1080p Home Theater
November 3, 2008
Features and Advantages
Color gamut. No 1080p projector that we've tested can match the wide color gamut of the SP-A800B. The ability to match and reproduce colors according to HD color specifications is a key strength of this projector, and in this respect it outperforms every other home theater projector we've seen under $10,000. We'd suspect it beats many projectors well above this price point as well.
Natural color. Related to the wide color gamut is the ability to deliver natural, realistic color, with a particularly impressive capability to define subtle differences in flesh tones. Competing units can come close to matching the SP-A800B's color accuracy, but none will exceed it.
Lumen output. The SP-A800B puts out a very bright picture in video optimized modes of operation. In Movie 1, which is optimized for color film and vido display, we measured 568 lumens. This is much brighter than many home theater projectors when they are calibrated to optimum color performance. In Movie 2, which is warmer toned for black/white films, it measured a bit higher--600 lumens.
On most projectors, Dynamic mode boosts lumen output at the sacrifice of color, but not on this one. Dynamic measured a bit lower at 520 lumens, and it did so at the cost of color accuracy. Thus, there is not a super-high lumen output mode for ambient light conditions as there is on some competing models. The SP-A800B was made for great dark room theater viewing.
The SP-A800B has a low lamp mode that reduces lumen output by 20%. It also has a relatively short 1.25x zoom lens which can have a minor impact on brightness--at the telephoto end of the zoom lens, brightness is curtailed by 8% from the widest angle setting.
Samsung SP-A800B Connection Panel
Sharpness. The SP-A800B has excellent optics. Viewed up close, the pixel structure on this unit is as well-defined as it gets, probably better than any DLP product we've seen. However, despite the outstanding optics, the projector has less than state-of-the-art contrast, as well as a subtle graininess in the image. These factors tend to compromise the impression of image sharpness (more on this below). The bottom line is that while the optical precision of the lens on the SP-A800B exceeds that of the lenses found on competing 1080p models such as the Sony VPL-HW10 and the Panasonic AE3000, the overall impression of image sharpness is comparable on all three models.
Brightness uniformity. Screen illumination is impressively even. On our test unit, there was no variation in brightness from top to bottom. Horizontally, the left side of the image was less bright than the center of the image by about 5%, and the right side was brighter than the center by about 5%. These subtle changes in brightness can only be detected with a light meter. When one looks at a solid white or gray field, illumination looks perfectly even with no trace of hotspotting.
Movie 2 Mode for B/W. Classic black and white films are best viewed at a warmer color temperature than we use for color films. In your home theater, you've got to see Casino Royale or Batman at 6500 degrees. But when Casablanca is displayed on a projector calibrated to the color standard 6500, it looks cold and uninviting, and certainly not as attractive as it does with a warmer color temperature. One of the common oversights of home theater projector manufacturers is the failure to include a precalibrated operating closer to 5500 degrees, which can be easily selected when black and white films are being viewed. This imparts a warmer tone to the image, and makes the viewing of B/W classics a much more satisfying experience. In addition, most projection light sources in commercial theaters back in the 1940s are thought to have been warmer than they are today. So the viewing of a B/W film at 5500 degrees replicates the look that audiences actually experienced back then. The SP-A800B's Movie 2 mode, calibrated to 5500 degrees, reflects Mr. Kane's sensitivity to this issue.
User Interface. The menu design is elegant and easy to use, and the remote control feels good in the hand and is easy to manipulate once you've had some time getting used to it. The projector responds to the remote bounced from the screen at a distance of at least 20 feet.
Though it is effective, the remote control is not one of our favorites. Buttons are spaced apart, which is good. However, they are small and the text on the buttons may be difficult to see in the dark for some users. There is backlighting, but it can only be activated by a small backlight button, which happens to be right next to the Power Off button. Once you get the hang of it, you can distinguish between the two in the dark. It's not bad, but we've seen more user friendly remotes.