Epson Cinema 400 Home Theater Projector Review

Last year, we awarded the Cinema 400′s predecessor, the Cinema 550, our Hot Product Award. At the time, the 550 was slightly expensive compared to the competition, but had several strengths that made it the top choice for many buyers, most notably its best of class brightness.

The Epson Cinema 400 also earns our Hot Product Award. I should note, that to earn the award, a projector needs to have strengths that set it apart, and make it the likely best choice for a significant (although not necessarily huge) segment of projector shoppers.

Quicktip: Epson is selling the Cinema 400 though a large network of local, CEDIA dealers, specialists in home theater. In addition, they will make the Cinema 400 available through a very limited number of online resellers. Due to this limited online distribution, you can expect that the knowledge level of the the Cinema 400 online resellers will be a cut above

So, what makes the Cinema 400 a great idea, for a lot of people? There are several reasons, starting with brightness. No dedicated home theater projector that we have reviewed and played with, to date, (at least under $5,000) can match its brightness in its brightest mode. That makes the Cinema 400 ideal for many who like viewing some content (such as sports, and general TV/HDTV), with modest to moderate ambient light in the room.

Click to enlarge. Next, is overall image quality. Although the Epson cannot match the black levels and shadow detail of some other affordable projectors, its performance in those areas is still very acceptable, so movie watchers will be able to thoroughly enjoy the Cinema 400. This Epson projector also produces a nice sharp image, whereas its predecessor was a little soft. I hate to keep repeating myself, but a real strength of the Epson 400 is that it offers up rich, vibrant (dynamic), colors.

Click Image to Enlarge

Ease of use is another plus that will appeal to many – especially those who aren’t techie. A great remote, (with single button access to most of the controls that a user might use frequently, like changing presets from Theater Dark 1, to Livingroom), plus an extremely well laid out menu structure, and easy navigation, are most appreciated. Also include in that ease of use, great placement flexibility thanks to the 1.5:1 zoom lens and exceptional lens shift adjustment capability.

All together, that means Epson has a projector with a great deal of appeal, and more than enough performance and benefits to earn our award.

If you are a movie purist – and that’s all you care about, and you have a fully darkened room, there are other projectors that may suit you better (and probably DLP), in the general price range. For those buying a projector to view a wide variety of content, though, the Epson definitely should be a top contender..

And for those who do like to play with settings, within those Epson menus are about as much image control as you will find on any projector.

I mentioned image quality above, and I’m pleased to report that the Cinema 400 has improved (and appreciated) performance over the older Cinema 550. Most notably the changes to LCD panels and optics provide a sharper image. We found the older Cinema 550 to be a bit soft, not so, the Cinema 400.

Add to all of this a great warranty, impressive styling, and Epson’s well known support, and you have one of the top contenders in the $1000 – $2000 market.

Pros

  • Very bright, with rich, dynamic colors
  • Excellent placement flexibility
  • Excellent preset modes for everything from movies in the dark, to sports on a bright day
  • Very good achievable color accuracy in Theater Dark modes, but needs “tweaking” (or basic calibration) to maximize performance
  • Great warranty (with replacement) and reputation for support
  • Great remote
  • Very good manual (a rarity). It not only shows you how to use all the controls, but actually does a fair job of explaining what many of them do. – I’m impressed!
  • Very quiet in Theater Dark modes
  • 3000 hour lamp life in Theater Dark modes
  • 9 user savable settings, which most will appreciate
  • Excellent flesh tones
  • Cool styling (if you care about such things)
  • Looks absolutely fabulous, when watching sports (football) in Hi-Def!! (Go Penn State!)
  • Price/Performance!

Cons

  • Noisy in brighter modes – too noisy for the really noise adverse, for movie watching, though shouldn’t be an issue for most, especially for non-movie content
  • Shadow details – not bad at all, but surpassed by a few others
  • To change lamp, you must unmount projector if ceiling mounted (true of probably 80% of all home theater projectors)
  • Pixels are more visible than DLP projectors, so you’ll want to sit a little further back (true of LCD projectors in general)

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