Native 4K imaging—where the chips display all 8.3 million individual pixels (3840 x 2160) in each frame simultaneously—is still rare in an affordable consumer projector. Currently, the entry price is $5,000, for Sony’s new VPL-VW285ES. But last year, Epson introduced two 3LCD models that use pixel shifting to achieve an apparent resolution close to 4K. The less expensive of the two was the PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB, still selling, as I write this, for around $2,700. (Its virtual twin, the Pro Cinema 6040UB, was reviewed in the October 2016 Sound & Vision.)
Epson calls their technology “4K Enhancement.” The imaging chips (one each for red, green, and blue) each provide 2 million pixels—standard 1080p. The 8.3 million pixels that make up each frame of a consumer 4K source are first processed down to roughly 4 million. These are then split into a pair of 2 million sub-frames. After the first of these subframes is displayed, the image is shifted diagonally by a microscopic amount, and the second sub-frame is displayed. The result: 4 million pixels are visible on the screen, displaced in time but flashed in sequence so quickly that persistence of vision makes them appear to be simultaneous.
JVC, of course, uses a similar technique in most of their LCOS designs, currently starting at $4,000. But now we have the Epson Home Cinema 4000, a pixel shifter at a very attractive $2,200. It offers most of the features of the 5040UB and brings 4K signal compliance, high dynamic range, wide color gamut, and Epson’s 4K Enhancement to more potential buyers than ever before.
The Home Cinema 4000 is capable of HDR10 high dynamic range (but not Dolby Vision) plus 10-bit color with a claimed 100 percent coverage of DCI-P3. Epson also claims 2,200 lumens and a 140,000:1 contrast ratio—specs to take with a grain of salt without knowing the test methods used.
The projector includes a motorized lens cover plus motorized shift, focus, and zoom, the last with a generous 2.1 range. These lens adjustments were slow to respond and tricky to set, but with patience, I found that they did the job—and it’s unusual to even get powered lens features on a projector at this price. There are 10 programmable lens memories; I used one for 1.85:1 material and a second for 2.40:1. A Blanking control lets you crop the image on the top, bottom, and/or sides. I experimented with it by cropping the IMAX-sized picture of Avatar to fit my Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 130 screen (aspect ratio 2.35:1, gain 1.3). Heresy, I know (and the Cameron police may be on the way as I write), but I did it for science! The projector also supports 3D, including 2D-to-3D conversion (though it will do neither with 4K, which isn’t part of the UHD specifications). Active 3D glasses are an extra-cost option at $99.
Epson claims exceptional lamp life for all three of the projector’s lamp modes (see Specs). It also has virtually no fan-driven cool-down period on shutdown. But I’d be prepared to replace the lamp at far less than its claimed lifetime, to maintain optimum brightness, particularly for HDR.
See Full Review at www.soundandvision.com