The Epson Home Cinema 4000 and the Optoma UHD60 are both 4K-enabled home theater projectors in white casework priced at about $2,000. And that is where the similarity ends. There could not possibly be two more radically different projectors. And the difference is due to the design objectives related to 4K display. The Optoma UHD60 uses the new 4K UHD DLP chip in order to maximize picture resolution with 4K source signals. Optoma is the first maker to bring the 4K DLP chip in anywhere near $2,000. But in order to hit that price point they have incorporated just the bare essentials with very few features other than native 4K display and, most notably, exceptionally good HDR.
OPTOMA UHD60 Epson HC 4000
Meanwhile, the Epson Home Cinema 4000 is basically a Home Cinema 5040UB with a different color compensating filter and the lens iris removed, two changes which affect contrast and lumens. These changes give Epson a fully-loaded feature-rich 4K-enabled projector at $2,000. The HC 4000 takes 4K native signals and displays them with pixel-shifting on native 1080p 3LCD panels. In theory this technology does not display native 4K signals with quite the same precision as the 4K DLP chip. However, in this case the lenses appear to be contributing to the ultimate results on the screen, for the visible difference in resolution is not what you'd expect.
The Epson HC 4000 has numerous features that the Optoma UHD60 does not. These include powered zoom, focus and lens shift, automated Lens Memory for Cinemascope installations, a longer zoom and lens shift range, frame interpolation for image stability, full HD 3D, 2D to 3D conversion, and keystone correction. The one thing the HC 4000 does not do as well as the UHD60 is HDR. So in our view, your specific interest in HDR or lack thereof will be a big factor in determining which of these projectors you choose.
Comparative picture quality varies between these two projectors based on the source signal. You get dramatically different results depending on whether your source is 4K HDR on the one hand, or SDR in either 4K or HD 1080p on the other.
4K + HDR (High Dynamic Range): The Optoma UHD60 has a commanding advantage in HDR image quality over the HC 4000. Its HDR picture is brighter, higher in contrast, and richer in saturation. Due to all of these factors the image appears incrementally sharper as well. The UHD60 does not have the same competitive advantage in SDR, but if solid HDR performance is your one and only hot button for buying a projector and you don't want to spend more than $2,000, stop reading right now and go buy the UHD60.
4K & HD 1080p in SDR (Standard Dynamic Range): The Epson HC 4000 is much stronger in 4K SDR and HD 1080p display than it is with HDR. Depending on the particular 4K source it can look equal to or (believe it or not) even slightly sharper than the UHD60. There are several factors that may contribute to this. One is that the HC 4000 has a more substantial all-glass 16-element zoom lens. This lens was designed for Epson's more expensive 4K-enabled home theater projectors, but is being used on the HC 4000 as well. Second, the HC 4000 has SuperResolution and Detail Enhancement processing that was also developed for the pricier Epson home theater products. Though this processing can easily be overdriven, at modest settings these tools add detail clarity without imparting any visible edge enhancement artifacts. Third, contrary to the results with HDR, with SDR sources there tends to be incrementally higher contrast on the HC 4000 than on the UHD60. This lends a perception of overall image sharpness that is independent of resolution.
In the end, when viewing The Martian in 4K SDR, the pictures are virtually identical in perceived resolution. How they actually compare on other image characteristics depends on which picture modes you select and how they are set up. In particular, the UHD60 has a Brilliant Color feature that automatically defaults to 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. With BrilliantColor maximized, the picture is as bright as it can get, but color saturation is reduced. As you step down the scale from 10 to 1, the picture gets less bright while color saturation is improved. This is actually handy if you want to optimize the picture for varying degrees of ambient light. However, in a totally dark viewing room, setting BrilliantColor to 1 (which is off) is ideal. Depending on where you choose to set the UHD60's Brilliant Color control, the HC 4000 has either superior contrast and color saturation, or about the same. And of course, which picture is brighter also depends on the Brilliant Color setting -- if set to 10 in Cinema mode, the UHD60 will appear brighter, and if set to 1, the HC 4000 will be brighter.
Neither of these projectors is properly calibrated in any of their preset modes for optimum color balance. Both tend to err toward green, but the UHD60 tends to emphasize green more prominently in all modes than does the HC 4000. On both projectors you need (at minimum) to make adjustments to RGB gain and bias in order to dial in the most neutral color the projector is capable of, but both projectors have the tools to do this. And once they are calibrated they both produce excellent, natural color.
Which projector has the deeper black level depends again on how they are set up. The HC 4000 has a Cinema mode and a Bright Cinema mode. As you'd expect, Cinema mode is less bright and gives you a deeper black level, while Bright Cinema gives you a brighter picture with less deep blacks. Compared to the UHD60's Cinema mode with Brilliant Color turned off, the HC 4000 will deliver a deeper black. If you switch to Bright Cinema, the picture is brighter than the UHD60 but blacks are not as deep. As with the Brilliant Color adjustments on the UHD60, the Cinema and Bright Cinema modes on the HC 4000 can be used to accommodate to varying ambient light situations.
The bottom line is this: For any SDR source the picture quality on these two projectors is highly competitive. You can calibrate them to look virtually identical, or you can tweak either one to emphasize black level and color saturation at the expense of brightness. In terms of image detail and resolution, there is no difference at all in their display of 1080p sources, and almost no difference in the display of 4K SDR. Certainly the difference in image resolution of a 4K source is insignificant, and far less than you'd expect from the two different light engine technologies.
Brightness. Unless you are planning to view white text documents and financial spreadsheets, the ANSI lumen ratings and measurements on these projectors are meaningless for comparative purposes. The UHD60's RGBCY color wheel and the way it is programmed enables it to produce extra white light beyond the color light that it is capable of generating. So in a side by side test in their respective Cinema modes, a white text document will look very bright on the UHD60 compared to the HC 4000. Conversely, a full color video image with the same picture settings will appear brighter on the HC 4000 than on the UHD60. So for typical home theater use, the fact that the UHD60 measures 1260 ANSI lumens in full lamp Cinema mode while the HC 4000 measures 848 ANSI lumens is entirely irrelevant. The UHD60 measures 54% color brightness (the combined luminance of red+green+blue) against white in Cinema mode. In practical terms, that means a full color video image will not be as bright as you'd anticipate from the ANSI lumen reading.
You can get the UHD60 to produce 100% color brightness by turning the Brilliant Color setting off, which by default is at a maximum of 10. Setting Brilliant Color to 1 turns it off entirely, and drops the ANSI lumen output by about 50% while not affecting color output. This setting offers a closer "apples to apples" measurement to the HC 4000's ANSI lumen numbers.
For the record, the Epson 4000 is rated at 2200 ANSI lumens, and our sample measured a maximum of 2440 in Dynamic mode, the brightest option. The Optoma UHD60 is rated at 3000 ANSI lumens, and the sample measured a maximum of 2710 in Bright mode, also the brightest option. However, in these modes the UHD60 has a significant green bias whereas the HC 4000 color balance is, by comparison, closer to neutral. Moreover, once you put a full color video image on the screen instead of a white test pattern, the HC 4000 is brighter despite having a lower ANSI lumen measurement.
Due to the three lamp power modes on the HC 4000, this projector gives you three brightness options in each mode.
Epson Home Cinema 4000
NOTE: Numbers in bold indicate default lamp power setting for each operating mode. You can switch lamp power to any of the three settings in any mode.
OPTOMA UHD60 ANSI Lumens
Eco modes: The HC 4000 has three lamp modes, High, Medium and Eco. Medium reduces image brightness by 22% and Eco reduces it a bit more to 26%. Both of these lower light modes reduce fan noise considerably to very quiet. There is no incremental difference in fan noise between Medium and Eco.
The Optoma UHD60 has a single Eco mode which reduces light output by 37%. Eco mode becomes an option when Dynamic Black is turned off. On our test unit there was a persistent flicker in Eco mode, indicating the light source or power supply did not like being run at that level. The picture is stable in Bright mode.
Zoom lens light loss. Most zoom lenses transmit light most efficiently at their widest angle positions. In general, the longer the zoom range the more light is lost at the telephoto end. Although not always true, it is true with these two projectors. The UHD60 has a 1.56x zoom range and it loses 26% of the projector's light output at the telephoto end. The HC 4000 has a 2.1x zoom range, and loses 33% at the telephoto end. So if maximizing light output is a concern in your installation, try to position the projector using the wide end of the zoom range.
Brightness Uniformity: The HC 4000 registers 87% uniformity with the lens at wide angle and 85% at telephoto. The UHD60 puts up 64% uniformity at the wide angle end, and 74% at telephoto.
Image Sharpness: When displaying 4K source signals the UHD60 has a theoretical sharpness advantage due to the higher resolution DLP imaging device that is able to support the addressing and delivery of 8.3 million pixels. The HC 4000 uses native 1080p 3LCD chips and uses pixel shifting to approximate the resolution of the 4K signal.
However, the HC 4000 appears to have a higher precision lens which tends to mitigate some of the difference in ultimate picture sharpness. We have not done an independent lens test, but we have done a side by side between the UHD60 and the BenQ HT8050 which uses the same 4K DLP chip. Since they have the same 4K chip one might expect them to have the same 4K resolving power, but they don't. The HT8050 resolves incrementally more fine detail when it is present in a 4K source than the UHD60. BenQ claims it is due to the use of a more expensive and optically superior lens. That makes sense to us. Thus it appears that in comparing the UHD60 and the HT 4000, the varying quality of the zoom lenses are contributing to the end result on the screen, which is that the difference in perceived 4K resolution is insignificant and sometimes nonexistent.
As an aside, our UHD60 test unit is not able to maintain perfect focus on a sharpness test pattern across the entire image. When the picture is sharply focused in the center of the image, it is sharp from top to bottom in the middle two-thirds of the image while it gets a bit softer toward the sides. This softness on the edges is from a practical perspective invisible when viewing full motion video since the eyes are almost never focused on the edges of the image, and the softness is not enough to draw attention. It would become noticeable if you were to display, say, a detailed financial spreadsheet, which one is unlikely to do with this projector.
Rainbow artifacts. Some users of the UHD60 are likely to notice occasional rainbow artifacts due to the sequential color updating from the color wheel. These artifacts do not occur on the HC 4000 due to its three-chip design. Whether the potential rainbow activity on the UHD60 would be a problem for you depends on your sensitivity to them. Many people are not bothered at all by them and rarely notice them. Others find them distracting.
Onboard Audio. The UHD60 has excellent audio, as good as we've ever heard from a projector. It will easily satisfy audio needs in a pinch if you are using it in an occasional portable set up, like a back yard movie night for example. Of course for large screen home theater 4K projection you will want a surround sound system for maximum impact. The Epson HC 4000 has no audio on board, so you must have an external system.
Input Lag: With a 1080p input signal, the HC 4000 measures 28 ms with 4K Enhancement off, and 30 ms with 4K Enhancement activated. The UHD60 measures 63 ms in all modes including Game. We do not have measurements for input lag with a native 4K signal.
Fan Noise: The Optoma UHD60 is a quiet projector and definitely quieter than the HC 4000 in their respective lamp power modes. If you drop the UHD60 into Eco mode the fan noise drops from low to almost silent.
In High lamp, the fan noise on the Epson HC 4000 is best described in the low to moderate range, and you will probably become aware of it during quiet interludes in a movie if the projector is placed anywhere near the seating area. Dropping the HC 4000 into Medium lamp mode reduces the fan noise quite noticeably and puts it on par with the UHD60. There is no incremental advantage to the use of Eco mode, as the HC 4000's fan operates at the same speed in both Medium and Eco.
The Optoma UHD60 and the Epson Home Cinema 4000 are both dramatic projectors at $2,000. Though the UHD60 lacks a lot of the features that the HC 4000 has, it has one obvious advantage, which is its ability to deliver exceptionally satisfying 4K HDR picture quality at this price point. On this particular feature it surpasses the HC 4000, delivering super high contrast, high saturation HDR images with deep solid blacks. The UHD60's HDR picture simply sparkles. It also has a very quiet fan, even in Bright mode, and the best onboard audio we've yet found on a home theater projector, in case you want to use it for occasional backyard movie nights. If you are primarily interested in 4K HDR performance, you may be willing to forego the many other features that the HC 4000 has in order to get the UHD60's very compelling HDR picture.
Though the Epson HC 4000 is not so impressive in HDR, it is for the most part equal or superior to the UHD60 with SDR source material in any resolution, 4K or otherwise. In most modes with SDR sources it is incrementally higher in contrast and color saturation, and black levels are a bit deeper. It comes with a robust frame interpolation system, which is a feature you can get from Optoma by stepping up to the UHD65 for another $500. The HC 4000 also has Full HD 3D and powered Lens Memory, two features of keen interest to some buyers that the UHD60 does not have. Overall the Epson 4000 is a bigger, heavier projector with more substantial build quality. And it has extensive powered zoom and lens shift range, giving the user some installation flexibility not available on the UHD60.
At the end of the say, both the Epson Home Cinema 4000 and the Optoma UHD60 are stunning values at $2,000, but they have completely different feature sets and performance advantages. They are both great 4K-enabled projectors, but neither offers what the other does. Which one is best for you depends on the features you want most.