Samsung SP-A600 Projector Review

Samsung SP-A600 Projector Screen Recommendations

I do favor high contrast gray screens with the Samsung SP-A600. My reasoning is two-fold. First, black level performance is not, by any means, exceptional, as noted. Therefore a high contrast gray surface would lower overall black levels, which in particular would make for better viewing when watching letterboxed (Cinemascope 2.35:1 movies). Unless you are using a very large screen, those “blacks” that are the letterbox area will be only moderately dark grays, and may bother many.

If you go high contrast gray, however, I do believe you will definitely want to have the SP-A600′s gamma set to Video, rather than the too-high a gamma Film setting.

The other benefit is based on an assumption that, because this is a less expensive projector, a significant number of owners won’t have proper home theaters, and may have some ambient light to deal with. A high contrast gray screen surface, will help by “rejecting” some of the side ambient light, which can be a real benefit for those with permanent side ambient light.

The SP-A600, with its over 700 measured lumens in best mode definitely has the horsepower to spare, and can take the small “hit” from having a lower gain high contrast gray surface, compared to a white surface.

Whether you spring for a Firehawk G3 (like mine) which will likely cost you as much as the projector or more, or far more affordable high contrast gray projector screens such as the Elite HC Gray, Da-lite HC-CinemaVision, etc., you should have a good fit.

Samsung SP-A600 - Competitors

This section compares the Samsung SP-A600 home theater projector to the competition. You will find our impressions of the Sharp projector as it stacks up to existing projectors we have reviewed, and a couple that are about to ship, and not yet reviewed.

I should note again, here, that with two new $999 DLP projectors on the market (the Optoma HD20 is shipping, the Vivitek, shipping shortly), The Samsung may be seriously challenged by one or both, depending on how good they turn out to be. (The Optoma is in transit, and its review will publish by 9/1/09.)

And because of these low cost 1080p projectors, it is not unreasonable to think that Samsung may launch the SP-A600 projector below the anticipated $1795 price. That would also change its value proposition to the projectors compared below.

SP-A600 vs. Epson Home Cinema 6100

Looks like the Samsung will be the less expensive of the two, or at least should be barring a significant price drop by Epson. Of course Epson may announce a replacement for the Home Cinema 6100 at Cedia in Sept (09), but Epson usually doesn’t ship their new models before December, so the Samsung should overlap the 6100 for 2-3 months.

Black levels: The Epson has the advantage. It definitely is a significant difference, and perhaps the most telling difference in performance between these two. Of course the Epson uses a dynamic iris, while the Samsung SP-A600 does not.

Color accuracy, post calibration – I’ll give a slight advantage to the Samsung. It also definitely has slightly better skin tones – more of that “natural” look. Still the Epson is pretty good.

OK this is DLP vs 3LCD, and no surprise, when it comes to placement flexibility it’s all Epson, with its 2.1:1 zoom and lots of lens shift, compared to 1.3:1 zoom, no lens shift. Still, if the Samsung will place satisfactorily in your room, that all becomes a non-issue.

The Samsung has more lumens in “best” mode, by about an impressive 50%. On the other hand, the Epson is far brighter in “brightest” mode, almost 50% brighter than the Samsung. I find the Epson to be my preferred of the two. While they both do well on brighter scenes, on those really dark scenes, the Epson just plain looks a whole lot better thanks to the “blacker blacks”.

That said, those who are particularly enamoured with the DLP look and feel, might just prefer the Samsung, but I think for any low cost DLP projector to seriously take on the Home Cinema 6100, needs better blacks than the Samsung can provide.

Samsung SP-A600 vs. Mitsubishi HC5500

Based on the tenative $1795 price of the SP-A600, the HC5500 is a lot less expensive, typically selling for below $1500 and with a rebate.

Both are very entry level when it comes to black levels, although again, the advantage goes to the 3LCD projector, the HC5500. When it comes to lumens, the Samsung is the clear winner, with over 700 lumens in “best” mode, compared to about 450 for the Mitsubishi, and in “brightest” modes, the difference holds true with 764 lumens for the HC5500 compared to the SP-A600 projector’s 1017 lumens. Bottom line, the Samsung is better suited for larger screens or dealing with a little ambient light.

When it comes to color and general image quality, both are fairly comparable, although the SP-A600 does have an overall more natural look (typical DLP). Both do very nice skin tones, post calibration.

Since the HC5500 is one of the most limited 3LCD home theater projectors in terms of placement flexibility, the two are very similar.

Unlike the Epson 6100 vs. Samsung, the black level performance differences between these two is close enough that it isn’t a deciding factor in its own right. The Samsung as I like to say, is solid. The HC5500 is a bit more “visible” in your system. You are a touch more aware of “watching a projector” with the HC5500, as opposed to “watching the picture” with the Mitsubishi.

Combine all that with the extra brightness of the Samsung, and I definitely am leaning to the Samsung SP-A600 as my choice of the two for an entry level 1080p projector.

Samsung SP-A600 vs. Sanyo PLV-Z700

These two are about the same brightness in “brightest” mode, but the Samsung crushes the Sanyo PLV-Z700 in “best” mode. Let me clarify that to say the Sanyo has a very good “almost best mode”, “Creative Cinema” and another, “Brilliant Cinema”. The Samsung is still a good bit brighter than the Sanyo’s “Creative Cinema”, and even “Brilliant Cinema” can’t quite catch the SP-A600. The Sanyo, however, has all the placement flexibility normally found in 3LCD projectors (that Mitsubishi HC5500 being a rare exception). I would have really liked to have a PLV-Z700 for direct comparison, but it’s been almost a year since I’ve seen it. The Sanyo should also be a good bit less expensive unless the SP-A600 comes out at a lower cost than currently anticipated.

Black levels should definitely favor the Sanyo, but, they are still both “entry level”, in that regard.

Tough call between these two. Brightness notwithstanding, I favor the Sanyo slightly, and thanks to the placement flexibility and better price, it almost certainly will easily outsell the SP-A600. If you are one who really loves the DLP look and feel, though, you’ll probably favor the Samsung!

Samsung SP-A600 vs. InFocus X10, Sharp XV-Z15000

The InFocus X10 is a favorite low cost DLP projector of mine. It’s got better color, and that “looks right” overall picture. Sad thing is, the X10 is going away, and InFocus is apparently exiting the low end of the home theater market.

That said, the Sharp XV-Z15000 which we reviewed two months ago, may be its logical replacement. Like the InFocus it puts up an image that is a “pleasure to watch”.

The Samsung isn’t as strong as either of those two, but expected to be a bit less expensive. Both, in particular have better blacks and the Sharp, drastically so.

The Sharp, however, doesn’t have quite as sharp an image as the Samsung (the InFocus is probably the best in sharpness).

From a placement flexibility standpoint, the Samsung’s 1.3:1 zoom does provide a little extra flexibility over the other two, with their 1.2:1, but I’d say unless you strangely are able to place the Samsung in your room, but not the other two, then I’d say, spend the little extra for one of these (based on availability).

Brightness wise, The Sharp is no match in “best” mode, but it has such a compelling advantage in black levels that you can calibrate its brighter modes, and still (thanks to the blacks) have a better overall picture than the SP-A600.

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