Epson Home Cinema 1440
January 19, 2016,
The Epson Home Cinema 1440 is one of the new cinema projectors released by Epson that targets ambient light situations from Super Bowl parties to sports bars. If you want big screen display of live music concerts to liven up your cocktail parties, the HC1440 is a natural. This new model pumps out 4400 lumens of HD 1080p video, enough to light up 150" to 200" screens without having to turn the lights off. And it is a compact, 10 lb model that you can install yourself with no muss no fuss. Best yet, all of this lumen power will only set you back $1,699.
The whole point of the HC1440 is getting the brightest HD picture possible for the money. The projector is rated at a maximum of 4400 lumens, and on our test sample the brightest preset, Dynamic, measures 4350 lumens, essentially on target. Meanwhile, the two Cinema modes which have a more neutral color balance measure about 2800 lumens. The Dynamic mode has a somewhat greenish bias, although not severe or objectionable. The big question is whether you'd want to give up 1/3 of your total light potential to get more accurate color?
The answer for most users will be "no way." This is a Super Bowl party projector, intended for big screen use in ambient light. You are buying it because you want 4000+ lumens. Even at its default settings, the HC1440's Dynamic mode delivers an engaging and exciting picture. Despite what a professional would describe as a greenish bias, nobody at a party would think the picture looks green, or notice any color biases in the image at all--for the most part colors look perfectly natural. A low-saturation light blue sky may appear bluish-green, but saturated colors all look solid and accurate.
However, there is an easy way to improve the picture quality without bothering with a professional calibration. In the onscreen menu, go to Image/Advanced/RGB and drop Offset G from 0 to -1. Believe it or not, this tiny adjustment takes out a noticeable amount of the green, improves color saturation and contrast, and renders better flesh tones. Meanwhile it reduces lumen output by only 3%, so you still end up netting out 4200+ lumens. This is the way I would run this projector at my own Super Bowl party.
As far as sharpness is concerned, the HC1440 has a Sharpness control that ranges from -5 to +5, and it is set to default to 0 in all color modes. This produces a picture that, to my taste, is not quite sharp enough. The interesting thing about the HC1440 is that the sharpening algorithms do not produce gross edge enhancements like they do on many other video displays. Instead it gives you an artful refinement of the image. You can boost sharpness to +2 or +3 to produce a noticeably sharper picture without imparting any sense of artificial processing that makes it look harsh or digital. You can experiment with it yourself to find your own preferred setting, but the traditional mantra of us videophiles who insist that Sharpness controls be turned off does not apply to this projector.
The same is true of the noise reduction filters. The projector's color modes default to a setting of NR1 out of the three options Off, NR1 and NR2. Noise reduction filters reduce digital noise at the expense of some image detail, but in this case the trade-off is worth it. To my taste the NR1 is the overall optimized solution, as there is a bit too much noise in many sources with noise reduction set to Off.
The HD1440 has three color presets other than Dynamic. They are Bright Cinema, Cinema, and Game. Oddly enough, they all measure about the same 2800 lumens. The two Cinema modes have more accurate color than Dynamic as well as a slightly smoother, more refined image quality. But the difference is quite subtle. The primary difference between Bright Cinema and Cinema is the default gamma settings rather than total lumen output. These operating modes would be more appropriate for use in lower ambient light, and if I did not need Dynamic's lumen power I would opt for the Cinema modes.
As far as Game mode is concerned, the fastest input lag we could measure on this projector is 56 ms. So it is not going to be the ideal choice for gaming enthusiasts who want the fastest response times possible (Epson's HC 2040 measures 24 ms, so if your interests are primarily gaming you'd probably want to look at something like that.)
Overall, the HC 1440 is a party projector, ideal for big screen HD video and sports presentations in ambient light, whether in the home or a sports bar. And for this purpose it is outstanding.
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