SIM2 Grand Cinema HT200 DM DLP Video Projector 
Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors
Written by Bryan Southard   
Tuesday, 01 January 2002

In the last few years, the world of large-scale video projection has been turned upside down by the advent of fixed-pixel digital projectors. The two most prevalent technologies are Texas Instruments' DLP and JVC’s D-ILA chip based units. While the digital projectors clearly have shortcomings when compared to traditional CRT projectors, especially the big gun nine-inch CRTs, these new projectors have won over many a fan because of their diminutive size, incredible brightness, their reliability and ability to project huge images for home theater applications.

The SIM2 HT200 DM is a single-chip DLP front video projector that is capable of 800 x 600 lines of resolution and, as with all projectors in SIM2's Grand Cinema line, is specifically designed for the home entertainment market. Most DLP and D-ILA projectors are first designed for professional applications such as conference rooms, Las Vegas sports books and restaurants. The HT200 physically measures 13-3/4 inches wide, 6.5 inches in height, and 12.5 inches deep. It weighs a mere 11 pounds and has a retail price of $8,595, which is not much more than some of the best big screen TV sets.

More on DLP
DLP technology was developed by Texas Instruments in an effort to provide maintenance-free projection to both the business and home markets. DLP, which stands for "Digital Light Processing," utilizes a chip that measures approximately one-and-a-half square inches. In the case of the HT200 DM, this chip has 480,000 individual micro-mirrors. What makes this chip so intriguing is that each of these mirrors can be rotated independently of one another. To explain it simply, the picture starts with a digital signal from your video source. As the projector's processor receives this signal, it fires the projector's lamp. In front of this lamp is a color wheel containing the three primary color segments: red, green and blue. The filtered light then passes through the specific color on the rotating wheel and reflects off the DLP chip. At this point, the mirrors can be rotated so that they are either in position to reflect this light or to avoid their reflection. This light then passes through the lens assembly and onto your screen. Despite the brevity of this explanation, this technology is very complex and an engineering masterpiece.

On a more emotional level, the SIM2 HT200 DM comes in a beautifully designed chassis. Our review model was two-tone metal-flake blue and gray, finished as nicely as a fine automobile. Of all the available DLP projectors, the SIM2 Grand Cinema line is my clear aesthetic favorite. It has a sleek contemporary elegance with a finish that looks like a million bucks.

The Grand Cinema HT200 DM competes against a small number of manufacturers in the DLP front-projection market. What makes SIM2 unique is that they are a company that was started to specifically address the home theater market. SIM2 developed projectors from the ground up with features that specifically benefit the home user rather than many of their competitors, who have adapted models most often seen in the conference rooms of professional companies.

The HT200 is a dual mode projector, which can process signals from both 4:3 and 16:9 sources. It incorporates a six-segment color wheel with two segments of each of the red, green and blue colors. The color wheel travels at a standard 3,000 RPM yet the added color segments emulate a wheel turning at twice the speed. This feature reduces the rainbow effect and color separation artifacts that plague many DLP projectors. This effect is best recognized when viewing information from the corner of your eye or peripherally. Rainbow effect will make your image appear to flicker and look less than natural. In addition, the HT200 DM provides double keystone adjustment, allowing for much greater correction of projector positions. This is accomplished by both optical and digital correction. In many home applications, we are forced to place the projector in less than recommended locations, such as on higher ceilings and/or perhaps not perfectly centered on the screen. The keystone feature allows for much greater correction capability. Additionally, the HT200 DM boasts an impressive contrast ratio of 600:1. It provides selectable aspect ratios for 4:3, 16:9, anamorphic, and a unique feature of three additional user-defined aspect ratios for those who prefer finite adjustments.

A significant feature that makes the SIM2 HT200 unique is its sealed lens assembly. Most all DLP projectors have a sealed lens, but what makes the Seleco projector unique is that the entire light path is sealed including the DLP chip and color wheel. This patented design is exclusive to SIM2’s line of DLP projectors. This feature improves black level and virtually eliminates contamination that can degrade your picture over time. Additionally this feature allows Seleco to eliminate air filters that can reduce airflow and later reduce the life of the bulb.

The HT200 incorporates a new lamp that is designed to last 6000 hours. It has a power consumption of 120W with a bulb replacement cost of $599. Focusing is a breeze with the HT200 DM’s remote-controlled, motorized adjustment. There is even an optical zoom, in case you want to catch that important cinematic detail.

The Movies
My reference theater system typically consists of a Sony VPH1270Q seven-inch CRT video projector, which I run through a Faroudja NR Series Scaler. My theater is a dedicated room with no windows, allowing for complete darkness, which is the best possible viewing condition for a front-projection system. I recently hung a 90-inch Stewart Filmscreen Studiotek 130, an excellent 1.3 gain screen for use with a CRT projector of this caliber. Once final plans to review the HT200 DM were made, Stewart Filmscreen provided their Greyhawk screen, the industry reference for DLP projection because of its lower gain of .95, texture and color all of which optimize the performance of a DLP projection system.

Setup of the SIM2 HT200 DM was incredibly simple, compared to that of my CRT, which requires an apprenticeship in video projection and a couple hundred hours of practice to perform even the simplest of tasks. The setup simplicity of the SIM2 was a welcome treat. The HT200 can either be ceiling-mounted or table-mounted, depending on your room requirements and desires. Because of my room constraints and because I have my CRT mounted on the ceiling of my theater, it was decided that we’d place the HT200 DM on a sturdy table behind the viewing positions. As with any DLP projector, it is advised that for best viewing, seating positions should be at least two times the diagonal measurement of your viewing screen from the picture. In my case, I was running a 90-inch 4:3 screen, so the recommended viewing distance was 180 inches or 15 feet. However, out of necessity I was forced to be positioned about 12 feet from the viewing screen. For a digital source, I used the recently reviewed Kenwood DV-5700 DVD player, with its impressive Faroudja DCDi deinterlacer and video enhancement technology. I found that this $1,500 video source provided an exceptional digital source for this review. For setup, we ran through a series of onscreen menus that were as easy as a simple DVD player setup. Within minutes, we were off to the races.

I started with Santana’s "Supernatural Live" (Arista)(DTS), a music DVD that I often use for video evaluation as well, due to its intensely colorful stage and other visual details. I started with the tune "Smooth/Dame Tu Amor," which uses the vocals of Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas. I quickly recognized the difference between this video technology and my CRT projection. The colors are incredibly vivid with tremendous brightness when compared to my CRT. I found in particular that reds are opulently rich and had great contrast. Colors have depth and seem to want to jump off the screen. There is much greater detail in images such as Santana’s red and orange tiger patterned Paul Reed Smith guitar as well as fine detailed skin textures in close-ups.

I watched this summer’s animated masterpiece "Shrek" (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) the day that I received the HT200 DM for review. This film showcases many of the HT200 DM’s strengths. One of the negative aspects experienced with CRT projectors, both front and rear projection, is the lack of brightness and the tendency of colors to become washed out in rooms that are not completely dark. This has improved in recent years, with rear-projected CRT screens, but even the brightest CRT front projection devices can suffer. The HT200 DM is bright and provides great color depth. In the scene where Shrek attempts to cross the bridge to enter the dragon-guarded castle, the reds in the molting lava are absolutely brilliant. Colors from Shrek's green skin to the blue surrounding sky are radiant. Brightness and color contrast are significant strengths of the HT200 DM. As explained earlier, DLP provides images by reflecting light off micro-mirrors on the DLP chip. When projected onto large screens, each mirror is visible when viewed very closely. This is why the recommended viewing distance is as great as it is. If you walk up to the screen, in my case a 90-inch diagonal screen, you can see little squares of information with tiny gaps between. In my case, these squares measured about an eighth of an inch. When viewed from the recommended distance, these squares will disappear, but remnants remain in the form of jagged edges. This effect is most obvious on smaller images like distant objects. In the case of "Shrek," I found the images exceptional in most aspects but they can lack three-dimensionality, as the edges of an object are most responsible for depth. This is not a negative aspect of the HT200 DM, but rather a byproduct of DLP technology. It must also be understood that 90 inches makes for a very large picture and smaller pictures will only serve to reduce this effect. I did play with de-focusing the projector, as some prefer to run DLP in this mode. I find that it makes the picture more filmlike, eliminating some of the jaggedness from the image edges, but it also eliminates a positive aspect of the HT200 DM in its superb detail. In its perfectly focused mode, I could see textures on walls and skin textures on faces, which is very engaging. I ultimately could not justify defocusing.

I used the movie "A Few Good Men" (Columbia/Tristar Home Entertainment) to further evaluate the HT200 with non-animated information. As with other movies, the SIM2 HT200 DM provides a picture with great detail and color accuracy. The many flesh tones in the courtroom are very lucid and perhaps lustrous with its rich detail. This movie also provides an adequate stage for evaluating the projector’s ability to reproduce both black and white information. DLP falls short of CRT technology in its ability to reproduce deep black information. As mentioned earlier, Stewart Filmscreen manufactures a screen specifically for DLP applications called the Greyhawk. This screen is designed to improve detail, color, and provide greater contrast between black and white. Its off-white surface fools the brain into seeing blacks as being much darker than they are, maintaining the brightness of the whites. After viewing the DLP projected on my Stewart Studiotek 130 and also on an inexpensive conference room screen, I would highly recommend that you complement your DLP investment with an appropriately matched screen, such as the Stewart Greyhawk.

The Downside
The SIM2 HT200 is an affordable solution for many home theater applications. Its 800 x 600 resolution capability can more than optimize your DVD’s requirement of 480 x 848. However, its DLP chip is not capable of the resolutions necessary for high-definition television in either 720p or 1080i. This may or may not be an issue for you. There is no denying that HDTV is a fantastic new format that yields incredible realistic video. Many may argue that there isn’t enough high-definition content to make HDTV a current concern. I strongly disagree with this notion, as there are many new primetime shows that are now available with many more to follow. ABC is broadcasting their entire prime-time lineup for 2001 in 720p resolution. For those who have yet to view this new television format, you will want to consider this before purchasing your theater projection system. On the other hand, projectors possessing the new Texas Instruments HD-1 DLP chip, which is capable of these new startling resolutions, are considerably more expensive. In the case of SIM2’s HT300, this projector is close to double the cost of the HT200 DM, at $14,995.

Conclusion
Front projection is a sensational way to turn your home into a movie theater. It offers a solution for those who prefer a large picture but can’t accept the enormous boxes associated with rear-projected sets. The fact is that rear-projected CRT televisions are getting better and the prices are coming down, yet if you want 60 inches or more, the units are as large as a car. And, let’s face it, these units just aren't as dramatic as projecting on a screen. Front projection offers the additional convenience of allowing you to mount a recessed screen that comes from a slot in your ceiling. There is nothing cooler in home theater than pushing a button and having a screen appear from nowhere.

The SIM2 HT200 DM is physically the best-looking unit on the market. It is dressed in a great package and is small enough to fit into all homes. It is easy to install and setup is a snap for even the most challenged. The picture is bright and colors are sensational. There is no denying that front CRT projection provides a more film-like picture, yet new seven-inch CRT's will run you as much as twice the cost of the HT200 DM and in many cases much more. With the HT200 DM, images can have somewhat coarse external edges due to the DLP technology, but when viewed from appropriate distances, this effect is minimal and is something that you will unquestionably overlook to get the huge picture that it provides. In homes that are bright with many windows, you might want to audition this unit first. You must understand, however, that there is no brighter front projector in or even anywhere near its price range.

A significant concern is that this projector is not HDTV compatible. It will project images that it receives from a HD source yet it downscales these images to the maximum resolution of the chip, in this case 480 x 848. This means that it takes a 1080i source and downscales it to 480P. In the case of 1080i this is slightly less dramatic than 720P as the deinterlaced resolution of a 1080i signal is as low as 540P, where as the standard 720P signal gets cut extensively to nearly half its native resolution.

SIM2 markets this projector as the ideal solution for every format with the exception of HDTV, a format that has yet to offer a significant amount of available programming.

I personally would think twice about purchasing this projector because I have seen the outstanding resolution that HDTV provides. However, I would strongly consider the SIM2 HT300 coming soon, or a number of other units on the market, which will display 1080i and 720p high-resolution formats. If HDTV interests you, you might consider dishing out the extra dollars, however substantial, to own a piece of the future.

You have heard the phrase "plug and play," and I feel that the HT200 DM is exactly that. Place it on a table or mount it on the ceiling and you are doing movies like the pros. Because the HT200 DM was designed specifically for home theater, it has features that make this unit the premier DLP projector for the home. If large is what you are looking for and HD is either of little concern or you feel that it is beyond your current price range, then the HT200 DM is my recommendation. It then requires only a bucket of popcorn and a shared armrest from the complete cinema experience.
Manufacturer Sim2
Model Grand Cinema HT200 DM DLP Video Projector
Reviewer Bryan Southard





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