Sim2 DOMINO 20 DLP Video Projector 
Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors
Written by Thomas Garcia   
Monday, 01 March 2004

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 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.

SIM2 is well known for producing projectors with excellent color accuracy and the DOMINO 20 is no exception. Using its six-segment color wheel, the DOMINO 20 is capable of rendering an extremely accurate and believable image, greatly minimizing many of the artifacts that impacted earlier generations of DLP projectors. One area where the DOMINO 20 really excels is in the recreation of flesh tones. Ranging from milky white maidens through the tan and toughened cowboys, the SIM2 projector is capable of capturing every subtle gradation of skin tone and texture. The DOMINO 20’s image always looks natural and relaxed. This is due in part to the notably absence of “red push” that is common in many display devices. These attributes are appreciably noticeable during the viewing of the depression era epic, “Seabiscuit” (Universal Studios Home Video). After viewing the opening sequences of this film, I knew that the cinematography provided by John Scwartzman was destined to be stellar, and I was not disappointed. This is one of the best transfers Universal Studios Home Video has produced this year, with deep, vibrant colors and only a few minimal anomalies to note. From the early panoramic shots of wide-open mountains, to the close-ups of the colorful jockeys’ uniforms on their dazzling galloping horses, the image projected by the SIM2 captured me both visually and emotionally. The colors are rich but not overblown, with good color saturation and balanced hue. There is an impressive dimensionality and depth to the panoramic countryside scenes near the beginning of the film, capturing a true sense of the great outdoors. Accurate sharpness and detail provided by the DOMINO 20 give this transfer a very film-like appearance. The black levels are extremely impressive for a DLP projector, though overall shadow detail is still not quite up to the performance of the best CRTs. While this feature film is very clean, the transfer does suffer from a few artifacts such as light “mosquito noise” (an MPEG compression artifact that causes a blurring of the outline of sharp objects, with inappropriately-colored pixels appearing around the outline of the object), which is evident in a couple of scenes. Mind you, these artifacts are minimal, a component of the film’s transfer to DVD. Even with these imperfections, the DOMINO 20 never lost its composure, delivering an image that was incredibly brilliant, stable and believable.

I paid close attention to another primary concern of single-chip DLP displays, the so-called “rainbow effect,” where the viewer experiences brief flashes of colors, especially while the eyes move rapidly across the image area, or with images with very bright and/or black and white areas. Some people are much more susceptible to this phenomenon, but none of the participants who viewed the DOMINO 20 during my audition complained of or noticed any such effects, regardless of the source material. SIM2 has obviously done an excellent job of addressing and minimizing these effects in their DOMINO series of projectors.

The DOMINO 20 offers some of the most natural color fidelity that I have experienced from any DLP projector unit. With a minimum of optimization, the DOMINO 20 was able to achieve a neutral color balance. This projector worked phenomenally with computer-generated sources such as the blockbuster hit, “Monsters, Inc.” (Walt Disney Home Entertainment). When it comes to computer-generated animation movies, few could argue the talent and expertise that Pixar commands. This video, with its rich saturated colors and brilliant attention to fine detail, remains a staple of mine when evaluating video displays. The SIM2 never faltered in representing the video’s dynamic extremes, keeping muted colors interesting and detailed, while preventing the brighter colors from becoming over-saturated or fatiguing. Featured characters are rendered gorgeously, with brilliantly rich color and meticulous attention to the smallest of details. Highlighted throughout the movie are various segments focused on the minuscule details of Sully's fur. The DOMINO 20 reveals, with astounding lucidity, the natural flow and sway of each strand, breathing life into Sully’s every movement.

Viewing the character Mike Wazowski proved to be an eye-opener as well. Though I was able to disseminate the variations in his color with other similarly equipped projectors, the SIM2 was able to display more variations in Wazowski’s yellow/lime-green body, providing substantially superior texture detail. Additionally, the DOMINO 20 did an excellent job of capturing the transparency and sheen of his giant translucent eye, making it look very real and lifelike. The reptilian monster Randall was equally impressive. Randall’s chameleonlike color variations were vivid and vibrant and his scaly, slithering body tremendously three-dimensional. The abundant fast-motion scenes in this movie are handled with ease, with no discernible motion artifacts detected. Overall, “Monsters Inc.’s” animation is immaculate and the DOMINO 20 proved to be a marvelous mechanism for communicating the impact of this exhilarating film.

The projector is optimized for viewing resolution provided by widescreen DVDs, but it did an outstanding job with high-definition sources as well. I viewed several different clips that were recorded in high-definition on D-VHS tape through my JVC 30000 DH-VCR. Though the resolution provided by the DOMINO 20 is not the equivalent of a high-definition projector, excellent results were achieved with high-definition materials. It performed extremely well, commanding a high “wow” factor, while providing even greater color fidelity and picture purity. The DOMINO 20 also convincingly conveyed the transparency and additional clarity that high-definition sources are capable of delivering, albeit at a lower projected resolution.

Though the DOMINO 20 will most likely see most of its use during DVD playback and with higher resolution sources, there will likely be times when it will be required to project low-resolution sources, such as standard VHS or television signals. I experimented with both and achieved results better than I expected. The projector did a fine job of processing these sources, improving the input signal via the internal processing, making the resulting image enjoyable and entertaining. With family and friends, I watched the Super Bowl via our local cable company in standard definition with good results. The image was still sub-par, but the picture size and impact overshadowed the inferior cable feed. There is only so much you can do with the current limitations of these resolutions and I believe that the DOMINO 20 processing power helps tremendously, exceeding all reasonable expectations.

The Downside
My immediate concern when I received the SIM2 was its lack of a DVI video input. This was disappointing, considering how I have become very appreciative of the image quality that is achieved with the direct digital connection between my V-Inc Bravo 1 DVD player and other DVI-compatible video devices. Although I still consider this a disadvantage of the DOMINO 20, it quickly dropped in significance, given the stunning image quality I was able to achieve utilizing the component inputs. I even was able to achieve more than satisfactory images with devices that were limited to S-Video outputs only, such as my S-VHS and a standard NTSC tuner. Additionally, the SIM2 remote does not follow the same intuitive nature of many other remotes; it takes a unique sequential process to navigate the menus. It was frustrating to locate certain functions, as well as perform the desired adjustments. This subsided after a learning period, when I become accustomed to the menu and functional structure, though it never quite diminished completely. And though SIM2 has made great advancements in lowering the noise floor of its projectors, the exhaust fan was still audible from my listening position, which was placed approximately five feet above me in a ceiling mount position. This was only apparent while experiencing quiet passages.

The world of digital projectors is a dynamic place these days, with quality and prices changing at a rapid rate. How much should one spend on a projector, given that it may be eclipsed in performance and at a lower cost in the not too distant future? Wisely, SIM2 has placed the DOMINO 20 in an excellent position, offering premium performance and quality at this price point. Although not the least expensive projector available today, it provides an extremely satisfying, natural image that is clearly a step up from the lesser-priced and lower performance projectors I have recently experienced. I was exceedingly satisfied with this projector, given its extremely high-quality components and performance. Additionally, the 6,000-hour lamp life will potentially save you a substantial amount of money by minimizing bulb replacement over the lifespan of the projector.

During the time I spent reviewing the SIM2 DOMINO 20, I couldn’t help but reflect upon on various DLP projectors I have used over the last few years. Not that long ago, comparative price points equal to the DOMINO 20 generally offered projectors with 800 by 600 resolutions, all requiring substantial investments towards outboard video processors or HTPCs to produce a respectable image. Watching the all-inclusive SIM2 was a revelation, exceeding any picture quality I was able to produce with any of the aforementioned combinations. The DOMINO 20 kept me mesmerized with its color accuracy and precision of detail, equaled by its ability to portray a believable, three-dimensional type image. With its high-quality optics and advanced video processing, the SIM2 Multimedia DOMINO 20 DLP Projector proved to be an extraordinary performer that will undoubtedly display a reference quality image for some time to come.

*Editors note: In March 2004 the Domino line will be equipped with HDMI digital input. The HDMI input is now extended to the Domino models. HDMI transmits HDTV at 2.2Gbps and is an uncompressed medium with a strong content protection (HDCP).
Manufacturer Sim2
Model DOMINO 20 DLP Video Projector
Reviewer Tom Garcia

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