Optoma HD91 versus Epson Home Cinema 5030UB
For a competitive comparison, we set up the Optoma HD91 next to the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB, a lamp-based home theater projector that sells for $2,499. Both are 1080p projectors built for home theater from established manufacturers who've had a lot of time to iron out the kinks.
When considering strictly image quality and leaving aside brightness, it's amazing how similar these two projectors look. Both do a wonderful job putting highly detailed, high-contrast, well-saturated pictures on the screen, and both calibrate to the established standards without much fuss. If your only concern is your ability to get a high-quality HD image onto an appropriately-sized screen, either projector will suit your needs. If you have requirements about the size of that screen, or where it is located in your home, continue on.
The 5030UB produces much more light than the HD91 in both its brightest and calibrated modes. Dynamic on the 5030UB produces 2230 lumens, making it nearly three times as bright as the HD91's Bright mode at 840 lumens. The 5030UB's Cinema mode measured 805 lumens, giving it a significant brightness edge over the HD91's Cinema mode at 517 lumens. And the 5030UB also has Living Room mode, which produces 1550 lumens with color and contrast that aren't much different from Cinema mode. In other words, you can get roughly three times as much light out of the Epson 5030UB.
This means that the Epson 5030UB can serve double-duty in a living room while the HD91 cannot. It means you can shine the 5030UB onto a 140" diagonal screen without compromising color or contrast. It also means that you can watch 3D on a much larger screen when using the 5030UB. And it is easier to mount the 5030UB using the longer end of the zoom range without reducing image brightness to unacceptably low levels.
The 5030UB also has an advantage in black level, especially in dark scenes, thanks to its iris. The 5030UB has an excellent auto-iris system, and while DynamicBlack is an interesting solution, it cannot match the speed or the effectiveness of a good iris. Brightness changes on the 5030UB were faster, more dramatic, and less noticeable than on the HD91.
On the other hand, the HD91 has an advantage in single-frame contrast, especially in brighter scenes. The HD91 appeared dramatically three-dimensional next to the 5030UB in these scenes, despite the 5030UB's strong contrast performance. This is not a flaw in the 5030UB, in other words, but a strength of the HD91.
As far as color is concerned, the 5030UB is more accurate out of the box, but both projectors calibrate to Rec.709 and 6500K. And, honestly, you should not be purchasing either of these projectors if you don't plan to calibrate them.
Neither projector had a clear advantage in terms of detail, but the 5030UB did have one advantage in terms of clarity. We saw significant temporal dithering in the HD91's image, which isn't the same thing as digital noise but can have a similar appearance (and a similar effect on your enjoyment of the picture). The 5030UB is not without noise itself, but that noise can be reduced by using the projector's noise reduction system. Since temporal dithering is an artifact of the technology itself and not a signal problem, it cannot be reduced through image controls.
Features. The HD91's LED light source has an estimated life of 20,000 hours, while the 5030UB's lamp is estimated to last from 4,000 to 5,000 hours. If both light sources last for their full lifespans, the HD91's LED source is equivalent to four or five 5030UB replacement lamps, which would cost between $897 and $1196. That brings the lifetime cost of the 5030UB up to $3695 -- roughly equal to the HD91's $3999 price tag.
But by purchasing the 5030UB and the spare lamps, you get a projector with the same 20,000 hour lamp life that is three times as bright. That extra brightness gives you the flexibility to use large screens, or mount the projector near the back of the room, or watch large-screen 3D. These things are much more difficult to accomplish on the HD91.
And this is all assuming that you'll actually use the projector for 20,000 hours. Few people do - that is 10,000 2-hour movies, or one movie per day for 27 years. In other words, 20,000 hours is a very long time, and most folks will replace their projector before they get anywhere near that much viewing time. If you decide to replace the 5030UB before you reach 20,000 hours, the extra money you would have spent on lamp replacements is still in your pocket. With the HD91, that extra cost is built in to the projector. There's no opting out.
The HD91 has anamorphic stretch mode, something the 5030UB lacks. The HD91's three-year warranty is one year longer than that of the 5030UB. Both projectors have full HD 3D compatibility, frame interpolation, smart sharpening, excellent placement flexibility and lens zoom, and low fan noise.
All in all, the HD91 produces a very good cinema image that is comparable to that of the 5030UB. However, the 5030UB's light output advantage allows it to display that same great image on larger screens, or in less perfect environments, or from longer distances -- all of which would compromise the HD91's image to the point where it is no longer competitive.