Epson’s home theatre projectors are noticeable for the way in which they have advanced the art of three panel LCD technology. They have over the past few years brought the native contrast ratio of their panels up to a very impressive 6000:1. But the new Epson EH-R4000 marks a revolutionary change.
How about 40,000:1? Yes, that is the claimed native contrast ratio on this projector, not its dynamic one. Yet the dynamic iris is still fitted, and this can stretch the ratio to a full million to one.
The improvement is largely due to Epson’s new panels. While still employing the same high temperature polysilicon technology that Epson has used in recent years, the new ones are reflective rather than transmissive. That is, like LCoS panels, the light bounces from their surface rather than passing through the panel. This also makes for a reduced screen door effect (never a particular problem with Epson projectors anyway).
Epson says that the brightness available from the projector is 1200:1 lumens.
The projector offers excellent installation flexibility, with both vertical and horizontal lens shift and a wide 2.1:1 zoom range. All these and the focus are powered and controllable through the remote (or via the RS-232C or Ethernet connectivity features), and memories are provided. Combined with a special ‘stretch’ aspect ratio, these memories make the use of third-party anamorphic lenses viable for those who prefer ‘Constant Image Height’ home theatre operation.
Over the years we’ve had dozens of projectors pass through our office, some priced north of $40,000. Yet never have I seen a projector better able to deliver blacks than this one.
Even with the automatic iris switched off, the black levels were outstanding. And with them switched on, they were incomparably good. The only way I could see how performance could be improved on this front would be by carefully lining every surface of the viewing room with black felt or velvet to absorb back-reflections from the screen. The light being cast by this projector, when called on to be black, is noticeable only by its complete absence.
That performance acts as a foundation for every other light-related aspect of picture quality. The bright and colourful parts of the image seem to be bright and colourful without limit, because by contrast with the blacks they very nearly are.
Aside from that, the brightness available from the projector was plenty for normal home theatre use on medium to large screens in light-controlled rooms. The colour was highly configurable if you wish to make adjustments yourself (or get in an ISF calibrator to do it for you). But for peace of mind if you aren’t entirely confident making such adjustments, the projector comes THX certified, which means that its default settings will deliver very accurate results.
The memory settings worked perfectly. You get ten for the various picture settings – which ought to be enough for any installation – plus three separate ones for the lens position. These can be invoked through a home automation system, but a key on the remote brings up the main menu memory. Select one of the loaded lens memories, and the little servo motors in the projector whir busily for a few seconds, one after the other, putting the picture back to the set position and state of focus.
The video processing is top notch. Based on the new HQV Vida system, the scaling and progressive scan conversion is as good as it gets. The projector also employs Epson’s motion smoothing system, which analyses the existing picture frames, and then inserts between them newly generated intermediate ones. This, in effect, increases the frame rate to the point where you cannot see any stuttering or juddering of movement in the image. This worked well, holding up even with the most complicated and detailed Blu-ray scenes, while very rarely producing any visual artefacts.
The Epson EH-R4000 is a game changer. The new technology offers such great black levels that I’d suggest there is almost no further room for improvement.
Yes, it is just that good.