Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5010e 3D LCD Projector Page 2

Another key feature is frame interpolation. This has become one of the big selling points of displays lately, and one that I’m not very fond of. Epson has three different settings for how aggressive this feature can be; surprisingly, I found the Low setting to be pretty agreeable. It did a nice job of smoothing panning artifacts and keeping detail in motion, but it didn’t result in the dreaded soap opera look that has become the signature of every frame interpolation mode I’ve seen before it. The other two settings showcased the soap opera look, and I ignored them.

2D Performance
For this review, I used the 5010e with the Studiotek 130 screen referenced above. The projector was fed directly from an Oppo BDP-95 Blu-ray player using a Better Cables HDMI cable.

Last March, I reviewed Epson’s PowerLite Pro Cinema 9700 UB and gave it our Top Pick rating for midrange projectors. I was impressed with its black levels, detail, and overall performance. This year, I wasn’t quite so lucky. The 5010e didn’t seem to provide the same performance as its predecessor and suffered from issues I’ve seen with LCD projectors before, but not with last year’s Epson PowerLite.

One of the most noticeable issues was uniformity. It’s not uncommon for LCD projectors to show some shading issues with pure whites. The 5010e showed some bias toward red and even some minor streaking with fine-detail patterns. I didn’t notice any of the streaking issues with real-world material, but the image still leaned more toward red than I would have preferred, despite being calibrated correctly.

Sharpness was also a concern. The image had a softer quality to it that hurt definition and depth. I thought this may have had to do with using the panel-adjustment feature, but even turning that off didn’t restore it. Focus was decent for an LCD projector, but it was a far cry from the pixel focus I’ve seen with the more recent DLP and LCOS projectors at or near this price point.

I was impressed with the Low mode of Epson’s frame-interpolation feature. Using the opening pans on Cowboys & Aliens showed just how much this feature can help when it comes to motion resolution and eliminating annoying judder. The film’s opening sequence offers a real challenge in this regard. But it is also a great movie for testing out detail, depth, and contrast. The 5010e did a decent job with this, but its inherent softness was obvious with this detail-rich transfer.

Most of the major issues I encountered with the 5010e were reserved to test patterns and didn’t hurt real-world viewing quite as much. The image still lacked the polish of some of the other projectors we’ve reviewed recently at this price point, and the overall contrast performance was a far cry from the recent entry-level offerings from Sony and JVC. While the best HD material still looked quite good on the 5010e, I was hoping for a bit more spit and polish.

LCD Goes 3D
This is the first year Epson has supported 3D with its projector line. The company has gone out of its way to make the experience as good as possible by incorporating a high-output, 230-watt lamp. There is no doubt that the 5010e is one of the brightest 3D projectors I’ve used, but it is also one of the loudest during this mode. Putting the projector in 3D mode defeats the auto-iris function and any frame interpolation, but it also puts the lamp in High mode and turns the fan on high, which can be pretty intrusive.

The 3D emitter for the glasses is built into the projector’s body, and I didn’t have any issues at all with the signal in my room, even with the projector behind the seating position. The 3D glasses ($99) are not supplied with the projector, which is unfortunate. If 3D is truly a huge selling point, I think it would only make sense to include everything needed to try it right out of the box. The Pro Cinema 6010 ($4,000), essentially the same projector packaged with a mount, extra lamp, and additional features, does come with two pair of glasses.

I tested the 5010e with a wide range of 3D material and found its performance to be exceptional overall. The high-output light definitely had no issue providing a bright, punchy 3D image even on my larger screen. Epson’s glasses were as comfortable as any I’ve used from other brands, and there were no issues with them synching to the built-in emitter.

The 5010e includes two preset picture modes for 3D: 3D Dynamic and 3D Cinema. I found the 3D Cinema mode to be the more agreeable of the two. Its color wasn’t quite as blown out and it also had a bit more contrast performance.

Despicable Me is a disc I always seem to have issues with during 3D playback. Like most animation, it is full of bright imagery and lots of color. Ghosting/crosstalk was prevalent in this transfer with early LCOS projector designs, but the 5010e managed to display it with no ghosting at all. This was also the case with some other animated titles I’ve normally seen ghosting with, including Tangled and Megamind. The 5010e produced wonderfully vibrant images that were devoid of any distracting artifacts.

Where the 5010e did run into problems was with high-contrast, dark images. Looking at the recent Disney release of Bolt in 3D showed obvious ghosting with some of the darker images and high-contrast scenes. These weren’t a problem with my previous JVC projector (the RS40) or the recent Sony 3D projectors I’ve looked at. I also saw some of this same issue with Coraline, another film with darker, high-contrast scenes.

Overall, the 5010e was very consistent with its 3D performance. Most material looked as good as or better than the LCOS-based projectors I’ve reviewed with the same material. I’m still not a big fan of 3D in general, but the 5010e managed to curtail most of the artifacts that take me out of the experience.

Epson continues to deliver good performance for its price point, and the PowerLite Home Cinema 5010e is a solid value. I was more than impressed with its 3D performance, which rivaled the quality I’ve seen from projectors far past this price point. Its frame interpolation was also one of the best I’ve seen, which is saying a lot because I typically loathe this feature. The 5010e wasn’t without some minor hiccups, though. Convergence could have been better, and I was expecting a sharper, more dynamic picture from Epson given my experience with the company in the past. At this price point, the 5010e faces some pretty stiff competition from Sony and JVC, but it shouldn’t be completely written off if you’re looking for a great 3D projector in this price range.

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