Image quality in 2D. The Home Cinema 5010 focuses first and foremost on image quality. The picture is bright, with sparkling vibrant highlights that nonetheless do not crush highlight detail. In the dark, the projector's contrast performance is truly impressive, and black level borders on imperceptible at times. Black level is very good even without the auto iris, but the iris takes things to the next level and really deepens low-key scenes, giving them an extra impact that makes them stand out all the more. The projector has very good dynamic range, allowing it to display the entire range of shadow and highlight detail while retaining good black level, even without the use of its auto iris. Color accuracy has some room for improvement if you want to spend time on calibration, but those just looking for solid out of the box performance will find it here. The projector's 7000K color temperature preset measured about 6480K on our test sample.
3D. The Home Cinema 5010 is a fully-featured 3D projector, with all of the associated bells and whistles typical of 3D projectors released in the past few years. The 5010 supports all of the HDMI 1.4 3D signal types (frame packing, side-by-side, and top and bottom) but does not support 120Hz from a PC source. 3D Brightness changes the timing of the 3D glasses to make the picture brighter or dimmer, but be aware that increasing brightness will also increase crosstalk. The projector defaults to "Low," which exhibits the least crosstalk. The projector has an internal IR emitter, but can also fit an external emitter if desired.
3D performance on the Home Cinema 5010 shows serious improvement over 3D on the 3010. The flickering instability that we witnessed on the Home Cinema 3010 is almost entirely gone, and crosstalk is likewise reduced. The 5010 also tacks on a few hundred extra lumens over the 3010, which is of dubious benefit in 2D but really helps in 3D. The 5010 uses a different, higher-end signal processor than the one used in the 3010, and the two projectors use the same 3D glasses.
The 5010 will also do 2D to 3D conversion. As a general rule, 2D to 3D conversion doesn't give you as much depth as you'd get with true 3D content, and of course you lose brightness and have to wear 3D glasses. With all of that said, 2D to 3D is more or less a standard feature these days, and the conversion system on the Home Cinema 5010 will perform well for those who enjoy it.
WirelessHD. For an extra $300, the Home Cinema 5010e includes WirelessHD. WirelessHD allows you to send any HDMI 1.4 compatible signal, audio and all, across a distance of up to 40 feet, independent of line of sight. This primarily benefits users who are installing a ceiling mount with no existing cable run. The reason is simple: using WirelessHD in conjunction with a good A/V receiver means you'll only have to run power to your projector.
Frame Interpolation. The Home Cinema 5010 includes Epson's frame interpolation system. Frame interpolation is not a new feature anymore; many projectors have some form of it. Some folks love it, while others consider it a nuisance. Epson's frame interpolation system is one of the good ones, with relatively few artifacts. Earlier versions had a tendency to introduce ghosting around a moving subject, but this version of the system has less of an inclination to show these artifacts.
Super Resolution. Super Resolution is a separate sharpening circuit that presents the maximum possible amount of detail from a given source without the ugly side-effects of artificial edge enhancement. During use, we saw only a slight trace of ringing at the highest setting, and none whatsoever at lower settings. It has relatively little effect on HD material due to the high amount of detail already present. On the other hand, it is wonderfully effective on standard-def material.
Split screen. Similar to picture-in-picture, the 5010's split screen feature can put two images -- from two distinct sources -- on screen at any given time. The feature has its limits; you can only use one digital source (HDMI and WirelessHD) at a time, since all three use the same circuitry. You also can't use component and VGA simultaneously. Still, the partitions are adjustable, and it's nice to be able to use two sources at the same time. As an example, your son or daughter could play video games on one side while you watch television on the other. Unfortunately, you'll still have to fight over the sound.
Placement flexibility. Epson has been using the same 2.1:1 lens on many of their projectors for years now, and by this point we know its ins and outs. The upside is a best-in-class 2.1:1 zoom range allowing for the display of a 120" diagonal image from 11' 8" to 25' of throw distance. Lens shift is likewise extensive, with 2.9 picture heights of total vertical range and 1.9 picture widths of horizontal range. That combination is what makes Epson's projectors in general and the 5010 in particular so good for rear shelf mounting -- you can place the projector significantly off-center and still hit the screen perfectly.
The downside is a 37% reduction in light output when using the lens at its maximum telephoto setting (the smallest image at a given throw distance). With a projector this bright, that reduction isn't game-breaking for most people, but it may mean using high lamp mode instead of low lamp mode or switching to a brighter image preset instead of Cinema.
Connectivity. The 5010's connection panel sports dual HDMI 1.4 inputs, a set of YPbPr component jacks, composite video, and a VGA port. There's also an RS-232C port for external control and an RJ-45 port that's used to attach an external IR emitter. Finally, rounding things out, there's a 12V trigger to use with your powered screen.
Lamp life. The 5010 boasts a lamp life of 4,000 hours with the lamp at full power and 5,000 hours in Eco mode. Replacement lamps cost $299 direct from Epson, which is a touch below average for home theater projector lamps.