Samsung SP-H710AE Projector Review - General Performance
There are a lot of aspects of the SP-H710AE's functionality and performance to consider. Below is menu that will allow you to jump to any of the topics in this section.
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User Memory Settings
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
SDE and Rainbow Effect
Audible Noise Levels
Lamp Life and Replacement
Projector Screen Recommendations
Samsung SP-H710AE Menus
The Samsung SP-H710AE projector's menus are straight forward, and you will find a surprisingly limited number of options compared to many other home theater projectors. One reason for this is the concept behind the SP-H710AE, which is to deliver a nearly perfectly set up projector, out of the box. Iin-depth color controls do exist, they are available in the custom mode. I
There are four main menus. The first one, Input, allows you to select an input, and below the Source List, you can assign your own names to the inputs, such as HD-DVD player, or Cable TV...
I should note that also on the Picture menu is DNIe (dynamic natural image engine) which Samsung describes as allowing for "brighter, sharper, more dynamic pictures." I viewed most movies with the DNIe off, but found that with it on, the overall image had a touch more punch.
The next menu, the one with most of the "goodies", is the Picture menu. First you can select from the many preset modes, including Movie 1 and 2 (we found Movie 1 works best), Dynamic and Standard, there is also Custom, and the User memory areas.
The Custom Picture option allows control of brightness, contrast, color saturation and tint. Selecting More (options), allows further control. including selecting the color standard (SMPTE C is default, for movies, there is also an HD standard, and EBU for Canada/Europe.) You also gain manual control for setting the color temperature. and gamma.
For a good look at most menu functions, you can click here, to download the pdf manual for the SP-H710AE home theater projector! (Most of the info you would be looking for starts on page 30.)
The other major menu is the Setup menu shown here. It allows you to select positioning (front/rear projection) inverted or normal (ceiling/floor).
There is also the toggle between Theater mode and Bright. You definitely will want Bright, if you have some amount of ambient light in the room.
Samsung is nice enough to provide 8 test patterns, including a full color bar standard screen, and also two whites - one for doing adjustments, and one set for a 6500K white.
Lastly, you can do a reset of the projector back to factory defaults, and there is an Information menu, showing many of the projector's source info and settings.
SP-H710AE Projector - User Memory Settings
This Samsung projector offers three User savable memory settings. Once you have made all your changes (if you dare), you can save your preferences, inside the Picture Menu - Custom Menu, Save.
SP-H710AE Remote Control
The compact remote control of the Samsung SP-H710AE remote is very respectable, although layout could be somewhat improved. There are separate off and on buttons at the top of the remote, and directly below, is the Light button for the blue backlit lighting. I'm pleased to report that the remote's backlight is bright enough. Not one of the brightest around, but definitely brighter than those that I find most annoying as some are so dim that they are hard to read regardless of the backlight. The Samsung remote's backlight doesn't have much brightness to spare, but it is acceptable.
Next come two rows of buttons with discrete source selection.
Then a space and two more rows, this time control for aspect ratio, picture mode, and custom settings, along with a nice Still frame button, the (best avoided) keystone adjustment, and Install (image orientation).
Below those are four more buttons curving above and around the usual four arrows with center enter key.
The four buttons from left to right are Menu, Quick, Info, and the Exit button. The Quick button simply lets jump back to the last menu you were working with.
My minor complaint with the layout, is in part the location of the Light button. Since most button activity will be with the Menu, the presets and the arrow keys, your hand has to go to the top of the remote for the lighting, then slide it back down to easily access the buttons just mentioned. Better, if the Light button was placed lower, or on the side of the remote. Not a real big deal, it's just that I often found myself using my other hand to activate the Light. Other good remotes do a better job on placement of their backlight button.
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
The Samsung's manual zoom lens has a 1.3:1 zoom ratio. To fill a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen you may place the front of the projector (measured from the front of the lens), as close as 11.3 feet, or as far back as 14.9 feet from the screen surface. The SP-H710AE offers vertical lens shift.
SDE and Rainbow Effect
As a DLP projector you would need to sit pretty close to make out pixel structure at all in bright areas (such as movie credits or a large stationary cloud, in a scene). I found the SP-H710AE to be typical of 720p DLP projectors in this regard. Most will be happy sitting as close as 1.1 times screen width, but those adverse to being able to make out the pixels - ever, will be happier more like 1.5x screen width.
Since the Samsung projector is a DLP, a small percentage of users may detect the rainbow effect at times, and an even smaller group, are bothered by it. (Remember that most home theater projectors are DLP, so the percentage has to be very, very small.) I can occasionally notice it on DLP projectors with 4x or 5x color wheels, and much easier on the slower business models. Again, the Samsung is typical of a good DLP projector, using a 5x, six segment color wheel, to minimize the possible visibility of rainbows.
Samsung SP-H710AE Projector Brightness
Finally, you say! What about brightness?
The Samsung is definitely not the brightest star in the heavens. In fact, its brightness is a little below average (despite its claim of only 700 lumens (making it - on a claim basis, one of the dimmest.) In fact, the brightness is comparable or even a bit brighter to most of the LCD home theaters that people have been buying the last couple of years (I make exception to the new - extremely bright Panasonic PT-AX100U, and the Epson Cinema series projectors. On the other hand, it is slightly dimmer than most of the DLP home theater projectors from last year's crop, and significantly less bright than some newer entries.
Enough perspective, here are some measurements. Note, I have heard for a long time that the Samsung was definitely not bright, and was pleasantly surprised with the brighter than expected measurements and performance that I actually witnessed.
With the projector in its best (and darkest) mode for movie watching - Movie 1 preset, with Light Setting set to Theater, the Samsung still managed to crank out 416 lumens.
I also did measurements in the Samsung SP-H710AE's two brighter presets - Dynamic and Standard. Surprisingly Standard (the best color quality bright mode produced 572 lumens, when set to Theater, but when set to Standard, and Bright, I measured an impressive 753.
Dynamic, interestingly, didn't measure quite as bright, but it's different color/gamma/etc. settings allow it to plow through a little bit more ambient light. Dyamic/Bright measured 654 lumens.
Lastly, using Movie 1, and Bright, for the brightest of the Best mode, provided 562 lumens. Not bad at all. Note, the projector I reviewed was brand new, and of course, like all projector lamps, it will start dimming as a couple hundred hours get put on it.
The zoom lens was set just slightly wide angle of neutral. In widest angle (largest image from a given distance) it will be just slightly brighter, and in furthest telephoto, a bit dimmer.
The difference between Bright mode and Theater mode measured almost exactly 24%. That is, Theater mode put out 74% of the brightness of Bright mode.
Virtually none. You can see some light in the vents, but there is no spillage even out the front, that would be visible, under anything considered normal usage.
Audible Noise Levels
Quiet in Theater mode, claiming 28db, and that seems reasonable. No one should have an issue here (OK someone will!) This is the range that almost all consider very acceptable. In Bright mode it sounds like an extra 4-5 db. This won't be quiet enough for those completely noise-o-phobic, but it did seem a bit quieter than many others in their brightest modes (Optoma HD72, HD7100, Mitsubishi HC3000). Most LCD home theater projectors are a notch or two quieter than the Samsung. Again, the noise levels should be acceptable to almost everyone.
Lamp Life and Replacement
Sorry, you do have to unmount the projector to change the lamp, if you have it ceiling mounted. Other than that, it looks straightforward. Samsung provides one lamp life rating - that of 2000 hours. (Typical)
Samsung SP-H710AE Projector Screen Recommendations
OK, now things get interesting! It's been a while since I have worked with a projector that I really believe may work best with a darker gray high contrast screen. Well, this is the first in a while. I viewed it primarily on my light gray (high contrast) Firehawk screen, and I found that overall, it was an excellent match.
However! The fairly bright letterbox "blacks' I found to be a distraction, from a projector, whose overall picture performance was otherwise pretty sensational. I therefore expect that going with a darker gray, such as the Grayhawk from Stewart, or other darker gray surfaces (Elite CinemaTension dark gray), Da-lite HC Da-Mat, etc. I have never worked with the dark gray Carada screeen surface, but I understand that it is one of the darker, so I would think it would also be an excellent match up.
Let's not forget brightness though. On my Firehawk (128" diagonal), I found the brightness in Movie 1/Theater to be not quite enough, so I did much of my watching reducing the diagonal size to about 106 - 110 inches. Much better. Kick on Bright mode, and then the projector could just cope with the full 128", but many might still find it a little dim.
My personal opinion is that this projector would match really well with a 86" - 100" diagonal dark gray screen. Larger than 100" unless you have a theater with very dark walls and no ambient light, I think you'll run out of horsepower with a dark gray surface over 100". Thus, a screen like the Firehawk, would be a good choice from 100" - 110", or, a little more if your taste for size is stronger than your taste for brightness.
For larger screens, I think, for the SP-H710AE, you would need to go with a white surface, with some gain, but overall, I don't think that end result will be the best match for this projector. Unless, you get a masking screen, which solves the whole problem! If you do have a masking screen, so that you won't see the letter boxing grays, then I'd stick with a Firehawk type as my first choice, and would definitely consider a higher gain white a good match for larger surfaces!
Forget it! The out of box performance is definitely the best I have seen yet, in terms of being "on the money" not even the $15,000+ InFocus SP777 or the $19995 SIM2 C3X looked more natural out of the box.
Yes you can have this projector professionally calibrated to perfectly match your room and screen, but for most of us, the real appeal of the SP-H710AE, is that it is the one projector I have seen under $5000 that really looks like it has just been professionally calibrated when you first turn it on.
After measuring my color balance, and brightness - I changed nothing! Here you can see a screen shot of the default Movie 1 setting (Theater), and the color balance (diamond) is almost perfectly centered over the target!
These are the Movie1/Theater color temperatures measured:
100 IRE 6399
80 IRE 6369
50 IRE 6336
30 IRE 6240.
So, my full measurable range from 30 IRE to 100 IRE, all within 160K temperature. Overall, slightly below the 6500K ideal, but that slight a shift is barely detectable, even if you know what you are looking for. More important than the slightly lower than 6500K, is the consistancy of the color temperature. Many projector shift significantly from dark grays to light grays, and many more have a very significant shift (sometimes up to 1000K, just between 80 and 100 IRE).
Overall, the Samsung is the projector for the purist. Saying that, many will want to tweak - good luck to you - and a few will have it professionally calibrated to their room/screen, etc.
That said, it is the out of the box image quality that makes the Samsung a special projector and one that will appeal to many purists, despite the lower advertised contrast ratio's and black levels.