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  SIM2 Seleco HT300 E-Link 720p DLP Video Projector

      Date posted: May 16, 2006

Sim2 HT 300 E-Link 720p

Sugg. Retail: $18,000 (CAN)(Including Processor)
Distributor: Lenbrook Industries,
633 Granite Court, Pickering,
Ontario L1W 3K1
(905) 831-6333 FAX 831-6936
www.lenbrook.com

Reprinted From the Spring 2006 Issue

      With a new “proprietary digital engine based on the NEW DMD HD2+DarkChip3″, the HT-300 ELink provides “1280 x 720 pixels resolution, contrast ratio 2500:1, new Photo-Absorbent cabinet material, Live Colors Management (LCM) algorithm to adjust color temperature to preference, 12 gamma curves to optimise image to the connected source, Intelligent Memory Functions (IMF), throw ratio 1.8 - 2.41, digital keystone +/- 18oV, +/-10oH, lens shift +/-10oV., 50-120″ picture size (diagonal), silent 6 segment color wheel, DCDi by Faroudja, HDMI digital input (DVI compatible, fully HDCP compliant) and serial interface, 120 watt UHP lamp 8000 hours average life time.” (whew!)

      Luckily, most of this stuff is automatic, but I’ll refer to some of these processes (most carried out by the companion Digioptic input selector/scaler/processor), which allows for 12 inputs in several groups. 1 and 2 are straight composite inputs, 3 and 4 S-video, and 5, 6, and 7 are RCA component/RGB, with 8 similar, but with BNC connectors, and wider bandwidth to handle 32 kHz signals. 9 and 10 are computer RGB inputs, the former specified for “graphic” use (and the one we used most for off-air HD display; more below), while 11 and 12 (Whew again!) are DVI and HDMI inputs, the latter accompanied by a Toslink digital audio out for the included audio signal. RS232 capability is also offered, along with DC screen trigger outputs.

      If the Digioptic has just about all the inputs you could imagine, the projector itself makes do with one proprietary triple optical input, presumably to carry video and remote command information to and from its matching component. Together they make up a complete projection system.

      The projector is finished in an appropriate Dark Gray (with “Shiny Silver” and “Royal Burgundy” also available), the processor stylish in silver, with its architectural double slanted front panel, a single off/on switch at centre, and control lights for power and projector status at right. For a video system this complex and sophisticated, it was remarkably simple to set up, virtually plug-and-play, and showed few operational quirks, though there are a few I’ll detail presently.

      Off the top, I was very impressed, although the boxin-box packaging reminded me of those Russian wooden dolls that all fit inside each other (I’ve been watching the BBC’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which opens with just this motif, on DVD).

     The HT300 E was mounted on a pedestal bass trap at the rear of my HT room, with only a slight offset from centre, which was corrected using the horizontal keystone control to display on my new 82″ wide 1.3-gain screen, which allows for a diagonal picture of 92″ that fills the screen without spilling over the edges, and perfectly fills the space between my Newform R645 front speakers, hiding the Pioneer Elite 64″ HD set behind. The speakers look very much in place flanking this screen.

Sim2 HT-300 Elink Processor

      I started watching with input 9 (you turn on the projector by pressing the appropriate input; it then warms up for a minute or two, the picture appears, and then becomes brighter over a period of several minutes as the lamp is gradually brought to full illumination, a process that takes time, but also helps realize the 8000-hour estimated bulb life. This is an important concern when projector bulb survival rates are often mired in the 2000-hour range. Bulb replacements can cost in excess of $500, and eBay is rife with projectors for sale cheap because the owners declined to spring for a new bulb. And I can’t resist quoting the SIM2’s ItaliEnglish spec sheet on the subject: “average value measured in the laboratory under optimal conditions; it can be sensibly reduced by the unit misusing”).

      Input 1 was connected directly to my RCA DRC8295N DVD/VHS HiFi recorder’s composite out, while input 2 went to the Pioneer Elite DV-AX10 universal DVD player’s composite output. The S inputs were used for my Samsung DVD-L300 portable DVD player’s output and that of the AX-10 for comparison purposes. The component 4th input was fed the 540p output of the AX-10. Input 5 was fed with my component video switcher’s output, which itself handles the component output of the RCA player/recorder (and, of course, its progressive scan DVD play) and the 1080i from the ExpressVu 6000 HD satellite receiver.

      Input 9 (you thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you, but the projector’s just been warming up) carries the RGB output of the Zenith HDV420 off-air HD receiver, which brings in the terrestrial bounty of the Toronto and Buffalo digital signals, all in the UHF band. All in all, we now had a wide choice of signals of varying nature and resolution to test the mettle of the Digioptic device, with its Faroudja enhancements of deinterlacing and picture optimization. The signal from the Zenith was beautiful to behold, rich in colour, broad in sweep, with a cast of thousands, ten years in the making, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…Sorry. It was pretty impressive, and all I had to do to make it virtual reality was to goose the contrast a bit. But the thing is, amazing for a sophisticated projector system, it worked almost perfectly right out of the box…sorry, Igor, the boxes. State of the art, and state of the heart!

      It was afternoon, and I just couldn’t find enough off-air high def signals to satisfy, so I thought, let’s try ExpressVu on 5. Here things seemed to go a bit awry (”orrey”, as I used to say in my youth in that teenage disconnect between the written and spoken word), the picture simply not there. Then I realized that the 6000 had to be set to HD because it does not simultaneously output 480i and 1080i signals. Also, it had not worked directly in bypassing the HD component switcher in preliminary trials. Through the switcher it did. Another glitch, tougher to solve, was the DigiOptic’s inability to decode the 540p signal from the DVD AX-10. It just didn’t like that frequency.

      The specifications note reception of “480p, 720p, 1080i, [and] 1080p.” As I write, Lenbrook’s resident expert on video, Jeff Earl, is pondering this one for me. Not to worry, though (as my writer wife would say), the composite output looks great. But what’s wrong with the S signal? It seems to have little diagonal jaggies running through it. I don’t know, some video mysteries are just beyond us, still waiting to be solved. Anyway, input 5 revealed the component glories of such satellite channels as Discovery HD, the various sports feeds, and other specialty channels not available off air. It also showed cleaned-up signals from non-HD sources: the regular Discovery was pretty good, as were all the non-HD movie channels, which offered many more 4:3 aspect ratio choices than the HD ones did in widescreen.

      And then came March Madness, the NCAA college basketball finals, which consumes much of the month’s CBS airtime, and as we pass the Ides, it’s down to the “Sweet 16″ this weekend, and the “Elite Eight” by next Sunday night.

      What a feast for the eyes and ears! With most top matches in HD, with enveloping surround sound, I was in widescreen heaven! I’ve played the game (all-Ontario High School Finals, a year of college ball), coached it briefly (London & District Junior HS Championship), and I like to watch it from a strategic point of view, which is perfect on the big screen, because it’s all there in the half-court views, better, in fact, than being there. All the picks, rolls, double screens, zone traps (”Don’t get me started!”, as my writer wife says), are easily seen, far better so than from the sideline opposing benches.

      The experience was mesmerizing, even mind-numbing, so I also watched a few movies, such as Cold Mountain, which at 2 1/2 hours is also mindnumbing, as well as the best CSI shows, the original Vegas version, and the often-amusing Navy CIS.

      In such cases, watching TV with such high production values is a delight on the SIM2 system, and our reference Sunfire Theater Grand allowed even greater immersion when I backed off the centre channel a bit and brought up the rears. During that period in early March, I also added matrixed side channels (their 7-Axis option), the result greater surround effects and crowd fills. You might think I was seeking to hear intimate conversations among cheerleaders, or what Marg Helgenburger really thinks, but it was more a question of ambience than intimacy.

Sim2 Processor Rear

      But we’re talking pictures here, and they were all glorious, only source dependent. The Digioptic box did its magic with the less-than-optimum composite and S signals, and I discovered that the RCA DVD/VHS unit not only recorded both formats very well, but was also excellent at playback, its progressive scan DVD picture surprisingly good. Of course, VHS is VHS, but it was watchable on the big screen.

      And, with the DV-AX10 out of the big picture in component output, so to speak, I turned to the RCA for a look at the Video Essentials tests for picture quality. After several weeks of viewing, it could be said that there were few surprises. Colour bars were perfect in geometrical shape and hue, with only a slight bit of bending at the very top, well outside the normal viewing area inside the overscan limits shown on the special geometric test patterns. In fact, this projector can show the complete available picture area, which is not necessarily the best thing, with some channels off air or satellite having odd lines or colour effects at picture extremes, especially the very top, perhaps things the networks did not want you to see; some may be control signals added to the picture.

      Grey scales were the best I’ve yet seen from a DLP projector, only a little denser and less detailed at the lowest levels of illumination relative to our CRT RPTV reference. The 720p resolution was very high as a rule, with sweat, moles, and hairs very apparent on closeup faces, and faces in the crowd very evident at sports events in long shots. I must say, this projector gave a whole new meaning to “March Madness”, the immersion into the last moment basketball theatrics utterly total (is that redundant? If so, it needs to be).

      The dramatic Duke/LSU game had a spectacular picture, even by CBS’s recent HD standards, with totally immersive sound in 7 channels on our Sunfire Theater Grand/Cinema Grand Signature system. Getting back to the picture, the network’s 1080i signal, translated to 720p by the Digioptic Image Processor was superb in its solidity and superbly rendered blacks, the test-pattern greyscale limitations barely noticeable. As my viewing notes say, “All you need is 3D!” But even that began to appear in moving shots that contrasted foreground and background objects. This kind of camera work was especially notable during the NBC and CBC Winter Olympics HD coverage.

      What can I say? When you’ve seen the very best at under $20,000, without those pricier projectors’ quirks and setup headaches, it becomes very addictive. Aside from our minor source compatibility concerns, the SIM2 300 E is the most plug-and-play, and easily the best video projector in our experience. Now I can only hope a stripped-down version might emerge without all the inputs and processing, but the same picture fidelity, at a lower price tag. That could be the SIM2 300E at $13,500, but I haven’t had a chance to compare it directly with this currently incomparable projector.

Andrew Marshall

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