusionThis projector delivers a fantastic, near pristine picture no matter how you slice it. I found colors, especially reds and greens, to be lush and vivid whether I was watching real-world documentary content like PBS’ series “The Mind of a Chef” via Netflix, Harry Potter movies on Blu-ray, animated TV shows or HD concert webcasts. The crisp detail rendered in the many food closeups in “The Mind of a Chef” was stunning as images such as sizzling bacon fat and textured turkey and vegetables made my mouth water, and you could make out every little wrinkle or piece of facial hair of the various chefs; during many overly dark scenes in multiple Harry Potter films I thought the 5030UBe’s superb shadow detail saved the day.
Oh, and don’t sleep on 3D — projection is still the best format for the technology, and my daughter loved seeing “Tangled” again this way; the floating lantern ceremony looked gorgeous (“Hey, that one’s right in front of me!”) with the 5030UBe. Epson continues to pump out solid projection choices that run the gamut from entry-level to upscaled 4K, and the 5030UBe isn’t even in its Pro Cinema family that is truly aimed at the custom channel. With its versatility and performance, however, CE pros and their customers alike will be plenty pleased installing this in their home cinemas.
CE Pro VerdictPros: THX certification; tons of installation flexibility; Wireless HD option; backlit, well laid out remote; great value
Cons: No lens memory; manual lens adjustments; fan noise ramps up in certain modes
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Arlen Schweiger is managing editor of CE Pro, Commercial Integrator and Security Sales & Integration magazines. Arlen contributes installation features, business profiles, manufacturer news and product reviews. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Arlen at firstname.lastname@example.org
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