Epson's newly released Epson Home Cinema 4000 packs a lot of highly desirable features into one projector, including:
- 4K / HDR compatibility
- Close approximation of native 4K picture resolution with native 4K sources
- Significant resolution enhancement of 1080p and SD sources
- Ten-position auto-powered Lens Memory
(ideal for CinemaScope CIH)
- DCI P3 color space
- Full HD 3D
- Frame Interpolation
- 2.1x zoom and long V+H lens shift range
- Low fan noise
This is a lot of projector for an MSRP of $2,199 - the lowest price to date for a home theater projector loaded with this array of features. So of course the big question is:
What is the difference between the
Epson Home Cinema 4000 and 5040UB?
The answer is this: In a nutshell, the Epson Home Cinema 4000 is a slightly performance-reduced version of the Home Cinema 5040UB. They are almost identical projectors, with differences only in brightness, contrast, and price as follows:
Technically speaking, the lumen and contrast differences between the HC 4000 and HC 5040UB are derived from two physical differences: the two models have different color compensating filters, and the 5040UB uses Epson's Ultra Black "UB" LCD imaging panels, which provide higher native contrast out of the gate. Both feature an automatic lens iris to boost performance on dark scenes.
look identical from the outside
With respect to brightness and contrast, the differences between the HC 4000 and HC 5040UB are not huge. As far as brightness is concerned, the difference between 2200 and 2500 lumens is almost invisible to the eye, even on a white 100 IRE test screen. In most cases you would need a light meter to detect it. And when actual video content is being displayed the difference is invisible. So the lumen difference between these two models is not an issue of consequence. Both are plenty bright for home theater applications, and there is no real-world situation in which 2200 lumens is not bright enough but an additional 300 lumens solves the problem. So the lumen difference is, in a word, irrelevant.
On the other hand, the difference in contrast is more noticeable. However, even this is not as dramatic as you might imagine. Based on the spec differential of 140,000:1 vs. 1,000,000:1, one would naturally assume that the contrast difference must be enormous. Practically speaking, it isn't. When you set these two projectors up side by side and view a typical movie or video clip, if you study them carefully you will begin to see that the 5040UB is incrementally higher in contrast. The difference varies based on the scene being displayed at the time; basically, the contrast difference is visible in some scenes and not as visible in others. In all cases, the 5040UB's contrast advantage is maximally visible in a dark viewing room. Once you introduce any ambient light into the viewing environment, the visible contrast differential tends to diminish.
The most apparent difference is in black levels. This becomes most visible in dark or low light scenes, where a black object and deep shadows will be noticeably darker on the 5040UB than on the 4000. In rolling credits with white text on black, the background is darker on the 5040UB. When displaying a 2.35 movie on a 16:9 screen, the black bars are noticeably but not dramatically darker on the 5040UB.
in testing the HC4000 and HC5040UB
On the other hand, in scenes with average or above average light levels, the black level advantage of the 5040UB is either muted or pretty much disappears entirely, so that the two projectors look very close to identical. There are many scenes in which there are both bright and dark elements in which the 5040UB's black is ever so slightly darker than the 4000, but you would not notice the difference unless you had the two side by side and were looking for it. Keep in mind that neither projector produces an absolute black--we are talking about comparative degrees of near-black here.
Though the difference in black levels is the easiest thing to see in a side by side test, there are two other subtle effects of the 5040UB's higher contrast. One is that, on occasion in some scenes the 5040UB appears to be more three dimensional--the picture has the illusion of being a bit deeper. Second, on occasion you can detect a slightly deeper color saturation. But you need to glance back and forth between the two pictures to realize these differences as they are not drastic. Moreover, the differences in image depth and color saturation are more noticeable with video material that is already high in contrast and saturation.
The essential point is that the real contrast difference between these two projectors in actual use is not as dramatic as the specs might lead you to believe. The HC 5040UB has a definite advantage in contrast and black levels, but it is not the night and day difference you might assume based on the specs. Overall, the Epson HC 4000 holds its own and delivers a very respectable amount of sparkle and snap on its own.
The Room makes a Huge Difference
In order to get the maximum benefit of the HC 5040UB's contrast advantage, it must be viewed in a dark theater with similar characteristics to a commercial movie theater. In this setting, when you view the 4000 and 5040UB side by side, you will have no trouble seeing a noticeable advantage in image depth, color saturation, and black levels in many scenes. If you are a serious videophile who likes to spend more to get the best, and if you're setting up a dedicated theater, the 5040UB would be your choice hands down.
This is not to say that the HC 4000 is not appropriate for dark theater use. It certainly is, and if you don't want to go the extra $500 for the 5040UB, the 4000 is an excellent theater projector as well, just not quite as high in performance.
However, a lot of folks who want very large screen entertainment are not serious videophiles. You may be more interested in home entertainment, family viewing, parties, and with occasional ambient light in the viewing space. If that is the case, be aware that the moment you introduce some ambient light into the room the contrast difference between the HC 4000 and HC5040UB is diminished. With moderate ambient light they begin to look almost identical. So if your viewing room is not theater dark you won't realize as much of a contrast advantage from the 5040UB, and the extra $500 might not be worth it.
The Screen can makes a Huge Difference too...
We use a large Stewart Filmscreen Studiotek 100 for most of our projector testing because it is as purely neutral as a screen can get. It shows us the actual differences in what the projectors are delivering, rather than adding its own interpretive biases of color, brightness and black levels. However, as the folks at Stewart Filmscreen have always said, the Studiotek 100 is NOT the screen most consumers would want to use in a home theater. They've got both white and gray screen materials better suited to home theater environments depending on the particular demands of the room.
If you've got a room with a lot of light colored walls, or daytime sun in the room, or if you want to plan for the presence of some artificial ambient light, an Ambient Light Rejection (ALR) screen might be the ideal solution for optimizing picture contrast and color saturation. In this case, the screen itself will contribute a BIG boost to contrast and color saturation, so much so that the contrast difference between the 4000 and 5040UB becomes insignificant. In this case, most cost effective solution for the most sparkling overall picture will be to go with the HC 4000 and put the $500 you save on the projector toward a solid ALR screen. This combination will give you a great deal more latitude to set up your projection system in a living room or multipurpose entertainment room and use it for parties or family viewing with some lights on. With a rig like this you can end up with something that looks like a 130" flat panel TV.
There are a lot of ALR screens on the market. See our review of 11 ALR Screens from last year. This extensive review highlights all of the issues related to ALR screens and how to select the right one for your room and ambient light situation.
We gave the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB our Editor's Choice Award for an outstanding combination of features including 4K compatibility, HDR, Full HD 3D, DCI P3 color space, automated Lens Memory, very long zoom and lens shift ranges, and frame interpolation to reduce or eliminate judder. Its exceptionally high contrast make it ideal for dedicated dark home theater use. (see Epson Home Cinema 5040UB review).
The Home Cinema 4000 offers a similar value proposition--it has the same robust feature set, it is within spitting distance of the same brightness, and it comes in $500 cheaper, with the only real difference of consequence being a modest reduction in contrast and a modest to moderate reduction in black levels. Essentially, the HC 4000 is a cost-reduced HC 5040UB for folks who don't need maximum contrast performance for a classic dark theater room. Currently it is the least expensive home theater projector on the market that gives you 4K compatibility, HDR, Full HD 3D, DCI P3, and Lens Memory. So with an MSRP of $2,199 it is another outstanding value.
See these authorized Epson dealers for current prices and availability of both the Home Cinema 4000 and Home Cinema 5040UB: