Posted on December 12, 2018 By Chris Kahl
Epson PowerLite L400U Projector Review – Performance: Brightness, Contrast, Audible Noise
Epson advertises their PowerLite L400U Installation business and education projector with a brightness claim of 4,500 lumens. Most business and education projectors fall in right around 25% below their claim, some far below that. Epson typically gets very close to, or exceeds its claim. We test brightness at the mid-zoom level, which is where most projector users operate their projectors in a practical application. Projector manufactures tend to take their measurements in the brightest possible configurations – in this case, Dynamic at full Wide Zoom. As you can see in the table at left, the Epson PowerLite L400U exceeded its claim of 4,500, measuring in at a brightest of 5,128 lumens in Dynamic Mode, operating under normal brightness, at its widest zoom. That’s great! It exceeds claim by more than 13.9%!
Dynamic Mode, when measured at normal brightness (full power) and mid-zoom, was 3,905, which is still quite good. Skipping down the list to Presentation Mode, which measured in at 2,920 lumens, is still some serious brightness and is quite capable of busting through some heavy ambient light. Cinema Mode, which offers the best color, comes in at 2,603 lumens, and in a dark room will light the place up when bright images are projected – you’d think the blinds were opened or something!
sRGB came in at 2,466 lumens, and DICOM SIM at 2,430 lumens. DICOM SIM is likely to be used in darker environments as contrast becomes extremely important in examining medical imaging, such as X-Rays, CT Scans and MRIs. Multi-Projection is the second brightest color mode, measuring at 3,025 lumens, which makes sense since this mode will be used across multiple projectors, calibrated to one another, to produce an extremely large image.
The lower brightness lamp modes tested were Quiet Mode, which isn’t considered an ECO mode, and Extended Mode, which is considered to the L400U’s ECO Mode. Quiet mode dims the laser light engine a bit, and all but silences the fans – but it doesn’t extend the light engine life of 20,000 hours. Extended Mode, on the other hand, reduces the brightness by quite a bit, lowers the audible noise and increases the lamp life up to a total of 30,000 hours. Dynamic Mode, when measured in Quiet Mode produces 2,640 lumens, while Extended (ECO) Mode drops to 2,524 lumens.
Web content, projected by the Epson PowerLite L400U in a dark room.
Web content, projected by the Epson PowerLite L400U with the room lights on.
These are all very bright measurements and, with the color they produce, will combat ambient light decently well. The above photos were taken with the room lights off, and again with the room lights on, including two recessed ceiling lights located about one foot in front of the screen. Text is still plenty readable in ambient light.
We don’t usually pay too much attention to the manufacturer’s contrast ratio claim, but when Epson claims a contrast ratio of 2,500,000:1, I would expect better performance than what I got. We don’t measure contrast at Projector Reviews, but we do take a look at black levels. As far as performance goes, we want to know if you can tell what is supposed to be black is black. Well yeah, you can, but I am a bit disappointed.
I guess I can best compare the black the L400U attempts to produce with this example. Imagine you are outside on a clear summer’s night, the full moon directly overhead, illuminating everything with a cool, almost gray glow. That’s what the L400U offers. It is acceptable for a business and education, but I’m not a fan of such a high claim for a contrast ratio being all bluster and not much else.
The Bigelow Space Station, from Journey to Space.
The nose of Space Shuttle Atlantis, from Journey to Space.
The approach to Mars, from Journey to Space.
As far as its intended use in the business and education market goes, the blacks are black enough for most uses, so don’t let this stop you from choosing this otherwise awesome projector unless black levels are really that important for your specific needs.
Epson says the PowerLite L400U runs at 38 dB in Normal Mode and 28 dB in ECO Mode. I don’t think so. While I don’t actually measure the audible noise, I have reviewed projectors with claims of 32 dB, and this is far quieter, even in Normal Mode, than those were. Turn on Quiet Mode and I can’t even hear the fans without putting my ear inches away from the exhaust. My laptop fan is louder than this projector is.
What we want to know, and what you want to know: Is the noise from the projector’s cooling system going to be a distraction in meetings, lectures and presentations? Not at all. If you can even hear it at all once it’s ceiling mounted, it will be quickly tuned out and ignored.
That’s it for our discussion on the performance of this impressive installation laser projector. We’ll finish up this review on the next way with a summary, a recap of many of the photos throughout this review and a list of pros and cons to help you make the best decision possible – the goal here is to help you decided if the Epson PowerLite L400U is right for your needs. Alright, let’s wrap it up!
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