Epson PowerLite 400W Ultra-Short Throw, Widescreen Business Projector Review: Overview, Hardware
7/30/2008 - Art Feierman
- Native WXGA 1280x800 resolution projector
- Ultra-short throw lens
- First affordable projector to offer both WXGA and Ultra-short throw
- Entry Level, 1800 lumens brightness
- Excellent warranty
- Powerful 10 watt speaker
- Reasonably quiet, even in full power mode and very quiet in low power mode
The Epson Powerlite 400W is one of the few "ultra-short throw" projectors to hit the market. For those not familiar with the phrase, this Epson sits much closer to the screen than the typical projector, close enough to make this projector better suited for many applications than the average projector. But, that's not all:
The Epson Powerlite 400W is also a widescreen 3LCD projector. Widescreen projectors, be they 3LCD or DLP, are finally coming of age. Once again, the projector industry has lagged years behind the evolution of laptop and desktop displays, and until this year, widescreen projectors have made up a very tiny percentage of all the projectors out there. This year, finally, most major manufacturers now offer multiple widescreen projectors, basically offering them in multiple classes (micro-portables, portables, and fixed/install projectors).
As someone who has owned laptops with widescreen displays for about 7 years, I've been a big proponent of widescreen projectors. Also many, including myself, argue that the widescreen shape is more suited to most types of presentations than the classic 4:3 aspect ratio projectors. Lastly, we are finally seeing some standardization around the 1280x800 resolution, and far less of other WXGA resolutions including 1366x768 or 1280x768, or even 1280x720 (home theater resolution, and less desireable with today's 1280x800 standard widescreen computers).
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Having said all that, the Epson Powerlite 400W is not just another widescreen projector. While it has most of the usual attributes of portable projectors; it is light (but far from the lightest at about 8 pounds), and it is very compact (but far from the smallest). It is small enough and light enough to function well as a portable projector, but that's not why most will select the Powerlite 400W over the competition.
The real uniqueness of the Epson 400W is that it comes standard with an ultra-short throw lens. In English, that means it can be placed very close to the screen, which is ideal for many applications. True, it can't be placed as close as the one or two projectors with truly unique designs like the recently reviewed, and far more expensive Sanyo PLC-XL50 and XL51, but it can sit very close to the screen compared to almost all other projectors. You can fill a moderate sized screen (say an 87" diagonal 16:10 image), from only 3.5 feet back, compared to the usual 7 feet or further for most projectors. This opens up some great possibilities for working with electronic whiteboards, reducing installation costs, digital signage, rear screen usage, and many other specialty applications.
Epson Powerlite 400W Multimedia Projector: Basic Specs
Estimated Street Price: $1399
Native Resolution: WXGA 1280x800
Brightness: 1800 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: Digital only, no optical zoom ratio: 1.35:1
Lens shift: No
Lamp life: 4000 hours at low power, 2000 hours at full lamp power
Weight: 7.9 lbs. (3.6 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Years Parts and Labor standard, with overnight replacement program
Click here for more complete Powerlite 400W specifications and brochure.
Epson Powerlite 400W Business Projector: Physical Tour
The first and most obvious thing about the Epson Powerlite 400W is the huge lens, relative to the size of the projector. It's not a surprise, as wide angle lenses (short throw) use lots of glass, and ultra wide angle lenses, even more.
The lens is mounted off center - to the right (facing the projector), with the large infra-red sensor in the top center. A single drop down adjustable foot is located below the center of the front. There are also two rear screw thread adjustable feet for a stable three point stance. Interestingly there is also a fourth foot (not adjustable) sticking down near the front left side. I'm not sure of the actual benefit unless it relates to weight distribution, but it's unlikely to touch anything if you are dropping down the front center foot.
Movine to the top of the Epson Powerlite 400W is an extensive control panel, shown here.
From the left are two indicator lamps; one for lamp, one for temperature. In addition, there is a third power status indicator by the Power button. The Epson uses the usual configuration of press once to power on, press twice, to power down. Moving further to the right is the Source Search button. That is followed by the arrow keys in the typical diamond configuration, with the Menu button to the left of the up arrow. The Escape button is to the right of the up arrow, and there is the usual center Enter button.
The four arrow keys have a second function when the menus are not in use. The Up and Down arrows double for keystone correction, while the left and right arrow buttons control the digital zoom feature (1.35:1).
Lastly, is the Epson Help Button, which brings up an interactive Help menu. Select your topic, and the Epson offers up the appropriate controls, without having to track them down through the menus. Epson has been offering this for probably close to 10 years, and it really is a nice touch, although, to keep it simple, they limit the number of topics to those that they feel are most likely to be needed by the most people.
That takes us to the input panel on the back. Not a whole lot of surprises. The 400W does not have a digital input, which is too bad for some installations, however digital inputs (DVI or HDMI) still are not found on most portable projectors (defined as under 10 pounds).
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From the left: The rear infra-red sensor for the remote, a network connection, the obigatory S-Video and Composite Video inputs, along with one pair of audio inputs. Further to the right are the two analog computer inputs, which can alternately accept Component Video sources. A stereo mini audio jack is located below each of the computer inputs. To their left, is an Audio Out - a nice touch that lets the remote control adjust the volume from any external powered speakers that might be hooked up to the projector. There is also a Monitor Out so you can also see the projected image on an external monitor, a feature that desktop computer users need. To its right is an RS-232C for command and control of the projector from a PC or other control system. Below that, is the power cord receptacle.
Note also, the speaker in the lower left corner. That's an excellent place for it, considering the ultra-short throw nature of the projector. The audience will always be behind the projector, so the sound is pointing at them.