When Good Reviews Go Bad
It's unfortunate but sometimes review products arrive DOA, or don't work properly right from the get go. And when this happens, it puts everyone in a bad spot. Our policy here at UAV, which is a good one, is that any product sent for review gets one, even if the product malfunctions. No one gets a break on a defective product. However, when a component is dead or defective from the get-go we can't even spend enough time with it to write a meaningful paragraph. And if four or five interesting and functional products are lined up behind it, it's easy to just move on to the other products and wait for a replacement.
Such was the case recently with SIM2's HT3000, a 1080p single-chip DLP front projector that retails for $15K. SIM2's track record with front projection is an enviable one, and this was a projector we were anxious to see.
The first unit arrived in November, and after being powered up for an hour or two it would heat up and turn itself off. This happened on day 1 with the unit. I had another projector handy so I pulled the HT3000 out of my system and called in the medics from SIM2 and went on to the next unit in the queue while I waited for the follow-up sample. I didn't spend more than three hours with this unit total, and hadn't even started taking notes.
After a few emails to SIM2 the second HT3000 sample arrived in mid-December, and while this one stayed on, it showed a striking and unnatural degree of false contouring with program material. Large swaths of color would break into groups of digital blocks rather than smoothly contouring. I spoke with SIM2's tech support, and there was some disagreement as to whether what I was seeing was an artifact or inherent in the program material. Since I had more than one projector on hand that could display the program material I was using without these defects I had no doubts it was the projector but SIM2's tech guy wasn't as sure.
SIM2 tech support promised to get back to me, and since this was before the Christmas holiday I wasn't surprised that the call never came. Disappointed, but not surprised. I had Mitsubishi's HC5000 on tap, so I just put the HT3000 back in its box and reviewed the working product while I waited for a solution on the SIM2.
At CES 2007 I went to SIM2's suite, and ran into their tech guy. He acknowledged that the false contouring was now upgraded to being a known issue, and said a firmware update would be ready soon, perhaps even by the time we returned from Vegas. Several more emails went back and forth, some of which apparently got eaten by the dog. Not only was there no firmware update, I wasn't getting responses to my emails and so I finally decided to just send the thing back and focus on the other reviews on my plate. I hadn't gotten far enough to even live with it and frankly didn't want to since it was now known to me that the unit was defective. But, how do I tell my readers about this experience without neglecting working revivew samples while spending weeks with a defective projector, and not sure if any of that experience would even be applicable after a fix is finally implemented?
Well, here's your answer. Consider this a preview of an HT3000 review, should SIM2 ever send me a functional unit. My experience with these early units and SIM2's rather lackadaisical response to my issues will be reiterated in full should that review come to fruition. While a $15K projector isn't a product that's going to be forced on every guy who walks into Best Buy off the street, it needs to be known that the HT3000, which I believe is being sold to and by dealers, has a known defect that SIM2 hadn't fixed as of January when I returned my second review sample.
On the plus side, the HT3000 did have a razor sharp picture, and I did put a 1920x1080 burst into it and saw full resolution at the highest frequencies with no rolloff whatsoever. That's probably the best result I've seen on that test short of the Marantz VP-11S1, my current reference projector. The light output was punchy, but the blacks were still deep and rich. And both the shoddy customer service I experienced and these technical issues are diametrically opposed to any other interactions I've had with SIM2 or its products.
Let's hope this is just a bump in the road, and that SIM2 sends us a properly fucntioning HT3000. But for now it must be known that the HT3000 did come through our doors (twice) and didn't even make it through the review process. Anyone considering this product at retail should inquire about the issues mentioned here and receive strict assurances that these problems have been resolved before throwing their money down.