Sugg. Retail: CAN $15,000
Distributor: Lenbrook Industries,
633 Granite Court, Pickering, Ontario L1W 3K1
(905) 831-6555 FAX 837-6354
Reprinted From the Spring 2001 Issue
A single-chip DLP display device, the HT-200 is specified at 800 X 600 pixels, or 480,000 overall, about half the normally agreed threshold for high definition performance. The more expensive HT-250 claims 1024 X 768 for 786,432 total pixels, getting closer to HD resolution. Both are single-chip DLP (Digital Light Processing) projectors, and this means that the primary colours are separated by a colour wheel, which turns at high speed. Both this rotating wheel and the cooling fans (3 small ones rather than one big noisy fan) for the bulb make some noise, though it is much less intrusive than those of the Dream Vision DL-500 (Smr 00). Designed for both business and home theatre use, these projectors are light in weight, fully portable, and very easy to set up. The Seleco models, made in Italy, are very organically styled, curvacious in colour schemes of blue, silver, black, or red. Our review sample was two-tone, silver and dark acrylic blue, as was the remote control.
The HT 200 has both motorized Focus adjustment and Zoom, making match with a screen almost instant, once you figure out how to use the remote control. Inputs are provided for RGB, component (both by a 15-pin computer monitor input or by 4 RCAs), S, and composite video (RCA), these easily selected on the remote. You can also quickly choose the picture shape to suit the source, with 4:3, 16:9 Letterbox, Anamorphic, and Zoom, this latter allowing blowup of the picture’s centre. An additional User setting provides access to a sub-menu that allows you to vary screen size and anamorphic shape in a zoom-like fashion; thus you can match the specific squeeze of any picture source, making sure there are no unnaturally shaped Allys or Ritas on the screen, what contributing editor Gordon Brockhouse calls “the McBeal/McNeil syndrome”.
In our home theatre room, about 14 by 16 feet, with a screen customized (or scrounged, to be more correct) from an old slide screen a 5-foot diagonal picture was the largest possible, and probably a little too big for this projector’s resolution limit. Although it claims to reproduce 480p, 1080i, and 720p, the HT 200 will probably do full justice to only the first two of these, given its pixel count (the HT-250 will do better with 720p). As I understand it, 480p is upsampled to 600p, with 1080i doubled to the same count with a better resolved flicker free picture and upsampled to 600p. And I’m told a progressive scan DVD player will provide the best picture currently from DVDs, bypassing the HT 200’s internal scaler through the RGB/component input.
I first used the HT 200 via its S input, while awaiting a DVD player with component outputs and, hopefully, progressive scan display. At this point I was anticipating the arrival of the Arcam Diva DV-88 player, which has the former, but not the latter. The projector’s internal de-interlacer is described in the specifications as an “SIM2 circuit with motion compensation and three different interpolation algorithms (9 points median filter / field repetition / line/field insertion)”. As with earlier LCD and DLP projectors, a just noticeable grid could be seen behind pictures with large areas of white or light colours, this being the shadow of the DLP micromirror array. However, it was not troubling, and was definitely overwhelmed by the visible artifacts of digital video compression in DVD and off-satellite pictures.
And I want to talk about these “pixelies” a little more. Not all that obvious on our 51″ Pioneer because of its inherent resolution limits, they became instrusive when the picture was zoomed up to 60″ by the Seleco, especially when looking at satellite images. These were mostly motion artifacts, a wash of pixels around moving objects or people. These were especially noticeable in sports like basketball, especially in contrast to the very sharp closeup images. They were less of a concern in movies, and on almost any good DVD. And this projector will show quality differences of sources very well, including the resolution of different cameras in live broadcasts, and of various DVDs. The HT-200 is good enough to reveal these things and more, to the extent that I found myself zooming in, usually to about 55″, for Raptors basketball games to minimize the motion artifacts. At this size, it was still sharper and more realistic looking than the RPTV, with a noticeable absence of scan lines achieved through its de-interlacer and line doubler.
For most film-based DVDs of good quality, the 60″ picture was great at our viewing distance of about 8 feet, especially so with IMAX films, the size and excellent colour accuracy and vividness (at either the lowest or middle colour temperature settings) making the picture very film like. As a passing observation, it only takes a few IMAX DVDs to start to change your mind about aspect ratios; in other words, you quickly come to think, bigger is better, not wider!
Of course, that’s when there aren’t the digital motion artifacts of the sources to contend with. But what about the Seleco projector’s own artifacts? The high quality of the IMAX image helps us here. Yes, there are a few diagonal jaggies on pans, dot crawl (S input) that I also see on my Pioneer, and these might be better dealt with by external processing such as that offered by devices by such companies as Faroudja or DVDO, but in general, I found the picture provided by the HT-200 very satisfying on its own, the colours accurate and vivid, blacks excellent, except in the very darkest of scenes where things seemed a bit grey.
However, there was more to come. Thinking I might be able to do better from composite sources, I requested and received from Lenbrook Industries a DVDO iScan Plus v2 scaler (or line doubler), which they sell with Seleco projectors to improve composite and S sources. DVDO has been bought by Silicon Image resulting in converging picture processing technologies.
The iScan also multiplies inputs, with two S and one RCA, these switched or automatically selected when a single source is active. Its output is a male 15-pin VGA, identical to that on the projector, something I discovered when I bought a cable I thought would work, and realized that I needed male HD-15 connectors at both ends. The iScan can be configured by jumpers inside and a rear-panel toggle switch for either RGB or component output, set by default to the latter, which is how we used it.
I expected quite a bit from the DVDO device, and for the most part was disappointed. First of all, it seemed to lay a gauzy screen of vertical and horizontal ines over the picture from S sources like DVD, and lopped of about a sixth of the left side of the picture, so that I couldn’t see the channel numbers and IDs on the ExpressVu menu. The latter was fixed by some adjustments of phase and frequency in the projector’s secret service menu; Lenbrook’s video guru, James Marshall, talked me through it over the phone while watching the sun rise over English Bay.
The second problem never entirely went away and varied with sources. I found that only off-air and videotape sources were actually improved, and I conclude that the reason is that the Seleco HT200 does not seem to be a true 32 kHz device, and therefore cannot deal ideally with a line doubler. Though the input menu has a component or RGB 32 kHz setting, I could never get a picture using either; perhaps it shares this menu with the higher resolution HT250. So, after a week of playing with it, I returned gratefully to using direct input to the HT200 via its S connector to watch my new collection of IMAX DVDs. Ultimately, I thought the scaler in the projector was better, the picture purer and more artifact-free.
Then came the Arcam Diva DV88 DVD player with its component (but not progressive scan) outputs, which I hooked up to the projector through a set of CinemaQuest YIQ 4 solid silver cables. Not only is the picture from this $2500 DVD player superb, but even better with the component setup. Now the picture seemed very film-like, the fine DLP grid turning into a sort of 35mm grain structure on the big screen. I think at this point I was seeing the Seleco HT 200 at its best, which made me long for the HT 250.
But one should “dance with the one what brung ya”, and I enjoyed the rest of my time with this superb projector, particularly the bright, colorful, accurate picture, with minimal motion artifacts, and nice sense of depth. Going back to my Pioneer Elite DVL-90 combi player, I watched a number of laserdiscs, using the HT 200’s composite input, and was pleasantly surprised at the sharpness and natural quality of the picture. Again, the internal scaler and processing circuits seemed to deal better with dot crawl and other video squigglies than the DVDO, without adding any signatures. Among the laserdiscs were the superbly produced Goldeneye and Hell Freezes Over, which had a new depth and intimacy. I’ve always preferred the LD version for its superior sounding PCM soundtrack, and this time the picture matched. DVDs may be sometimes more impressive visually than laserdiscs, but the latter have a greater consistency of look because they have no video compression, and the bigger the screen the more this becomes evident. A prime example is Rising Sun, though the extreme letterbox makes the lost resolution visible as you zoom the picture to the edges of the screen. This was even more evident with another Sean Connery film, The Russia House (which I love for its glorious vistas of Russia, especially St. Petersburg), with its softer look. What looks best on this projector are IMAX DVDs, which bring the highest resolution to the format, and anamorphic widescreen DVDs, which look stunning as upsampled by the projector.
However, one must accept the limited contrast, significant light scatter, and limit on blacks, tradeoffs that a front projector entails in all but ideal circumstances. Daytime viewing was better on the 51″ RPTV, even with the moderate light coming into our HT room from the single window behind and above the screen.
But in darkness the Seleco HT 200 did have its own magic, as I have noted. If you have a suitable room, you may concur.