SIM2 Grand Cinema HT300 DLP video projector Page 2
Setting up the SIM2 HT300 shouldn't take more than half an hour. Once you've determined the proper distance from projector to screen, the geometric correction and final focusing are snaps. After you get the projector physically set up, you have a bit of basic calibration to do. Each of the HT300's inputs has its own memory set for picture controls: You can have one set for your DVD player at 480p, another for 480i.
The HT300 has three preset color temperatures: High (8000-9000K), Medium (6500K), and Low (5000-6000K). For most sources, Medium will be the proper choice. There are also special User color-temperature settings, with which you can individually adjust red, green, and blue. You can arrive at precise settings with these User controls if you have a color-temperature meter, but if you don't know what you're doing you can royally screw them up. Not to worry—if you get too far off track, the Reset button will return all settings to their factory defaults.
Besides color temperature, the HT300 has three adjustments for Gamma curves: Film, Video, and Graphics. For most movies, Film will be your best choice, but for VCR or animated video, Video may be best. The seven Picture controls adjust Brightness, Contrast, Color, Tint, Horizontal and Vertical Sharpness, and Video Type. I set these using patterns and source material from the Video Essentials test DVD. While some DVDs required a bit more adjustment to look their best, most looked fine with little additional tweaking.
The HT300's five built-in test patterns—color bars, full-screen white, 50% gray, black screen, and geometric—are very handy during initial setup, but once their projectors are completely installed, I doubt most users will refer to them again. Still, it's nice that SIM2 thought enough of the poor beleaguered setup person to include them.
The HT300 has two adjustments I hadn't seen before. The first, Position, allows for minute changes in the placement of the image on the chip itself. Some DVD players have the annoying habit of showing a bit of extraneous white on one side of the screen, just outside the picture area, especially on Macrovison-encoded discs. On CRT projectors you can adjust the blanking so this information is cropped out, but most DLP projectors lack this feature. The HT300's Position control lets you crop out this annoying information by moving the image slightly.
Another unique adjustment on the HT300 is a button on the remote control labeled Auto, for Auto Synchronization. Many video sources do not run, as they should, at a standard phase or scanning frequency, and these variations can introduce minor phase and synchronization errors. The HT300's Auto Sync circuit determines each source's exact phase and frequency and adjusts itself to lock to those values. All the user has to do is push Auto—in a few seconds, the HT300 will synchronize itself to the incoming signal of the source device.
A Walk on the Wild Side
The HT300's picture quality was infinitely better than anything I'd seen from earlier DLP projectors, and in several performance areas bettered my reference CRT, SIM2's own SVD 800 Millennium. But, like most manmade objects, it wasn't quite perfect. For many viewers, however, the HT300's performance will be satisfactory enough to provide a completely cinematic experience in a compact, easy-to-install package.
If you want a sharp picture, the HT300 is the projector for you. Boy howdy, was this projector's image sharp—sharp enough to read the music on Wynton Marsalis' music stand in the opening selection of Best of Sessions at West 54th. You can even count the gems sewn into Elizabeth I's dress in "The Chamberlain's Men" chapter of Shakespeare in Love. The individual mirrors of TI's HD1 chip are small enough so that, at normal viewing distances, there's no need to defocus the image to eliminate the grid pattern. There is no grid pattern. If you get right up close to the screen, you'll see that each micromirror has a small black dot in its center. The SIM2 HT300's Fujinon lens was not only sharp enough to render these dots in the center of the image, but had sufficient depth of focus so that, even at the edges of the screen, I could clearly see the center dots.
Single-chip DLP projectors have not been known for their color fidelity. Before the HT300, every DLP I'd seen had rendered color idiosyncratically, most featuring fluorescent greens and orangey reds. The HT300 was the first DLP to get greens right. Included in Video Essentials' "Montage of Images" is a scene with a rowing scull that has a number of different shades of green. The HT300 did a superb job of delineating every one of these subtle variations. It also got reds right. On the VH1 Divas DVD, I could see the differences between Mary J. Blige's and Whitney Houston's dueling red-leather dresses. On test patterns and demanding discs like Pleasantville, grays were neutral and free of green, blue, purple, or red shifts.
Motion artifacts and jagged diagonal edges are distracting problems in many DVD players, even through their 480p outputs. The Toshiba SD-6200 occasionally exhibits both these flaws in 480p mode. The new Faroudja DCDi deinterlacer circuit in the HT300 virtually eliminated these problems. Even during the slow pans across banks of TV monitors in VH1 Divas, the SIM2's internal deinterlacer did a superb job of eliminating sparkles and diagonal jaggies. The Toshiba's internal deinterlacer doesn't handle this disc nearly as well. In the fencing scene 22:43 into The Princess Bride, the HT300's deinterlacer rendered the sand with no extraneous sparkles, edge crawl, or odd, electronically altered textures. The sand looked just as sand should: sandy.