SIM2's C3X Projector Review - Image Quality
Awesome! (Ok, that about covers it - can we go to the next section?)
Seriously, as mentioned at the beginning, this is the best I've worked with so far. I have InFocus's 777 arriving in a couple of days, which should be worthy competition, but I'll comment on the differences between the two in a separate article after I'm done with both reviews.
The only other 3 chip projector I have reviewed so far is JVC's HD2K, about a year ago. I was extremely impressed at the time, but the JVC as is typical of LCOS (D-ILA, SXRD, etc.) is that they cannot match the black levels of the DLP projectors.
Flesh Tones and Color Accuracy
For a $20,000 projector, the out of box color accuracy was not as wonderful as I hoped. But then, I realize anyone installing a projector of this caliber, should be having it properly calibrated. (More on that later). I will also point out that the color controls on this Sim2 are easy to use, but shockingly, didn't solve my problem. I was unhappy with the default color settings, which provided fleshtones with too much green in them, and a cooler color balance than the 6500K desired. The color controls allowed me to improve the color but not get it quite right. When I took out my Avia Pro calibration software and my light meter, I
quickly discovered that I still couldn't get the correct color temperature with the main color grid control. Ultimately, this required me to use the more extensive color controls inside the service menu. That's not an area for normal users. This goes back to the concept that you would have a professional calibrating this projector, so its not a problem.
Now the good news. After calibration, the results were everything I had anticipated. Flesh tones were right on, etc. I have provided a series of images, starting above with Awen, from Lord of the Rings, Samuel L. Jackson as a Jedi, and LiLu below from The 5th Element.
some of the naturalness of the flesh tones from several movies. In addition, blacks were neutral (not blue black or brown black...) and grays stayed neutral through out the brightness range, and it didn't really matter what I threw at it, I was always pleased with the results. The best DVD content I viewed such as The Fifth Element - Superbit verison, looked right on. Anything I viewed that didn't look pretty much perfect, I will tend to fault the production quality on the DVD, rather than any weakness of the C3X..
As noted, the Sim2 does exceptionally good blacks, jet colored without. For those of you into specs, you may have seen on the first page that the C3X claims 6500:1 contrast. In the past, contrast was the best indication of good black levels, but no more, thanks to various technologies often dubbed "AI", we see some wild contrast ratios, but not necessarily really good blacks. Right off the bat, in projecting onto my Firehawk, even with the lamp at full power and, casting about a 110" image, there wasn't much light hitting the screen in the
letter box areas. I would say no more than my BenQ PE8720 (which claims 10,000:1).
My BenQ, though, fills the whole 128" diagonal, and is only rated 1000 lumens vs 2500! (And the difference in brightness in best modes is even greater. So, my point is,expect truly excellent blacks and with it, great shadow detail. You can see that in these images, including a space scenes, an image from Sin City, and the night scene on Tatooine from Star Wars II.
Color Depth and Impact
The C3X shines here, image just jump off the screen. The most spectacular content I viewed was a space scene from Starship Trooper. I specifically bought the DVD for this
demo, remembering that they used it at CEDIA to show of the C3X. I was not dissapointed. And its time for a brief story.
I suspected what was going to happen, so first I viewed the segment desired of the ship being hit, and fire, on my BenQ. Boy did it look great. Then I switched to the Sim2. Boy was I wrong. The Sim2 blew it away. Now the BenQ is good, but in this case, the advantages and dynamics of a 3 chip DLP vs. single chip, the significantly brighter image from a brighter projector, and all the extra "magic" you would expect a manufacturer to pour into a $20K projector, are overwhelming. The best way I can describe the difference is this:
You are watching something - a movie, or football game, in full Hi-Def, and you hit the button on your remote and go to the same content on a non-HD channel. Color saturation dies, definition goes bye-bye, depth goes away, and the overall image looks washed out and dull. Well, that's what happened. Sure, the BenQ's image remained sharp, but everything else just collapsed.
I will say at this point, that I cannot ever remember being as blown away at a movie theater watching any scene as watching this sequence at home with the C3X and my
Firehawk. (And I did see Starship Troopers in the theater when it came out). I'll concede that it's still DVD, and not as high a resolution as we would like, but the impact was phenomenal.
There, I think I've just run out of superlatives, so I'll try to calm down a bit.
This next image is from the DVD Sin City. The C3X brings out the suble shading that less projectors tend to make look just black and white (and gray). Some of the highlight details are lost due to the digital campera, but the shadow details in her face are notably more revealing than the same image on my BenQ single Darkchip3 projector.
The next pairs of images attempt to give you an idea of the range of color dynamics. My digital camera can't capture all, so there is a normally exposed image (but you lose the
shadow details, and then an overexposed photo of the same frame, so you can now see the projector's ability to resolve the details in the shadow. On the first pair, look to the dark shed or walls on the right, on the second image. See, all that detail is there.
The first starship image (above, from the 5th Element) is normally exposed and you can see fine highlight details in the various components on the ship. In the second image, I have overexposed so the camera now captures the full depth of stars and their colorings, that the viewer also sees.
I should note that the night before I started writing this, I had several friends over. One has had home theater projectors in his house for at least 6-7 years, one who watches football and movies over here occasionally, and one lightweight. All three agreed with me, in that no trip to the movie theater blew them away, like what they saw here.
Of course the Sim2 isn't perfect, and I did detect a little bit more noise in dark areas than I have seen on some other DLP's but it was perfectly acceptable to me. On the other hand,
perhaps the C3X is too good. I definitely was able to see what is probably the MPEG encoding (compression) on certain DVDs - in near black or black areas, and it was noticeable. This is something I have never noticed on lesser projectors. It was most
noticeable on the movie Zathura, which again is a sci-fi flick. In the space scenes it appeared as large moving blocks of near black. Taking down the brightness an extra step or too, made it go away, but of course it would also have cost a little loss of detail. That was the only DVD where it was blatant but I was able to spot it on others.
A few more images:
If you've read other of our reviews, you'll know that I look for a projector to really be able to reproduce bright sunny scenes well. Many projectors come up short, when trying to capture a day that is really bright and clear, instead producing something that looks more muted and hazy. Not this Sim2. It makes you feel the heat of the sun glaring off of objects.
Lastly two images; one a night scene from Star Wars II, and a party at night from Starship Troopers. Again, these images attempt to give you some idea about the punchiness, and 3 dimensionality of the projected image:
Again, the image quality is just wonderful. If the budget is there, you can project the kind of image we all dream of.
If there are better projectors out there right now and there are a number of other competing projectors from the likes of Runco, Panasonic, Vidikron, Digital Projection, and so on..., I can only imagine we would be considering only fine differences in performance. Of course in my experience, you can watch a truly great $6000 projector and be blown away, and until you see a projector in this caliber, can't imagine that there could be such a difference.
Hi-Def from both my D-VHS and cable box was really sharp, and the best content was truly great. Here are a few images, from sports to Discovery HD:
Image above photographed in the fully darkened testing room.
The 2 mages immediately below were viewed/photographed with low room lighting, not fully darkened.
These last two imges below, an Earth graphic from Discovery HD (HDTV), and The Chrysler Building at dusk (Over America 1080i D-VHS tape), were photographed in a fully darkened room:
Lastly is this image of the Boathouses in Philadelphia from the Over America D-VHS. I've viewed this image on most projectors I've reviewed, and none to date have matched the C3X in capturing the strength of the early morning sun shinning on the houses and yards. I've oft referred to the "sunshine effect" in other reviews. Most projectors come up short in reproducing one of those razorsharp clear sunny days, instead leaving you with the feeling of an almost hazy day, where the shadows aren't as clear and defining... Not so the C3X, it knows how to reproduce that brilliant type of day:
Ok, that concludes this section, now for all those important other aspects of the projector, ans well as info from the calibration. click on General Performance next.