SIM2 Multimedia SVP 420HB CRT projector Page 2

The color comparator re-calibration resulted in such a significant improvement that the review changed from a pan ("Guilty of crimes against colorimetry!") to a semi-rave. The color from all sources was now superb, thus encouraging me to look more closely at less important issues. Such as: The SVP 420B's black-level retention was almost perfect, something that—amazingly—has become almost a ho-hum these days. (Black-level retention is a display's ability to hold blacks at a constant level despite wide variations in a picture's average brightness. A monitor with lousy black-level retention will convert deep black to medium gray when a scene goes from sunlit daylight to a murky night shot.)

Using the Avia test DVD, the SVP 420HB displayed as much horizontal resolution as DVD is theoretically capable of: 540 lines per picture height. Not with planet-shaking detail, mind you, but enough to make the lines on the 6.75MHz pattern in the zone-plate test clearly visible, if a bit soft. You can't get much better than that from DVD. Indeed, I don't believe I've reviewed a projector that looked any sharper than the 420HB did with DVD. (I was unable to check it out with hi-def sources. Maybe next time.)

On my 7-foot-wide screen, which is about as big as you should go with any 7-inch CRT projector, brightness peaked out at around 8 foot-lamberts, about two-thirds of the SMPTE recommendation for theatrical screen brightness (with a clear film in the gate and the shutter operating). This was a conservative rating; contrast was just below the point where scanning lines started to defocus—far below the blooming point. The light level was more than adequate for satisfying viewing in a completely darkened room, yet despite the SVP 420HB's superb black-level retention and its ability to convincingly convey a brightly sunlit scene, I was often aware that its brightness cap seemed to be limiting the SIM2's ability to create the almost-stereoscopic depth I've seen from brighter projectors of comparable resolution and black level. And the 420HB's shadow detail was so good that it seemed a rebuke to those fixed-pixel projectors whose brightness could easily obliterate the SIM2's picture.

Other Nits Picked
The full-function remote behaved erratically at times. When the backlight was on, some picture controls ceased to work, which would suggest weak batteries, but a fresh set didn't help. (Of course they were fresh; I'm insulted that you'd even ask.) What did help the flakiness was connecting the remote electrically to the projector, which requires a light coax cable with 1/8-inch miniplugs at both ends.

The SVP 420HB shares with many other CRT projectors the irritating habit of throwing a white bar on the ceiling above the screen. I've been told several times that this is an inevitable consequence of CRT projection [it isn't—TJN], but no one has ever explained to my satisfaction why that should be.

The two side-aimed cooling fans have two speeds: Slow, for dead-quiet operation when everything's running cool, and Fast, which kicks in when the unit begins to build up heat. Slow was so quiet that, from a distance of three feet from either fan, they were audible only when I held my breath. Fast was quite audible, but still unobtrusive enough to be easily swamped by movie soundtracks most of the time. (On random occasions, the fan noise at the Fast setting slowly ramped up and down in volume at a pitch of around 2kHz, which was a bit annoying, but in every case it went away after a few minutes.) Mounted on the ceiling, which is where a front projector should be anyway, the SVP 420HB would be essentially dead-quiet from the listening area.

The SVP 420HB did too many things too well for me to nitpick its few weaknesses; my misgivings about them tended to go down the drain as soon as I started watching a movie.

At last, for a price far below what most LCD projectors cost, you can get real blacks, edge-to-edge color uniformity, and comparable detail without the window screening of midpriced LCD and DLP projectors. Sure, I've seen brighter, sharper CRT projectors, but not for anywhere near this price. The SIM2 SVP 420HB is enthusiastically recommended, with only mild reservations.