SIM2 Grand Cinema HT300 DLP Projector
SIM2 is a large Italian projector manufacturer that has been making inroads into the U.S. video market for the last several years. The company is squarely behind DLP technology and has introduced a high-resolution 1,280-by-720 one-chip DLP projector as the most recent addition to their Grand Cinema line. The HT300 is one of only a few of these new one-chip wonders on the market and is the most attractive DLP projector currently available, with a design that reflects all of the heritage and flair of its Italian creators. It's housed in an attractive dark-gray case with a metallic high-gloss finish called gunmetal gray, which is the only color this handsome projector comes in. The HT300 is extremely compact, measuring 13.7 by 7.2 by 12.5 inches (L/H/D) and weighing a mere 12.1 pounds.
The HT300's connectivity suite is par for the course for most projectors in this category. SIM2 also offers an external input box called the RII (sold separately for $999) that significantly enhances the connectivity options from a remote location. The standalone projector sports one set of component video inputs (with an additional input for RGBS using composite sync), one S-video input, and one composite video input. The projector also has one VGA-style 15-pin RGBHV input (which will accommodate RGBHV for HDTV and external-scaler connections, plus PC and/or laptop connections), a proprietary connector for the RII's umbilical cable, and an RS-232 port for external control by an AMX, Crestron, or similar automation system. You can also use the RS-232 port to download updates to the projector's software. The component video/RGBS input will support 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i sources. There's also a 12-volt trigger for electric drop screens. The RII adds two composite video inputs, two S-video inputs, one component video input, one RGBS, one 15-pin VGA-style RGB input, and another 12-volt power output. The RII also duplicates the projector's 12-volt trigger and RS-232 connection. The unit has no audio capability, which is fine for a home theater projector.
The HT300 sports some very useful features that will help you set up the projector and tweak its picture. There are four selectable color temperatures: low, medium, high, and user. The user setting allows you to adjust the gray scale if needed. Three gamma settings (film, video, and graphics) help tailor the gamma for film, video, or computer sources. I found the film setting to be the correct gamma setting for DVD material, which is logical, as most DVDs contain film-based material. There are, of course, selectable aspect ratios: normal for 4:3, letterbox, anamorphic, pixel to pixel, panoramic, and three customizable user ratios. The user aspect ratios activate the second screen trigger. In addition to the usual picture controls, a Y/C-delay adjustment and separate horizontal- and vertical-sharpness controls give the HT300 more flexibility for picture adjustments than most DLP projectors. For installations where you're unable to position the projector correctly, the physical lens-shift adjustment on the top of the projector shifts the image up or down. The menu also offers a digital horizontal-and-vertical-position control, which you can use to move the picture on the panel itself. The auto mode will realign the picture as best it can. A +/-10-degree horizontal and +/-21-degree vertical keystone adjustment also helps with geometry corrections if the projector isn't perfectly square to the screen. Zoom and focus controls round out the HT300's setup features.
I evaluated the HT300 in two different home theaters with different screen sizes. In my own home theater, I projected a 5.4-foot-wide 16:9 picture onto a Stewart Studiotek 130 screen, running DVDs through the HT300's S-video connection and a DISH Network HD feed into the component video inputs. I achieved a significantly bright picture with rich, deeply saturated color and gobs of detail. The HT300 has an excellent video processor. The deinterlacing circuit uses Faroudja's 3:2 and DCDi chip; the scaler is based on a Pixel Works. The color decoder, although it pushes green, is also quite good. When I looked at SMPTE color bars with a green filter, I felt that the decoder color used for green in the color wheel wasn't perfectly accurate. However, the red is completely awesome.
After calibration, I watched some DVD clips. Chapter 4 of Hollow Man, where they make the ape visible with the magic irradiated protein, showed off the projector's excellent detail and resolution capabilities. The overall color reproduction and skintone rendition were very good. Chapter 4 of Jurassic Park III, where they're flying the plane over the island, revealed the rock-solid video processing. Watching these scenes was a completely involving experience.
For HDTV sources, I used my Acupel HD signal generator to do a separate calibration of the user picture controls (brightness, color, and tint), leaving the contrast at the same setting I used for the DVD input. I found the gray scale in the medium setting to be quite good, indicating that it translated over from the DVD setting extremely well. Watching the HBO and Showtime HD channels through the HT300 in my small theater was a real pleasure.
In a friend's home theater, I was able to throw a 10.5-foot-wide 16:9 picture on a Stewart Studiotek 130 screen and compare it directly with the Sharp XV-Z9000 DLP projector on the same screen. I used a Sony DVP-7000 interlaced DVD player running component video into each projector. The one negative in this environment was that the picture was a bit dim and lacked snap on the big 10.5-foot-wide screen. The same scenes from Hollow Man and Jurassic Park III looked snappier through the Sharp XV-Z9000 because the picture appeared to be twice as bright. The HT300 has a relatively small 120-watt UHP lamp, and the unit is rated at 650 ANSI lumens, which is significantly lower than most of the competition in this category. The unit's compact size and unique sealed-optical-engine design are undoubtedly two major reasons for choosing the smaller lamp. On the upside, the lamp has a rated lifespan of 6,000 hours, which is the longest of any of the current high-resolution one-chip DLP projectors. However, this affects the HT300's performance when mated with a large screen. Initially, I tried to use the medium color-temperature setting, as the gray scale looked quite good through my Visual Standard Optical Comparator. However, when I bumped up the contrast from 39 to over 50 to get more light output, the gray scale was altered. So, I switched to the user color-temperature setting and retweaked the gray scale after setting all of the picture parameters with test patterns from AVIA and Video Essentials. The interactivity of the contrast control and the gray-scale tracking tells me that professional calibration of this projector (and all DLPs, for that matter) is an absolute must.
The HT300 is a solid performer in the 1,280-by-720 one-chip-DLP category. Its biggest weakness is its light output, which may be due to its relatively small lamp. I'd recommend that you mate this projector with a screen no larger than 87 to 96 inches wide (with a 16:9 aspect ratio, of course). It has very good video processing and an excellent color decoder, and it's extremely flexible in both its setup capabilities and its picture adjustments. If your home theater dictates a screen size less than 96 inches wide, the HT300 will deliver the goods and then some.
• Very flexible in its setup capability and picture-adjustment options
• Excellent overall perfor-mance from a one-chip DLP projector