Epson 1440 Projector Review

The Epson PowerLight Home Cinema 1440 is an LCD based projector that offers exceptionally high light output in a convenient and approachable package. If your set-up requires lots of light, or if you enjoy watching your projector with the lights partially or even fully on – then the Epson 1440 is an excellent option. The footprint is such that it can easily be put away between uses, and it measures well out of the box. The Epson 1440 does come with compromises to achieve this high light output: It is a bit loud, the blacks are lacking, and no lens shift means that installation can be a challenge. Those caveats aside, for the right user, this is an attractive option.

Set-Up

Specs
Manufacturer: Epson
Model: 1440
Lumens: 4400
Display Type: LCD
Resolution: 1920x1200
Inputs: 2x HDMI, 2x VGA, 1x Composite
3D Support: No
Projector Size: 14.8" x 11.4" x 4.9"
Projector Weight: 10.2 lbs.
Review Date: March 16, 2016
Price: Check on Amazon
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Light is the enemy of front projection. Unlike a standard emissive display, front projection relies on light reflecting off of a screen or wall to produce an image. Excess light in a room can destroy that relationship – too much excess light in a room results in a washed out image. There are a few ways to combat this. Making your room totally dark is one. Getting a screen that rejects light from elsewhere in a room is another. A third is making your projector brighter.

Enter the Epson 1440 – a projector designed by Epson for users who need extra light – either because they like watching with the lights on, or have an installation that has excess ambient light. There’s no other way to say it – the Epson is a light canon. From the moment I turned it on (and my eyes adjusted to all of that horsepower) I was astonished by how much light the Epson is able to produce.

Setting up the Epson 1440 can present some challenges. The Epson 1440 lacks any sort of lens shift. In my set-up this means I am unable to get the image centered on the screen. A full set of keystone controls are included on the Epson 1440 if angles are unavoidable, but using these will introduce artifacts. Is lack of lens shift a deal breaker? Depends on your set-up and how you intend to use your projector – if your installation options are limited, it is definitely something to keep in mind.

IMG_1944

Taking a tour around the Epson 1440, we find manual zoom and focus. The 1440 can throw an image up to 300” via a 1.38 – 2.28 lens. I was able to easily get ~90” from a distance of around 11’ in my room. The Epson 1440 does include a set of test patterns to assist with alignment and focus – a nice feature that I always appreciate.

There are ample inputs on the Epson 1440 – thought I only made use of a lone HDMI input. The HDMI inputs are 1.4a vs 2.0a, but given the native resolution (1920 x 1200) you won’t need to feed this projector UltraHD content. The unit is cable of connecting to a network via ethernet, and can handle computer signals via a pair of PC inputs – I didn’t test either of these in my set-up. The remote is compact but not over-crowded. It is not backlit.

So. Much. Light

To say that my jaw dropped when I fired Epson 1440 is an understatement. My eyes literally had to adjust when I turned it on started watching the local news (all of this was happening during NYC’s January blizzard).

The 1440 has two lamp modes: Eco & Normal, and four preset color modes (Dynamic, BrightCinema, Cinema & Game). Eco mode is plenty bright for my room and screen size. I’m happy to report that out of the box in Cinema mode, the Epson is able to throw a bright, punchy picture, with fairly accurate colors. With my daily use projector (JVC RS-25), maximizing brightness comes at the expense of accuracy – greens become fluorescent, faces look sunburned, whites look blue. Not so with the Epson. Given the amount of light the bulb in the Epson 1440 is able to produce, Epson is able to employ color that didn’t need to be cranked to “manufacture” additional brightness. That means you don’t need to resort to Dynamic – instead, for all of our football watching with friends, I used the Cinema setting – which had ample output and a reasonably accurate color palate (~2500 lumens).

Using Normal lamp mode, I was able to get ~3400 lumens, enough to drive a 92” neutral screen easily. Worth noting is that Normal lamp mode results in an acceleration of the fan to a volume verging on distraction.

55" Panasonic VT50 Plasma

55″ Panasonic VT50 Plasma

Epson 1440 with drop down screen

Epson 1440 with drop down screen

Watching the NFL playoff games on a Sunday afternoon with a group of friends is placing the Epson firmly in its element. With the lights fully on and the sun still up, I am able to display a big, bright and punchy image and my guests are still able to see their food and drink without issue. Under normal circumstances, my wife and I often entertain for the big game using my 55” plasma – the room just needs to be too dark for our RS-25 to throw a good image – and our guests are left trying to enjoy their refreshments they can’t see. With the Epson 1440 no such trade-off exist: If you love watching the big game with a giant image, the Epson 1440 is a great performer. Motion is better on the Epson 1440 than on my JVC RS-25, but not as good as my Panasonic VT30 plasma. My Screen Innovations 1.3 gain screen doesn’t produce appreciable hot-spotting, so viewing angles are wide enough for us to fit even more folks than we might have using our plasma TV.

In a dark room, the Epson 1440 has a few limitations. Blacks look more grey – especially when compared to a projector more suited to a darker room like the JC RS-25.  We’ve been making our way through the Star Wars original trilogy this year after watching Episode VII. The limitation in black levels is exemplified by any of the star fields we see during the opening crawls – where the space appears more grey, and less stars are visible than are visible than on my plasma or RS-25. Bright scenes still look pleasing and punchy, but darker, more nuanced content lacked the depth that a projector with better blacks can produce.

Both my wife and I are distracted by Epson’s implementation of a dynamic iris. Leaving it on improves the black level but we find the audible pumping of the iris in between scenes distracting. The limited black levels becomes less of an issue when watching a movie with the lights turned up a bit. My JVC-RS25’s blacks wash out quickly with even a little light on in the room and the lack of blacks on the Epson 1440 became far less noticeable with some ambient light. The take home here: If you intend on using the Epson 1440 in a dark environment, there are other projectors that offer better performance.

Bench Test Data

We’ve already talked a little bit about the light output and colors on the Epson 1440. Out of the box, in Cinema mode, the colors look good, and between Eco and Normal modes, there is ample light output for many different applications. Contrast and Brightness both can be improved with a calibration disc. Unfortunately about the best the Epson 1440 is going to look is with these simple tweaks. While on first look, the Epson 1440 seems to have quite a few calibration features, the don’t work well and proved frustrating to the point of abandonment. White balance can be improved a little vs what we see out of the box, but that’s about as far as I was able to get.

Full Calibration Details

Improvements

Lens shift and more capable calibration features would be great to have. I’d also like to see Epson implement a less distracting dynamic iris. At $1700 you can find projectors with all these features – but none of these will give you the light output of the Epson 1440. Whether or not these trade-offs are critical will be dependent on your installation, how you intend on using the projector, and what your ultimate goals are.

Conclusions about the Epson 1440

I enjoyed my time with the Espon 1440. The light output is incredible and comes in a package that looks good out of the box, and is small enough to be tucked away when not in use. If you’ve ever thought a projector wasn’t for you because of excess light in a room, or you don’t like to watch with lights of, you owe it to yourself to check the Epson out. This is a projector that challenges convention of where a front projection set-up is possible. There are a few issues but all that said, for the right user in the right situation, the Epson 1440 can be a terrific option.

Review Summary
Product: Epson 1440
Reviewer:
Pros: Astonishingly bright image for a home theater targeted projector, with accurate out of the box colors, in a compact package.
Cons: No lens shift, can be loud in “Normal” lamp mode, distractingly loud iris, limited value calibration features.
Summary: If you want to measure your screen in feet instead of inches, but don’t like watching in a dark environment or have a room with lots of ambient light, then the Epson 1440 is a fantastic option capable of producing loads of light to deal with these kind of installations.
Value: 4/5
Performance: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

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Calibration Details

All calibrations are done using CalMAN software from SpectraCal. An Accupel DVG-5000 Video Test Pattern Generator is used for test patterns. Measurements are done using an i1Pro2 and a i1Display Pro III. On projectors, we measure directly from the lens while with TVs we measure off the screen. We target the Rec.709 colorspace and BT.1886 gamma unless otherwise noted.

The best preset mode for the Epson 1440 is the Cinema option. We do our measurements using “Eco” mode for the bulb, as it provides plenty of light for most applications. Colors are reasonably accurate pre-calibration, but grayscale isn’t great and the gamma is odd and non-linear, with a weird bump at 90%.

 

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Unfortunately, not much can be improved on the Epson 1440. The implementation of the grayscale, gamma and CMS controls are either unintuitive, not granular enough, or simply don’t work. The most usable of these is the grayscale controls, which work as expected, but lack fine enough control to get the grayscale error below the visible level. I am able to get the grayscale to track better than pre-calibration, but the improvements aren’t perfect. The CMS controls don’t work as predicted, and I abandoned trying to use them. The gamma controls are unintuitive and while they do seem to do something, the interface is quite confusing.

 

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As I note above, the light output on this unit is quite substantial. In Eco/Cinema mode I measure 2300 lumens with a full white field. With a 1.0 gain screen this translates to ~214 fL. Using “Normal” lamp power, this increases to ~3400 lumens, or ~300 fL.

Calibration Summary
Measurement Pre-Calibration Post-Calibration
Contrast Ratio: 308:1 287:1
Gamma Point: 3.78 3.61
Average Grayscale dE2000: 5.33 3.62
Average Saturations dE2000: 3.81 3.00
Average Color Checker dE2000: 3.71 3.35
Post-Calibration Lumens: 2300
Maximum Lumens: 3400
Summary:

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