Black levels and Shadow Detail
As mentioned above, the Samsung is sort of an anomaly, (or perhaps I should say, it is right on, and everything else is an anomaly.
We'll look at too different aspects - the black levels in terms of how much light is coming out of the projector in areas that are theoretically pure black - especially the letterbox area, and separately, the details in the images. For the comparison images, most provided here are from the new Mitsubishi HC5000BL.
In the first three scenes below (from Phantom, HD-DVD), I chose a very dark frame of Christine and the Phantom, and second frame an image from the beginning of the movie in textured black and white. The third drame shows the Phantom's theater in low light. In all cases, when cropping, instead of cropping out the letterbox at top and bottom, I have left in those areas, and even expanded so that you can see the black beyond the letterbox.
As you can see, the grays are not that dark in the letterbox area, especially when compared to the black around it. Also you can see easily how the letterbox grays match with the darkest parts of the movie frame itself.
I mentioned earlier that despite the moderately bright letterbox and blacks, the detail remains excellent. Here is an image from The 5th Element, of the starship (found in most reviews). Even though the blacks are not exceptionally black, the starfield itself is rich in stars, indicating that it is grabbing and displaying most of the dimmest ones.
Also for your consideration are these two identical frames from Lord of the Rings. The first is normally exposed, the second, overexposed so that you can see the shadow detail along the bottom, and the right side, lost by my digital camera, when normally exposed.
I usually try to overexpose the second image a bit more than you see here (barely overexposed), but despite that, you can see the details in the shed, etc.
The best way, though to demonstrate shadow details though, is in direct comparison with another projector, so here are several images comparing the Samsung SP-H710AE (left) with the Mitsubishi HC5000BL.
To start with, I should remind you that the more expensive HC5000BL is an LCD projector that uses all the tricks to maximize black levels and shadow details, such as a dynamic iris, and AI. The bottom line, is that they claim 10,000:1 contrast (vs the SP-H710AE's 2800:1), which you would expect to result in not only blacker blacks, but to allow for more shadow detail, afterall, if the blacks are darker, you can see darker grays. Anyway, it didn't turn out quite that way.
In this first image, you can see the huge difference in the basic black levels.
When we get to images with serious shadow detail though - such as this image of the theater, look at the difference in the shadow detail in the seating, especially the right side, the Samsung reveals more information, and more color. You can click on this image to enlarge: