SIM2 Grand Cinema HT300 Plus 16:9 DLP projector Page 2

Judged on its own merits, the HT300 Plus was an impressive performer. The first thing that struck me was its crisp, detailed image. On Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones, the CGI material was noticeably sharper than much of the live action. This was even more obvious in Stuart Little 2. That film's live action is colorful, but it looks a little flat and pasty (the result, I speculate, of the filmmakers tweaking the image in post-production to create cartoon-like colors). But the CGI popped off the screen with vivid detail and excellent depth.

High-definition material also looked great through the HT300 Plus. The D-Theater (D-VHS) release of Independence Day is not breathtakingly sharp (a limit of the transfer or even of the original photography, in my opinion), but it still beat the DVD by several steps in its natural, clean detail. The same with Cast Away, which was not all that well-photographed to begin with, but right from the crisp, well-defined opening titles, I could tell that this was no DVD. The SIM2 looked terrific with all the HD program material I watched on it, including Discovery HD Theater's New Year's Day broadcast of the Tournament of Roses parade.

Subjectively, the HT300 Plus's color was as good as any I've seen from a DLP. Flesh tones were believable, and greens looked natural. Reds were particularly deep and rich, and blues were nearly as well-saturated. But under the scrutiny of a color analyzer, the 300 Plus's color points were actually a bit off from the HD standard, though not significantly more so than most displays. Reds were a little deeper than the standard (which actually falls in the reddish-orange wedge of the CIE color chart; see SGHT, February 2002, p.43). Greens were shifted just slightly toward yellow, though not visibly so. In fact, the color points of the original HT300 were closer to the standard HD points than the colors of the HT300 Plus (see Fig.1 in the "Calibration" sidebar). But none of these deviations affected the watchability of the image in any way. They were analogous to "tube sound" in audio: a little warmer and richer than is absolutely accurate, but, for that very reason, likely to be appealing to many viewers.

I noted one color shift in the gray scale that might be an issue for some. After calibration, the gray-scale readings (see "Calibration" sidebar) were very good, including individual points that were, for the most part, very close to the D6500 standard. But on a gray-scale test pattern, the picture had a slight but clearly visible pink tint. Apart from perhaps adding a bit to the above-mentioned warmth, this was inconsequential on color material. But some viewers might be able to spot it on black-and-white sources. With such material, it was very much a case of "do I really see it or not?" I noticed it without fail only on a multi-step gray-scale test pattern (Video Essentials, Title 18, Chapter 1).

Decreasing the red contrast in the service menu by six steps eliminated any hint of a pink tint on conventional program material, and rendered it almost invisible on test patterns. This change did leave the measured gray scale slightly blue (just over 7000 kelvins), but it produced a pristine image on both color and B&W. The two timeless B&W classics I sampled, Citizen Kane and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, looked stunning.

While we're on the subject of black and white, let's talk rainbows—an admittedly odd segue to an important subject. The HT300 Plus's high-speed, multi-segment color wheel did minimize the rainbow effect (flashes of color caused by the rotation of the color wheel strobing with eye movements), but it won't eliminate them for viewers who are, like me, especially sensitive to this effect. I saw rainbows on dark scenes with bright highlights—the scenes inside the castle ruins in Reign of Fire showed them clearly. I haven't yet found a single-chip DLP projector that is, for me, completely free of rainbows. From the HT300 Plus, they were infrequent enough that I could generally ignore them, but they weren't totally gone.

With its Faroudja DCDi deinterlacing chip, the HT300 Plus exhibited no scaling problems. I doubt if you could improve on it with any outboard video processor that's remotely affordable. Nor are you likely to get a better image with a progressive-scan DVD player.

A Bump in the Road
After living with the HT300 Plus for a few weeks, I noticed its bulb beginning to flicker. This was very hard to spot on regular program material, but relatively easy on a full-white-field test pattern. I asked SIM2 for a replacement projector. The second sample also had a very slight flicker, but it was much less noticeable than the first on test patterns, and never evident on ordinary material. The second sample also had a small dark blotch in the image, halfway from the center to the right edge, which looked like a blob of dust. That seemed odd, since the projector's light path is said to be sealed. Perhaps some dust was inadvertently trapped inside during assembly.

The second sample also had new software—something I managed to find out for myself (SIM2 somehow failed to inform me). Functionally, the only difference was that the new projector powered up to the input corresponding to the button you push to turn it on. (To turn on the projector, you push one of the numbered buttons on the remote; there is no dedicated On button. Until I got used to it, this design caused me some confusion.) The older version powered up with the projector set to the last input used prior to shutdown.

But the second sample also had a bonus: an even better picture. The black levels were slightly lower, resulting in noticeably improved contrast, both visible and measured. The maximum usable light output remained about the same, and the color reproduction was also unchanged. Online reports suggest that the newer software may also enhance the sharpness, but I didn't notice this, and I couldn't compare it to the original (which by that time had been returned). I had no reservations about the resolution of either sample.