The LS10000 is a significant step up in every way from the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5030UBe 2D/3D 1080p 3LCD Projector, our preferred pick for a moderately priced 1080p home-theater projector. Along with the higher price, the LS10000 is built around different technologies for imaging and for its light source, offering what Epson calls 3LCD Reflective technology instead of standard LCD chips, and lasers instead of a traditional lamp.
The 3LCD Reflective chips are similar to LCoS chips, except that they're liquid crystal on quartz instead of silicon. The dual-laser light source eliminates both warmup and cool-down time, and is designed to last the life of the projector, with a 30,000-hour rated lifetime in Eco mode. (Epson doesn't publish a rating for full-brightness mode.) Using lasers also gives the projector an extraordinary contrast ratio, with 0 lumens for black. The math, with any brightness level divided by 0, would give you a ratio of infinity. Epson just calls it absolute black.
Not Really 4K, but Close
The LS10000 isn't actually a 4K projector in that the native resolution for the 3LCD Reflective chips is 1,920 by 1,080. However, it accepts 4K input and shows images at a higher-than-native resolution. According to Epson, the 4K-Enhancement Technology shows two images per frame, shifting the image by 0.5 pixels diagonally between the two. That puts twice as many pixels in the projected image as are on the chips, doubling the resolution to emulate 4K (3,840 by 2,160).
The technique is similar in some ways to interlacing on old CRT monitors, which used to reach high resolutions by drawing the even and odd lines of each frame in two separate passes. With those older monitors, however, drawing the image that way often causes visible flickering, because of low refresh rates, which leaves a relatively long time between passes. Epson doesn't publish a refresh rate for the LS10000, but the company says it's sufficiently fast to ensure the two passes are close enough together that there's no possibility of seeing flickering. I didn't see any in my tests.
Whether you think of this approach as really 4K or not, you'll have trouble telling the difference. I tested the projector with 1080p input from both a Blu-ray player and Verizon FiOS box, letting the projector upscale the image, and I also tested it with 4K input, using a RED Digital Cinema Redray 4K Professional Cinema Player. To say I was impressed by the actual resolution on screen would be a major understatement.
As part of my tests, I set up a screen with a 92-inch image (measured diagonally) next to a 40-inch 1080p TV, with both connected to the same image source through a splitter. Whenever I try this with a standard 1080p projector, the projected image has a soft-focus look compared with the TV, because the same number of pixels is spread out over more area. One measure of how sharp and detailed the LS10000 image looks is that in this case the test image on the TV had the soft-focus look compared with the projected image.
That said, the LS10000 has two limitations that grow out of its 4K being an enhancement rather than a native resolution. First, it's limited to 1080p for 3D, and, second, it doesn't have the processing power to turn on all the video enhancements you might want to use together at the same time. With a video input of 1080p and 24Hz—as with many movies recorded on Blu-ray discs, for example—you can turn on both 4K Enhancement and frame interpolation (for smoother motion). For input at 1080p and 60Hz, however, you can use only one option or the other, not both.
Setup and Brightness
Epson rates the LS10000 at 1,500 lumens for both white brightness and color brightness. Using Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommendations, and assuming a 1.0-gain screen, that should make the projector bright enough for a 151- to 205-inch image (measured diagonally) in theater-dark lighting at the native 16:9 aspect ratio. For smaller screen sizes, you can switch the lamp to Eco mode, choose one of the less bright image presets, or both.
Even a quick glance at the projector will show you that it's definitively designed for permanent installation. It measures 8.9 by 21.7 by 21.8 inches (HWD), and it weighs a hefty 39 pounds 11 ounces, which is massive for a home projector. Aside from any issues you may have dealing with its size and weight, however, setup is easy, thanks in large part to its motorized focus, lens shift, and zoom.
I measured the horizontal lens shift at about 23 percent of the screen width left and right from the lens's center position. The vertical lens shift came out to 45 percent of the screen height up or down from the center position. That gives you a wide range left, right, up, and down where you can place the projector relative to the screen. Similarly, the 2.1X zoom offers lots of flexibility for how far to position the projector from the screen for a given size image.
The back panel offers only a few connectors for image input, with two HDMI ports, one composite video port, a VGA port, and a component-video port with three RCA connectors. One HDMI port supports HDMI 2.0, for 4K input. Unlike some HDMI 2.0 ports, it also supports HDCP 2.2, the newest copy-protection scheme, which will eventually become an important feature. The second port is HDMI 1.4a.
One connector that's missing is an audio output, which means you'll have to control an external audio system separately, rather than going through the projector and letting the LS10000 automatically switch the audio source along with the video.
The 4K-Enhanced Technology is only one of several factors that feed into the LS10000's exceptionally high-quality image. The high contrast ratio yields deep, dark blacks along with colors that pop dramatically, giving 2D images an almost 3D-like look. The projector also does a remarkably good job with shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas), and its noise-reduction feature managed to remove most of the noise that's actually part of the recording in one of our black-and-white test clip without any noticeable softening of the image itself.
The projector did well on our standard suite of DisplayMate tests, with vibrant color, excellent color balance in almost all preset modes (with suitably neutral grays at all levels from black to white), and no problems turning up on any of the tests.
Given the current paucity of 4K material, a key strength for the LS10000 is that it does an excellent job of upscaling 1,920-by-1,080 input and even standard-definition DVDs. The demo clips in 4K that I played on the Redray player were suitably impressive, but movies on Blu-ray discs at 1080p 24Hz looked almost as good in testing, with 1080p 60Hz material not far behind. Even the DVDs that are part of our test suite looked far better than they do with standard 1080p projectors.
Image quality for 3D is limited by not being able to take advantage of 4K enhancement, but it shares all the other strengths of the 2D image quality. It also does a good job of avoiding problems specific to 3D. I didn't see any crosstalk or 3D-related motion artifacts, even in clips that tend to bring those problems out. One welcome touch is that Epson ships two pairs of 3D glasses along with the projector.
With all of the LS10000's video enhancements turned off, I timed the input lag time, using a Leo Bodnar Video Signal Input Lag Tester, at 101 milliseconds (ms), which works out to 6.1 frames at 60 frames per second. If you're looking for a projector to use with games that depend on fast reaction time, this is a notably long lag, but it won't be an issue for anything else.
If you don't have the budget for the LS10000, or would rather wait for true 4K projectors to become more affordable, consider the Epson 5030UBe, or an even less expensive model like the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500, our top pick for a budget-priced 2D and 3D home-theater projector. Either one could be a suitable stand-in while you're waiting for 4K prices to drop.
If you want excellent image quality now, however, the Epson Pro Cinema LS10000 4K Enhancement Projector is a stellar pick and our Editors' Choice premium home theater projector. It offers a lower price than a true 4K model, delivers top-tier performance not just for resolution, but for all the other aspects of image quality, and is as close to 4K as a projector can get without actually offering it natively.