SIM2 HTL40 LINK LCD Flat Panel: Short Take

  • $9,995
  • Technology: LCD
  • Resolution: 1366x768
  • Size: 40"
  • Inputs: One HDMI, one non-HDCP compatible, four RGBHV/component, two each composite and S-video, one RGB on 15-Pin DSUB
  • Faroudja deinterlacing w/DCDi, separate video processor/switcher, dynamic black enhancement, attractive wood veneer back panel, tabletop stand
SIM2 has proven over the first ten years of its existence that it's a company remarkably adept at keeping pace with the rapidly changing home theater display market. Starting in CRT front projection, this Italian company has rapidly assimilated into the digital display world with triumphs of both form and function, offering outstanding DLP front and rear projection TVs with gorgeous pictures and aesthetics to match. The wait for SIM2 to jump into the flat panel market ended with the introduction of the $10,000 HTL40 LINK.

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This 40" LCD flat panel has a righteous 1366x768 pixel count, and while it's certainly expensive, it's not just your typical black box display either. It ships with glass front bezel that frames the screen in black to enhance subjective contrast, and it also comes with a curved back panel with either a white oak or rosewood finish that makes an attractive statement in a tabletop mount, especially.

The "LINK" designation indicates that this version of the flat panel ships with SIM2's outboard DigiOptic Image Processor (DOIP!), which acts as a processor and switcher for all sources and includes Faroudja processing. The key advantage of the LINK is that sources are connected to it and not the panel, and the two are tethered with two thin fiber optic cables. SIM2 says the LINK tether operates as far as 1600 feet with no degradation. This handy in general, but is especially a premium for wall-mount installations. Add and remove sources at your leisure without wrestling the panel itself.

Although this isn't an integrated HDTV (no tuner), the HTL40 LINK is fat with features, and connectivity almost makes me happy. I say almost because while it includes an HDMI and a DVI input, the latter is not HDCP-compatible, which means its use could be limited by copy protection issues in the future. Spending $10K on a flat panel and having top buy an HDMI switcher is bunk.

I do have to give SIM2 props for not bogging down the HTL40 with the dubious picture enhancements you see on other sets that do nothing so much as actually degrade the image quality.

1366x768 on a 40" screen is the video equivalent of loading two lbs. of groceries into a one lb. bag- it's packed! Between the pixel density and this set's light output the image with bright video-based HD this set's image popped off the screen, frequently venturing into that "looking out a window" level of resolution. Also, while many flat panels have colors that are unnatural and cartoonish, the HTL40 LINK sure didn't. Reds and green in particular were natural.

Of course, the big business of the day here at UAV is movie watching since home theater as a hobby is predicated on just that. Like all LCDs this one can't make a real black, and lags behind some (cheaper) plasma designs in this regard. SIM2 mitigates this shortcoming by eliminating the noise and false contouring artifacts near black that plague some LCD and plasma designs. While the SIM2 looks fantastic with most movie material, dark scenes will expose this weakness and viewers who prioritize movie performance in a darkened environment should take a close look at plasma for a flat screen solution.

While the SIM2 also falls prey to one of LCD's other bugaboos, noticeable loss of contrast with off-axis viewing, it also handily defeats LCD's response time issues. Early LCD designs were so slow at turning their pixels on and off that objects in motion often left trails behind them across the screen. This SIM2 never caught my attention I this regard even with fast moving sports material.

There are plasmas that offer better blacks, contrast and dark scene movie performance in a darkened room for a lot less. But most of the time this will not be an issue, and if you're planning on using this set in an environment that will have higher ambient room light this SIM2 will be attractive in more ways than one: looking prettier in your room than a typical black box and providing a bright, highly detailed image.

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