Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
We recently got our hands on the stylish Samsung D400S conference room projector. Even though it started shipping 12 months ago, it's worth a fresh look because it is one of only five XGA projectors in our database that combines a 4,000-lumen rated output with a 3,000:1 contrast ratio at a street price under $1,500. Its striking curves make it stand out from common boxy designs, and it will capture your audience's attention before you even turn it on. Out-of-the-box video projection is excellent, and if Ferrari built a projector, it might very well look like the D400S. A slight change has been made to this model to reduce standby power consumption to less than one watt, and this variation is called the D400SF. Both can be found on the market at this time. Other than the standby power draw, there is no difference between them.
Brightness and Uniformity: With brightness at its maximum setting in Monitor 1 mode, the D400S puts a robust 3,575 ANSI lumens on the screen. This kind of brightness overcomes normal ambient light in any room and is well suited to medium/large conference rooms and/or larger screens.
The other six modes include Games (1,875 lumens) and Sports (2,655 lumens) for game aficionados, Standard (1,590 lumens) and Monitor 2 (3,350 lumens) for the computer crowd, and Movie (1,450 lumens) for film devotees.
Brightness uniformity of our test unit is a not-too-impressive 60%, but the slightly brighter lower portion of the image is normally only visible in spreadsheets and text documents with a large amount of white space.
Connections: The D400S input panel includes one HDMI, one VGA, one 3-RCA component, as well as S-video and composite video. For remote sensing and control, there are both RS-232 and USB connectors.
Attractive Design: The casework for the D400S is one-of-a-kind. It is a little larger than many in its class, but the sweeping lines and curves set it apart from the crowd. There is ample room on the rear panel for connections, and the controls on the top of the projector are not mechanical; they are touch sensitive. There is plenty of room for airflow to cool the lamp assembly, and very little light leaks from the chassis. It is an attractive tradeoff of size vs. performance.
Size and Weight: At 12.8 pounds, this is no "runway model" projector, but its size contributes to its relatively low noise level (bigger, slower fans), and if it is ceiling-mounted, no one will care anyway. Besides, its styling will almost certainly overcome any reservations about its girth or weight.
Data and Video Images: Does your photography club want to project crisp, natural, well-saturated images onto a large screen? Do you need to present a detailed spreadsheet to a large audience? The D400S handles these tasks with ease. Even in normal ambient light, colors are vibrant, contrast is excellent, and character definition is precise. With keystone correction applied, small-font text is easily readable. But this projector really hits its stride with video.
It's a rare treat when a projector puts up a stunning video image without having to tweak brightness, contrast, saturation, or color temperature. But that is exactly what happens with the D400S. Video images have vivid but natural color. Dynamic range is excellent, and skin tones are well balanced right out of the box.
Remote Control and Menus: It's not often that a projector's remote control makes it to the Advantages section of a review, but Samsung has done an outstanding job of making the remote simple yet effective. The medium-size remote has 21 buttons, including seven for menu navigation and function selection. You can select any of five inputs directly (composite video, component video, S-video, HDMI, and PC), and this avoids the need to cycle through other sources. Aspect ratio and preset mode are also one-button choices which speed selection.
The on-screen menus are logically arranged and easily navigated, and image adjustments such a brightness and contrast reduce to single line sliders at the bottom of the image. This approach gets the menu out of the way so that you can see image effects as you adjust settings. All in all, this is an excellent remote/menu combination.
Preset modes: The D400S offers eight Preset modes (Gaming, Sports, Movie, User, and four others for PC applications). In addition, there are four color temperatures, each of which can be adjusted for red, green, and blue gain and offset. Each Preset has its own brightness and hue designed to match its application. Note that image adjustments for saturation and hue can only be made when connecting composite or s-video sources. Still, if you connect a video source such as a Blu-Ray player via the HDMI input and want to change the color characteristics of the image, you can select the color temperature menu and adjust color gain as needed.
Fan noise: Normal mode fan noise is rated at 30dB, which is lower than most projectors in its class. Since it is composed of fairly low frequencies, it is not objectionable. Eco mode drops noise to the 26dB level which is nearly inaudible in a large room.
Maintenance: Like most DLP projectors, there are no air filters needed to keep dust out of the light engine. An occasional vacuuming of the air intake on the left side of the projector is recommended, but other than that, the D400S is virtually maintenance free.
Limited Placement Flexibility: The 1.15:1 zoom capability gives you limited projection distance variation for a particular image size. Several models in this class have longer zoom lenses for greater placement flexibility. For example, to project a 100" diagonal image, the required throw distance is about 12 feet, plus or minus 12".
Furthermore, there is no lens shift capability. For a 100" image, the center of the lens is 7.5" below the bottom of the image. This is a good offset for tabletop and most ceiling mounting, but you may need to make further adjustments by raising the front of the projector, using a drop tube on the ceiling mount, or tilting the projector in the mount. The projector can be elevated by unscrewing either/both front feet, and this also solves any horizontal leveling issues. If the image keystones, there is ±30° of electronic keystone correction available.
Lamp Life: Normal mode lamp life is 2,000 hours and Eco mode only extends that to 2,500 hours. Many models in this class are now claiming Eco mode lamp life of at least 3,000 hours and several reach 4,000 hours. Replacement lamps cost about $389.
No audio: There is no on-board audio capability, so there is no audio input or output. Most projectors built for conference room use have some audio onboard, but if your room has an independent audio system, this is of no consequence.
Warranty: Samsung warrants parts and labor for two years for the projector and warrants the lamp for six months or 180 hours usage, whichever comes first. While the lamp warranty is comparable to its competition, some competitors in this class offer a three-year warranty for the projector.
2X Color Wheel: If you've read about DLP projectors, you know that lower speed color wheels can cause "rainbow" effects. The D400S has a 2x color wheel, and that means that some people are going to see RGB stripes (rainbow artifacts) intermittently, particularly when viewing fast moving video scenes.
The Samsung D400S may not be billed as a home theater projector, but its video performance comes mighty close to it for those who are not rainbow sensitive. It is packaged in a unique way with lines suggestive of Italian car design, and for conference room projection, it is an outstanding performer. It is a solid data projector, with the advantage that material such as video and photography is handled much better than average. Overall, the D400S is an exceptional value in bright XGA projectors under $1,500. Take a long, hard look at the D400S . . . you won't be disappointed. This is a performance value of major proportions.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Samsung SP-D400 projector page.