|Sim2 DOMINO 20 DLP Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Monday, 01 March 2004|
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When assembling a fulfilling home theater system, it is hard to dismiss the significant importance of picture size and quality. The size of an image can dramatically affect the realism and emotional involvement we experience while viewing our favorite events or videos. Additionally, combining high-quality video with multi-channel audio can convert your viewing environment into a virtual movie theater, sports arena or live concert venue. Although many exceptionally satisfying systems can be configured using a good tube or rear projection television, there’s a natural limit to just how large their enclosures can be. Even with some of the mammoth rear projection units currently available, the overall viewing area may still not provide a large enough picture to truly recreate a movie theater experience. This is one key reason why stand-alone projectors have become much more prevalent in the home consumer market today. Given their ability to mate with free-standing, wall-mounted or drop-down screens, these combinations can easily achieve image sizes of 100 inches diagonal or more.
There are currently several different technologies for these projectors, though the most commonly are based on cathode ray tube (CRT), liquid crystal display (LCD), digital light processing (DLP) and JVC’s D-ILA formats. Each technology offers a variety of pluses and minuses that will depend on your application and potential constraints.
One standout performer from the DLP contingent is the recently released DOMINO 20 Multimedia projector from the highly acclaimed manufacturer SIM2 Multimedia. SIM2 has earned a reputation for designing innovative products with the primary focus of providing the highest quality in video reproduction. With a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $5,995, the single-chip DLP DOMINO 20 is the entry-level projector for the new DOMINO Series from SIM2. It is feature-rich, boasting some of the most advanced video processing technology, and utilizes the new Texas Instruments "Matterhorn" 16:9 Wide PAL DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) chip set, with a native resolution of 1024 by 576 pixels. With built-in Directional Correlation Deinterlacing and video enhancement (DCDi) by Faroudja, the DOMINO 20 is compatible with various video sources and picture standards (PAL, NTSC, SECAM), as well as computer graphics up to UXGA pixel resolution (compressed). The combination of SIM2's proprietary optical engine and the Matterhorn chip are designed to deliver a distinct image improvement over their previous entry level projectors, especially with 16:9 aspect ratio materials.
SIM2 Multimedia’s main headquarters are located in Pordenone, Italy, and their products are available in the United States through SIM2 Sèleco USA Inc.
Showing signs of its Italian heritage, the SIM2 Domino 20 enclosure is graceful in its aesthetics and design, with soft curvy lines and a sleek high gloss finish. Available in two colors, Black Shadow or White Evolution, the DOMINO 20’s overall dimensions measure 13-7/8 inches long, by 6-7/8 inches high, by 12-1/2 inches deep, and has a total weight of 11 pounds. This projector has been specifically designed for home theater applications and is adorned with multiple inputs to accommodate the connection of a variety of video and personal computer devices. The back panel input connections consist of one set for RGB/component video, one VGA and one each for composite and S-video. A 12-volt output enables motorized screen activation, and an RS232 port allows for firmware upgrades and PC control of the projector. The upper left portion of the rear panel contains a keyboard pad for complete manual control of the projector without the remote. Finally, the right side contains a main power toggle switch and a fused power socket that accepts standard IEC power cables.
With a lens throw ratio of 2.2:1 to 3:1, this projector is best suited for mounting behind the viewer in order to achieve the minimum viewing angle of 30 degrees recommended by SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers). Used as a reference for movie theaters’ viewing distances, this has also become something of a standard for front projection home theaters as well. Viewing from this distance will create a more immersion-like viewing experience, and will also potentially lessen eyestrain caused by watching a smaller image in a darkened room. The distance between the projector and the screen will need to be even greater in order to achieve the 36-degree viewing angle recommended by THX.
A few added features of the DOMINO 20 include five test patterns for making a variety of adjustments to calibrate the projector’s performance. Additionally, lamp power consumption is listed at 120 watts, with a very impressive 6000 hours bulb life, easily twice the life expectancy of many other similar priced units. As an accessory, SIM2 does offer a wall ceiling bracket kit for convenient mounting of the DOMINO 20, if desired.
The remote control provided with the DOMINO 20 is rather generic, and upon first use, somewhat unintuitive. I wasn't able to become fully comfortable with navigating the various projector functions, though over time, I’m sure I could become more competent with its non-sequential programming. One positive attribute of the remote is that all the aspect ratios can be adjusted directly via a dedicated control key, a nice feature since this is an adjustment that I must constantly make from one video source to the next. Also welcomed is the “Information” button on the remote, which displays the current projector status, input type details, video settings, etc., which proved to be very useful for verifying proper set-up at a glance.
In order to obtain maximum image quality, SIM2 recommends the projector be placed parallel to the center of the screen. In my application, as it would be with many others, this proved to be impractical. I positioned the DOMINO 20 on a shelf unit approximately four to five feet behind my main viewing location, and six feet from floor to lens, placing the projector in the top third of my screen. A couple of different screen materials were used, and I settled on the 103-inch diagonal Stewart Studiotech 130 screen, which was utilized throughout this review. Stewart provides the highest quality screens available for home and professional applications and is utilized as a reference standard by the AudioRevolution.com staff and the industry alike.
The projector proved to be extremely flexible in its adjustment capabilities. The image can be moved up or down, half of the image height, via the top panel manual lens shift knob. In the event that this is not sufficient to center the image on the screen, the projector can be tilted and the resulting non-rectangular image corrected by the set-up menu keystone adjustment. Note that horizontal keystoning, which can result from excessive off-center projector locations, can also be corrected. This can be invaluable for rooms that have limited flexibility for optimally placing the projector or screen.
The SIM2 comes with a relatively long throw lens, and the prospective purchaser should account for this when considering the placement of this projector within the viewing room. In some, rooms this can be a deterrent, but in others, it is an essential tool for locating the projector in the back of the room or behind the back wall.
Overall color looks great with the factory's preset settings. Color temperature is adjustable from 5,000 to 9,300 degrees Kelvin, with a preset medium temperature setting centered at approximately 6,500 degrees. In addition to standard video controls, such as brightness, contrast, color, tint, etc., the SIM2 contains a few special features to further optimize picture quality, such as gamma correction and a cinema mode switch. In addition, there are a host of other user-accessible adjustments available within the projector’s video processor. The cinema mode switch selects an algorithm that is either optimized for cinematographic film, or a “Motion Compensated” algorithm optimized for video camera signals. My advice is to try them both and see which you prefer.
Utilizing the component output of the Denon DV 2900, I set the source connection to YCrCb 32 kHz. Using the available user menus, I optimized the DOMINO 20 and the Denon 2900 by employing Digital Video Essentials and the Avia test disc. All adjustments and subsequent evaluations were made using the DOMINO 20’s medium temperature setting, which is reported to be approximately equal to the industry reference 6,500 degrees Kelvin. Throughout the review, I experimented with several settings and variations, experiencing a broad range of results. I recommend that each user experiment and optimize each of the settings to match equipment and viewing environment.
There has been a tremendous improvement in regards to the contrast ratio of DLP projectors, and the SIM2 was no exception, claiming greater than 2000:1. Even with this contrast ratio being substantially superior to the past generation DLPs, this projector will work best in darkened surroundings with good light control. As a final note, the DOMINO 20’s cooling is handled via air flow is from its top intake vents to the bottom panel air outlets, so the unit should not be placed in a small enclosed area and the vents should not be obstructed in any way.