When you boil it all down, the Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector presents an almost unbelievable value for the quality of picture it delivers.
Every now and then a projector hits the market at a value or price point that really turns heads. That’s the Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector. You get 4K, motorized zoom and focus, and almost the same quality and performance of the higher-priced UB models. You get all that…at a street price of less than $2500. It’s also black, unlike the Home Cinema line of projectors, so it blends in better with dedicated home theaters.
Our testing room is a home theater with seating for 12, thanks to a couple rows of reclining seats and a pair of Comfy Sacks home theater bean bag chairs. The ceiling is painted flat black, so the dark projector fits right in and helps reduce reflected light.
What’s in the Box
When you open up the Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector, you get the projector, a cable cover, spare lamp, and even a basic ceiling mount. While what’s in the cardboard box is interesting—it’s the projector’s internals that really tells the story.
The Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector shares many of the same specs with the higher priced 5040UB and 6040UB models. It shaves $500 off the price of the 5050UB, however, and a neat $1500 from the price of the flagship 6040UB. Plus, it includes a spare lamp. Shared features include the motorized zoom lens (with memory and lens shift), lamp, inputs, 4K support, and the lamp life. It even comes with the same remote control.
That’s not to say that nothing is different. If you look at the specs, the Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector has 160,000:1 contrast ratio, while the UB-series projectors have 1,000,000:1. The 4040 uses different LCD panels. It’s absolutely solid, but it won’t give you the absolute deepest black levels of the 5040UB or 6040UB. Of course, if you don’t have a sufficiently light-controlled room, you’ll never get there…
4K for Less Than $2500? Oh Yeah.
“True” 4K in a projector is expensive. What I mean by that is dedicated/fixed pixels on the panel(s). Epson and others use pixel-shifting technology to generate a higher output resolution with corresponding HDR and 4K source support. That means the Epson Pro Cinema 4040 Projector lets you connect that new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player and get the incredible detail you’ve always wanted. It also works with the limited Netflix 4K content, and just about anything else you can send it via HDMI 2.2.
Epson PC4040 Projector Specs
- Projection system: Epson 3LCD, 3-chip technology
- Projection method: Front / Rear / Ceiling mount
- Drive: Epson Poly-silicon TFT Active Matrix, 0.74-inch wide panel
- Pixels: 2,073,600 dots (1920 x 1080) x 3
- Color brightness/output: 2300 lumens1
- White brightness/output: 2300 lumens1
- Aspect ratio: Native 16:9 widescreen (4:3 resize) Compatible with 4:3 with Normal, Full or
- Native resolution: Native 1080p (1920 x 1080) with 4K Enhancement2
- Resize: 16:10, 4:3
- Lamp: 250 W UHE
- Lamp life: Up to 5,000 hours (ECO); up to 4,000 hours (Medium); up to 3,500 hours (High)
- Throw ratio: 1.35 – 2.84
- Keystone correction: Vertical: ±30 degrees (Manual)
- Contrast ratio: Up to 160,000:1
- Color processing: Full 10-bit (partial 12-bit)
- Color reproduction: Up to 1.07 billion colors
- Projected output: HD, 2D, 3D, 1080p, 4K x 2K
- Weight: 24.3 lbs.
- Security: Kensington Security Lock Port
- Lens: Powered focus/optical zoom/lens position
- F-number: 2.0 – 3.0
- Focal length: 22.5 mm – 46.7 mm
- Zoom ratio: 1.0 – 2.1
- Lens shift: Vertical: ±96.3; Horizontal: ±47.1
- Lens cover: Powered, sliding lens shutter
- Price: $2,699 (retail); $2,499 (street)
More Great Epson 4040 Features
OK, so what do you really get with the Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector? Lots. Epson’s 4K Enhancement Technology takes any 4K source, including HDR content, and delivers it in stunning color and resolution. To do that, the Epson PC4040 fully supports HDCP 2.2.
The Color Brightness and White Brightness of the Epson 4040 projector are 2,300 lumens. We first became accustomed to Epson’s use of White and Color brightness designations back in 2012 when they started to differentiate their 3LCD color output from that of DLP. Epson has continued to use the standard—if only to convey that you’re getting true levels of color output from the projector across real-world usage.
The Epson Pro Cinema 4040 delivers up to 160,000:1 contrast ratio which makes for an incredible 3D image compared to what was available just five years ago. I remember my first Pro Cinema projector from Epson, the 1080UB. That had an “amazing” contrast ratio of up to 50,000:1. Look at the improvements just a decade brings. The current “UB” models are bringing up to 1,000,000:1 contrast ratios, but the contrast of the PC4040 still impresses.
It’s the Lens, Baby
Just as Canon hangs its reputation on its lenses, the newest Epson Pro Cinema lens (designed and manufactured in Japan) features a 16-piece glass structure that addresses the needs of 4K content. On top of that, Epson included motorized lens position memory. You can literally set ten different lens positions, with distinct focus, zoom, and lens shift settings. And that zoom? It goes to 2.1x for tons of placement options.
You know what else you can do with those memory positions? You essentially have a poor man’s anamorphic system. With motorized zoom and lens shift, you can literally fill a 2.35:1 screen with content, and then shift back for a 16:9 image with black bars on the left and right. If you have a motorized screen this gives you tons of options.
The Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector includes a spare lamp, but you may not need it for quite some time. The lamp is rated up to 5,000 hours in Eco mode and 3,500 hours on High (Vivid, etc). As we have a light-controlled room, Eco mode rules the day on our 135-inch screen.
Finally, the last feature we need to mention is the warranty. Epson supplies a full 3-year limited warranty with toll-free support on the Pro Cinema 4040.
Epson Pro Cinema 4040 Projector Picture Quality
The Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector produces a beautiful picture. We looked at three distinct areas: black levels, color accuracy, and resolution. I’ve stopped calibrating projectors using high-end light evaluation systems as I’ve found them to be very much “in the ballpark” with respect to color accuracy. I now use Blu-ray-based systems to ensure contrast allows for the maximum amount of available dynamic range. When your extended correction is taking you from 95% accuracy to 99%, I don’t think the average room is equipped to benefit from the improvements. In fact, the light reflection in most rooms is horrific, making for a very difficult time in getting all those great black levels and contrast boasted of in the specs.
With that said, my thoughts on the Epson PC4040 projector has a color cinema filter for the Natural, Cinema, and Digital Cinema modes. That’s where you should stay unless you’re trying to project into a room that’s lit by ambient light. Just remember: high brightness or light output is the “enemy” of color accuracy and contrast. The goal is to maximize black levels and experience theater-level light levels.
As I mentioned previously, the available contrast and black levels on the Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector eclipse what was available just 5-10 years ago. In our light-controlled room, black levels approximated a movie theater, with our 1.0 gain screen allowing us to reach very rich levels. Watching Fast & Furious 8, we loved the depth of the vehicles. It’s nearly impossible to get good detail on a black car unless you have serious black level resolution and a light controlled room. Happily, the Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector, combined with our well-darkened room, provided just that.
Rather than blow out the space with excessive light, our room still allowed the Epson to deliver sufficient contrast for the parts of the screen that remained dark. The excellent output levels of the Cinema mode really combined with the light absorption of the theater room to generate a satisfying picture. You could especially see this in Star Wars: Rogue One when Jyn gets body-slammed to the ground by K-2SO. The juxtaposition of ground and (presumably) snow makes for a very difficult combination. The Epson PC4040 projector pulled it off brilliantly.
You will get some better contrast with the upgraded panels on the Epson 6040UB and 5040UB, but you’ll also pay for that difference. In terms of value, the Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector really does produce superb black levels.
Overall: Very Good
The Epson PC4040 uses a color cinema filter in the modes we recommend most for darkened dedicated rooms. That includes Natural, Cinema, and Digital Cinema. The other modes produce more lumens and don’t use that filter. I found both skin tones and vibrant colors to be exceptional when using the Cinema modes (even Bright Cinema). One of the scenes we looked at included a close up of Jyn from Rogue One at Yavin IV. We also looked at various scenes from The Fifth Element, Lord of the Rings, and the TV show The Man in the High Castle, which is available in 4K via Amazon Prime.
I also recognized that the vibrancy of color the Epson could produce impressed equally well. In particular, scenes from Lego Batman really jumped off the screen, while other films like Fast & Furious 8 revealed exceptional realism in how well some famous Italian and German cars were represented on screen.
Of course, if you really have a knack for color, Epson also provides Color Uniformity and Color Convergence settings in addition to full calibration options for ISF and THX video calibration Pros. Just be sure to let the system warm up for 15 minutes or so before adjusting color.
When standing very close to the screen you can make out the pixels on the Epson PC4040, but they’re so well-blended there is simply no more “screen door” to be found. We’re a far cry away from those 720p models of years gone by. The greatest issue with the Epson’s 4K is what mode you want to take advantage of with respect to deinterlacing. I appreciate the pixels of a high-resolution projector, but not the deinterlacing modes that turn your picture into a blurry mess. The Epson doesn’t exactly do that. In fact, the Frame Interpolation does a remarkable job. It’s just that you need to set all the way up to really benefit, and then you tend to start seeing artifacting. Much of this is due to source content not being shot or released higher frame rates. The interpolation can only work so much magic.
In the old days, frame interpolation made everything look like an HD live-action soap opera. Now, I’m not so sure it isn’t the future. The trick, however, is for filmmakers to start producing more native high frame rate content and eliminate embedded motion blur. For that reason, I recommend you play with the frame interpolation setting to see what you prefer when watching 1080p content. When using the Epson 4040’s 4K Enhancement mode, frame interpolation is disabled.
Detail is Relative
The detail available in high-action films did well to convince me of the merits of frame interpolation. Even without, however, the Epson PC4040 still seemed to faithfully project every available ounce of detail it could garner from the picture. You’ve got to remember: we’re watching motion pictures. For a projector to produce high amounts of detail it has to be able to keep up with the on-screen content.
The video processing engine in the Epson Pro Cinema 4400 projector keeps up quite well. You also have tons of options on just how much processing you want:
- 4K Enhancement: accepts 4K signals and enhances the output of 1080p signals
- Noise Reduction: reduces flickering in analog images
- MPEG Noise Reduction: reduces the noise or artifacts seen in MPEG video
- Super-resolution: sharpens blurred images resulting from increasing resolution
- Detail Enhancement: enhances details to create clear outlines (with Range and Strength settings)
The Epson Pro Cinema 4040 projector is one of, if not the, lowest cost of entry for a 4K content-capable projector. That aside—it looks great with 1080p content as well. Really great. Black levels are downright superb for the price, and color accuracy is very good. If you have some time to tweak you can dial it in even further.
Installation and screen flexibility are downright mind-blowing with the motorized zoom, lens shift, and focus. While sensitive, the presence of 10 memory positions means you can program various viewing scenarios into your home theater control system of choice.
Finally, a three year warranty including Epson’s rapid replacement program, extra lamp, and included cable cover makes this as close to a no-brainer as you’re going to find.
For more information, please visit the Epson website.