Samsung SP-A600 Projector Review

Samsung SP-A600 vs. BenQ W5000

Nevermind. There’s no contest here what so ever! The W5000 is a superb lower cost DLP projector that seems to be readily available online for $2000 +/- a hundred dollars or so, depending where you shop.

If there is only a $200 – $300 difference, the BenQ is simply the superior product. Its image is razor sharp (the Samsung is very good). The black level difference is dramatic, and that alone easily justifies hundreds of dollars more.

The BenQ also has more placement flexibility. Thanks to lens shift, and a slightly longer than typical throw distance for a DLP projector, it can be shelf mounted in many folks’ room, or, of course, ceiling mounted. The Samsung is strictly ceiling mount. Even if the throw distance worked out, you really can’t shelf mount a projector without lens shift.

If the Samsung picture is “solid”, then the BenQ’s is excellent. Like I said, no contest. This is one good reason why the SP-A600 needs to sell for well below its projected $1795 list price.

Samsung SP-A600 - Warranty

The Samsung SP-A600 home theater projector comes with an average warranty: Two years parts and labor. Most 1080p projectors have two year warranties, but several of the other lower-cost ones come with only one year. A smaller number still come with 3 year warranties (though almost all are more expensive).

Note, however, that at least two manufacturers offer replacement programs – Epson with their competing Home Cinema 6100 has 2 years, and a replacement program for both years. BenQ’s W5000 (soon to be replaced by the W6000) comes with only one year, but does have a replacement program for that year.

All considered, the SP-A600′s warranty is therefore a good, but not great, one.

Samsung SP-A600 - Review Summary

Samsung SP-A600 Projector - The Bottom Line

The Samsung SP-A600 is a solid performer for an entry level 1080p projector. OK, it’s a DLP projector so, as expected, it doesn’t have the placement flexibility of an LCD home theater projector in the same price range. However, that’s a non-issue if it will work in your room. The question I like to ask is: what will buyers find about this projector for it to be the right one for them? In other words, what makes the SP-A600 projector stand out?

As it turns out, the answer to that question isn’t image related, such as truly superior skin tones (the SP-A600′s are VERY good), or blacker blacks (the Samsung is very entry level in this regard).

Turns out the real strength and appeal of the SP-A600 lies in its brightness. Cranking out over 700 lumens in its best mode sets it apart from just about every other under $2000 projector. Basically, the SP-A600 is anywhere from 20-50% brighter than most of the competition we’ve reviewed, and over twice as bright as the dimmest (in best mode) – the Sanyo PLV-Z700. The one exception regarding brightness is Optoma’s HD806 – their low cost “light canon”. Even the Samsung’s 700+ lumens is no match for the Optoma’s roughly 1200 lumens.

That said, the Samsung provides a more refined image. I have said that serious movie enthusiasts would likely skip over the Optoma unless they absolutely must have all those lumens. The Optoma picture has some more than minor issues, the Samsung’s does not. With the Samsung projector you get lots of lumens and a very natural looking picture.

Time to talk value proposition. Is the Samsung worth the money (tenatively it will start shipping with a $1795 list price).

Now until a month or so ago, that would have made it one of the least expensive 1080p projectors (assuming a small additional discount if buying online).

The issue now, though, is the release of two $999 1080p projectors, the Optoma HD20 (which should be arriving shortly for review), and the Vivitek H1080FD.

Both of those projectors are also supposed to be very bright. The Vivitek claims 1800 lumens, the Optoma, 1700. Vivitek and Optoma both offer 1 year warranties compared to the Samsung SP-A600′s two year warranty.

Until I get my hands on those to “low ballers”, it’s hard to speculate whether the Samsung is worth that much of a difference.

Then again, the Samsung hasn’t shipped yet, and the price has not been confirmed. I suspect that they are looking carefully at the lower cost competition, and I wouldn’t be overly surprised if the street price for the Samsung ends up under $1500 to remain competitive. Vivitek is essentially new to the home theater projector market, although they’ve been a small player on the biz side for years. (I am currently reviewing their new, over $10,000 LED light source home theater projector.) It seems they are serious about gaining a slice of the home theater projector pie.

The Samsung is very much a classic DLP home theater projector, in terms of the overall look and feel of the image. Still, its not as impressive as, say, the recently reviewed Sharp XV-Z15000, which is definitely a bit more expensive. That one wowed me with the quality of the picture, while the Samsung merely satisfied me with a good, well-balanced picture. The only major complaint lies with the Samsung’s black level performance. It’s typical for entry level – it lacks a dynamic iris to improve on the black level performance. Still, it makes for good movie watching.

And, one more time for the record, while I like the layout of the Samsung SP-A600 remote control, I really dislike its lack of a backlight. Of course, you can run out and get a nice programmable remote to solve that problem (and control the rest of your gear too).

The SP-A600 produces a notably sharp image with digital content, such as HDTV sports and specialty content (travel, science…). I was therefore very pleased with it for my HDTV sport viewing. That said, if sports is your thing, there are projectors that can go a good bit brighter, such as the Epson Home Cinema 6100, which has about 50% more lumens when comparing brightest modes, even though the Epson only has about 2/3 the brightness in best mode.

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