Light Years Ahead Page 2

SIM2 Sèleco HT300 SIM2 Sèleco, an Italian company that's been building a reputation in the U.S. over the past few years, manufactures DLP projectors with a wide variety of pixel counts and prices. Of these, the HT300 is the crown jewel in the company's line. In addition to the high-def DLP chip, it features both a sealed light engine (to prevent dust infiltration and light leakage) and Faroudja's Directional Correlational Deinterlacing (DCDi) circuitry to seamlessly line double interlaced video material, with 2:3 pulldown for anything derived from film.

With its compact size, sleek industrial design, and gunmetal finish, the HT300 is one of the most striking projectors I've seen - it reminds me of an Italian sports car. Setup was fairly simple, and there are enough adjustments in the user menu to satisfy hands-on types who may opt to install the HT300 themselves. For best performance, the manual suggests you position it parallel to the screen and on its center line. This kind of setup will be hard to swing in most installations, however, so there's a lens-shift ring to adjust image height and keystone correction to straighten the image out. The HT300's zoom lens gave me enough range to position the projector anywhere from 12 to 16 1¼2 feet from the screen.

After you've positioned the projector and made height and keystone adjustments, you proceed to picture adjustments. Along with the standard set of picture settings (brightness, contrast, color, and so on), the projector includes presets to optimize its gamma curve for film, video, or computer images (gamma basically adjusts the brightness of images over different grayscale steps). It also features High, Medium, and Low color-temperature presets plus a User setting to create a custom grayscale (see "in the lab," page 48).

The compact remote supplied with the HT300 fit comfortably in my hand and has a clean button layout. The remote provides direct access to controls you'll use regularly, including input selection and aspect ratio control. My only complaint is that its keypad isn't backlit. More than any other type of TV, a front projector requires a dark room for optimal viewing - that's why backlit keypads are a good thing.

The HT300 provides every type of input you'll need in a home theater setting. Both its RGB and component-video connections accept signals in the 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i formats. And for those in the projector's native 720p format, its built-in scaler is completely bypassed

SIM2 Sèleco HT300
KEY FEATURES Faroudja DCDi processing Three custom aspect ratios Attractive design Small size INPUTS/OUTPUTS wideband component-video or RGB, composite- and S-video, VGA, and RS-232 inputs; two 12-volt DC outputs DIMENSIONS 13 3/4 inches wide, 63/4 inches high, 12 1/2 inches deep WEIGHT 123/4 pounds PRICE $14,995 MANUFACTURER SIM2 Sèleco USA, Dept. S&V, 10108 USA Today Way, Miramar, FL 33025;; 954-442-2999

Five aspect ratio presets are available on the HT300: Normal, Anamorphic, Letterbox, Panoramic, and Pixel-to-Pixel. You can also create up to three custom aspect ratios and store them in memory. This feature came in handy because the Samsung SIR-T150 HDTV tuner I used for this test added narrow letterboxing bars at the top and bottom of the image. After selecting a custom ratio, I was able to eliminate the bars by using a vertical size adjustment to modify the image height.

Scaling can be a thorny issue with fixed-pixel displays like DLP and LCD projectors or plasma TVs. When it's poorly implemented, images may look fuzzy, with smeared colors and soft edges. Overall, I was very impressed with the HT300's built-in scaling abilities. In the DVD of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, a film whose highly stylized cinematography makes it a challenge for video scalers, the projector cleanly displayed the misty-looking domestic scenes. For example, in a shot where the parents sit at the dinner table while their new android son looks on, the kitchen's metal fixtures, wooden furniture, and lurid lamps all came across with solid color and crisp edges. And even though the image was grainy, the processing didn't add anything in the way of artifacts to emphasize this texture.

Another feature that helped out when I viewed standard interlaced video was the projector's DCDi circuitry, which contributes to its performance in a number of ways. First, it ensures that programs shot on video - like sports, news, or "reality TV" - are free of jagged edges and other motion artifacts. Second, it automatically detects film-based programs and applies the appropriate processing (on some TVs, you need to manually select this from the setup menu). Last, it enhances the projector's sharpness control with a two-stage setting that allows you to make extremely fine adjustments.