The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5010 is Epson's brand new 3D 1080p projector for home theater. Like the Home Cinema 8700 UB, the 5010 has impressive contrast and very high maximum lumen output. This allows the projector to fill large screens in dark rooms or effectively combat ambient light in living rooms and other shared spaces.
Where the Home Cinema 3010 was a bit of a departure for Epson, the 5010 is a return to form. The projector's 2.1:1 zoom lens and extensive H/V lens shift give it some of the best placement flexibility in its price class, while Frame Interpolation and Super Resolution both add subtle enhancements to an already great image. With street prices hovering around $2700, the Home Cinema 5010 is a strong contender in this year's home theater line-up.
Even fresh out of the box, the 5010 demands attention. The projector sports a two-tone case, with white top and bottom panels and a black front grill and lens. The slick, streamlined case has some nice touches, such as a control panel that hides away behind a spring-loaded sliding panel cover and a center-mounted lens configuration that will make ceiling mounts easier.
Outwardly, the Home Cinema 5010 resembles a larger Home Cinema 3010, though the similarities are only skin deep. Set up side by side, the differences in performance and image quality are striking: the 5010 has vastly deeper black levels, higher dynamic range, better color saturation, quieter operation, a quieter auto iris, and an overall sharper image. Then again, the 3010 is designed for home entertainment while the 5010 is built for home theater, so the 5010's better performance is not entirely unexpected.
We set the 5010 up in a darkened room on a rear shelf to take full advantage of the projector's 2.1:1 zoom lens and H/V lens shift. The projector is a breeze to set up, and the lens shift wheels even have click stops indicating the halfway point in their ranges. All lens controls are manual. The 5010 takes longer to start up than previous Epson projectors by a few seconds, though previous Epson projectors lack the 5010's powered retracting lens cap. When the projector is not in use, it slides in front of the lens, protecting it from dust and damage automatically.
As far as placement goes, the Home Cinema 5010 can produce a 120" diagonal 16:9 image anywhere between 11' 8" and 25'. Lens shift is extensive as well. 2.9 picture heights of total vertical range allow you to place the image entirely above or below the centerline of the lens with room to spare for ceiling or table mounting, while 1.9 image widths of horizontal range allows for nearly 50% shift in either direction. This is more or less the best shift range available on a projector in this price class, and it allows for a wide variety of installations.
With all the lights out, Cinema mode's 827 lumens make it a perfect fit for a 130" diagonal 1.0 gain screen, or a 140" diagonal screen at 1.3 gain. Users of smaller screens can avail themselves of Eco lamp mode or the projector's generous zoom lens in order to lower light output from this point. If ambient light is a concern, several of the projector's other image modes -- namely Dynamic and Living Room -- offer light output more than double that of Cinema mode, though color and contrast are compromised as a result.
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.
Light output. The Home Cinema 5010 is rated at 2400 ANSI lumens. It was a pleasant surprise, then, to find that our test unit produced 2798 lumens in Dynamic mode with the lamp at full power. Dynamic mode prioritizes lumen output at the expense of contrast and color performance, but it is a useful preset when watching sports or television in ambient light. If you have better control over ambient light, Living Room has better color accuracy and increased dynamic range at 1846 lumens. The next rung down the brightness ladder, Natural, puts out 886 lumens. The large divide between the brightness of the Living Room and Natural presets represents the difference between a viewing area with ambient light and one without it. In a darkened room, 886 lumens is enough to power a 140" diagonal 1.0 gain screen at 15 fL. Realistically, you probably don't have a perfectly darkened room, but then again, you probably aren't using a 1.0 gain screen, either.
Cinema mode is the most accurate preset from a color standpoint, especially after changing the color temperature setting from 6500K to 7000K. It also has the highest dynamic range that the 5010 is capable of. At 827 lumens, brightness is perceptually identical to Natural mode, while dynamic range and color improve.
If you have a smaller screen, say 120" or 100" diagonal, and want to reduce light output, there are two ways to accomplish this. The first is to use Eco lamp mode, which cuts light output by 24% in all image modes. The second would be to mount the projector farther back and use the telephoto end of the zoom lens, which reduces brightness by a maximum of 37%. The drop-off is approximately linear across the lens's range; in other words, using the halfway point of the zoom would reduce output by about 19%.
Contrast. The Home Cinema 5010 is rated at 200,000:1 on/off iris-assisted contrast, just like the earlier 8700 UB. This does not mean that the two projectors are the same, however. For one thing, with the irises turned off, the 5010 has a deeper black level than the 8700 UB. For another, the 5010 appears to have higher dynamic range than the earlier model. The iris on the 5010 seems more effective and responsive than that of the 8700 UB. All in all, the 5010 appears higher in contrast in the vast majority of scenes, though the effect is sometimes subtle.
Color. Even fresh out of the box, the Home Cinema 5010 is within spitting distance of 6500K. At its defaults, our test sample measured 6000K across the board, which is noticeably warm. Simply changing the color temperature preset from 6500K to 7000K, though, alleviated most of the problem, and color temperature then read between 6450K and 6480K. Some final fine-tuning with our CalMan calibration rig brought the projector in line with the 6500K standard. As far as gamut is concerned, the 5010 needs very little adjustment. While blue and yellow showed perceptible differences that required correction on our test sample, the other colors were already close to published specs.
Glasses not included. While the Home Cinema 3010 included two pairs of 3D glasses in the purchase price, the 5010 includes none. If you and your spouse would like to watch 3D movies on your new projector, you'll need to plonk down an additional $198 for two pairs of Epson 3D glasses. Alternately, Epson's glasses follow the M-3Di standard, so you can use any glasses that conform to this standard. Participating companies include Panasonic, XpanD, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, SIM2, and Viewsonic -- and Epson, of course. Just make sure to confirm that whatever glasses you want to purchase specifically reference M-3Di compatibility, as the standard is still relatively new.
Manual zoom and focus. The 5010 has all manual adjustments, including zoom, focus, and lens shift. Other competing models feature powered zoom and focus, if not lens shift. The 5010 does not have anamorphic lens support, and zooming the lens back and forth on a 2.4:1 screen is one way to show cinemascope movies in their native aspect ratio. Projectors with powered zoom lenses allow you to do this without leaving your seat.
Fan noise. The Home Cinema 5010 is quiet in Eco lamp mode, with fan noise never rising above the level of a hushed whisper. However, the lamp's full power setting causes a sharp increase in fan noise. In small rooms, or installations where the projector is near the audience, this increased fan noise might require you to increase sound volume in compensation.
3D Limitations. When viewing 3D content, the projector switches to one of two image modes, 3D Dynamic and 3D Cinema. These modes have their own color calibrations which do not reflect the settings you input for their 2D counterparts. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since 3D content is often color-balanced differently. However, both modes also disallow the use of frame interpolation and the projector's auto iris.
The Home Cinema 5010's biggest competition in the under-$3000 price bracket is the Panasonic PT-AE7000. The AE7000 is a 2,000 lumen, 300,000:1 contrast, full HD 3D 1080p projector that, like the 5010, is built around LCD technology. Both projectors are built for home theater, and a darkened room will bring out their best performance.
In terms of image quality, the 5010 and the AE7000 are remarkably similar. The picture on screen is clear, sharp, and high in contrast. Color accuracy on both machines is excellent, and neither required much adjustment. The differences are mostly subtle. Try to keep this in mind as you read; some differences sound bigger on paper.
Light output. The most dramatic differences between the two projectors relate to brightness. The AE7000's brightest mode is called Dynamic, and it measured 1685 lumens on our test sample. The Home Cinema 5010's brightest mode, also called Dynamic, pumps out over 2700 lumens. In terms of color accuracy, the two are about equal; both modes sacrifice color accuracy in the interest of more brightness. If you need a projector for living room use, the Home Cinema 5010's extra light output may be beneficial.
In Cinema mode, the AE7000 produces 526 lumens to the 5010's 827 lumens. In a darkened theater, the AE7000 is the perfect choice for a 100" to 120" screen, where extra brightness would harm rather than help. If you want a really large screen, though, the Home Cinema 5010 can light up a 140" diagonal 1.3 gain screen without sacrificing any color or contrast performance.
Contrast. When it comes to black level, the two projectors are functionally tied. The AE7000 closes down to a blacker black, but this only appears on a solid black screen. If there is anything else in the image, even just a field of stars, the iris opens up enough that the two projectors have the same black level. As far as dynamic range is concerned, the AE7000 appears to have a slight advantage, with the picture appearing more three-dimensional in some scenes.
Color. Once calibrated, the AE7000 and the Home Cinema 5010 are nearly identical in terms of color. The AE7000's red is more strongly saturated thanks to its red-rich lamp, but the two are otherwise evenly matched. Out of the box, the AE7000 is a little warmer than the 5010, which appears slightly green in comparison.
Sharpness and clarity. In some scenes, the AE7000 looked a touch sharper than the Home Cinema 5010, though this may simply be the result of the AE7000's incrementally higher contrast. Blu-ray movies on either projector look superb, and this difference between them is only observable when the two projectors are set up side by side. There is also a touch less digital noise on the 5010, especially in mid-tones.
3D performance. There are a number of factors which determine 3D quality, and each projector has a few in its favor. Both projectors use 480Hz LCD panels. The AE7000 has less crosstalk, but neither projector shows excessive crosstalk to begin with. The AE7000 also has less flickering instability in its image, which can be distracting when there are large fields of a solid color. The AE7000's Frame Interpolation system works in 3D, while the Home Cinema 5010's system does not. The Home Cinema 5010 is brighter than the AE7000, and 3D brightness (or lack thereof) can contribute to the headache some people get when watching 3D. If you are using a large screen (120" to 140") and don't want to change image sizes to use 3D, the 5010's extra brightness could be helpful.
Placement flexibility. Both the 5010 and the AE7000 have zoom lenses of at least 2.0:1 and both horizontal and vertical lens shift. The 5010 has a slightly longer zoom range (2.1 versus 2.0) and an incrementally better horizontal lens shift (45% in either direction instead of 25%), but the AE7000 has powered zoom and focus while the 5010 has manual controls for those adjustments. The AE7000 supports anamorphic lenses and has a Lens Memory feature to zoom the picture up and down for a 2.4:1 screen, while the 5010 does not support anamorphic lenses and lacks this feature.
Connectivity. The AE7000 has three HDMI ports to the 5010's two. If you opt for the 5010e model, WirelessHD is a feature that's not available on the AE7000.
Special features. The AE7000 has a suite of tools meant to make calibration easy, including split screen adjust and a waveform monitor. The 5010 does not have any equivalent features. Both projectors have frame interpolation systems as well as some form of smart sharpening -- Panasonic calls it Detail Clarity, while Epson calls it Super Resolution. Both systems are effective. We noticed slightly more video delay when using the Home Cinema 5010's frame interpolation system on High than when using the equivalent setting on the AE7000. If you like to run your frame interpolation system at full blast, it is worth considering. Finally, the 5010 has a split-screen feature, allowing the display of two sources simultaneously, while the AE7000 does not.
Epson's Home Cinema 5010 is a 3D projector done right. From the comments we've been getting, it seems like a lot of people have been waiting for a 3D version of the Home Cinema 8700 UB -- that is, a strong home theater projector with great contrast and solid color performance, with the brightness to light up a very large screen and 3D performance that's competitive with the best of this year's crop. The Home Cinema 5010 is that projector.
Even if you have zero interest in 3D, the Home Cinema 5010 is a great 2D projector. It has the contrast and color to bring even the most detailed Blu-ray movies to life, while Frame Interpolation decreases motion judder and Super Resolution breathes new life into standard definition DVD movies. The Home Cinema 5010 is a step beyond the 8700 UB and a worthy upgrade for current owners of that projector.
Now, factor in the Home Cinema 5010's 3D performance. High lumen output keeps the picture from looking dim or washed out at large screen sizes. There is little crosstalk or flickering instability, making for a solid, stable image. It all adds up to an enjoyable viewing experience, no matter what type of content you'd like to watch. At $2699, the Home Cinema 5010 is a great value and a serious contender in this year's home theater lineup.