Epson Cinema 400 Home Theater Projector Review
Epson Remote Control
The Cinema 400’s remote is the same as the older Cinema 550’s.
Epson’s remote is well laid out, with key menu features directly accessable without having to go through the menu. Some of those include Aspect Ratio, Color Mode (Theater Dark, Theater, Living Room, etc.), Gamma, Contrast, Color Temperature and more.
The Backlight button is at the very bottom, by itself, where you can’t help but find it. There are also separate buttons for each source (Component, HDMI, S-Video, etc.).
The Epson also has storable user defined settings that can be called up from the Memory button near the top. Immediately below the Memory button is the Menu button.
Right below that are your four arrow keys, nicely spaced out with the Select (enter) button in the center, and the Escape button on the lower right.
As I indicated previously in the Epson Cinema 550 review this is one of the best remotes you’ll find, and with plenty of range. After using for just a few hours, everything is easy to find even without hitting the Backlight button to light it up.
I should note too, that the backlight is plenty bright, unlike some projectors’ remote controls that are backlit but dim enough to still be a nuisance in a fully dark room. Also all buttons are labeled so they light up with the backlight. unlike some remotes that label some buttons but others are labeled on the remote itself and not readable in the dark, even with the backlight engaged.
The sculpted remote also fits well in your hand. Even those with large beefy hands should like this one.
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
The manual of the Epson Cinema 400 indicates that it offers plenty of lens shift. It advises that you can place the projector (right side up for shelf or table, or upside down for “ceiling mounting”, anywhere from the bottom of the screen surface, to the top
This is strange – the projector is long gone back to Epson, but if I recall correctly, the lens shift has even greater range than that, allowing it well below the bottom, or above the top of the screen. I’ll try to clarify and update…
Placing the projector – relative distances to the screen:
For a 100″ diagonal 16:9 screen, the front of the Epson’s lens can be as close as 9.9 feet and as far back as 14.8 feet. Unless you have a very deep room (or an unusually small screen for the size of your room), you should be able to shelf mount on your back wall, or, of course, ceiling mount or place on a table within the ranges I mentioned. If you are planning a different sized screen you should be able to use my numbers above to figure out the working distances.
SDE and Rainbow Effect
Since the Cinema 400 is an LCD projector, there is no Rainbow effect, of course. For screendoor – and seeing the pixels, the Epson LCD panels are still not as invisible as pixels on a DLP projector. As a result, I would recommend sitting about 1.5x screen width, or further back. If you never want to be able to detect a pixel (very picky) you’ll want to be at least 1.75x – 2x back. Note: a 100″ screen is about 87″ wide, so that would be about 12.5 feet (for 1.5x).
Many folks just don’t notice minor visibility (credits, large white clouds), and won’t mind sitting a little closer.
Very little, and none that would project onto the screen. A non-issue in almost any room.
Audible Noise Levels
Tsk, Tsk, A flaw! The Epson is certainly quiet enough in its quietest modes – Theater Dark 1 and 2. Move up to Theater, or the even brighter settings and the fan kicks up a notch. And it’s no longer a particularly quiet projector. The Epson claims 26 db in quieter modes and an unimpressive 32 db in the louder ones. This is the same claim as the older Cinema 550. My memory must be shot. I recall the 550 being particularly noisy in those bright modes. This time around, I didn’t find the Cinema 400 to be quite as loud. Perhaps it is my memory, or perhaps my hearing is going south. The Cinema 400 is still noisy, but maybe they have found a way to quiet it by a decibel or two, or lowered the pitch of the fan, or maybe it’s “just my ‘magination”. You certainly won’t care about the fan noise in the brighter modes while watching football, or a sitcom, but you may well notice it in a quiet movie scene.
Projector Brightness and Calibration
I’ll start with measured brightness, in the different modes, from darkest (of those I measured) to brightest. Only Theater Dark 1 was measured pre and post calibration, and as I only calibrated Theater Dark 1, the others are “pre-calibration
- Theater Dark1: 468 lumens (pre calibration) 433 post calibration
- Theater: 515 lumens
- Living Room: 1107 lumens
- Dynamic: a breathtaking 1979 lumens!
For those interested in calibration numbers. When measuring specs in Theater Dark 1 mode, the default color temperature was at 6500K. Unfortunately, the 6500K setting tended to measure out over 7000K. For the rest of my work I set the color temp to 6000K which made a better starting place, and measured a much better 6466 on full white (100 IRE). As I dropped IRE (to measure the color balance of light, medium and dark grays) the color temp measurements went up (cooler – more bluish). Adjusting the separate gain and bias for each primary color Red/Green/Blue, reduced the color temperature shift, although on my first attempt, it still remained significant (30 IRE about 600K higher than 100IRE). Further adjustment should get the color temperature pretty consistant. Even after stopping after the first calibration pass, to take all the photos, I found the overall color balance was very good, and the overall, extremely pleasing on flesh tones and on scenes in general.
One very nice thing about the Theater Dark 1 preset – Green was dead on, out of the box, thus no funky greenish caste to fleshtones, or alternately no tendency for fleshtones to have a shift to magenta. I’m confident that a basic calibration disk ($30-$50) and 60 minutes or less of your time (as a first time, probably terrified, amateur calibrator) will have the Cinema 400 performing beautifully in terms of color accuracy.
A couple of other quick numbers: At 100IRE (white)
Theater mode (not Theater Dark 1 or 2), color temp was 7670K with default settings
Livingroom mode – color temp was 8195. 8000K range is more typical for HDTV viewing, than the movie 6500K. (The default looked great on HD NFL football.)
I did take a quick look at the brightest mode – Dynamic, mostly because its color balance was dramatically diiferent from the various Theater and even the Living Room modes (as you can see in the three comparative images in the Image Quality section. Sure enough, the Dynamic mode had far more green than any of the others. Easily correctable.
Lamp Life and Replacement
Epson rates the lamp at 1700 hours at full power and 3000 hours in low power (normally Theater Dark 1 and 2) modes.
Replacing the lamp – unfortunately – like most home theater projectors, will require unmounting the projector if you have it ceiling mounted. The access for the lamp is on the bottom. Epson also recommends cleaning filters regularly to keep the projector running cool and extending lamp life.
I ran the Silicon Optix HQV test disk to look at jaggies, and noise. To do that I output 480i to the projector, so that the results show how good the Epson’s own processing is. (I normally output 720p letting my Oppo DVD player handle the scaling). The Epson performed very well on the jaggies test – not exceptional, but just fine. On the various noise tests, the only real issue, was that on one of the motion artifact tests the Epson was a touch slow to correct.
Overall, the Epson performed pretty typically for projectors under $3000. I didn’t find its processing to be really any better overall, than using my Oppo DVD, which is known for really, really, good processing for an affordable DVD player.
The bottom line here, if you have a very good DVD player, you can use it’s scaling etc., or the Epson’s and have good results either way. If you have a junker DVD player, be assured that the Cinema 400 will do a good job for you even if you output a 480i signal.
Projector Screen Recommendations
This is always the toughest area to comment on. My thoughts are, that the Cinema 400 will appeal especially to those who occasionally have ambient light to deal with at least some time, and definitely to those who are not just movie fans, but sports and general HDTV (definitely the kind of folks who like Discovery HD content).
As a result, in most cases I would lean towards one of two options. For the general viewer a white screen with gain – say 1.3 – 1.8 depending on viewing angle. The Cinema 400 looked really good on the Carada Brilliant White in my testing room (1.4 gain). If however you have side lighting to deal with, especially if it is close to the front of the room (like having a window with shades but not light tight), you may find that a HC light gray surface, such as those from Dalite (CinemaVision) – or a Firehawk (like mine- but a Firehawk is probably too expensive for a projector in this price range), or the recently reviewed light gray surface from Elite (available in fixed frame ezFrame, or their CineTension motorized.)
I would not normally recommend a dark gray HC surface for this projector – overkill – I suspect you’ll end up with a far more contrasty image than you want, and will have to adjust elsewhere (alot) to compensate.
OK, that’s enough on the general performance aspects of
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