When the Epson Home Cinema 4050 4K PRO-UHD projector was introduced at September's CEDIA Expo, Epson touted some improvements over earlier models. Among these was an update to its 1080p pixel-shifting technology that came with the claim of delivering equal detail to even some native 4K projectors. Alongside this, Epson also cited revised tone-mapping to benefit the rendering of HDR (high dynamic range) content found on UHD Blu-rays and some streamed content.

The release just a few weeks later of the Epson Home Cinema 4010, the consumer version of this projector, set off a bit of stir among projector enthusiasts. Along with the above-mentioned improvements, the 4010 came with a couple hundred more lumens of output than its predecessor, the Epson Home Cinema 4000, and with a marginally boosted contrast ratio. With its $2199 list price and $1799 street price, the 4010 was also starting out $200 below the initial price of the HC4000. ProjectorCentral's readers began asking how the Home Cinema 4010 compares with the Home Cinema 5040UB, which at this writing remains the direct step-up model to the HC4010. It offers similar features coupled with significantly higher rated contrast and deeper black levels, the result of Epson's Ultra Black "UB" 3LCD imagers. What is the value of the improved pixel shifting and HDR in the 4010—are these monumental or just evolutionary changes? And how about the impact of the additional contrast and light output? Would these two projectors now be so close in performance that one could more easily justify skipping the $500 premium for the HC5040? Let's try to get those answers.

Epson HC4010 and HC5040
The Epson HC4010 and HC5040 share the same housing and look identical from the outside.

What is the Difference Between the Epson HC4010 and HC5040UB?

As with the Epson HC4000 vs. the HC5040UB, which my colleague Evan Powell faced off in July 2017, the new HC4010 and HC5040UB have much more in common than they do differences. Both offer a number of higher-end projector features not typically found at their price points, including robust and heavy build quality; the same outstanding 2.1x zoom, 15 glass-element lens that Epson "over-engineered" a couple of years ago to insure its longevity into future model years; compatibility with 4K/UHD HDR content, resolution enhancement via 1080p pixel-shifting; powered lens functions including long-range lens shift and 10 lens position memories for use with constant image height (CIH) widescreen installs; a dynamic iris to help boost contrast performance on dark scenes; and 1080p 3D playback. Both projectors use exactly the same white housing, which is why one photo is used here to illustrate them. The obvious differences in specifications between the models are limited to the following:

Home Cinema
Home Cinema
$1,799 (street price)
$2,299 (street price)

Along with these measurable differences in rated brightness/contrast and the $500 price gap, are the previously mentioned updated pixel-shifting, which Epson calls 4K PRO-UHD, and the improved HDR tone-mapping, which are both found in the newer and less expensive model. Both of these new advances are expected to turn up in future Epson models, including a still unannounced but imminently pending update to the HC5040.

Except as otherwise noted, I had both projectors set to the Digital Cinema color mode in its default settings for all of my evaluations. Also, readers should note that my 5040UB sample was updated just prior to my evaluation to the latest firmware, which directly addresses HDR tone-mapping for older Home Cinema HDR models. Those with a HC5040UB or HC4000 can find the update instructions here and the firmware here.

Epson HC4010 vs Epson HC5040UB: Contrast & Black Level

Let's start with the elephant in the room: contrast and black level. These are, more than anything, how Epson delineates these two models, which are otherwise so close in max lumen output as to be virtually the same.

When Evan compared the HC5040UB with the HC4000, the gist of his findings were that the HC5040 had about the same perceived contrast on most content and noticeably deeper blacks that were visible only under certain conditions. Specifically, dark room viewing on scenes with low average picture level (APL) allowed the 5040UB to show off obviously deeper blacks in dark areas of the image and letterbox bars, as well as marginally better contrast in some areas of some images on more mixed scenes with a combination of bright and dark sections. These differences, particularly in the black level, could be detected in direct comparisons, but any contrast/black level deficiencies in the HC4000 were never egregious and it basically looked very good in this regard for projectors in this price range. Turn up the lights for ambient light viewing, and any contrast/black level advantages of the 5040UB were largely eliminated.

Well, after some hours of evaluation, I'm here to tell you that even with its modest bump in rated contrast, the new 4010 compares about the same with the 5040UB as the HC4000 did. In dark room theater viewing of many typical bright and mixed APL scenes, I was hard-pressed to find any differences at all between the two projectors. In that regard, I came away even more impressed with how the less-pricey 4010 over-delivers on the vast majority of program material.

But introduce really dark, challenging scenes, and the 5040 absolutely outclasses the 4010, with or without its dynamic iris turned on. On these dark scenes, which cause the viewer's own iris's to open wider and therefore delineate finer differences between gray and black, the 5040's advantage was not only noticeable but staggering at times.

Take for example an early scene from the Stephen King horror movie It, when the main character Bill sends his six-year old brother Georgie to the creepy basement of their home to fetch some wax for the paper sailboat he's making for him (chapter 1, 00:02:58). The whole scene is drenched in darkness and shadows to evoke the ominous and horrifying events yet to come. I used the UHD Blu-ray for this, with HDR Dynamic Range in Auto mode (Epson's recommended setting and equivalent to the manual HDR 2 mode). As Georgie stands atop the stairs and peers down, the black of the darkness behind him, as well as in the letterbox bars, is distinctly deeper and more solid on the 5040. In fact, the entire image on the 4010 appears to have a haze over it by comparison. At the same time, even in such a dim scene, the good contrast between the darkness and the highlights on Georgie's barely lit face adds greater depth to the image on the 5040, and there's a noticeable difference in color saturation in the boy's skin and hair that also makes the 5040 look more natural.

A quick look at everybody's favorite black-level torture test, the opening of Chapter 12 in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (00:46:05), revealed similar results. In this scene, Voldemort's army of Death Eaters is assembled in the moonlight on a rock outcropping overlooking Hogwarts, readying for their attack. Their faces are highlighted by the moonlight, while their black robes and the surrounding mountain landscape in the distance are drenched in dark shadows. On this scene from the Blu-ray (1080p SDR), the 5040 crushed some of the details in their robes and faces that the 4010 initially revealed, but a couple of clicks up on the 5040's Brightness control brought these out without any meaningful sacrifice in black level. Meanwhile, the depth of black on the 5040 gave its image a punchy solidity, while the 4010 exhibited the same shade of gray seen earlier.

I should put this in perspective: These are very difficult scenes for any projector—indeed, for any type of display—and while neither of these projectors should be considered state-of-the-art for contrast, these clips were not by any means unwatchable on the 4010. But if black level and dark-scene contrast are the holy grail that separates the good, better, and best home theater projectors, the 5040 was clearly the alpha here—and not by a little bit.

Round 1 for contrast and blacks goes to the Home Cinema 5040UB, hands down.

Epson HC 4010 vs Epson HC5040UB: Resolution & Detail

Epson has referred in the past to its 1080p pixel-shifting technology as "4K Enhanced" and now calls its improved tech "4K PRO-UHD." Technically speaking, the company has made adjustments in this latest iteration that have the effect of shortening the transition time between the pixel shifts while also keeping the pixels on-screen for a marginally longer period, which is said to improve rendering of detail.

Additionally, this and previous generations of Epson's pixel-shifting solution utilize a degree of image processing to enhance contrast characteristics. Some of this processing may be handled differently in this new version, though both systems appear to behave similarly in use. If you look at a Sharpness test pattern and turn on the 4K Enhancement function, as you move up the range from Preset 1 (least enhancement) to Preset 5 (most enhancement), it has the effect of adding white halos to horizontal and vertical black lines—essentially the effect of classic edge enhancement. The first two 4K Enhancement settings add little halo to the lines on the pattern but do noticeably crisp up the image. (Epson uses Preset 2 as its default in most of the preferred color modes.) The step between Preset 2 and Preset 3 is the most dramatic, with a much larger boost in edge enhancement (and perceived detail), while those between Presets 3, 4, and 5 are fairly subtle.

Epson 4K PRO-UHD Pixel-Shifting
Epson's 4K PRO-UHD technology accelerates the pixel shifting to enhance performance.

What you'll find with real program material is that the edge enhancement processing can become more noticeable and occasionally egregious in some content on the higher presets, typically with higher frame rate video as opposed to movie-based 24 frame-per second material. Also, the higher presets may begin to create a mottling effect in some out-of-focus areas in the frame, or on coarse film grain when it is present—an effect that is eliminated or greatly curtailed by dialing down to Preset 2. This mottling is subtle but definitely visible at seating distance, though it is restricted to these areas of inherent digital noise caused by lack of focus or other factors. When I reviewed the HC4010 recently, I typically left the Enhancement turned up to Preset 4 or 5 to pick up the maximum level of detail the system could offer and rarely felt the need to dial it back.

I worked hard to try to delineate the differences in how each projector handled test patterns and video scenes at similar 4K Enhnancement settings. With a 4K spiral pattern (SDR, 8-bit; see below), raising the settings from Off through Preset 5 increasingly sharpened the finest lines surrounding the black center and along the curved edges of the pinwheels. That is, areas previously mashed together as white revealed more black between the converging lines to bring them into greater focus. Both projectors tracked virtually the same on this pattern in every area of the frame and at every setting but one. The exception was Preset 3, where the 4010 appeared to do an ever slightly better job of delineating the spokes coming off the curved lines on the pinwheels as they fanned off from the center. But this difference was difficult to see even at close range, and diminished at my 10 foot viewing distance. It was almost literally splitting hairs.

UHD Spiral Test Pattern
4K Spiral Resolution Test Pattern

With real program material, differences between the projectors in the rendering of detail were infrequent and hard to spot without very careful examination of paused video frames. But when there was an advantage it went to the 5040. Critically —and I must strongly emphasize this—we have no way of knowing how much of this can be attributed to differences in the pixel-shifting scheme. Epson reminded me during a meeting with their technical team that the 5040's contrast advantage positively affects the perception of detail—and suggested that a better test of their old pixel-shifting against their new pixel-shifting would come from a comparison of the 5040 and its soon-to-be-announced replacement. There's also the slim possibility that some sample-to-sample variation in the lenses came into play, though I tend to dismiss this because the 5040's advantage could be observed at different times in both the center and toward the outer edges of the screen, but not on every scene. Whatever the cause, some areas of some images definitely displayed a subtle but noticeable improvement in detail on the 5040 that was observable at viewing distance.

A not-for-sale UHD demo disc supplied to the press years ago by Panasonic (8-bit, Rec.709 SDR) provided a number of useful 4K video clips for testing image sharpness. On one of them, a train makes its way through autumn woods (screen shot below). There are tons of fine details in this scene, including thin branches that have already lost their leaves, sections of crisply photographed leaves bursting with bright color, small mechanical details and signage on the train, and a black-painted brick industrial building in the background. The two projectors started out largely identical in all areas of the image at most of the Enhancement settings. They looked very soft with Enhancement off, and got marginally sharper through Preset 2. At Preset 3 and above, however, there was a noticeable difference in the moss-covered fence at the center-foreground of the image, which on the 5040 had a bit of additional depth and dimensionality. The 5040 was better able to bring out the sublte dark areas between the vertical fence slats. The 5040 also exhibited a touch more definition in the red, yellow, and green leaves seen at center frame, left of the tracks. On close inspection, it appeared that the individual pixels were better defined. Other areas of the frame, whether in the foreground or background, retained similarly sharp and matching focus on both projectors.

UHD Train Demo Clip (Courtesy of Panasonic)
UHD train demo clip (Courtesy of Panasonic)

Interestingly, this subtle advantage for the 5040 was really only seen on very fine, distant details in long camera shots. That advantage was lost on sharp close-ups, even those with equally fine details, where both projectors performed beautifully and with almost breathtaking clarity. For example, in another clip from this demo disc showing a woman in a kimono enjoying a cup of tea outdoors, the projectors were equals in their ability to reproduce the sharpness of the sunlit hairs coming off her head and eyebrows, and the smoothness of her make-up. And on super tight close-ups of Tom Cruise's face in Oblivion (Chapter 1, 00:01:29) and of Scarlett Johannson's eyes in Lucy (Chapter 18, 01:12:28), the projectors also performed identically and generated striking images.

In the end, it's safe to say that the differences between the HC4010 and HC5040 on delivery of picture detail are very modest and restricted to small, fine details in certain types of scenes that the HC5040 handled better. I again have to put this in perspective, because the 4010, with an unusually fine lens for its price point, is exceptionally sharp. Furthermore, I have little doubt that the difference between the two would be nigh impossible to detect in the absence of a direct side-by-side comparison, and totally lost in the presence of any object motion or a camera pan or zoom. These differences are that tiny. Still, this is a shoot-out, so I'll have to declare that Round 2, for resolution and detail, goes to the HC5040.

Epson HC4010 vs Epson HC5040UB:
HDR Tone-Mapping

The Epson 4010 and 5040UB are engineered to recognize content mastered for HDR10, the most common form of HDR that's found on UHD Blu-ray discs and some streamed content. HDR content is often mastered to deliver bright highlights of 1,000 nits or more, well beyond the capability of most projectors and barely within the capabilities of today's better flatpanel TVs. So all consumer displays have to remap the content to make it look best within their own usable dynamic range. This so-called "tone-mapping" inevitably leads to compromise. Sometimes, highlights are necessarily clipped in order to achieve maximum visceral impact and punch, but at the sacrifice of accepting blooming and a loss of detail in these bright sections of the image.

The 4010 and 5040 each offer the same manual settings for HDR, labeled HDR Mode 1, 2, 3, and 4. There are also two automatic settings that kick in when the projector sees an HDR10 flag in the conent: Auto (Bright) is equivalent to HDR Mode 1, and Auto is equivalent to selecting HDR Mode 2. As you progress in the settings from Mode 1 to Mode 4, the overall image gets progressively darker, and in doing so the the brightest highlights in the content are reduced in brightness to curtail or eliminate clipping and retain more detail. So, your HDR setting is by nature a trade-off. If you're watching in a dark theater and want super-bright, impactful highlights that render more emotional impact, set it for Mode 1 or Mode 2, but expect to lose, for example, the circular perimeter that defines the shape of a setting sun, and maybe some of the detail and contrast in the clouds or landscape surrounding it. If you want to see more of the detail in those areas, use Mode 3 or Mode 4, but you'll be sacrificing the bright highlights that give HDR its emotive effect.

I started my HDR comparison of the projectors by calling up the HDR grayscale test patterns that are hidden as an Easter Egg on many Sony-released UHD Blu-ray titles. You start at the Top Menu of any Sony UHD disc, call up the number entry function on your player or access the remote's numeric keypad, and type in 7-6-6-9. A variety of 100-nit color targets and 10-step grayscale patterns come up. The grayscale patterns cover the ranges from 0 nits through 100 nits, 100 nits through 1000 nits, 1000 through 2000 nits, and 2000 through 10,000 nits. (All displayed as 4K/24p, 12-bit, 4:2:2 HDR on the Epsons.)

HDR Grayscale Step Pattern
HDR grayscale step pattern with Epson HDR menu (pattern courtesy of Sony)

With the low-black step pattern, 0-100 nits, it was easy to see that when the projectors are in HDR Mode 1 or Mode 2 the 4010 slightly better handled the first very fine steps out of black, showing more distinction between the steps below 1 nit. In Mode 2, everything above 5 nits takes on less brightness and punch, and the 5040's lower black floor seems to come into play and further dulls things beyond what Mode 2 does to the image on the 4010, which retained a little more punch. Go to Mode 3, and everything below 1 nit on the 5040 is crushed into black, while the 4010 retains some modest delineation in the intermediate steps from black to that level. By the time you get to Mode 4, the 5 nit bar on both projectors takes a big hit in brightness along with all the higher steps, casting a kind of pall over the image on both projectors. But the 4010 still shows more even gradation below that 5 nit level compared with the 5040.

On the higher end of the scale, the 100-1000 nit steps showed that in Mode 1 or Mode 2, both projectors basically clip everything above 500 nits. The 4010 continued to show greater distinction between the steps below that point, however, with more natural gradation from 100 to 200 nits. Moving to Mode 3 or 4 allows display of all the steps in this pattern up to 1000 nits, though at much lower brightness. Mode 4 was also the only setting that doesn't fully clip every step on the 1000-2000 nit grayscale pattern. In that mode, both projectors showed all the steps, however they also both showed a lack of delineation in the steps from 1,300 to 1,500 nits.

Taken in total, the step patterns suggest that while there is not a huge difference in how the 4010 and 5040 render HDR, it would appear that Epson's tone mapping in the 4010 makes for somewhat better delineation of shadings coming out of black and less crushing of near black, and perhaps a bit more fineness in the handling of small differences in brightness up to perhaps 400 nits—near its peak output capabilties in HDR Mode 1 and Mode 2.

To check some real-world content, I dialed up a super-bright HDR torture clip from the movie Pan that I've seen used in manufacturer demos and as test fodder in the Value Electronics TV Shootout I recently helped judge. In Chapter 2, Peter gets kidnapped and taken aboard a flying pirate ship that makes its way toward Neverland. At 00:18:56, the ship navigates directly into a bright, setting sun in a sky punctuated by clouds and glassy-looking bubble spheres of water that contain swimming fish. The sun is so bright in this CGI-generated scene that most displays fully blow it out and turn the sun and everything around it into a giant, yellow blotch. If you turn the HDR setting on the Epsons down to Mode 4 on this scene you've dimmed the overall picture enough to tame it and make evident the sun's peripheral outline and the clouds in front of it. At that setting there was no clear advantage for either projector, but nor was the image quality really bright enough to provide any real visual impact.

However, in the brighter modes, despite losing the firm outline of the sun and seeing the surface textures blown out on the big bubble sphere at center screen, the 4010 delivered some subtle but noticeable improvements over the 5040. At HDR Mode 3 the 4010 showed more punch overall, and a bit more detail in the sun's outline in the clipped area. There was no doubt I was getting a little better contrast on this bright scene with the 4010—the wispy horizontal clouds that shroud the sun are in greater relief and the clouds can be seen reaching out further into the sun's halo. That contrast advantage became even clearer in HDR Mode 2, Epson's recommended mode, where the outline of the ship as it's heading into the sun appears darker and less washed out against the hyper-bright background. You can also see more of the darker shadings in some of the clouds, which gave them back some of their depth and dimensionality.

On HDR scenes that were darker overall or had a mix of dark and bright elements, the deeper native black level of the 5040 was sometimes visible, but not often in the brighter HDR Modes 1 and 2, which I always preferred for their punch and impact regardless of any loss of detail from the clipping. I mentioned earlier the scene from It, for example—an HDR scene that clearly benefitted from the 5040's contrast advantage. On mixed scenes that advantage was less pronounced. In the New York Library sequence in Oblivion (Chpter 3, 00:17:20), Tom Cruise's character is shown with backlighting behind him and the bright spot beam on his weapon facing toward the camera into the darkness. In HDR Mode 1, there was no difference between the projectors in the intensity of the spotlight when it's visible, but the 5040's deeper blacks brought out just a touch more shadow detail in the dimly lit debris visible in the darkness one floor below. Again, a subtle difference that would likely be missed in the absence of direct A/B comparison.

With all that said, we'll give this last round to the 4010 for its marginally better HDR performance on a range of material.

Epson HC4010 vs. Epson HC5040UB: Conclusion

To sum up the findings, there are three key takeaways from our shoot-out:

  • The HC5040 has better contrast and, especially, lower black levels that far exceed the capabilities of the HC4010, but which are really only brought to bear on very dark scenes, and in dark-room theater viewing. On most bright or mixed material, or in even moderate ambient light, both projectors are close in contrast performance.

  • The jury is still out on the added value of Epson's new updated 4K PRO-UHD pixel shifting technology. It did not appear in my testing to give the HC4010 any clearly discernible advantage over the 5040 in the rendering of detail, and in fact, the 5040's marginally better performance in this area on some types of scenes may have been the result of that projector's superior contrast overwhelming any modest benefit from the revised pixel-shifting. We'll wait for an opportunity to hopefully compare the 5040 with the 5040's successor before passing judgement on 4K PRO-UHD.

  • Epson appears to have made some small but noticeable improvements in the handling of HDR content in the 4010, though these are hardly significant enough to justify passing on the 5040's higher contrast and deeper blacks if one's inclinations and budget permits.

In the final analysis, then, I can't come to any conclusion that's radically different from what Evan arrived at when he faced off the 5040 with the 4000, the 4010's predecessor, other than to perhaps place higher value on the 5040's better blacks. My own opinion is that if you care about having a great picture for dark-room/dark-scene performance, it's worth seriously considering the 5040. Granted, it's a significant $500 premium over the 4010—about 28%—but $2,299 is still a fair price for such a solidly built, well-featured, high-performance projector. The passionate home theater enthusiast will come to appreciate what this projector does right with the toughest content.

On the other hand, if your budget is tighter, or your application calls mostly for viewing in ambient light, save the $500 or put it toward a UHD Blu-ray player or discs and buy the HC4010. It can't be described as the best overall performer among these two, a title still held by the HC5040 and one that will likely be inherited by the 5040's successor. But the HC4010 can be said to deliver most of the performance of the HC5040 on the vast majority of viewing material. And among these two, it most certainly remains the best value.

Comments (29) Post a Comment
David Rivera Posted Nov 22, 2018 7:38 AM PST
Great to be reaffirmed on my choice to hold on to my 5040UB until the direct incoming replacement. I am hopeful that the 5040 replacement will follow JVC's lead with a native 4k projector. Whether you choose the 4010 or 5040,you will know that Epson delivers the most quality bang for your dollar. Thanks Rob for much appreciated comparison review.

William L Carman Posted Nov 22, 2018 10:24 AM PST
Hi Rob,

I was very pleased to have your comparison review of these two fine projectors as an unexpected Thanksgiving present! Since I have had the use of the 5040's predecessor for the last five years using it in a completely blacked out room, it is obvious from your careful comparisons that as much as I might like the 4010, (or even perhaps the 4000) in the end I would probably be unhappy with the black level of either one. Yes, I would like all of the improvements, but in the end, black matters in video projection.

Thanks again for a very thorough comparison. I appreciate it.
DavidK Posted Nov 22, 2018 12:20 PM PST
The announcement of Epson's 4050/4010 seemed to be accompanied by a great deal of fanfare, not just from Epson but from some members of the AV Press. Your comparison confirms my thoughts; without contrast its just a bunch of marketing hyperbole. Glad to read your confirmation that the 5040UB upgrade is on its way, evolutionary as it may be.
Toby Posted Nov 22, 2018 4:02 PM PST
And I can assume that 3D viewing will be the same on both projectors?
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Nov 22, 2018 7:12 PM PST
Toby, I didn't actually look at 3D on the 5040UB for this evaluation, but I would expect it to be similar since both projectors are tuned essentially alike and have about the same lumen output. I found 3D on the 4010 excellent when I reviewed that projector but thought it really benefited from the extra punch I got with the high power lamp mode, which also drives up fan noise.
Tom Roseman Posted Nov 23, 2018 6:04 AM PST
Great review. I am thinking of upgrading my Epson Home Cinema 6100. And I am not sure if I want the Epson 4010 or the Optoma UHD51A. Or even a little step up to the 5040 or the UHD60. What are your thoughts on those?
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Nov 23, 2018 6:15 PM PST
Tom, I've not spent any time with the UHD51A but I have it in house and hope to have a look at it alongside the 4010 and pass along comments at a later date. One thing I can say is that the 4010 is much more fully featured projector given its powered lens functions,and that the usual differences between DLP and 3LCD or 3-chip LCoS models applies: no chance of rainbows on a 3-chip projector, though color-wheel rainbows are not usually an issue with the UHD51A...or most Optoma projectors, from what I understand.
Michael B. Posted Nov 25, 2018 12:13 AM PST
Hi Rob, Thanks for this detailed comparison. It's one that I've been looking for. I have to ask if the 5040 had the latest firmware installed? I understand there was a fairly recent update that made some changes to the HDR modes and Tone mapping. From your description of the subtle differences in 4k pixel shifting and mapping of the presets this is a change that might be accomplished via a firmware update to the 4000 and 5040. I've seen the spec sheets for the 5040's replacement on European and UK sites, and the primary (and significant) difference is the HDMI interface. The new replacement will finally have an 18Gbs HDMI port. This is especially good news for those with game consoles that utilize the high framerate, as well as for HDR content. It's listed as supporting HDR10, HLG and 4k/60fps HDR at 18GPS. I haven't seen the specifics. Will the interface support 4k/60 at 4:4:4, or what are wireless TW9400W limits? In any case, if Epson carries the high bitrate processing through, it should also impact the HDR tests, which I can't help but think are limited by the current 10Gbs 4k/24 4:2:2 interface of an otherwise outstanding and amazing projector. In your conversations with Epson, did they mention this or the projected US release date? (Pun intended). I'd love to test one (as would many I'm sure) as I'm in the midst of updating my entertainment system, and have held off the decision until this comes out. It's a bit off track for the comparison you did, but certainly relevant to the conversation, particularly about the firmware changes to the 5040.
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Nov 25, 2018 1:00 AM PST
Michael, I'm glad you brought up the 5040UB firmware, because it's a key point that was left out of the review. It now reflects that I was in fact using the most recent firmware. Just prior to my evaluation, I updated our 5040UB sample myself to current firmware, which directly addressed HDR tone-mapping and controls in the 5040UB and the HC4000. I didn't spend a lot of time looking at the pre-update projector, but along with whatever other differences might have been applied, this firmware added an "Auto (Bright)" option to the 5040UB's Dynamic Range HDR settings. Previously it had only an "Auto" setting along with the four manual HDR modes. I did observe that before the upgrade, the 5040's HDR Mode 1 was considerably less bright than the 4010's HDR Mode 1, and was about equivalent to the 4010's HDR Mode 2 in direct comparisons. After the firmware update, each setting was essentially equivalent on both models, minus whatever subtle differences I detected and reported on in the review.

As for the 5040UB's pending replacement, I have no further information beyond what others have noted about the European version, which is all very encouraging. I would not assume, however, that the new 18Gbps ports will have any direct effect on HDR tone-mapping. What it should allow is the ability to play 4K/60 HDR content, vs topping out at 4K/24 HDR the way the current 4010 and 5040UB do. So other than adding the ability to do HDR with 60 Hz videogames, I doubt the extra bandwidth will affect the tone-mapping algorithm on other HDR content played at the slower frame rate. I am anxious to review the new model when it comes out and hope we'll get to do a side-by-side with the 5040UB it replaces.

Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Nov 25, 2018 12:29 PM PST
CMR, when we're talking about three very capable projectors like the 4000, 4010, and 5040, it's probably true that most differences between them would be hard to ascertain in the absence of direct A/B comparison or prior experience with one or the other. But this doesn't mean there aren't meaningful differences, which is why we do these A/B's in the first place. We weren't able to do a direct A/B between the 4000 and 4010, but I'd guess those differences (primarily more light output and a little better rated contrast) would not be meaningful even in direct comparison in a dark room. The results of our 4010/5040UB comparison, which you've read here, is in the contrast and black level on those dark scenes, and that's a very visible difference. That said, if you're looking to do high ambient light viewing, then yes -- it might actually make more sense to get the least expensive of these three and invest the balance in a good ALR screen, which by nature boosts contrast in ambient light. The 5040UB advantage on dark scenes would likely be lost anyway with ambient light.

Regarding A/B comparisons, there are different ways to do this but in my case only one of the projectors is actively omitting light into the room and on to a shared screen at any given time. A video splitter is used to send the same signal to both projectors, and I use a pair of cardboard light barriers and block the projector that's not in use. The arrangement allows for very quick switching between the images and the detection of small differences.
CMR Posted Nov 25, 2018 5:51 PM PST
Thanks for this comparison. I imagine there are many people like me unsure when it's worth pulling the trigger on a 4K projector with prices plummeting and upgrades coming so fast. It's exciting, but I feel like it's almost inevitable that whenever I buy, a month or 2 later I'll have reason to wish I'd waited another month or two!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the impression I get from these reviews is that if I'm not actually scrutinizing them side-by-side, I'm probably not going to notice much difference between the 4000, 4010, and 5040UB. Even greater than the $500 difference between the street price of the 4010 and 5040UB is the $800 between the 4000 and 5040UB. I'm wondering if all these differences wouldn't be overshadowed by buying the 4000 and putting investing the extra $800 in a screen. Especially since in three years, Epson will probably have something that runs circles around all three of these projectors, while a good screen will take a lot longer to become obsolete.

A question, by the way: how can you do a side-by-side comparison without the light from each projector affecting the picture quality of the other? Obviously ambient light is going to affect black levels significantly; how do we know this test proves anything other than that the 5040UB is better than the 4010 at maintaining its black levels when there's another ~2500 lumen light source in the room?
Stefan S. Posted Feb 11, 2019 1:41 PM PST
Hi Rob, thanks for this very detailed comparison between these two Epson projectors. Do you have any update as to when Epson is planning on releasing the HC 5040UB successor? From what I understand, the newer model already exists in Europe but I cannot find any information about its specs or release date in the U.S. I haven't yet made the jump to projectors for my movies, but based on these reviews, I'm more inclined to opt for the 5040UB over this new HC4010 due to the trade-off with its deeper blacks in dark theater viewing. I'm trying to see if I should wait until any possible new release before making my first purchase on a projector. Keep up the great work, as it is truly valued.
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Feb 11, 2019 3:22 PM PST
Stefan, I'm guessing the U.S. version of the 5040UB successor will be out fairly soon. If you're in no rush logic suggests waiting to see what we and other outlets have to say about it in our reviews.
Nathan Daniels Posted Feb 14, 2019 12:02 PM PST
Rob, I really enjoyed this comparison. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like you indicated that with HDR content, The 5040UB kind of loses most of its black level advantage. Am I reading correctly? I watch a huge amount of content in HDR these days, so it seems I might be better off waiting for the 5040UB's successor or stepping up to a higher-end projector.
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Feb 17, 2019 11:00 AM PST
Nathan, I was actually saying that the 5040's black level advantage, in general, is lost either in ambient light (ie, anything other than a dark home theater) or with content that is of typical or bright average picture level (meaning, typical mixed brightness content that is not overall very dark). Otherwise, the 5040's black level advantage is clear in dark room viewing whether HDR or SDR.

The 5040UB's successor is widely believed to be pending, but until we look at it we can't judge how much improvement it might yield vs the 5040UB.

Bill Posted Mar 1, 2019 3:30 PM PST
Hello all projector enthusiasts! I need to get an update / education on latest projectors and would welcome all here to reply if you like. In 2003 I purchased a new Sanyo PLV-70 projector. It was everything I thought it would be! I used a RCA DT-300 tuner along with a computer with a high end video card for gaming. The projector was shone onto a painted wall in a finished basement with flat matte white. Size was 130 inches diagonal. Gaming and computer videos/music was from a wireless Microsoft keyboard and mouse. Awesome with no issues for 15+ yrs! Projector has a total of 1900 hours. Now . . . the projector has crapped out with distorted color hazes on all pictures and all imputs. I've checked computer on a desktop screen and all is fine . . . so the projector is toast. After reviewing and speaking with a sales rep from "Projector People" I was nudged to consider the "Epson 5040 UB. Looks great and reviews are very good, however I would like any advice & thoughts from the members here that are up to date and have opinions on selecting something similar or better than my old "Sanyo PLV-70. Thank you all in advance for sharing : )
Bill Posted Mar 2, 2019 6:58 AM PST
Hello all projector enthusiasts! I need to get an update / education on latest projectors and would welcome all here to reply if you like. In 2003 I purchased a new Sanyo PLV-70 projector. It was everything I thought it would be! I used a RCA DT-300 tuner along with a computer with a high end video card for gaming. The projector was shone onto a painted wall in a finished basement with flat matte white. Size was 130 inches diagonal. Gaming and computer videos/music was from a wireless Microsoft keyboard and mouse. Awesome with no issues for 15+ yrs! Projector has a total of 1900 hours. Now . . . the projector has crapped out with distorted color hazes on all pictures and all the separate imputs. I've checked computer on a desktop screen and all is fine . . . so the projector is toast. After reviewing and speaking with a sales rep from "Projector People" I was nudged to consider the "Epson 5040 UB. Looks great and reviews are very good, however I would like any advice & thoughts from the members here that are up to date and have opinions on selecting something similar or better than my old "Sanyo PLV-70. Thank you all in advance for sharing : )
jason Posted Mar 6, 2019 9:07 PM PST
Rob, the price is now identical for both these models, I just ordered the 5040ub at the $1999 price point on sale through Amazon. I'm thankful I found your comparison as it made me feel better about my purchase. I will get it tomorrow and am excited. I was glad to see that this older projector actually outperforms the newer 4010 model. I would assume the dropped price would be due to a pending new replacement for the 5040, but I'm maxed at $2K for my budget and I would also assume the new replacement will be priced higher than $2K, so this should be fine for me. Can you recommend for a 110 inch screen how far this unit should be installed from the screen? Thanks again!
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Mar 6, 2019 9:59 PM PST
Jason, that's a great way to spend your $2,000 budget--the 5040UB is a lot of projector and a high level of performance for that money. The only reason to resist that deal would be if you have cash to burn and want to wait and see what the 5040's eventual replacement brings to the table, but it's fair to assume it'll cost more out of the gate than your budget permits.

As for throw distance, use our throw distance calculator for this model and you can see how distance affects light output. You have a range of about 11 to 22 feet to achieve that diagonal image size with this projector. Bottom line is that you want to ideally avoid being fully maxed out at either end of the zoom if you can avoid that and generally somewhere nearer to the widest zoom position to preserve light output. This may be more important if you plan to watch frequently in high ambient light vs a dark room. But assuming you have some flexibility, considerations like avoiding proximity to the seating if possible (to minimize the affect of fan noise) or placing the projector where it's less obtrusive visually should also carry some weight.
D_OA Posted Mar 10, 2019 7:12 PM PST
Thanks for the thorough review; I'm even more interested in getting the 5040UB now. However, I haven't seen any discussion about power supply issues on these projectors, which I've been hearing a lot about elsewhere. Are the power supply issues overblown? Do you know if these issues have been addressed on the newer 4010 model? Or the 5040?
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Mar 11, 2019 7:41 AM PST
Actually, I've addressed these issues in comments on the original 5040UB review, found here...


The short answer is that, yes, it's been addressed in the new 4010 and the upcoming replacement for the 5040.

Christopher Mabunga Posted Mar 18, 2019 2:40 PM PST
Rob, Any whisperings on when we'll see the debut of the 5050UB/EH-TW9400 in the US? Based on the chatter in the forums, there's a lot of anticipation but as far as I can tell, Epson has been relatively radio silent. I've been waiting for the 5050UB since last September when it was originally announced in Europe. Based on the specs I've seen and the European reviews, it ticks all of the boxes for me (especially having just switched to a CIH 2.35:1 screen). However, with it being a modest, mostly iterative update to the 3 year old 5040UB, I can't help but feel like even with a launch in the next 3 months that we are now close enough to CEDIA 2019 that I should just wait to see what is on the horizon again. What are your thoughts?
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Mar 20, 2019 7:10 AM PST
I can only suggest hanging on a very wee bit longer for an Epson announcement. As for CEDIA, no crystal ball for that, but it's rare that announcements made there result in product being immediately available, so keep that in mind as well.
Jon Posted Sep 3, 2019 9:53 AM PST
How does the 4010 fair when it comes to gaming? How much input pay does it have? Thanks !
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Sep 3, 2019 7:52 PM PST
Jon, that information can be found in our review of the 4010, which is linked in this article. Bottom line: better than average input lag at around 28 ms, which is just fine for casual gaming, but well off the very fast 16 or even 8 ms found in the fastest gaming projectors and monitors. Also, the 4010 has the disadvantage of having only 10.2 Gbps HDMI 1.4 ports, which restrict it from playing UHD games at 60 Hz with HDR; it'll only do UHD at 60 Hz with SDR.
Kendall Posted Sep 19, 2020 8:45 AM PST
I do not have a dark room, except winter here as I live in Alaska. It's basically dark 24/7 in the winter here. However, I plan to have a light or two on within my living space? In the summer its almost daylight 24/7. I have shades, but the walls are white and plenty of windows. Would the 4010 be the one to choose for my specific needs? I checked the throw calculator and the 5040 or the 4010 both should work.
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Sep 20, 2020 10:50 AM PST
The extra couple hundred lumens for the 5050UB won't be worth the extra cost if you aren't really going to be watching mostly in fully controlled light. I'd do the 4010 and save quite a few bucks.
Philippe Pelletier Posted Dec 10, 2020 4:22 PM PST
Is is worth it in 2020 to buy a refurbished 5040ub over a HT3550 or optoma UHD50?

I can get it for 1950$ CAD (that's around 1100 us I think)
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Dec 10, 2020 7:56 PM PST
Very different projectors with different strengths. The 5040UB and UHD50 are in a different class in terms of brightnessis. Of those two, the 5040UB is likely the better performer in terms of contrast and comes with the 3LCD benefit of no rainbows and equal color/white balance. It also has the larger, better lens with motorized zoom/focus,shift, and lens memories should you want them. On the other hand, it's native 1080p with Epson's 4K friendly pixel shifting, while the Optoma is full 4K (also with pixel shifting via DLP XPR technology). The Epson should deliver about the same sharpness from viewing distance, however. My personal choice among these if I'm focussed on dark room home theater would be the 5040, keeping in mind that these refurbs that are still around are there because Epson had a design issue that caused the power supply in a large number of 5040s to fail. Make sure refurb comes with the factory warranty if you go that route.

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