4000 Lumens for under $1,000
Image Quality: Data images from the VS400 are crisp and well saturated, and even with full keystone correction, small fonts are easy to read. As noted earlier, photos look natural and do not wash out even in moderate ambient light.
Video is very satisfying with reasonably deep blacks and good shadow detail. Highlights are a bit washed out in normal mode, but lowering the contrast control restores detail. The reduced brightness of Eco mode also helps and reduces projector fan noise at the same time. Flesh tones are very realistic with minimal adjustment to color settings.
On-Screen Menus: On-screen menus are logically arranged and offer a wide range of image settings including ten color temperature choices. For those who really like to tweak color content, the Color Adjustment menu will satisfy you with its individual settings of hue, saturation, and brightness for each of six colors in its palette (RGBCMY). Menu layering is minimal, but a menu positioning and/or transparency setting would be a nice addition.
Remote Control: The VS400's remote control is well laid out and makes it easy to navigate the on-screen menus. It also offers some convenience items that simplify projector setup and operation. For example, the Color Mode button cycles through the preset modes that are normally buried in a menu, and there is a Pointer button that puts up an arrow icon that can be moved around the image using the directional buttons . . . positioning is not as fast as a handheld laser pointer, but if you forget yours or its batteries die, you have a handy alternative. There is even a User button which can display any of seven projector features including information about the current source selected.
Note: there are a couple of non-operating buttons (Focus and Screen Fit) that are for functions available on other Epson projectors that use the same remote.
Placement Flexibility: The VS400 sports an unusually long zoom lens ratio of 1.6:1. This is a real advantage over most projectors because it gives you a generous projection distance variation for a particular image size. For example, to project a 100" diagonal image, the projector is about 14 feet from the screen when the zoom lens is at its middle position, but it can shift about ±3½ feet and still maintain that image diagonal.
Auto Iris: We don't frequently find an auto iris on a projector under $1,000, but the VS400 has one and it pushes the contrast rating up to a maximum of 2000:1. With the auto iris off, the VS400's on/off contrast is closer to 500:1, but an auto iris can make a noticeable difference in black levels in dark scenes, or highlights in bright scenes.
Quick Start/Stop: If you are in a hurry, Epson offers a nice touch with its Instant On/Off® feature that lets you shut down and go without waiting for the lamp to cool down. You can also power up with minimal lamp warm-up time.
Lamp Life: There are a few 4,000-lumen projectors with longer lamp lives than the VS400's, but most are in the 2,000-hour range in normal mode. The VS400's lamp has a 2,500-hour life which can be extended to 3,500 hours by using Eco mode. That is better-than-average life for a high-output lamp. A replacement from Epson lists for $449.
Auto Source Search: Some inexpensive projectors make you search for sources manually. The VS400 looks for sources automatically. On power up, it searches all four inputs and selects the first active connection it finds. Pushing the Source key on the remote begins a search for and selection of the next connection detected. This is convenient when you have several sources connected but cannot recall which inputs are active. The VS400 will find them for you.