There are only two manufacturers of native 4K projectors in the world: JVC and Sony using their D-ILA and SXRD chips respectively. However, the cost of entry to those projectors can be cost prohibitive for some people. So for the rest of the brands, they either use DLP TRP chip or LCD.
None of the consumer level DLP and LCD is true native 4K chip but they use image shifting instead. While not fully accurate, it’s akin to having interlaced image as only half of the field is being projected at any given time. The result is that an image nearly indistinguishable from a native 4K image when the image is moving quickly and a slightly softer image when looking at slower moving image/stills.
Resolution aside, UHD does not only deal with resolution but also with Wide Colour Gamut and High Dynamic Range, so buying a non-native 4K-chip projector is not that big of a loss.
This is also the reason that I’m reviewing the Epson 5050UB LCD 4K-enhanced (faux-K). The very good image quality and accuracy.
Unlike the non-UB series, the 5050UB uses proprietary filter to control light polarization within the projector to eliminate any light leakage. This process increases contrast level which can be appreciated both visually and measurably. Add the 2,600 lumens colour and white brightness specifications, this projector appears to be ready for UHD/HDR viewing experience.
The HDR10 and HLG handling capability is coupled with 16-step HDR curve adjustment that is accessible from the backlit, easy to use, remote control. Plus the projector is also equipped with a 15-element aspherical lens with extra low dispersion optics.
Couple all that with a 12-bit video processor for smooth image gradation, the projector seems to be a near-perfect.
Setup of this projector is very easy. With the centre mounted lens and motorized lens (including lens shift), I simply perched the projector above my industrial SKB rack at the back of my home theatre. Sitting 14-feet away from the screen, the projector easily fit the 96” 21:9 Stewart StudioTek 130 G4 I recently purchased for my viewing area. Ten minutes was all it takes for me to install the projector and set the lens thanks to the high accuracy lens motors.
Testing the accuracy using my CalMan for Business software with image generated by Murideo Fresco-Six G device, the REC709 colour gamut is accurate. Its full-on and full-off contrast ratio (with auto iris turned on) reads at about 35,000:1 at the peak white of 39 ftL on the 1.3 gain screen. It is rather impressive. Also in Digital Cinema Color Mode, the projector also covers 97 % of the P3 colour space.
Using the Apple TV 4K set to 1080p, I played Dreamworks’ Chicken Run via Netflix. The claymation on the screen looks solid the way it should with crisp details on the edges and good black level. The colours popped and image of the chicken flying all over the place was reproduced faithfully.
There is an option to turn on the image enhancement (to upscale to 4K) but even on various both moving and paused scenes, I cannot tell the difference whether the enhancement is being turned on or off. If anything, on a couple of shots, I find that when the enhancement is being turned on, the edges of objects became softer… not sharper.
The same observations process and conclusion are identical when playing several other movies regardless of style. Be it hand drawn animation, computer generated animation, or live action, both it black and white or in colour.
Using a park-your-brain-outside-the-theatre movie such as The Meg and Aquaman in 4K UHD HDR, I can attest to the amazing quality of the 4K enhancement. Not as great as JVC’s last version of e-Shift but it comes really close. The HDR handling crushed a tiny bit of the peak highlights but by turning on the HDR Optimizer on the Panasonic UB9000, the problem disappeared. It’s clear that I have to highly recommend users to buy the Panasonic UB9000 to be paired with this projector. It’s akin to pairing a fine wine. Outside of that, the image is nothing short of impressive and can look very three dimensional at times. Highly convincing and detailed, at the same time. Not as detailed at my JVC NX7, but then again, the 5050UB is not a native 4K projector so it can be forgiven.
The only negative aspect I can easily notice is the brightness pumping due to the dynamic iris. On the other hand, while the pumping is noticeable, it’s not too distracting during my day-to-day test of this projector for a month. I invited several people to watch this projector in action during the period I had it and hardly anybody said anything about the pumping effect even after I pointed it out.
For the price, the Epson Home Cinema 5050UB makes a great choice of those looking for a more budget friendly 4K projector with glorious contrast, black level, colour accuracy that can only be best with projectors thousands above its price. Even with the slight pumping effect in the brightness due to its auto iris, the effect cannot easily be detected by the general populace.
The only thing missing is the HDR automatic tone mapping exclusive to JVC projectors as HDR implementation is on every movie is different wildly. On the other hand, you can purchase a Panasonic UB9000 UHD BD player to do the HDR tone remapping. Outside of that, I highly recommend this projector.
Epson Home Cinema 5050UB projector
JVC NX-7 (RS-2000) projector
Panasonic UB9000 UHD BD player
Pioneer Elite SC-LX704 receiver
Apple TV 4K video streamer
Stewart StudioTek 130 G4 screen
Murideo Fresco Six-G image pattern generator
PixelGen THX Certified HDMI cables
Netflix, Amazon Prime, and physical media in HD and UHD
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