What is the Epson EH-TW9400?
The Epson EH-TW9400 is the company’s latest flagship lamp-based HDR projector, and boasts all the features we have come to expect from its home cinema line-up. As a result there’s motorised lens controls, a lens memory, and even a motorised lens cover – all unusual at this price point.
As with all of Epson’s projectors it isn’t a native 4K projector, and instead uses three Full HD LCD panels with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. However, it can accept a 4K Ultra HD signal, and apply processing to produce a higher resolution image that approximates 3840 x 2160.
The TW9400 is virtually identical to the EH-TW9300 we reviewed previously, but there are a few minor differences. The new model is slightly brighter at 2,600 lumens, the claimed contrast ratio has increased to 1,200,000:1 (using the dynamic iris), and both HDMI inputs are now HDCP 2.2.
While the black model is ideal for dedicated home cinemas, Epson also offers the EH-TW9400W, which adds MHL connectivity for smartphones and WirelessHD for sending HD signals without needing to use long HDMI cable runs. This version comes in white and costs an additional £300.
The black version being reviewed here retails for £2,549 as at the time of writing (March 2020), which is an absolutely cracking price when you consider all that you’re getting. So if this new model is as good as its predecessor, Epson will be looking at yet another Best Buy badge.
Design, Connections and Control
The Epson EH-TW9400 uses exactly the same chassis as previous generations, but this is not a bad thing. This projector is large without being huge, extremely well made, and is the perfect example of the economies of scale often available to a manufacturer of Epson’s size. It measures 520 x 450 x 193mm (WxDxH), weighs in at 11kg, and is finished in matte black.
The chassis has a high quality lens in the centre, with air intake and exhaust vents either side. There is an electric lens cover that moves out of the way when powered up and is closed when off to protect from dust. This is important because LCD projectors don’t have a sealed light path, and as such there’s a risk of dust building up and causing the dreaded ‘dust blobs’.
While the motorised lens cover undoubtedly helps, it also makes sense to take simple steps to mitigate the risk. So when positioning the projector avoid areas of the room that are subject to excessive amounts of dust. You have the choice of stand or ceiling mounting the projector and the motorised lens controls make setup simple.
These lens controls allow for shift, focus and zoom adjustments, and can be saved using the lens memory function. This means you can create aspect ratios ranging from 1.78:1 to 2.40:1 depending on your needs and screen shape. Finally, at the front is the 3D emitter and remote sensor, along with adjustable feet to level the projector when table mounting.
The TW9400 sports features you often don't find in projectors that cost twice the price
On the left hand side of the chassis (as you face the lens) there’s a small sliding panel that hides a number of manual keys for entering the menu system along with surface mounted power and source buttons. This can come in handy if you misplace the remote, and above this area is a blue light that indicates the projector is on, powering up or closing down, along with warning lights.
The connections are located in a long recess at the rear of the unit that should help with cable management when ceiling mounted. Unlike the TW9300, the TW9400 now has two HDMI 2.0 inputs with HDCP 2.2, which is about time. These HDMI inputs can accept signals up to and including 4K/60p, 4:4:4, 12-bit (although the panels are 10-bit), HDR10 and wide colour gamut (BT.2020).
In terms of other connections there’s a PC/VGA connector along with a USB 2.0 Type A port, and a USB 2.0 Type B port (service only). There’s also a 12V trigger, and LAN and RS232C ports for use with AMX, Crestron and Control4 products if desired. The power socket is located at the bottom of the rear connections in an area that is slightly further recessed.
The included remote is exactly the same controller Epson has been using for a while, and it’s a large and well-weighted unit that fits neatly in the hand. It has all the major controls, which are laid out in an intuitive fashion, and there’s a back light for use in dark environments. There are also memory buttons for quickly and easily changing the aspect ratio if you use a scope screen.
SDR Out of the Box
The Epson EH-TW9400 offers five different picture settings: Dynamic, Bright Cinema, Natural, Cinema, and Digital Cinema. When watching standard dynamic range (SDR) content the best choice is Natural because out of the box it measures closest to the industry standards of D65 for the colour of white and the BT.709 colour gamut.
For the measurements shown above we used a colour temperature setting of 6500K, and a gamma setting of -2. As you can see there is a deficit of green and a slight excess of blue in the greyscale, which results in whites with a slight cyan push. It isn’t bad but the deltaEs (errors) are above the visible threshold of three.
The Natural picture setting is best for SDR content, although it could be more accurate
Despite setting the gamma to the lowest option of -2 it still only tracked a curve of 2.0. This is a surprise because the TW9300 we reviewed previously delivered 2.4 from a setting of -1 (the lower the setting, the darker the overall image and the higher the gamma curve). The greyscale accuracy will change because of lamp variances and age, but the gamma seems like a choice by Epson.
The colour performance is fairly good, with the overall errors below three and the luminance measurements proving very accurate. This is important because luminance is the element of colour to which our eyes are most sensitive. However, the tracking of saturation points is being skewed by the cyan push to the greyscale, and red in particular is undersaturated.
The calibrated results are excellent, with an accurate greyscale and colour gamut
Overall, this is a decent out-of-the-box performance, with the majority of the errors below the visible threshold. If you simply select the Natural picture setting and move the gamma to -2 the resulting picture should please most people. However, there is room for improvement, as the next section will demonstrate.
The TW9400 offers a number of calibration features, including controls for adjusting the colour of white and the overall colour gamut. The controls themselves are a little course in terms of the adjustments applied, but using them did provide an improved level of accuracy.
As you can see above, after using the two-point white balance control the greyscale accuracy is much improved. Now all the errors are below three and most are below two, resulting in a colour of white that is hitting its industry target of D65. The gamma is still tracking around a curve of 2.0, but there is no way of changing this with the controls available.
After calibrating the greyscale a number of the colour errors were corrected, and the colour management system allowed for further improvements. Aside from some minor errors in red and green at 100% saturation, all the measurements were now tracking their targets very closely. Overall, the resulting greyscale and colour accuracy was excellent, with images looking natural.
Note: When watching HDR content you should select the Cinema preset, because this employs a filter that allows for the wider DCI colour space. Introducing this filter into the light path does reduce the image brightness slightly, but also makes sure the colours match as closely as possible the DCI-P3 gamut used when mastering HDR content within the BT.2020 container.
Related: What is Wide Colour Gamut (WCG)?
The greyscale tracking shown above is very good, in fact it’s better than it was with SDR content. The TW9400 is also a fairly bright projector, and using the Cinema mode it can deliver anywhere between 70 and 100 nits depending on how much zoom you use. It can measure higher in the Natural picture setting, but then you lose the wider colours and the image doesn’t look as good.
Related: What is High Dynamic Range (HDR)?
In the Cinema picture setting the HDR greyscale is accurate and the colour gamut wide
A projector is never going to have the wow factor of a TV when it comes to HDR but, as long as the manufacturer tone maps the signal correctly, the results can still look impressive. As you can see in the graph above the PQ EOTF quickly rolls off to retain details, but actual onscreen HDR content looked much better than these measurements might suggest.
Related: What is HDR Tone Mapping?
The colour filter used in the Cinema picture setting might reduce the brightness, but it certainly did its job in terms of widening the gamut. As you can see above the TW9400 can deliver 97.22% of DCI-P3 using xy coordinates and 97.65% using uv coordinates. It is also capable of 73.12% of BT.2020 using xy and 76.82% using uv, as shown below.
As Phil discovered when reviewing the TW9300, there seems to be a quirk when it comes to feeding various 4K HDR signals, refresh rates and bit rates into the projector. It was very fussy about the exact signal it would accept, so much so that it did impact on some of the results obtained with HDR metadata signals from our pattern generator.
As a result, the measurements above don’t show as wide a colour gamut as they do in the previous two graphs, nor do the colours hit their target coordinates as closely as they do in those other graphs. In the same way as the PQ EOTF tracking doesn’t tell the whole story, neither do these measurements, and we’ll discuss the HDR performance in more detail in the next section.
The Epson EH-TW9400 is a genuinely excellent performer regardless of its price, but the fact it can deliver images this impressive for less than £2,500 is remarkable. The greyscale and gamma performance has been covered in detail in the previous section, but the black levels are equally as good. The detail retrieval just above black could have been better, but that isn’t an LCD strength and overall, it was still effective.
While the blacks aren’t as deep as a JVC or even a Sony, they’re better than any DLP projector. There is a dynamic iris, but it offered no perceivable improvements in contrast and was quite noisy in operation, so I left it off. Besides, there was already a nice contrasty punch to the picture, even in my blacked-out home cinema, making the TW9400 ideal for a dedicated installation. However, if you’re planning on using it in a room with white walls, you’re probably better off saving yourself some money and buying the EH-TW7400 instead.
The Epson handled the gorgeously composed wide screen photography on the Blu-ray of the Oscar-winning Parasite extremely well. The TW9400 did any excellent job of processing the 1080p source, and producing some surprisingly detailed and nuanced images. The deliberate colour scheme of the film was accurately reproduced, and overall the results were very film-like.
Watching the new Amazon series Hunters was a revelation, revealing how effective the TW9400 is when receiving a 4K SDR signal. The image is surprisingly detailed: from a close-up of newspaper to every line and whisker on Al Pacino’s face. The exquisite 1970s period detail was perfectly rendered, and the deliberately exaggerated comic book colours often looked stunning, although flesh tones always remained natural.
The HDR images are accurate and detailed, with nuanced colours and well-defined highlights
The 4K Blu-ray of Jojo Rabbit gave the TW9400 a chance to display its abilities with HDR, and in this regard the projector genuinely impresses. The film’s colour palette uses a lot of greens and browns, which were rendered with a nuanced subtlety, while the reds of the Nazi flags also popped. Flesh tones remained natural, the skies were free of clipping, and the early scenes in the woods revealed some nice highlights. Despite the dimming effect of the colour filter, the HDR images still appeared bright, even on a large screen.
Midway on 4K disc has the kind of dynamic HDR images that can really put a projector through its paces. The TW9400 won this particular battle, retaining detail in the skies during the numerous flying sequences, and picking out the reflections on the waves during the sea-based battles. The greens and browns of the pilot’s flight suits are nicely rendered, the yellow life jackets well-defined, and the numerous explosions delivered with bright orange fireballs. The image was also extremely detailed, so much so that the extensive use of CG effects sometimes looked very obvious.
In terms of other performance features, the TW9400 has a pleasingly low input lag of just 26.8ms. So if you fancy using this projector for some fun big screen gaming, then the Epson has you covered with its responsive and fluid performance. When you combine those attributes with its bright and detailed images, you have an impressively immersive gaming experience.
Speaking of immersion, the 3D is also very good. You’ll need to buy the active shutter glasses separately but, it you’re still a fan of the third dimension, this projector will put a smile on your face. There is occasional crosstalk, but that’s a small price to pay for bright, colourful and detailed 3D images. The action in Avengers: Endgame looked suitably epic, with plenty of depth and pop.
The input lag is only 26.8ms, the fan noise is a pleasing 20dB, and the 3D is also very good
The TW9400 is also extremely quiet, measuring just 20dB from my seating position a few feet from the projector, and only measuring 25dB with the SPL meter right by the chassis.
So what’s not so good? At this price not much, but if we’re looking for negatives then the motion handling is the obvious limitation of this LCD projector. That’s not to say it’s bad, with 24fps material handled correctly and free of any induced blur not already present in the source material. However faster motion, especially with sports and gaming is always an area where LCD struggles. If you watch a lot of sport you might want to use the frame interpolation feature, which results in smoother motion. However, make sure it's switched off for gaming to keep the input lag down, and for movies and TV dramas, so they don't look like cheap video!
If you’re considering a DLP projector then it definitely has the edge in terms of motion handling and 3D crosstalk, thanks to its faster response times, but otherwise the TX9400 is a superior projector overall, with a cracking big screen image.
- Impressive picture quality
- Great colour reproduction
- Motorised lens cover
- Motorised lens memory
- HDR10 compatible
- ISFccc certified
- 3D support
- Great price
- Light path not sealed
- Blacks could be better
- Motion not strong point
Epson EH-TW9400 Projector Review
Should I buy one?
The Epson EH-TW9400 is an exceptional projector for the money, and represents the best choice for anyone looking in the £2,000-5,000 price range. The projector itself is well made, and boasts features rarely found at this price point such as a motorised lens cover, motorised lens controls, and a lens memory.
It’s relatively easy to install and set-up, and the menu system and remote control are both fairly intuitive. In terms of its connections, the two HDMI inputs can handle 4K HDR and, while not a native 4K projector, the TW9400 delivers a detailed image that certainly looks like it’s at a higher resolution. The upscaling and general image processing is also very good, as is the 3D, aside from some minor crosstalk.
Overall, the performance is fantastic, and with SDR content the images are bright, detailed and very natural. The TW9400 is equally as impressive with HDR content, producing pictures that benefit from the format’s wider colour gamut and extended dynamic range. A projector will never look as good as a TV, but the TW9400 does an excellent job with HDR at this price point.
In fact, it’s hard to really identify many negatives aside from the usual limitations of LCD projectors. The more expensive Sony and JVC projectors have better blacks, but the TW9400 is still pretty good and certainly better than competing DLP machines. It held its own in my blacked-out home cinema, although the shadow detail could have been better at times.
Its motion handling is comparable to other LCD-based projectors, and this is certainly an area where DLP is superior, but it’s never distracting on the Epson. The fact that the light path isn’t sealed does mean there’s a possibility of dust contamination, but the motorised lens cover will help, and as long as you’re sensible it shouldn’t be a problem.
However when you take everything into account, there’s nothing that even comes close in the sub-£5,000 price bracket, making the Epson EH-TW9400 a definite Best Buy.
What are my alternatives?
If you want a native 4K projector, the cheapest option is the Sony VPL-VW270ES at £4,999 though, while it’s a good projector, it certainly isn’t twice as good as the TW9400 in terms of picture quality, and it doesn’t even have as many features.
The obvious alternative in the £2,000-2,500 price point is the BenQ W5700 and, while this is also a very good projector, the Epson still has the edge. For one thing, the TW9400 is brighter and has a wider colour gamut, resulting in a superior HDR performance. It’s also a lot quieter and, depending on how far you sit from your projector, that can be important. In addition, the motorised lens controls and memory feature make the Epson a better choice for anyone with a scope ratio screen.
So where is the W5700 better? Like all single-chip DLP projectors the image is very sharp, although I think the TW9400 has the better lens, and motion handling is superior on the BenQ. The 3D performance is also slightly better, with no crosstalk at all, although the reduced brightness robs the 3D images of some their impact. However, overall the TW9400 is the better projector, especially if you suffer from rainbows, and delivers remarkable bang for your buck.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
3D Picture Quality
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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