Epson EH-TW9400 3LCD 4k projector review

Inside CI 5 Rating

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posted on Monday, 12th August 2019 by Steve May

projectors  home cinema  4K  HDR  Media Rooms 

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The EH-TW940 is the latest in the line of Epson’s pixel shifting, sleight of hand 4k enhanced models, a Pro UHD evolution (Epson's umbrella term for a variety of image processing technologies) that began with the current EH-TW7300. This model sits above the EH-TW7400, and alongside the EH-TW9400W, a variant that offers wireless HDMI connectivity, courtesy of a 4k WiHD transmitter.

Cosmetically, it has much in common with its progenitors. But there has been steady revolution under the bonnet, with steady increases in brightness and contrast, as evidenced by the proliferation of badges on display: 3D, 4K Enhancement, HDR, ISF, Deep Black, Control 4. If you’re looking for feature attractions, there’s plenty to chew over.

In addition to its proprietary pixel-shifting technique, used to deliver a 2160p image to the screen from 1080p LCD panels, claimed dynamic contrast ratio is up to 1,200,000:1, and compatibility with HDR10 and HLG metadata, although as you might expect, the nature of projection means it handles both rather differently to a flatscreen TV. 

EH9400 Side Panel

EH9400 Remote

Epson EH-TW9400 3LCD projector: Build quality and setup
The model is on the large size, 520 x 170 x 450mm (W/H/D), although not as imposing as the 4k beamers from JVC or Sony, which makes it a little easier to accomodate in smaller home theatres and media rooms.

Build quality is excellent. The matte black chassis features a centrally-positioned lens, with a gunmetal grey trim around and beneath the cooling vents.

The backlit remote control is a familiar looking Epson zapper; over-large but fine for use in a dark room. On-body menu control buttons are hidden out of the way, behind a sliding door to the side. It’s almost as though Epson doesn’t expect anyone to use them.

Connections include two HDMI inputs (one of which is an 18Gbps input that supports 4k HDR sources up to 50/60Hz), USB and service ports, VGA PC, RS-232C and Ethernet LAN for network control. A 12v trigger handles automated screen control.

Setup is pleasingly slick, thanks to motorised optics. A 2.1x optical zoom, with powered focus and powered lens shift means you can position the picture, and ease it into focus with just the remote and baked-in test pattern. A powered lens shift offers ±96.3% vertical and ±47.1% horizontal movement should help solve most installation challenges.

Unlike Epson’s multimedia projectors, there’s not even a token sound system onboard. This model is designed to be used with a full-blown home theatre audio system.

EH9400 HDMI

Epson TW9400_lifestyle Crop

Epson EH-TW9400 3LCD projector: Features and usability
With a projection ratio of 1.35 - 2.84:1, you can cast images up to 300 inches. You’ll need a projection distance of at least 3m to fill a 100-inch screen. For high-end home cinema installs, with screens able to adjust for multiple aspect ratios, there are ten memory slots available. 

Beneath the hood is a 0.74 inch LCD D9 panel using Micro Lens Array technology.

3D may have left the building when it comes to TVs, but it still has a home here. This Epson supports active shuttering glasses, although none are supplied in the box.

Overall usability is good. Home pulls up a full screen graphical interface, which presents a source menu, IP address, and shortcuts to Color Mode, 3D setup, power consumption and Auto Iris. there’s also a menu button which takes you to a familiar tabbed text box menu, which offers Image, Signal, and assorted settings. System control support overs AMX, Crestron (Network) and Control4.

Light output is rated at 2,600 lumens, which proves bright enough for the EH-TW9400 to be used in rooms with a modicum of ambient light. Obviously, for full contrast and colour, the projector warrants a fully dark environment. But those that want to watch a sports event with their friend won’t need to fumble for hotdogs in the dark

Lamp life is impressive. Epson quotes 5,000 hours in Eco mode, 3000 in Normal mode.

Spider Menu

Epson EH-TW9400 3LCD projector: performance
Straight from the box, it's clear this projector looks tremendous for its class. It’s performance is characterised by crisp, pixel dense images and deep, vibrant colours.

Built around a 3LCD light engine, as is Epson’s wont, there’s no issue with fringing artefacts, still occasionally seen on rival DLP models. The picture is supremely cinematic and colour fidelity is outstanding. Interestingly, the projector will cover the full DCI-P3 colour spectrum, using the Digital Cinema preset, although this leads to a reduction in brightness.

Picture presets comprise Dynamic, Bright Cinema, Natural, Cinema, and the aforementioned Digital Cinema. The Cinema mode could prove a little dull for some viewers, but Natural, Digital Cinema and Bright Cinema are outstanding options for movie and TV shows.

So just how well does the EH-9400 fare with native 4k? We subjected it to a variety of UHD test patterns, and a run through of the Spears & Munsil UHD HDR Benchmark Blu-ray disc, to find out.

As expected, while it doesn’t actually deliver true 2160p resolution, but it does look consistently sharper and more pixel dense than a regular 1080p model. What we have is actually an almost perfect compromise, one that works equally well with both HD source material, and UHD.

Image processing is first class. Noise is an non-issue.

The projector offers five levels of 4k Enhancement. 1 is quite subtle, with 2 and 3 our go-to options. Detail enhancement and super resolution are all adjustable, if you feel the need. 4k Blu-rays look exceptionally sharp on the default.

We rate the projector as a superb media room choice. It’s a perfect partner for Sky Q UHD. Colour handling is rich, and there’s no shortage of vibrancy.

So what of the EH-TW9400’s HDR handling? In short, it’s a tad divisive.

In Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom (UHD Blu-ray), the fireballs which rain down when the island erupts have an orange intensity that adds believability to the drama, while lava trails exhibit fleeting specular highlights. Black level performance is generally above average. Broiling clouds of ash exhibit nuance, with multiple shades of grey, but flashes of vibrant blue sky still break through.

The projector supports both HDR10 and HLG. For most applications it should be left to make Dynamic decisions using its Auto setting.

This HDR picture performance also enhances subjective contrast, but there is a price to be paid, as the overall picture level dips. 4k source material from Sky Q, with SDR colour grading, generally has more pop.

Hulk HDR

Hulk SDR

You can opt to disable HDR and run in SDR instead, which poses some interesting choices. A sequence in The Incredible Hulk (UHD Blu-ray), has Thunderbolt Ross’ army chasing Ol' Greenskin through a shadowy bottling plant. Lighting is deliberately low. With HDR engaged (above top), the overall picture level drops, steel gantries are swathed deep in shadow, and near black detail and texture obscured. However a lamp glows with yellow HDR intensity.

The same scene in SDR (above) is far brighter, the steelwork in the factory mezzanine is clearly defined. Background details ping out, but there’s less colour intensity in the lamp. It’s a subtle difference, but the overall impact on the scene is pronounced. We suspect many viewers will actually prefer the greater clarity offered by the SDR presentation.

Image intensity is highest when the projector lamp is in High Power Consumption mode, although predictably operating noise becomes uncomfortably high. In truth, there’s only a moderate penalty in brightness dropping to Medium or Eco, and operating noise is considerably lower. Average operational noise is 24 dB.

The Auto Iris can be turned off, or set on Normal or High Speed. When in operation, it makes an obvious grumbling noise as the iris opens and closes. We found this rather distracting, even in Normal mode, and opted to leave it off.

Epson EH-TW9400 3LCD projector: Verdict
When it comes to sheer bang for buck, the EH-TW9400 is in a class of its own. It presents vibrant, contrast-rich images with a pixel density that feels effortlessly cinematic. Epson’s 4k Enhancement proposition may not be able to rival the fine detail more expensive native 4k projectors from Sony and JVC, but it’s debatable just how much of a shortfall it represents. 

One important takeaway is that the projector looks hugely impressive with a wide range of sources, from OTT streaming and set top boxes, to UHD Blu-ray.

If you’re looking for a premium home theatre experience that won’t break the bank, we rate this Epson a brilliant proposition.

The Epson EH-TW9400 is available now
Retail price: £2,550

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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