I’ll admit, I’m a TV guy with over a decade of reviewing numerous makes and models of TVs. But deep in my soul, I’ve always carried a torch for the big screen projector experience. Therefore, I am constantly on the lookout for cutting-edge home theater projectors that won’t require taking out a second mortgage.
Over the past ten years, TV technology seemed to be a step ahead of projectors in the consumer market. Recently, you can witness that time lag in the adoption of 4K UHD displays, and more importantly – and visibly, the ability to play back HDR (High Dynamic Range) content and a wider color spectrum.
But when I experienced Epson’s demonstration of their Pro Cinema 6040UB, I realized that this projector definitely and beautifully had narrowed that technology and performance gap – and price premium – considerably.
Granted, the 6040UB runs a native HD, 1080p engine, but their 4K enhancement pixel-shift technology does an admirable job of accepting 4K content (both streaming and UHD Blu-rays) and rendering a “4K” image, which – for all but the eagle-eyed – is indistinguishable from a native 4K resolution display at a normal viewing distance.
The 6040UB’s capability of playing back HDR content with an expanded color gamut really makes this 3LCD projector stand out. Simply, the picture quality is gorgeous, bright with deep saturated colors, making this Epson a great candidate for a dedicated home theater.
Editor’s note: Epson primarily distributes their Pro Cinema 6040UB through professional installers (CEDIA). Epson also makes the PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB, which is available through a wider range of authorized resellers.
The 5040UB has similar 4K enhancement and HDR specs to the 6040UB but the 5040UB (with a current street price of $2699) does not provide a ceiling mount or spare lamp in the box. Also, the 6040UB supplies the tools for professional calibrators to tweak the picture to exacting ISF (Imaging Science Foundation) specifications.
As I was positioning and setting up the Epson 6040UB, my initial reaction was surprise at how bright the image was. Even with some ambient light in the room, the image was definitely acceptable for viewing the big game.
Of course, when testing the projector under more favorable, darker room conditions, the colors popped as the wider range of tones became more tangible.
Now, the innate display characteristics of a high-end LED TV or OLED TV are different from a projector like the 6040UB. The current crop of the top of the line TVs can achieve in essence a true black that a projector, especially with any ambient light cannot match. So if you have an LG OLED TV, do not expect a comparable HDR output from this or any other projector.
With that said, the contrast on the 6040UB is quite good. If you are feeding it HDR content, Epson provides four HDR settings that you can test out. I found HDR1 to look the best. The other three options made the picture too dark for me.
(Image below is cropped from the original 2.40:1 format.)
For watching 4K streaming content, I hooked up the Roku Premiere+ streaming box with 4K and HDR capabilities and sampled a few of Netflix’s ever expanding array of 4K material.
My go-to 4K test source is the scrumptious Chef’s Table series. The saturated, detailed shots of food are pure visual and culinary bliss. And the Epson 6040UB rendered them splendidly.
This projector also displays back 3D content in HD (not 4K). I do not have the RF 3D Glasses ($99 each on the Epson website) that are required for viewing 3D from the 6040UB. Therefore, I cannot comment on its 3D performance.
As for audio, the Epson designers did not integrate any speakers in the 6040UB, which for me is not a problem. Built-in speakers are often woefully inadequate, especially for a satisfying big-screen experience. Since the 6040UB is aimed at the home theater consumer, a dedicated, complementary high-end audio kit should be part of the package.
The Epson 6040UB sports a sleek, but solid, matte black body with air vents in the front on either side of the lens.
The unit provides three Power modes, High, Medium and ECO. As you can imagine, the cooling fan noise in High Power is louder and if the projector is close to the audience, the noise, especially in quiet scenes, could be intrusive. The fan volume in Medium and ECO modes is more subdued.
Another reason for setting the Power to Medium or ECO is that the lamp life is rated longer than in High. (ECO: Up to 5000 hours, Medium: Up to 4000 hours, High: Up to 3,500 hours. Your mileage might vary.)
The high-end all-glass lens is protected by a shutter that slides out of the way when the projector is powered up.
The lens features a 2.1x zoom range, which allows you flexibility in the distance that you place the 6040UB from the screen. In addition, the projector’s lens shift technology means that you can position the unit off-center from the screen both horizontally and vertically.
In the Epson manual, it states that the Image size range (in native aspect ratio) is 50 inches (1.27 m) to 300 inches (7.62 m). The Projection distance range (in native aspect ratio) is 58.3 inches (1.48 m) to 747.6 inches (18.99 m).
For example, to fill a 100” 16:9 screen, the projector’s zoom lens allows the unit to be placed within a range of about 10 feet to 21 feet away. Of course, the farther the projector is from the screen, the greater the light falloff.
On the side of the unit, behind a sliding door is a Control Panel of operational buttons like Power, Source and Keystone Adjustment. Because of their location and lack of illumination, you will probably never access this panel unless you have misplaced the remote control.
The big (2 inches x 8.375 inches), black, backlit remote contains all the Control Panel’s functions plus lots more, all in the palm of your hand. The remote is roomy with plenty of landscape for a host of dedicated buttons with easy to read labels. It’s a joy to use in a darkened room.
On the back of the 6040UB is a connection panels with an AC input port, a remote receiver, an Opt.HDMI (300mA) port (USB power for optical HDMI connections), an HDMI1 (HDCP 2.2) input, an HDMI2 input, a USB port (for optional wireless LAN module and firmware updates), a Service port, a LAN port (for a wired network connection), a PC port (VGA), an RS-232C port and a Trigger Out port.
Please note that Epson does not build in a wireless adapter, though you can purchase an Epson 802.11b/g/n wireless LAN module ($99) that plugs into the USB port. Or you can go old school and plug an Ethernet cable into the provided LAN port for a wired connection. Either option will allow you to project content from your network connected computer.
Even if you are connected, the Epson 6040UB is not “Smart” in the sense that it does not have apps for streaming content like Netflix, YouTube or Amazon Video. To gain access to those providers, you can connect to a “Smart” device like certain models of 4K Blu-ray players or a dedicated streaming gadget like the 4K capable Roku Premiere+ or the newly minted Apple TV4K. (Make sure that the device supplies your favorite content providers.) Since the 6040UB does not include built-in speakers, you will need to route the streaming signal through your sound system and then pass the video to the projector via HDMI.
I usually go into a longer exposition about the set-up process, but will truncate the description because the Epson 6040UB is only sold through custom installers, who will probably be performing the set-up for their customers.
I would definitely recommend this avenue. I wouldn’t call the 6040UB complicated, but it does provide a lot of fine tuning options and memory settings for various content and display formats.
A good installer will be able to calibrate and configure this projector to your environment and viewing preferences.
If that is your situation, set-up should be painless. Of course, even if you don’t want to dive into the nitty-gritty of projector calibration – and there’s no shame in that decision – you still should get a quick primer on the basics from your installer, while leaving the details to the professionals. And, heaven forbid, if you do have questions late at night, the manual is well written and informative.
If you are an experienced DIYer, then you probably will be buying the Epson 5040UB on the Internet or from a big box store. You can find detailed reviews for it online.
In the last couple of years, Epson has been instrumental in bringing 4K resolution – “Enhanced” as it is – to high quality projectors at a price level that is within reach to a wider Home Theater audience. When it first hit the market, the Epson 6040UB was a disruptor. Its features and first class performance continue to make this unit a good value.
Within the last few months, the “4K” market has become more crowded and the competition more intense. Not only is the 6040UB fending off entries from other companies, Epson has released another contender entering the ring at $2199, the Home Cinema 4000 3LCD Projector with 4K Enhancement and HDR.
Epson’s 6040UB projector, (and its sibling, the 5040UB), are great candidates for home theater fans looking to build or upgrade their system with a great performing, HDR-capable “4K” display. Considering its luscious picture quality and high-end features, this Pro Cinema 6040UB definitely remains a great buy in this ever-expanding “4K” projector marketplace.
(Pictured below: Epson Pro Cinema 6040UB & the Home Cinema 5040UB [in white].)