Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert in this topic and most of my decisions got decided on a gut level. So take everything written down below with a grain of salt.
tl;dr: If you get a black screen with your new fancy 4k projector check your cables!
In every end, there is also a beginning.
Half a year ago I decided that I want to replace my old BenQ W1070 1080p projector since it showed first signs of aging. The dying of my Onkyo TX-SR507B receiver with a loud crackling noise and a burning smell a few months later emphasized my decision that it was time to upgrade my Home Theater.
As the receiver was already dead, and the projector was still working the first upgrade had to be a new receiver. The main requirement for the new receiver was the support for 4k / 2160p HDR at 60hz. Denon was very popular at the time (at least on Reddit), so I focused my research on their portfolio.
After some days of reading reviews and watching YouTube videos about it, I bought myself the Denon AVR-X3500H receiver.
Since the new receiver had 7.1 and my old sound system was only 5.1 I also bought a pair of Onkyo SKH-410 Dolby Atmos speakers. To be fair, I didn’t really notice a hearable difference with them installed but my girlfriend thought the sound was better so I kept it.
The Denon receiver itself was a huge upgrade to my old one. I noticed a much cleaner and better sound even with the same old Bose Acoustimass 10 speakers.
e-shift or native 4K?
Jumping a few months into the future, it was finally time to upgrade the projector. Initially, I was looking for a native 4k projector, since I was not a big fan of the e-shift stuff mainly because I was scared of the added buzzing noise when it’s activated. After some researching and looking at the prices, I dropped the whole native 4k thoughts.
The cheapest native 4k projector Sony VPL-VW270ES was still around 5,000$, It only had around 1,500 lumens and it merely supported a max HDMI bandwidth of 13.5 Gbit/sec. I had this thought in my head that, if I i have to pay this (for me) massive amount of money for a projector he had to be perfect and even if the e-shift technology was not perfect, native 4k just added a 2,000$-3,000$ price spike to any projector with not that much of an improvement in image quality.
So, the main requirement for the new projector was the support for 4k / 2160p HDR at 60hz @ 18 Gbit/sec.. Again, after months of researching and saving money, I chose the Epson TW-9400 (EU) / Epson TW-5050 (US) as my new projector.
The main reason was that the only manufacturer which produced projectors within my specs and price range were JVC, Optoma, and Epson. JVC dropped 4k e-shift for native 4k this year so the prices went through the roof and it didn’t really click for me with the Optoma models…
After the reveal of the Epson TW-9400 (EU) / TW-5050 (US) at the IFA (or CES? or Cedia?) and the great first impressions from different Websites I found what I wanted. The projector ticked all the boxes and was within my price range so I finally bought it a week ago.
First impressions after the unboxing: Man that thing is HUGE!
The Benq projector was approximately a third of the size and since he was ceiling mounted and the old mount was a “tad” too small for the new Epson. So another search for a bigger ceiling mount had begun. Since the Epson is huge, the mount holes are widely spaced and some ceiling mounts do not work. I bought the QualGear PRB-717-BLK Universal Ceiling Mount which fortunately worked.
Black Screen of Death
After setting up everything I stumbled upon another problem. 2160p HDR was working, but not with 60hz… I got a black screen.
This was the time I learned about Color Subsampling, YCbCr and funny numbers like 4:2:0, 4:2:2 and 4:4:4. If this is new for you like it was for me a few days ago click on this link, it helped me a lot with understanding how UHD works.
After reading about the topic I knew that my target was YCbCr 4:2:2 and the receiver, as well as the projector, supported it.
I was running a 2-meter cable from my media center to the receiver and a 15-meter cable from the receiver to the projector. Since the 2-meter cable was a cheap one I replaced it with a “premium” HDMI cable from Amazon.
I knew the real problem was the 15-meter cable.
I bought the cable long time ago but the product page said it should still support 4k HDR at 60hz. After some reading I found something interesting in the product description: “full [email protected]@HDR support up to 3 meters length according to the official specification HDMI 2.0b”. So it seemed that 15 meters were way over the official specification.
Thanks to a very interesting YouTube video I saw some weeks ago I knew of optical HDMI cables which can boost the range of the signal way above the specification. So I was searching for a good optical HDMI cable and I bought the now most expensive cable in my household, the UGREEN HDMI Cable 50FT 4K 60Hz Fiber Optic HDMI Cable.
Yes, this cable is expensive, yes this cable may be overkill BUT this cable does its job!
After the installation of the cable, everything was working as it should. I can now operate the projector in 2160p HDR10 with 60hz at YCbCr 4:2:2.
Epson TW-9400 (EU) / TW-5050 (US)
I did not yet calibrate the projector besides the basic “try to get a reasonably good image”, so I can’t say much about the image quality except that everything looks sharp and the colors are amazing (especially in HDR). So I will talk a little about some differences I noticed over my old 1080p projector.
Since the Epson projector is mounted on the ceiling and my ceiling can withhold some weight, the enormous size was not a big problem for me. But it could be for some people / buildings.
The fan noise is very quiet compared to my old projector. As expected, you can hear a buzzing noise while e-shift is active which requires getting used to. It’s not loud, but it’s a bit on a higher note and differentiates itself from the generic fan noise.
My old projector had a short throw lens, the new one does not. The distance between the wall and the projector is around 3.2 meters and I lost about 10 to 15 inches of screen space.
Lets get technical
Here are some technical things I learned in the process which may be helpful to others.
My media center is running on Windows 10 with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070.
On the receiver:
“Settings” > “Video” > “4K Signal Format” is set to “Enhanced”
In the “NVIDIA Control Panel” > “Display” > “Change resolution” > “Use NVIDIA color settings”:
Output color depth: 10 bpc
Output color format: YCbCr422
Output dynamic range: Limited
In the Windows Display settings:
HDR is turned on.
I tried Media Player Classic with the madVR renderer but it didn’t work since the colors were still washed out, so I tried VLC and it worked out of the box.
So yeah… that was the story of the first part of upgrading my home theater.
Next steps are a dedicated projector screen and new speakers / subwoofer.
The post got way longer than expected… sorry.
If you have any questions feel free to write a comment below and I’ll get back to you.