Looking more like an alien space ship that just landed in the classroom than the typical school projector, Samsung’s SP-D400s is nonetheless a powerful teaching tool. Be warned, it lacks some of the creature comforts we’ve become accustomed to but is among the brightest projectors in its class.
With its rounded silver case and ribbed black side panels, the D400 looks like no other projector on the market. There’s no traditional control panel but as soon as you touch the on-off area, it lights up. The system comes with a small remote control, but it lacks a laser pointer or ability to highlight an area electronically, as is the case with the Sanyo PLC-XU305.
At 6.4 by 13.5 by 13.7-inches, it makes other projectors look positively tiny by comparison. Its nearly 13-pound heft is a lot to lug around. That’s why once it’s been set up, its best left alone.
Underneath, the D400 has a pair of threaded adjustment legs in the front and a single one in the back to get the right angle. The bottom has a rigid plate with four threaded screw holes for mounting the projector upside-down on ceiling hardware. Most school projectors use a single threaded screw, which sometimes isn’t firm enough.
Starting the D400 up takes 13 seconds for the image to appear, but you’ll need to wait 1 minute and 3 seconds before it gets to its full brightness. The Texas Instruments DLP imaging chip has a four color wheel – not the more advanced six color model – and puts 1,024 by 768 images on screen. Because of this it can project 720p, but not 1080p, high-definition programming.
It can work with screens from 3- to 30-feet for a variety of venues, and I like that the focus ring and zoom control are around the lens, but they are too close together, making it hard to get the set-up exactly right. The D400 can connect with an HDMI DVD player or computer as well as the expected composite, S-Video, VGA and Component sources. On the other hand, it lacks networking and a USB slot for controlling the projector and directly projecting content.
With a 280-watt lamp, the D400 pumps out the brightness and is perfect for a large class, lecture hall, auditorium or even cafeteria for rainy day movies. It’s rated at 4,000 lumens, but I measured its output at 4,140 lumens. That’s more than enough for a lights-on lesson with the shades up.
Unlike most projectors, the D400 leaks very little light around its base. The D400’s focus and light level are reasonably uniform across the screen, but the projector renders reds with too much orange and the greens are a little light.
Regardless of whether it’s video, a presentation or online educational site, the D400 does a good job of putting a lesson on screen. On the downside, it uses 350 watts when on, or 50 percent more than other school projectors and its power use never dips below 8 watts when not in use. This equals an estimated power bill of $45.54 a year of six hours every day of use during the school year.
Add in the $350 bulb that’s rated to last 2,500 hours and you get an approximate annual cost of $214 a year, which is less than Sanyo’s PLC-XU305. A pair of bright spots is that the D400 doesn’t require an air filter and changing the bulb takes all of two minutes.
Like other large-venue projectors, the D400 does without audio or a speaker. The assumption is that the audio will go through the room’s sound system, but it reduces the D400’s versatility. While it has vertical keystone correction, it lacks horizontal keystoning so that the projector needs to be directly in front of the screen.
When it’s running, the D400 is one of the quietest projectors in its class. With a 2-year warranty, the D400 sells for $1,999, but if you shop carefully you’ll find it for about $1,500. This makes the D400 a great buy for schools looking to put the big picture on screen.
+ Very bright
+ Excellent mounting hardware
+ Easy to Change lamp
+ HDMI connection
- No USB slot
- Lacks audio
- Can’t connect to a school network