Epson Home Cinema 5020 & 5020e
3D Home Theater Projectors
November 1, 2012
2D image quality. The 5020UBe has a smooth, refined 2D image that reflects Epson's long history in home theater projectors. The projected image is bright and vibrant. Colors pop, highlights sparkle, and black levels closely resemble interstellar space. Frame Interpolation helps to smooth out ugly judder in camera pans and fast action, while Super Resolution boosts the appearance of fine detail in both SD and HD content. This is not just a projector that looks good watching Blu-ray movies -- to a certain extent, every HD projector looks good watching Blu-ray movies. This is a projector that gives new life to your old DVD collection that I know you still have on a shelf or in a box somewhere.
3D image quality. Whereas we saw minor ghosting and crosstalk on the 5010, the 5020UBe reduces instances of these artifacts significantly. Brightness is still quite high, allowing for screen size parity with 2D images within reason. In addition, the new 3D glasses are thinner, lighter, and much more comfortable than last year's models. The use of radio frequency sync as opposed to infrared will also reduce interference with remote controls, most of which use IR.
RF glasses included. The 5010 did not include 3D glasses, but the 5020UB includes two pairs of glasses in the box. Each pair of glasses also includes a storage bag and a charging cable (the glasses charge over USB). These glasses fit well and do not cause any discomfort over the course of a two-hour movie. The lenses are fairly large as well.
Frame interpolation. Epson has been putting frame interpolation onto their home theater projectors for years now, and it has improved every year. Frame interpolation removes judder normally seen in fast camera pans and action sequences, allowing for a smoother, more artifact-free viewing experience. Frame Interpolation has three levels. Low offers the least amount of judder reduction but also appears the most "natural," while High eliminates all traces of judder but makes film look more like video. This "digital video effect" is something that many people don't enjoy, but the 5020UBe's FI settings help you avoid it if it bothers you. On the other hand, if you are viewing live-performance video rather than an original film source, the high FI setting tends to enhance the reality of the visual experience.
Split screen. Like last year, the 5020UB includes a split screen system. This allows for the simultaneous display of two signal sources, provided that both of those sources are not HDMI or Wireless. In other words, HDMI and Component works, HDMI and HDMI does not.
WirelessHD. The only difference between the 5020UB and the 5020UBe is the latter's inclusion of a WirelessHD transmitter box. WirelessHD is a relatively new technology that we saw on Epson's home theater models last year. While modular systems that can be added to any projector are available, the Epson Home Cinema models are unique in that the receiver is built-in to the projector itself. This means, should you opt for the wireless model, you only need to run power to the projector.
The transmitter box is identical to the one included with the 3020e, the home video projector Epson just released. The transmitter is about the size of a thick hardcover book and has its own power supply. The top panel features a trio of buttons - Input, Output, and Power. These same functions can also be accessed from the 5020UBe's remote control. The Input button cycles through the transmitter's five (!) HDMI inputs, while the output button switches between wireless display and wired HDMI out. This feature allows you to run the same set of equipment to both your television and your projector. Transmission range tops out at ten meters, but line-of-sight is not strictly required. We used the transmitter through a fairly thick interior wall without any issues, but try to test this functionality before drilling any holes or making anything permanent.
Video quality over WirelessHD is indistinguishable from HDMI. Moreover, we saw no increase in input lag over WirelessHD when compared to conventional HDMI, so gamers are no worse off using the wireless function than if they'd used a direct cable link.
Placement flexibility. Epson often makes home theater projectors with best-in-class lens shift and zoom range. The 5020UBe is no exception. The projector sports a 2.1:1 manual zoom lens that can put a 120" diagonal 16:9 image on the wall anywhere from 11' 8" to 25' of throw. There is a trade-off: using the telephoto end of the zoom lens reduces light output by up to 32%. It is important to keep that in mind while planning your projector installation.
In addition, the manual horizontal and vertical lens shift can help place the image exactly where you want it. From dead center, the projector can shift the image up or down by 150% of the image height in each direction or shift it left or right by 50% of the image width in either direction. With regards to placement flexibility, this is about as good as it gets.
Light output. Normally we list light output under Performance, but it is also a key feature of the 5020UB. It's not just that the projector is bright; there are lots of bright projectors. More important is that the 5020UB's light output can be adjusted over a wide range, allowing for settings between 2432 lumens on the high end (slightly over the projector's specified maximum) and 391 lumens at the low end. That allows for a variety of installation options and image sizes without being too dim for the living room or too bright for the theater.
Color. Recently, there has been a trend towards home theater projectors with accurate color out of the box. The 5020UBe has a number of presets that fall very near the 6500K color temperature standard, and gamut is close enough to the desired values that adjustment isn't necessary. For those folks at home who don't want to get mixed up in extensive calibration, this is a feature of immeasurable value.