Last year, the Epson Home Cinema 5010 was among the best home theater projectors in its price range. This year's follow-up model, the Home Cinema 5020UB, builds on the success of the previous model while improving on its most significant drawbacks. The 5020UB retains the high light output, inky black levels, accurate color, and razor-sharp detail of the 5010. It adds radio-frequency 3D glasses which don't interfere with remote control operation and includes two pairs in the box. It still has best-in-class zoom and lens shift, making it one of the easiest projectors to set up in your home regardless of the size or shape of your room. While competition this year is fierce, the Epson Home Cinema 5020UB is a great projector for home theater.
The Epson Home Cinema 5020UB comes in two flavors: the base model and the 5020UBe, which includes a WirelessHD transmitter. The two are otherwise identical. Our review centers on the "e" model, but comments can be equally applied to the base model unless specifically noted.
The Viewing Experience
The 5020UBe is, like its predecessor, a projector primarily intended for use with film and video in a darkened home theater environment. That means you should have a room with windows blacked out (or at least covered) and other sources of ambient light controlled as best as possible. Some folks paint their walls black, while others hang curtains to cut down on reflectivity. Doing any or all of these things will make stray light bounce around less and increase contrast on the screen.
While all of those things are desirable, they are no longer absolutely required the way they used to be. The Home Cinema 5020UBe is bright enough that it can stand up to some ambient light and still produce a large, vibrant, high-contrast picture.
We set up our 5020UBe on a rear shelf a few feet behind our seating area. The projector has a 2.1:1 zoom lens and extensive horizontal and vertical lens shift, so it only took a moment to place the projected image onto our 120" diagonal Stewart Studiotek 100 test screen.
Immediately, you can tell that the 5020UBe is a bright projector. In the darkened theater environment described above, it can actually be far too bright. Luckily, the 5020UBe has a variety of image modes with a range of light outputs, allowing the projector to be used just as easily in the living room as in the theater.
But only in the theater is the projector's deep, dark black level really evident. Use one of the less-bright image modes like THX or Cinema in Low lamp mode and you'll still have plenty of light -- the 5020UBe puts out almost 400 lumens even in its least-bright mode. That's perfect for a 100" diagonal image in a darkened theater. That 400 lumens is using the maximum telephoto end of the lens, too; most users will see something closer to 680 lumens, which is what that same mode puts out with the lens in its maximum wide angle position.
In 3D, the projector defaults to its 3D image modes, which are wholly separate from the 2D modes we spent most of our time fine-tuning. The 5020UBe has three 3D modes, and they are clearly labeled: 3D Dynamic, 3D Cinema, and 3D THX. We did not find 3D THX very appealing since it puts out the least light, and the number one concern of most 3D buyers is putting enough light on the screen. 3D Cinema produces a more accurate picture than 3D Dynamic, but the sheer amount of light that 3D Dynamic mode pumps out makes it a very appealing option.
Ultimately, our preferred setup looks like this: the 5020UBe sits on a rear shelf, as close to the center of the screen as possible. Using a 120" diagonal 1.3 gain 16:9 screen, Cinema Eco mode provides enough light for 2D viewing while 3D Dynamic or 3D Cinema both adequately light the screen for 3D. The 5020UBe is a projector that can handle large-screen 3D viewing without much trouble.