Home Theater Shootout:
Epson Home Cinema 5030UB vs Panasonic PT-AE8000

Evan Powell, November 13, 2013

The two most popular home theater projectors around $2600 this fall are the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB which just began shipping last month, and the Panasonic AE8000 which was introduced a year ago in September, 2012. If you want to spend under $3,000 on a home theater projector, which of these two is the right choice for you? Let's take a look.

Before we get to the differences, let's note that they share a LOT in common. The Epson 5030UB and the Panasonic AE8000 are both native 1080p resolution, 3D enabled 3LCD projectors rated at a maximum brightness of 2400 lumens. Their sequential contrast specs are almost the same--the AE8000 is 500,000:1 and the 5030UB is 600,000:1. The two projectors are almost identical in size and weight, about 19 lbs each. They are both outfitted with long 2x zoom lenses and extensive horizontal and vertical lens shift that allows them to be installed in the same variety of locations with essentially the same throw distance ranges. Both achieve maximum light output when the zoom lenses are set to their widest angle position, and both lose about 40% of their potential light output when the zoom lenses are set to their longest throw, maximum telephoto positions. Their lamps are both rated at 4000 hours.

The 5030UB and the AE8000 both have a variety of programmed operating modes--bright options for living room or ambient light viewing, and less bright but higher contrast settings for dedicated dark theater viewing. The differences in light output between these two models in the various modes is so insignificant as to be irrelevant. Both have ample light output for virtually any light-controlled home theater installation, and neither one has enough power on the top end to produce a truly vibrant large screen image in full ambient light (at least without the aid of ambient light screens like the Black Diamond). Both have operating modes designed for industry standard calibrations--on the 5030UB it is called THX and on the AE8000 it is Rec. 709. Side by side these calibrations look practically identical, although the AE8000 is somewhat brighter and the 5030UB has a deeper black in dark scenes. Both have a Cinema mode which is a color enriched version of their THX/Rec709 calibrations. These Cinema modes may be preferred by many users since the THX and Rec709 settings tend to look a bit dull on a screen 10 feet wide.

So from a glance at the spec sheets you might get the feeling that choosing between the Epson 5030UB and the Panasonic AE8000 is a flip of the coin. Not so--these two projectors have many real differences, some of which may be critical to your decision on which to buy.

A Note on Screens: For the side-by-side testing of these two projectors we used the Stewart Studiotek 100, a neutral 1.0 gain white screen that is ideal for testing and evaluation in zero ambient light environments. It is not recommended for home theater use. Stewart offers the Studiotek 130, and now the less expensive Cima by Stewart Filmscreen, both of which are more appropriate for dedicated, room-darkened home theater installations. The Cima in particular is an appealing, cost-effective complement to the 5030UB and the AE8000. It is 1.1 gain, so slightly brighter than the 100, with the same wide 80 degree half gain angle as the Studiotek 130.


Review Contents: Introduction Image Quality 3D Performance Frame Interpolation
  Input Lag and Gaming Cinemascope Options Remote and Menu Other Key Features Conclusion

Reader Comments(11 comments)

Posted Feb 7, 2014 9:51:54 PM

By kanerator

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Thanks, Evan. I figured that was the case, but I always like to check with the experts.

Posted Feb 7, 2014 10:59:53 AM

By Evan Powell, Editor

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@ Kanerator and Paras... the lip synch issue is minor. Almost all AV receivers have audio delays that will allow video to be in perfect synch with audio. All projectors benefit from having this done since they all delay video to some degree. The Epson 6030 and 5030 do a lot of video processing and as a result the delay is more than you find on some other projectors. Generally, if you run with frame interpolation on you will benefit from a delay in the range of 100 to 150 ms, whereas on other projectors a delay of 60 to 80 ms might be in order. Once it is set, you're pretty much dialed in, and only those who are hyper-sensitive to synch issues would want to keep fiddling with it. I use the 6030 regularly and I don't have any problems with synch, and I certainly don't keep adjusting it.

Posted Feb 6, 2014 7:40:20 PM

By kanerator

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I agree with the question by Paras. I have read your review of the Epson 6030, and reviews at Projector Reviews and elsewhere and this is the first I've read about lip-sync issues. Is this an issue that can be completely eliminated by proper adjustment between frame interpretation and buffer delay? Am I understanding you correctly that any change in frame interpretation or resolution will require adjustments to the buffer delay? Sounds a bit fiddly, since I've never had any lip-sync issues with my Epson TW-2000 in the 7 years I've owned it (with the exception of two cheap dvds). I'd pretty much decided on the Epson 6030. Put my mind at ease, Evan, put my mind at ease.

Posted Jan 20, 2014 4:16:35 AM

By Subhash Khanna

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I want to purchase projector for 50'x100 hall, please adivce to purchase which model & company projector relable cost. Only purpose devotional / satsang are screen videos.

Posted Nov 26, 2013 1:25:49 PM

By Paras

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I was reading your great review and was just about sold on the Epson until I read this section on lip synch issues. Is that something that can be corrected? Having the voice not match a person's lips while you're watching a movie seems horrible... Does it look like you're watching an old kung fu movie?

Thanks for your thoughts...

Posted Nov 15, 2013 9:20:19 AM

By Jeff

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What projector would be best for watching sports, mostly football in a dedicated dark media room?

Posted Nov 14, 2013 10:30:01 AM

By Evan Powell, Editor

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Thanks very much for the comments and feedback everyone.

Eddie, you are correct that there is a difference in the 2-year warranties, and I mistakenly overlooked that. I will remove the reference to common warranties on the first page, and add a paragraph on the warranties in "Other Key Differences." I appreciate the head's up on this item.

To summarize what I said in the evaluation--the Epson 5030UB is an outstanding projector that has numerous advantages over the AE8000 including contrast, detail clarity, black levels, on-board panel alignment capability, etc. Moreover, some of the technical advantages of the AE8000 like powered zoom/focus, lens memory, less buffer delay, and lower digital noise are not really practical advantages in many instances. For many buyers the 5030UB will clearly be the best choice. Hopefully that will be obvious to most readers.

Tony, Stewart does not recommend the 100 for home theater because is a virtually perfect diffuser intended for professional use in a black room with zero ambient or reflected light, something which is rarely achieved or even desirable in most home theaters. Stewart recommends the Studiotek 130 or the new lower cost Cima fabrics as better choices for home theater. In some of our recent testing we've set up the Cima Neve (white) screen side by side with the 100. The Cima is a bit brighter and more vibrant in the very low ambient light you normally experience in a home theater, and we would agree that for typical home theater use the Cima is not only the better choice, but the more cost-effective.

Adam, we have not shopped for a budget 2.4 screen, so I don't have any specific advice on that. Several screen vendors offer them, and you might solicit advice from some of the better online projector dealers who work a lot with home theater packages. If you set up a 2.4 format screen, you will need either an extra anamorphic lens that you install in front of the projector's standard lens, or the ability to re-adjust zoom, focus and vertical positioning of the picture when you switch between 2.4 and 16:9 format images. You can do that manually on the 5030UB if it is installed within easy reach, or the AE8000 does the lens resetting automatically with its Lens Memory system.

Posted Nov 13, 2013 7:05:18 PM

By Tbone85

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Excellent and detailed comparison. Thank you.

Posted Nov 13, 2013 1:54:35 PM

By Adam Hedman

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So where is the best place to get a nice quality budget 2.4:1 Cinemascope format screen? I have the Panasonic AE9000 and want to look at different options for my movie watching experience. Also, do you need to purchas a different lens to watch it in 2.4:1 format? Where do you get that?

Posted Nov 13, 2013 1:26:08 PM

By Eddie

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Evan, You really are glossing over the warranty differences between the 5030UB and AE8000. To imply they're 'equal' with 2 years is a stretch.

Panasonic has a 2000 hour limit which ends warranty coverage. Use the AE8000 more than 3 hours a day and you don't get two years. 8 hours a day and your warranty is kaput in 8 months. No hour limit on Epsons.

Also, Epson will ship you a replacement immediately and pay the shipping both ways during the two years. With the Panasonic, you pay for shipping and are without a projector for the duration of the repairs.

Given the glowing praise for every instance where you find the Panasonic superior, you owe us a little of the same when the opposite is true if only for credibility.

Further, comparing this shootout with Bill's shootout last year of the 5020UB vs AE8000, one might almost conclude that the 5030UB has gotten WORSE given the effusive praise of the AE8000 in this comparison...

Posted Nov 13, 2013 11:46:53 AM

By tony

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Why is the Stewart Studiotek 100 not appropriate for these projectors? Is it the 1.0 gain? I thought a perfectly dark room meant you would want LESS gain if anything since the room is so dark already.

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