SIM2 Grand Cinema HT300 DLP video projector Page 3
People vary in their sensitivity to the rainbow effect created by a DLP's color wheel. Some, like Michael Fremer, have to jump on one leg or stand on their heads to induce this effect. Others, like me, have a difficult time not seeing rainbows. With its 3x rotation speed and six-segment wheel, the HT300 has a very fast spin cycle. But even at this speed, some scenes had noticeable rainbows. The opening credits of Keeping the Faith feature white sans-serif type against the winking lights of nighttime Manhattan. What a rainbow fest! Luckily, the credits last only a few minutes. The night scenes in Video Essentials' "Montage of Images" also resulted in serious rainbows from bright lights against dark backgrounds.
I can't help but wonder whether, because of their color wheels, DLP projectors aren't more visually fatiguing than CRT or LCD projectors. A color wheel forces the eye-brain system to do the work of creating color. While I've seen no scientific studies of the effects of color wheels on long-term viewing, I do know that, after a few hours of watching the HT300—or any DLP projector—I continue to see rainbows even after I've shut it off. When I lay my head down on my pillow and close my eyes after a long evening of watching movies, I see rainbows until I drift off to sleep.
Although the HT300's picture was very sharp, it occasionally exhibited some slight anomalies. When I looked at the highlight edges in the black-and-white scenes at the beginning of Pleasantville, I noticed slight purple, blue, and red fringing. And on some of the test patterns on Video Essentials I saw slight green halos on one side of the white lines. I suspect these artifacts are caused by chromatic aberrations in the lens itself. Making a large-diaphragm, multi-element zoom lens with absolutely no chromatic imperfections is difficult and very expensive. Even the best multicoated, 35mm zoom camera lenses exhibit some flare and chromatic shifts in conditions of severe backlighting.
The Plus Piano HE-3100 DLP projector had a problem with highlight details blocking up; that is, fine gradations of near-peak white in the brightest scenes could not be differentiated. The HT300 was much better in this regard, but not perfect. Unlike CRT projectors, DLPs seem to have difficulty holding high-key textural details in their highlights. Even when I turned down the HT300's contrast settings past the point where whites were noticeably gray, some highlights were still ever-so-slightly blocked up. There was a point where the HT300 just couldn't separate pure spectral highlights from those that still contained some textural information.
When properly adjusted, the HT300 did an excellent job of retaining shadow details. Blacks weren't nearly as black as with a CRT projector, but they were a good, dark charcoal gray. Scenes with a full contrast range looked more than acceptable—they looked good. Only with dark, low-contrast scenes did the HT300 look less than adequate. In chapter 5 of Monkeybone, the lead character takes a roller-coaster ride to coma-land. The shots go from a close-up of his face, bathed in blue light, to a wide-angle shot of the roller coaster making its serpentine journey. On the low-contrast close-ups, the HT300's image looked flat, chalky, and lackluster, but on the roller-coaster shots it looked just fine—as long as I could overlook the rainbows created by the moving spectral highlights.
The HT300's fan and color wheel made a certain amount of noise. While the sound was no louder than that made by SIM2's SVD 800 Millennium CRT projector, its frequency was much higher, and therefore quite a bit more distracting—and noisier than the Plus Piano HE-3100. If you're sensitive to extraneous noise, you'll want to set up the HT300 as far away from your viewing position as possible. You may even want to enclose it in a sound-absorbing baffle.
Standby mode, created to provide instant-on gratification, is the electronic limbo between On and Off. To wake the HT300 from its Standby doze, you must push one of the numbered buttons on the remote, not an On/Off button. I'm sure many will think their new HT300s are broken when they push the little red button on their remote and nothing happens. Even in Standby, the HT300 generated quite a bit of heat. Since you can't turn it off from the remote, you might want to put it on a switched outlet so you can easily turn it off completely (but never turn it off until the cooling fan has shut down).
DLP or CRT?
The SIM2 HT300 may be a great DLP projector, but it's not the equal of a great CRT projector like SIM2's own $19,995 SVD 800 Millennium. The HT300 had a slightly sharper picture and greater brightness levels, but the SVD 800 has deeper blacks, better internal contrast, superior highlight detail, more 3-dimensional depth, greater color accuracy, less apparent fan noise, and, for me, less long-term viewer fatigue.
Too many people rule out CRT projectors for their home theaters because they're convinced that CRTs are too much effort to install and maintain. These are the same reasons that countless audiophiles abandoned LPs for CDs. Many later regretted their decision and returned to the analog fold. A CRT projector is easier to set up and optimize than a state-of-the-art turntable; if you can set up a 'table, you can, with a bit of proper instruction, optimally configure a CRT.
Of all the single-chip DLP projectors I've seen, the SIM2 Grand Cinema HT300 is the best. It combines remarkably neutral color with superb sharpness and a lack of motion artifacts. For many viewers, its picture will be nothing short of a revelation. But whether or not it's the best solution for your home theater depends on several factors. If you have a high sensitivity to the rainbow effect, you won't be happy long-term with this or any other DLP. But if your room or ergonomic sensibilities make the use of a CRT projector unacceptable, the SIM2 HT300 will get you as fine a large-screen cinematic experience as is currently available from a single-chip DLP projector.