|Sim2 C3X DLP Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors|
|Written by Kevin Miller|
|Monday, 01 May 2006|
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Price erosion in the home theater business is even reaching the upper echelons of ultra-high-end video. Thanks to Infocus dropping the price of their 777 three-chip DLP projector from $30,000 list, at that time the least expensive three-chip on the market, to an unbelievable $15,000 back in September of 2005, other manufacturers have been forced to drop their prices as well. Enter the Sim2 C3X, the most compact of the heavyweight three-chip DLP projectors, which carries a list price of $18,000.
There are two major advantages to three-chip vs. one-chip DLP projector designs. The first is much more light output. The second and perhaps more important from a picture quality perspective is far superior color saturation. Sim2s C3X is a light cannon that will easily drive nine-to-10-foot-wide screens with ample light output, and it has an ultra-compact design with an extremely small footprint. It measures 17.13 x 7.48 x 16.93 inches (WxHxD), and weighs just 24.2 lbs.
The design of the C3X is oh-so-Italian with sleek lines and a sexy, curvaceous look that is a pleasure to behold. No need to hide this piece of video gear. My review sample had a two-tone finish of gun-metal gray on the top of the projector, and a much lighter metallic gray on the rest of the body. Its design continues a family look with Sim2’s previous smaller one-chip designs with the lens assembly located to the left of center when in a floor-mounted configuration, and to the right side of the chassis when flipped upside-down and mounted on the ceiling. It does look like an overgrown HT300, which was their original 1280 x 720 resolution one-chip from a few years back.
Ergonomically speaking, the C3X is a bit problematic. The remote is a little awkward in its design, layout and functionality. Thankfully, it is fully backlit if you press the light button on the upper left corner. Operating the unit initially proved to be a challenge. I started my set-up at the component video input, as my Time Warner Cable boxes’ DVI output is not HDCP-compliant, and I wanted to spend a lot of time watching HD material. I found that, as of this writing, the component video input comes set for use with only 480i signals. It is necessary to go to an unused input, then enter the menu and change the component input to Auto Detect in order for it to see and display 1080i or 720p HD signals.
After my first full day of viewing, upon trying to power down, I found another quirk. The unit wouldn’t shut off with the power button on the remote the way I powered it up. It turns out there are F1/F2 keys items in the menu, with a number of selections that allow you to choose which button on the remote will power it down. Mine was set to focus. Even after changing this to the standby option (read: power button), I still could only shut down the projector with the focus button on the remote. From then on, I got no picture when powering up the projector until I hit a combination of the arrow down and menu buttons on the projector itself, and I discovered that quite by accident. All I can say is, do your homework on this piece before you install it or you will likely be wasting a lot of time and get very frustrated with initial set-up and use.
As with virtually all front-projection systems, the features are nearly all technical, geared toward flexibility of set-up and installation. A motorized zoom and focus means you can size and focus the picture with your nose on the screen, which is convenient and accurate. I was a little disappointed to find that the C3X has only vertical and no horizontal lens shift. This is a physical adjustment at the projector, which is supposed to aid in the physical positioning of the projector relative to the screen.
I created a mount above my Runco CRT, and flipped the C3X upside-down as you would do with any ceiling-mounted projector. This placed the lens about three or four inches above my screen material and I was dismayed to find that there wasn’t anywhere near enough vertical lens shift to get the image on my screen. This really defeats the purpose of vertical lens shift. In the case of the C3X, this feature adds far less flexibility to the installation than with any other projector with vertical lens shift that I have ever worked with. Needless to say, this forced me to create a floor mount in my theater.
A color temperature feature allows you to adjust the color temperature with a graphical implementation of CIE color space with well over 30 points to choose from. This method is not accurate, and should not be substituted for a full blown grayscale calibration in the service menu. The video processing does have the all-important 2:3 pull-down detection for the elimination of motion artifacts from film-based material.
A gamma correction feature offers over 10 choices of gamma settings. I found User 2.5 to be the most accurate, with the slowest rise out of black and the least choppy grayscale tracking. A lamp power feature gives you a range of 200 to 250 watts on the lamp, which is useful for setting light output when used in conjunction with the contrast control. Of course, vertical and horizontal keystone is on board here, but I highly recommend you spend the time to mount the C3X properly relative to the screen so you don’t have to use this feature, as it destroys picture quality by reducing resolution and introducing unwanted artifacts.
Connectivity on the C3X is reasonably comprehensive. A single HDMI input is a little disappointing. There is a slot that is actually scored right next to it where a second HDMI input could be added. A broadband component video input is the other input for use with high scan-rate video sources like a video scaler, scaled SD DVD players and HD set-top boxes. A 15-pin VGA input is included for PC hook-up. An S-video and composite video input are on tap for SD sources like VCRs, etc. A USB 1.1 port and an RS-232 port are included for updates (USB) and control (RS-232) purposes. There is also a 12-volt trigger for electric drop-down screens. Finally, oddly enough, there is an optical digital audio output.