Anyone in the market for a very big-screen TV and has the ability to control the lighting in their home theater room should try to get to a local audio video specialty dealer carrying Epson’s latest lines of Home Cinema projectors for a demonstration.

The company used the CE Week showcase in New York City this week to demonstrate its newly announced Pro Cinema 6040UB ($3,999 suggested retail), which will ship in the middle of August along with the Pro Cinema 440 ($2,699), the Home Cinema 5040UB ($2,999) and Home Cinema 5040Ube ($3,299) projector models. All were designed to produce bright, saturated images with higher contrast and lower black levels than we’ve seen before at these price points.

Video projectors provide a very big-screen alternative to today’s flat-panel displays, at significant savings inch-for-inch over similarly sized OLED or LCD TVs. Video projectors will also allow screens up to 200 inches and larger in some cases, which is not likely to be touched by flat-panel TVs anytime soon. Epson’s new models do a very good job of bringing all the dynamics and drama from the professional theater home at a relatively affordable price point. Of course, how much you choose to put into the surrounding home theater space will impact that cost as well.

Read more about Epson’s new pixel shifting projectors after the jump:

Epson’s latest projector models are designed to compete in the 4K-age. In properly controlled lighting environments, they provide very bright pictures, along with high dynamic range (HDR) that enriches colors and brings out details in deep blacks and bright whites. They also use lamps instead of the laser-engine used in Epson’s more expensive LS1000 projector introduced last year, to provide brighter high-resolution pictures at significantly less cost.

The trade-off will be the need to change bulbs periodically.

Although these aren’t native 4K Ultra HD 3LCD displays, their embedded 4K Enhancement technology shifts the pixels on native 1080 3LCD chips diagonally 0.5 pixels to effectively double the resolution to a 3840 x 2160 4K-like resolution experience. The net effect of the resolution can be hard to distinguish from native 4K Ultra HD projectors from Sony, which can cost many thousands of dollars more without the same level of brightness.

At CE Week, Epson compared the Pro Cinema 6040UB with Sony’s $15,000 VPL-VW665ES, using an Ultra HD Blu-ray of The Kingsmen with HDR. The results were impressive. The 6040 produced a much brighter image and still managed to hold on to the deep blacks. Colors were saturated, rich and lifelike. The picture on the Sony was also remarkably strong, although darker, and significantly more expensive.

Clearly, HDR played a significant role in the strong performance level of the Epson. HDR provided the impact that 4K alone lacks, with the chief benefit coming in deeper black levels with greater detail, and much wider saturated colors. The projectors are all said to cover 100 percent of the DCI P3 color gamut.

Less noticeable in HDR on projectors than on flat-panel displays are spectral highlights, where bright elements tend to look flatter in projected images but are significantly brighter than the surrounding image on bright 1,000 nit LCD TVs and high-performing OLEDs.

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All of the projectors have been designed to accept and play 4K Ultra HD with HDR signal sources and display them in near native 4K Ultra HDTV resolution.

For many home users, Epson’s Home Cinema 5040UB will be a logical selection. It features a white case, and includes a pair of HDMI 2.0a inputs with HDCP 2.2 copy protection to accept 4K Ultra HD content with HDR metadata from source devices like new Ultra HD Blu-ray players.

Epson’s HC 5040UB has most of the features of the 6040UB, including a 2500 lumen brightness level with auto iris that improves black levels to boost contrast performance over earlier models in this range. It also will present 3D images, although the required active-shutter glasses needed to see the results are sold separately.

For those who require additional installation flexibility, model 5040UBe ($3,299) has the same features as the 5040UB but uses an outboard HDMI connection box that communicates with the projector via the WirelessHD standard, so source devices can connect to the projector without long cable runs.

Epson’s Pro Cinema 6040UB, which is targeted at the professional custom installation markets, is also very similar in features and specs to the Home Cinema 5040UB but has a black body, built-in ISF calibration tools and ISF Day and ISF Night picture memory modes. The Pro Cinema 4040 has many of the features of the 6040UB but a slightly less bright (2,300 lumens) image.

Each projector comes with Epson’s service and support, including toll-free Epson PrivateLine priority technical support, and free two-business day exchange with Extra Care Home Service.

By Greg Tarr


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