4K Projector Showdown – I Spent $7,000 Comparing 4 UHD Projectors

4K Projector Showdown - I spent 7000 dollars on UHD Projectors

Movie night at our house is one of our family’s favorite activities. We’ve had a 1080p Optoma projector for a couple of years and it’s been great. After putting a couple of 4K televisions upstairs and watching a bunch of UHD content, it made me think it might be time to look into 4K projectors again. Last time I looked they were in the $8k – $10k range so when I checked recently and saw that they were $999 and up, I thought it was time to look more seriously.

I did some research on several A/V forums and then started digging into Amazon. I looked at projectors in the $999 – $2500 range and picked ten projectors that were pretty well rated and in the price range. After reading a ton of reviews I decided to look around the web to get the full specs on each of the projectors. I put together a 4K Projector Comparison Spreadsheet comparing each one and then used that to decide on four projectors to buy. The goal was to find the projectors that I’d be most likely to buy and that were the best bang for the buck. I ended up with these four.

VIEW THE 4K PROJECTOR COMPARISON SPREADSHEET

Check out the video that accompanies this article:

4K Projector Showdown - I spent 7000 dollars on UHD Projectors
4K Projector Showdown – I spent $7,000 on UHD Projectors

Epson Home Cinema 5040 UB

Epson 5040 UB

Most reviews and forums suggested that this is one of the benchmark projectors when it comes to image quality, contrast and overall performance. The UB stands for Ultra Black and it has an amazing contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1. Pretty impressive. The colors look really good and it’s a bright and powerful projector with 2500 lumens. One of the things you need to know about this projector is that it uses a technology called 4K Enhancement Technology. The native resolution is only 1080p but it has 3 chips that each project a 1080p image and slightly overlap to create a picture that appears to be comparable to a 4k resolution projector. This is also called 4Ke and is nicknamed FauxK. More on this in a bit.

Epson Home Cinema 4010

Epson 4010

The 4010 is a lower model than the 5040 UB and costs several hundred dollars less. It has better reviews on Amazon but that’s partially due to some  defective 5040 UBs that were sent out. The 4010 uses the exact same housing and remote control as the 5040 UB though the 4010 is newer. It also uses the 4Ke technology so, like the 5040 UB, it is not actual 4k.

Optoma UHD60

Optoma UHD60

My previous projector was an Optoma so I was excited to see how the 4k version performed and what its picture looked like. It features native 4k resolution  (3840×2160) and, like the more expensive 5040 UB has a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and boasts 3,000 lumens of brightness – one of the best in its class. To top all of that off, it costs less than the Epsons! Needless to say, I was anxious to see it in person.

Viewsonic PX747 4K

Viewsonic PX747 4K

I had to try out the least expensive 4K projector I could find and this was it. Coming in at $999, this was the most affordable of the bunch but still had native 4k resolution.  It has a much less impressive 12,000:1 contrast ratio but has a super bright 3500 lumens, which is the brightest of all the projectors I compared. Could this projector stack up to the competition at such a low price? I hoped so.

Let’s Compare

Now that we know what we’re working with, let’s take a look at how each of these differ. We’re going to cover several areas:

  1. Size Comparison
  2. Remote Controls
  3. Lens Shift vs Keystone (plus zoom)
  4. Picture Quality (at regular viewing size in the dark)
  5. Picture Quality (at regular viewing size with ambient light)
  6. Picture Quality (close up)
  7. Connectivity
  8. Value

First: Let’s Talk About Size

4K Projector Size Comparison

4K Projector Size Comparison

Are you seeing this? Holy moly! The Epsons (bottom) are gigantic! They’re easily 3x as large as the Viewsonic – maybe 4x. They weigh in at 24 lbs and you’re not going to want to mount these to the ceiling with a flimsy little 4 arm projector mount. I recommend a dedicated shelf for these. The Optoma (middle) is pretty large as well but seems moderate compared to the Epsons. It weighs in at 16 lbs, as compared to the Viewsonic PX747 (top), which weighs only 8 lbs. So that’s a 1x, 2x and 3x factor as far as weight is concerned. One area of note is that the lens on the Viewsonic is on the right side of the projector while the others are centered. I recommend choosing your projector before placing your projector mount (if possible). The difference is only 5 or 6 inches but it could affect the alignment of the image.

The Remotes

While we’re on the topic of size comparisons, it seems that Epson felt that large projectors needed large remote controls. Have a look:

4K Projector Remote Control Comparison

The Epson remotes (the rear-most remote above) are probably the biggest remotes I have. They’re pretty massive, especially in today’s world of more moderately sized remote controls. They’re ultra functional and I don’t mind the larger remotes but I found it interesting that they match the projector in terms of relative size. The other two remotes are the Optoma (center) and the Viewsonic (front). Another area to consider is the backlighting of the remotes. The Epson is, in my opinion, just right. It’s amber colored and soft. The Optoma has the same candle power as the Bat Signal, just in case the power goes out or you want to cruelly wake up your annoying roommate. The Viewsonic is also overly bright but pales in comparison to the Optoma. 

4K Projector Remote Control Backlight Comparison

Lens Shift vs Keystone

One are that was completely new to me when researching and then trying these projectors out was Lens Shift. Lens shift is the ability a projector has to move the lenses inside the projector to displace the projected image. In other words, you can set up your Epson projector only to find out that the projected image is 22″ too high and 9″ to the left of your projector screen. Bad news, right? Nope. The Epsons let you use the remote to move the image up to 97% vertically and 46% horizontally. In other words, you can just push a few buttons and line it up wherever you need. It’s really impressive to see.

If you don’t have that option, like on the Viewsonic projectors, you can manually adjust the position of the projector itself and then set your keystone settings. Keystone lets you control the width of the top or bottom of the projected image, to get your trapezoidal image to look like a rectangle with parallel sides.

The big difference? Lens shift is an optical shift so there is no loss of pixel quality. Keystoning is a manipulation of existing pixels so you’ll experience some level of image quality loss. Plus, Lens shift is honestly way more convenient too.

Picture Quality (at regular viewing size in the dark)

This is what really matters. How does the image look while watching video? How bright is it? How dark are the darks? How’s the color? How’s the saturation? Is it realistic or is it distorted somehow? How’s the sharpness of the image?

I can talk all day about my findings but let’s keep this simple. I rolled the exact same footage on the default settings on each projector, then recorded video on my mirrorless camera of each video on each projector. I shot video with the lights fully on, as well with zero ambient light, then I shot some close ups just for fun. Take a look and see for yourself.

For starters, here’s my projector environment, so you can get a feel for how bright it is and how far back the projector is relative to the screen and the viewer.

Theater with all lights on

LRN2DIY Projector Setup

Actual shots of the various projector images:

Picture Quality (at regular viewing size with ambient light)

I shot all of the same video with the lights on, and with the lights off, then far away and up close. This image below represents the results of the lights on experiments pretty accurately. In a well lit room (I’m talking pretty bright) the two Epsons look nearly identical. The Optoma looks pretty great for the most part and may actually be the winner of the ambient light contest, and the Viewsonic looks terrible. 

Picture Quality (close up)

Up close, the results are really interesting. The Epson 4010 and the Viewsonic have the sharpest images and look really good resolution-wise. The Viewsonic still looks flat and dull color-wise. The Optoma is over saturated and the Epson 5040 UB looks ok. I think the close up winner is the Epson 4010.

What do you think? You can decide for yourself but I think it’s at least helpful to share my opinion since I saw all of the results in person.

As far as image goes, the Viewsonic PX747 is an immediate fail. It’s flat, dull and really ruins the 4K experience. It has a really sharp image – that aspect looks great – but it’s completely overshadowed by the ugly colors and foggy image. It’s got a “can’t open my eyes all the way” sort of look to it. I played with some settings and no matter what I adjusted, it just doesn’t compare to the others, which is unfortunate because it’s got great specs as far as lumens and resolution but it appears that the contrast ration (12,000:1) is really bringing this one down.

The Optoma UHD60 is actually a pretty solid image. It has great contrast and is nice and bright most of the time. The colors are definitely over saturated in my opinion and I couldn’t adjust those back to reality, unfortunately. That said, I didn’t mind the over saturation because it’s not extreme. It’s a bit much, but not crazy. The image (despite some of the photos above) is actually super sharp. I could be totally happy with buying and keeping the Optoma UHD60.

The Epson Home Cinema 4010 looked pretty fantastic. I had no idea what to expect from “Faux K” since it isn’t actually true 4K. I was very impressed. It looked incredibly sharp and, in many cases, sharper than the actual 4K projectors. The colors were superb. It has, in my opinion, the most realistic and balanced image of all four projectors. As far as image is concerned, the 4010 takes the cake.

The Epson Home Cinema 5040 UB also look fantastic. The big question for me was whether or not it got the blacks really black in an ideal (pitch black) setting. It did a great job but to me the blacks looked maybe a few percent darker than the 4010 – not enough to be super noticeable. The two looked so similar in terms of contrast that I was shocked that there was a 5:1 difference in contrast ratio specs. On top of that, it seemed to lag just a bit behind when it came to colors. The 4010 just looked more balanced, more natural and more believable when it came to color and saturation.

Connectivity

Personally, as long as there was a modern HDMI interface on each of these, I didn’t care about any other aspect but for you, it may be important to have multiple HDMIs, VGA, trigger ports, fiber optic or some other connection, so here are all of the connections available for each.

The Epson 5040 UB or Epson 4010 Connections
The Viewsonic PX747 4K Connections
The Optoma UHD60 Connections

Value

When it comes to value, the current price on a projector is a critical factor. When I purchased these four projectors, their prices were $2099 (Epson 5040 UB), $1799 (Epson 4010), $1679 (Optoma UHD60) and $999 (Viewsonic PX747). With only a $120 difference between the Optoma and the Epson 4010, I think the 4010 would win as the best value. Since purchasing them, the 4010 has gone up in price (at least on Amazon) to $1999, making it less of a bargain. I think, at that price, that the Optoma is the best value. Other than being a bit oversaturated, it’s a very solid projector. If the 4010 goes back down again, or if you can get it elsewhere for less, I think it wins in the value category.

Just For Fun

One fun little tidbit about the Epsons; when you power them on or off, there is a motorized lens cover that opens and closes automatically, protecting your lens when not in use.

In addition, the Epsons are the only projectors I’ve used or tested that have an easily accessible filter that requires no tools to access. Very clever on both accounts.

Summary

Having the opportunity to buy all four at once and test them side by side was super helpful to me. In the end, I decided to keep the Epson Home Cinema 4010 as my family’s projector. The image quality, the Lens Shift, easily exchangeable filters, the reasonable lamp replacement cost, the contrast, the sharpness and, of course, the motorized lens cover, all made it stand out as the best projector for the money. That said, I think I could have kept the 5040 UB or the Optoma UHD60 and I would have been really happy. It was a tough call but in the end the 4010 edged over the competition for me. Another part of that is the reputation of Epson projectors. From what I’ve read, they’re a higher end projector than the Optomas or Viewsonics or BenQs of the world. Ultimately, however, I hope that what you’ve seen here will help you decide for yourself.

I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment with your thoughts, opinions or experiences so others can benefit from the community. Thanks for reading!

Long HDMI Cables Can Kill Your Receiver! How To Run Long HDMIs Safely

hdmi can kill your receiver

PRODUCTS (these are affiliate links):
• HDMI Over Ethernet 4K HDMI Extender (the one I use): https://amzn.to/2TZi3rb
• Cat 7 Ethernet (30 ft): https://amzn.to/2DTNCgL
• Optic HDMI Cable (33 ft): https://amzn.to/2Q4yt3p
• 1080P Wireless HDMI Kit: https://amzn.to/2KMdr3O
• 4K 60Hz Wireless HDMI Kit: https://amzn.to/2SmKkGM
• Active HDMI 30 ft: https://amzn.to/2DWrsdR

  1. Standard (passive) HDMI cables aren’t meant to send a reliable signal over 15ft. Receivers and media devices aren’t built to power cables that are over 15ft long either.
  2. HDMI cables have different ratings for different signals. They also come in different versions, currently ranging from 1.0 to 2.1. HDMI cables may or may not be able to handle the following:
    1. 4k resolution
    2. 4k at 24hz vs 30hz vs 60hz
    3. 3D
    4. HD or UHD Signals over 15, 30, 50, 100 ft, etc.
    5. Chroma Subsampling
    6. HDR
    7. HDMI 1.0, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.0 or 2.1
    8. 5k, 8k and 10k at 120 Hz

You have several options for running HDMI over longer distances:

  1. HDMI Balun (HDMI Converter Kits) over Cat
    1. Priced from $30 – $300, depending on what you need
    2. Read the specs carefully
    3. They often give you other features, like IR extenders
    4. I bought a kit for $100 that includes infrared extenders and can handle HDMI 2.0, which support 4k at 60hz and is only powered from one side.
    5. Be sure to consider future needs
  2. Optical HDMI Cables
    1. Priced at $100 – $400
    2. Starting price is higher but they’re more of an all-in-one solution (no adapters, no kits
    3. These combine the technology of fiber optics and HDMI, letting you run VERY long distances (up to 1000 ft).
  3. Wireless HDMI Kits
    1. Range from $130 – $400
    2. Very mixed reviews and ratings
    3. No wires between source and display, which is incredible!
    4. Up to 660ft of range (for the pricier versions)
  4. Active HDMI
    1. Priced between $20 and $130
    2. They use a chipset in the cable which leverages the 5 volts of power from the source to provide a more stable long range feed
    3. They’re uni-directional, so you have to put the source end at the source and the display end at the display or it won’t work
    4. Cheaper than most other options but there is still a lot of controversy over their functionality. The reviews tend to be quite mixed.

If you have a receiver that has a fried HDMI board or doesn’t support HDMI at all but supports fiber optic you can leverage one of the above options and just use the fiber optic output on your source to plug into the receiver, assuming it has fiber optic out (like Apple TV or most Blu-Ray players). If that’s not an option and your receiver can still output audio from the HDMI inputs, you can use an HDMI splitter to send one signal to the display via the options above and the other to the receiver just for the audio portion.

How to Build an American Girl Doll Bunk Bed

diy doll bunk bed

Learn to build a simple but cute bunk bed for 18″ dolls like the American Girl Dolls or the Our Generation line of dolls. This bed size is patterned after manufactured 18″ doll beds and fits the dolls comfortably. The plans use simple and available lumber, including 2x4s or 2x2s, 1x4s, 1/2″ plywood and 1/8″ plywood. You can also substitute the 1/8″ plywood for 1/2″ plywood if need be. 

Woodworking Plans

Click the image below to download a PDF of the woodworking plans for this build.

Click above to download the plans

Instructional Video

Click the image below to watch the build video.

Build a DIY 18" Doll Bunk Bed

How to Install Fiberglass Insulation

How to Install Insulation

Installing insulation yourself is not a difficult task. It doesn’t take too long and, contrary to what some believe, is not typically a super-itchy experience. The last couple of times I did this it was easier than I expected and definitely worth doing myself. You don’t need much at all by way of tools, either.

Tools Needed

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A quality mask to prevent breathing in particles
  • Eye protection
  • Gloves and full skin protection
  • Utility Knife and several blades
  • Measuring Tape
  • A staple gun (if you’re using faced insulation)

That’s it! Pretty simple as far as tools go. 

What is “R” Value and what do I need?

The “R” in R-Value stands for resistance. R-Value is a measure of how well a material can resist the transfer of heat. Heat transfer is a two way street. When it’s hot outside, your insulation resists letting heat in. When it’s cold outside it resists letting your warm air out. In the United States, there are different requirements based on where you live and what type of insulation you’re doing. Here’s a chart to help you determine what you need. If you live outside the United States, be sure to check what you’ll need for your area.

Insulation Recommendations for New Wood-Framed Houses

As far as how to actually install the insulation, please check out this video with step by step instructions for both faced and unfaced insulation.

DIY Ocean Desk – A Standing Desk with Personality

Because I spend so much time at my desk, I wanted to create a unique and beautiful desktop that I could place atop a motorized base. I started researching and discovered these gorgeous desk by a French designer in the Caribbean. He uses local stone, some serious machinery and a boat-load of epoxy. There’s a catch, however – his tables sell for anywhere from $12,000 – $60,000 each! A bit out of my budget, but I still love his work and wanted to try something that was original using wood. Continue reading “DIY Ocean Desk – A Standing Desk with Personality”

How to Add an Electrical Outlet for a Wall Mounted TV

After we wall-mounted our new TV, the first thing we had to deal with was all of the ugly wires hanging down. In a related article, I show how to hide your TV wires for just $10. In fact, I later came out with another article and video showing how to do this by using a kit that hides your A/V wires and your electrical wiring as well, if you’re interested in doing this with a kit. Continue reading “How to Add an Electrical Outlet for a Wall Mounted TV”

How to Fix the Hook Timing on a Sewing Machine

How to Fix the Hook Timing on a Sewing Machine

 

When my wife’s sewing machine was broken I decided to call a sewing machine repair shop but they told me it was going to be $90 just to take a look at it. I’m a cheapskate so I decided to do a little internet research to try to figure out how to fix it myself and, fortunately, as you’ll see below, this was just a fix that required some adjustments – no parts or anything like that. Continue reading “How to Fix the Hook Timing on a Sewing Machine”

How to Create the Perfect Retro Games Room

How to Create a Retro Gaming Room

In the face of today’s high-tech games and fast-paced technology, retro gaming is making a major comeback. The BBC reports that more people are collecting and playing with games on systems that dominated the early days of home gaming. These include the Atari 7800s, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, and Sony PlayStations of the 80s and 90s, and the classic titles everyone played with as children. Continue reading “How to Create the Perfect Retro Games Room”