Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 6030UB
Home Theater Projector Review
November 15, 2013
The Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 6030UB sits at the top of Epson's classic home theater projector line. As in previous years, Epson's Pro Cinema line is sold through specialized dealers and custom installers, whereas their Home Cinema line is sold in open distribution via Internet-based vendors. That can make the 6030UB a bit more difficult to track down, but it's worth the search.
Physically, the Pro Cinema 6030UB is almost identical to the Home Cinema 5030UB with a few small changes. However, the addition of anamorphic stretch mode gives the 6030UB the ability to display movies in 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen, something the 5030UB cannot do. Add an extra year of warranty, a spare lamp, a ceiling mount and cable cover, along with support from the pros who sell them, and the end result is an outstanding value for $3499.
Editor's note: Since the Home Cinema 5030UB and Pro Cinema 6030UB are nearly identical in certain respects, some content from our Home Cinema 5030UB review has been reproduced in this article when appropriate. However, all measurements, calibrations, charts, and graphs used in this article use data generated from the Pro Cinema 6030UB and are not reproductions of data from the 5030UB. - Bill Livolsi
The Viewing Experience
The 6030UB is a feature-rich projector, to be sure, but the real draw is its excellent image quality in 2D and 3D. In short, the 6030UB produces the best picture we've ever seen from an Epson home theater projector.
The Pro Cinema 6030UB is meant to be used in a home theater, which means it looks best when you take steps to reduce both ambient and reflected light in the viewing space. The 6030UB is more than bright enough for such an environment, so a screen with mild positive gain like the Stewart Cima Neve 1.1 gain white screen is just about ideal. Black level is already very deep and light output is highly adjustable, so the 6030UB does not require the black-boosting abilities of a gray screen.
In 2D, the 6030UB's image is natural and smooth, giving the image a true-to-life quality that can be hard to describe. Highlights are bright, but not blown out, while shadow detail is excellent and overall dynamic range makes the image appear to pop off the screen. Black level has long been a strong point of Epson's home theater projectors, and it is as deep as it has ever been once the 6030UB's automatic iris is turned on. The Pro Cinema 6030UB shares the great color performance of its predecessors, with good color saturation and comprehensive color adjustment controls. The projector's factory configurations need a little bit of fine-tuning, but this isn't unusual in home theater projectors.
The 6030UB produces a 3D image that allows for large-screen 3D display without compromising brightness. The projector has three 3D color modes that can be fine-tuned independently. 3D viewing is made more pleasant thanks to bright, well-saturated colors and good shadow detail.
If you still watch a lot of DVDs or other standard definition media, technologies like Frame Interpolation and Super Resolution improve image quality and give new life to SD material. And while no amount of image processing can turn SD into HD, the Home Cinema 6030UB can clean up standard-definition material enough to make it easier on your eyes, now that you're used to high definition.
One big draw of the 6030UB is its ability to accept an anamorphic lens. Using such a lens, the 6030UB's 1.78:1 native image is stretched horizontally into the 2.39:1 super-wide aspect ratio used by many movies. When paired with a 2.39:1 screen, this allows those movies to be displayed without letterboxing -- the dreaded black bars at the top and bottom of the image. It also allows the projector's full pixel matrix to be used, albeit at the cost of a 1:1 pixel match, and can increase image brightness slightly since the entire imaging area of the chip is used. This capability is unique to the 6030UB in Epson's home theater line; both the 4030 and 5030UB lack the ability to apply anamorphic stretch.
We tested the 6030UB with the CineVista lens from Panamorph. The CineVista is an anamorphic lens designed for those on a budget who still want ultra-wide home theater. The package for Epson projectors is called the CV-E100. It sells for $1,995 and includes a mounting plate that mates it to the 6030UB. The mount plate requires that the projector be ceiling-mounted, but the 6030UB includes a ceiling mount.
For a direct comparison, we put the 6030UB with CineVista lens up against the 5030UB with its image zoomed up to the same size. When watching 2.39:1 content, the 6030UB's image is slightly brighter (about 10%) and has markedly less digital noise in the picture. Pixel structure is slightly smoothed, giving the image a film-like appearance. On the other hand, the 5030UB appears to have higher contrast, and fine detail can appear slightly sharper when standing close to the screen. From normal viewing distances (anything more than one screen width), this difference in detail is much harder to detect, while the smoothness and increased brightness of the 6030UB's image remain perceptible.
The CineVista is a fixed lens; it does not move in and out of the light path based on what type of content you are viewing. As a result, the projector must horizontally compress 16:9 and 4:3 content in order to view them properly once the CineVista is installed. In these instances, the 5030UB looks sharper, brighter, and clearer than the 6030UB with CineVista, because it is using more of the projector's pixel matrix to display the image. However, this isn't a limitation of the 6030UB as much as it is a design decision of the CineVista made to reduce costs and make anamorphic theater more affordable. Panamorph does offer several lenses with automated transport sleds including the UH480 ($7,250 with transport) and the DC1 ($10,500 with transport), though these obviously increase the cost of the system overall. A fixed lens like the CineVista can still be a great idea, especially if most of the movies you watch are shot in the ultra-widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, which has become increasingly popular over the last decade. This includes most recent Hollywood blockbusters and high-budget action and drama movies of the past few years.