The Kodak Luma 400 Portable HD Smart Projector is one of a family of Kodak models that all share the same proportions and can each fit into the second largest as a set of rectangular, flat dolls. Each step up in size comes with a step up in price along with brightness, resolution or both. $ 449.99 The Luma 400 is the next from the Luma 350, our Editors’ Choice among small portable projectors. The main difference of the 400 is a higher built-in resolution at 720p (1,280 x 720), but it is significantly more expensive and lacks a bit of image quality. It’s still worth considering, but the Luma 350 remains our Editors’ Choice.
Lots of features in a surprisingly small case
Small enough to fit in a large pocket, the Luma 400 almost qualifies as a pico projector. However, its weight of 1.1 pounds and 1.3 x 4.9 x 4.9 inches size (HWD) places it firmly in the palmtop category. Like most small projectors, it is built around a diamond array DLP chip, which draws less power than TI’s rectangular chips, but which can introduce scaling artifacts. These artifacts only affect the occasional image with small repetitive patterns, and the best focus I was able to control was a little soft, which is not great in itself, but tends to hide that kind of problem. The RGB LED light source is rated at 30,000 hours in full-power mode and should last even longer in Eco mode.
There are three power settings so you can choose between the highest brightness, longest battery life or a compromise between the two. Battery life is from 1.5 hours in high mode to 2.5 hours in Eco mode, with normal mode, 2 hours in between.
Luma 400 has Android OS 9 built-in – the Android Open Source Project (ASOP) version unlike Android TV. Setting up streaming requires connecting via Wi-Fi to an Internet-connected network and logging in to Google. Beyond that, the setup consists of a little more than turning on the power, manually focusing, adjusting the image size by moving the projector and selecting a source.
There is digital zoom available and both automatic and manual keystone correction, including manual horizontal keystone correction, but it is better to skip them if you can as they can introduce artifacts. Kodak ships the projector with a table stand, which helps make it easy to aim at what you are using as a screen. In addition to using the included remote control to control the projector, you can use the Kodak Luma app to control it from your phone.
Along with support for streaming over a Wi-Fi connection, the Luma 400 has an HDMI port, screen mirroring support for iOS and Android devices, and a USB Type-A port for reading files from USB memory using a built-in file browser. There is also a USB Type-C port on the back, for power only. If you tend to read manuals, ignore the Quick Start Guide’s instructions that screen mirroring requires both the projector and the device to be connected to a network. In my tests, I used a Wi-Fi Direct connection to mirror an Android phone – no network required.
I was able to confirm that the Luma 400 supports 4K (3,840 x 2,160) input at 60 Hz with my computer, but it connected to my Blu-ray player at 1080p SDR. A small study with a signal generator showed that it would accept a 4K signal with or without HDR and with or without High-bandwidth Digital Copy Protection (HDCP) version 1.4, the copy protection scheme used with 1080p Blu-ray discs. However, it did not connect when I set the generator to HDCP 2.2, the version used by 4K UHD disks, and Kodak confirmed that the projector does not support this protocol. In short, the 4K and HDR10 support does not mean that you will see an HDR image from 4K HDR discs.
The built-in set of two 1-watt speakers can serve in a small, quiet room, but it’s a bit undercurrent even if you’re sitting next to the projector. In most cases, you will want to take advantage of Bluetooth or the 3.5mm audio output to connect to headphones or an external audio system.
C-Grade image quality
No one expects home theater quality images from a palmtop projector, but the Luma 400 is below par even by palmtop standards. The best you can say about it is that most people will find it can be seen.
Part of the problem is that there is no way to adjust settings. There is only a single image mode and no control, even for basic things like brightness and contrast. The lack of any way to adjust sharpness is a particular problem. Its permanent setting emphasizes any skin blemishes and even pores in close-ups, making the most smooth-acting actors look like they have serious skin conditions. It also highlights edges, such as the outline of lips or the outer edge of faces against the background, to make a large percentage of photorealistic images look strangely fake.
The good news is that this is much more of an issue for photos where you get to look at a single frozen image for some time, than for most scenes in movie or video where either the camera or the objects in the camera’s field of view tends to move. Images rarely stay frozen long enough for the problem to become apparent. However, if you are creating a slide show with static images, this is not the projector you will need.
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The color accuracy is at the low end of what I expect from this class of projectors, which means it is off enough for most people to notice. Skin colors, for example, tend to show a slight yellow or green skew, depending on how light the scene is. However, the colors are not deterred enough that most people find them distracting. Loss of shadow details is in the typical range of palmtops, so it is difficult to see details in dark areas of dark scenes.
Note that there is no 3D support and players will search elsewhere. I measured the input delay with a Bodnar meter at 166ms for 1080p, 60Hz input and 146ms for 4K, 60Hz input. That’s enough delay that even casual gamers are likely to be bothered by it.
Kodak rates the projector at 200 ANSI lumens for the brightest mode. It’s not a high number, but Kodak deserves praise for using the ANSI standard instead of an inflated, non-standard LED lumen rating, which is not a useful basis for comparison. Using Society for Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) standards, 200 lumens are suitable for illuminating a 64-inch diagonal, 1.0 gain screen in the dark, or slightly smaller if you prefer a slightly brighter image, as I do. In my tests, I chose to use a 55-inch diagonal image, which is at the smaller end of SMPTE’s recommended range. In a family room with moderate ambient light, the image was bright enough to be seen if washed out, even on an 80-inch screen.
Most pixels for the size, plus streaming
If you do not need streaming or a very small size, consider the AAXA P6X or AAXA M7, both of which are lighter than the Luma 400. The M7 also has higher native resolution, at 1080p, while the P6X delivers better shadow details. Alternatively, if you need streaming but not the 720p resolution, consider the lower resolution Kodak Luma 350, which shares the same brightness rating and streaming features as the Luma 400, but is smaller, lighter and cheaper.
That said, the Kodak Luma 400 is a more than reasonable choice if you need a portable projector that is as light as possible, supports both built-in streaming and gives you the extra detail and sharpness you get at 720p, even with soft focus.