Epson PowerLite 400W Ultra-Short Throw, Widescreen Business Projector Review

The Epson Powerlite 400W receives our Special Interest Award. This award is given out to projectors that perform extremely well at meeting special projection needs for users. In some cases, however, a specialty projector may win our Hot Product Award, but to do so, it must be exceptional, not just for the specific requirement (in this case, its ultra-short throw functionality), but as a projector overall. The Epson Powerlite 400W easily meets the requirements for our Special Interest Award. Three factors, though prevent us from awarding it our Hot Product Award:

  • It costs significantly more than other projectors that aren’t as short throw
  • There are a couple of other ultra-short throw projectors, notably the Sanyo PLC-XL50 and PLC-XL51, which are far more short throw than the Epson (even though far more expensive)
  • Its brightness is definitely entry level

From a competitive standpoint, we recently reviewed the Sanyo PLC-XL50 and also wrote about the soon to ship XL51. Comparing these two projectors is interesting. For openers, the Sanyo PLC-XL50 is about twice the price, for about the same brightness. It is a much larger projector, and not very portable. The Sanyo, which did receive our Hot Product Award, has one distinct advantage over the Epson, and that relates to the positioning. While the Epson sits about half the distance from the screen as most projectors, the front of the Sanyo just about touches the screen. In that regard, it does what the Epson can’t do. It can sit on a credenza or table right up against the wall the screen is on. It can even be mounted on the wall above the screen (now that is also truly impressive). It is also suitable for projecting onto the floor, or from the bottom up to a table with a rear screen in it. This makes the Sanyo even more desireable for a lot of specialty and digital signage applications. The new XL51, is simply more money still ($3999 MSRP), at 20% brighter than the Epson or the older Sanyo. it is because the Sanyo is the ultimate in short throw, that we did give it the higher award.

On the other hand, the Sanyo is “merely” a true XGA projector, while the Epson is a real widescreen projector, and that will appeal to a great many buyers.

The Epson is definitely the “deal” when comparing to the Sanyos, with half or less of the initial cost, and a lower cost of operation, but the Sanyo can handle some applications the Epson just can’t.

Epson Powerlite 400W Projector: Pros, Cons, andTypical Capabilities

Epson Powerlite 400W Projector: Pros

  • Ultra-short throw design is ideal for working with electronic whiteboards, and allows presenters to not have to get between the projector and the screen (casting shadows, and blinding the presenter)
  • First widescreen ultra-short throw projector – a killer combination
  • Sharp image
  • Very good color accuracy
  • Very good menu system
  • Excellent warranty, including overnight replacement program for minimum downtime
  • Good remote control
  • Relatively small and light, allows it to function as a portable, as well as for permanent installations
  • Lamp door on top, so installed projector does not have to be unmounted to change lamp
  • Larger sound from its 10 watt speaker than most portables, allows it to handle small and even medium sized rooms (most portables have 1 or 2 watt speakers)
  • Better than average documentation
  • Three sets of audio inputs, plus audio out
  • Monitor out (a real plus for those working from desktop computers)
  • Build quality seems to be very good
  • Networking with notification services
  • Longer than average lamp life in “eco-mode” – 4000 hours
  • One of the less expensive replacement lamps, lowers cost of operation
  • Ideal for working with electronic white boards, in conferenceroom or classrooms

Epson Powerlite 400W Projector: Cons

  • Could be brighter, although brightness is more than adequate, considering it is limited to smaller screens (up to 100″ diagonal)
  • An optical zoom lens would be of benefit, however, this may not be practical in such a short throw design, without other problems occuring
  • Lacks a digital input (as do most)
  • Uses filters (all 3LCD projectors do), requiring some easy routine maintenance

Epson Powerlite 400W Projector: Typical Capabilities

  • Average brightness for an entry level business and education projector
  • Size and weight for a portable projector
  • Selection of inputs

Epson Powerlite 400W Projector Summary: The Bottom Line

If you have the need for a projector that can sit very close to the screen (even closer than most of those old overhead projectors), and are on a budget, the Epson Powerlite 400W, should be an excellent choice. Equally important, and a huge plus to many buyers, is that it is a true widescreen projector, possibly the first projector to combine widescreen and ultra-short throw. If you plan to go with the largest practical screen – 100″ diagonal, the projector is a little thin on lumens, if you are working a very bright room, but more than enough for typical lights on, or moderate lights on environments. On slightly smaller screens and electronic whiteboards, it should have no problem even with full fluorescents on.

When comparing the Epson Powerlite 400W to other lower cost projectors that do not have ultra-short throw lenses, you will find the Epson to be typical, in fact, very good and competitive in almost all ways, from the sharp image, the great color, the well designed menus, and options, and even the excellent, better than most, warranty.

I should also note, that widescreen projectors as a group, are also more expensive than traditional 4:3 projectors (and usually more desireable). I probably should not be critical of the price, when one considers, that both ultra-short throw, and widescreen projectors are more expensive than traditional models. Since this Epson projector combines these two features, it can easily be argued that the price is very reasonable.

Epson has come up with an excellent projector overall. When being used for what it’s designed for, I really have a hard time finding any real faults. Epson has done this one right!

The fact that the Epson Powerlite 400W is both a widescreen projector, and ultra-short throw projector, is a winning combination that will appeal to many, especially in the classroom, for digital signage, general conference and training room applications, and for a host of specialty applications.

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