The HOST with the Most

Italian projector maker SIM2 specializes in combining high style and high performance, especially when it comes to the high end. The company's C3X Lumis HOST 1080p projector is a perfect case in point—curvaceous cabinet on the outside and 3-chip DLP imaging engine on the inside.

All the inputs and processing electronics are housed in an outboard box that connects to the projector with SIM2's proprietary High-definition Optical Signal Transfer (HOST) fiber-optic cable up to 750 feet in length, making it easy to hide the box in an equipment closet. Even better, the fiber-optic cable is completely impervious to any electrical interference, even when placed in a conduit with high-voltage electrical cables.

The HOST box provides six HDMI inputs, three component inputs, and multiple S-video and composite inputs as well as RGB and SDI, a professional digital-video format, all of which should easily accommodate the most complex system. Control can be exerted using IR, RS-232, USB, and IP (Internet Protocol) thanks to a 10/100 Ethernet port, which also allows a technician to perform remote diagnostics.

The projector itself, designed by Giorgio Revoldini, oozes Italian style with the company's trademark flowing lines. But its beauty is not just skin deep—the DLP core uses three 0.95-inch, 1920x1080 DarkChip4 DMDs (Digital Micromirror Devices, the actual chips that form the image), which means no possibility of color-wheel rainbows. Combined with SIM2's proprietary Alphapath light engine, the resulting light output is said to be 3000 ANSI lumens.

Another impressive claim is a contrast ratio exceeding 35,000:1, which is achieved using three separate components—a variable iris, Texas Instruments' DynamicBlack auto-iris technology, and a new dimmable lamp. These three components adjust the light intensity on a frame-by-frame basis depending in the brightness of the image, leading to lower black levels and a punchier picture without the visible "pumping" associated with lesser dynamic-iris systems.

So how much must you spend to reach this level of performance and style? With a standard short-throw or long-throw lens, the cash register will ring up nearly $36,500; if you want the extra-long-throw lens, that'll be almost $38,000. Then there's the anamorphic-lens option—an extra $6000 for a Panamorph lens with motorized sled or $14,000 for an ISCO ground-glass lens with sled. All in all, you could spend up to $52,000 for this bad boy!

Two and a half years ago, I reviewed the original C3X, the 720p progenitor of the C3X Lumis HOST. Even with DarkChip3 DMDs, it had a reasonably good black level and plenty of brightness to spare. Shadow detail was superb, and the grayscale was right on the money. However, there was significant chromatic aberration, resulting in color fringing around some edges, especially away from the center of the image. Also, the color points were not where they were supposed to be, and there was no color-management system to correct them. I hope to get up close and personal with the C3X Lumis HOST to see if these problems have been corrected. Stay tuned...