Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The highest praise we can give a digital home theater projector is that it appears "film-like." While this property is highly sought after, it is hard to quantify. It describes a projector that, quite simply, reminds its viewers of watching actual film rather than digital video sources. A film-like projector makes it all too easy to suspend disbelief and become completely absorbed in the movie on the screen. Samsung's new projector, the SP-H710AE, creates a beautifully smooth picture that is not only three-dimensional, but definitely film-like. And at an MSRP of $4,000, this projector presents an attractive option for viewing rooms with moderately large screens and good control of ambient light.
Specifications. 700 ANSI lumens, 2,500:1 contrast, native 16:9 widescreen format, 1280x720 resolution DLP chip with a 5x speed six-segment color wheel.
Compatibility. HDTV 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i. Full NTSC / PAL / SECAM.
Lens and Throw Distance. 1.30:1 manual zoom/focus lens. Throws a 100" diagonal image from 11.3 feet to 15 feet.
Lamp Life. 2,000 hours.
Connection Panel. One composite video, one S-Video, two component video, one DVI (HDCP) port, one RS-232 port.
Installation Options. Table mount, rear shelf mount, ceiling mount.
Warranty. Two years.
General Impressions / Feature Set
As soon as we got the SP-H710AE out of the box, we noticed that the projector felt solidly constructed. The zoom and focus rings had no play in them, and the entire projector felt tightly put together. Weighing in at a hefty 20lbs, the H710 is designed for a permanent or semi-permanent installation, and not to be hauled between houses for Sunday football games.
The H710 offers a lens shift range of roughly 2.5 screen heights - in other words, from neutral position, the image can be shifted 1.25 screen heights either up or down (neutral position is when the centerline of the lens and the center of the image are at the same height). This is an impressive range, and allows for excellent flexibility for placement of the projector without resorting to drop-tube ceiling mounts or tilting the projector and applying keystone correction.
The 1.3:1 zoom range will allow you to cast a 100" diagonal 16:9 image anywhere from 11.3' to 15' from the screen. This, combined with the lens shift capability, makes the H710 ideal for a rear shelf mount. Since the H710 can throw a 100" diagonal from up to 15 feet, it can be placed up on a rear shelf and still provide enough space for you to sit as far back as 1.9x the screen width without getting too close to your projector. This also allows you to keep the lens shift close to the neutral position, which will optimize lumen output and brightness uniformity. As an added bonus, you can place all of your video equipment on the same set of shelves, thereby minimizing the length of your cables.
The H710 can be a nearly silent projector. Theater mode drops noise output to 28dB, which is just above the level of a human whisper. In bright mode, noise output is 32dB. This is significantly louder, however with enough distance between the audience and the projector, even bright mode's 32dB would not be objectionable for most users. [BAN1]
While a good projector does not necessarily depend on a good remote control, it always helps to have an ergonomically-pleasing, functional remote to work with. The H710's remote is as solid as the projector itself, and each button press returns a soft audible "click" that ensures there are no false presses. Buttons are logically laid out, and the entire remote glows softly when the backlight key is pressed. While there are direct access buttons for the projector's sources and some common image adjustments, these buttons do not overwhelm the remote with clutter.
Likewise, the menu system is simple and elegant. Options are divided up into categories, which are represented by tabs in a sidebar. With options for everything from color temperature fine tuning to gamma control to a way to label the projector's sources, the H710's menu manages to cover every option under the sun without looking crowded.
The H710 is designed for the home theater purist--the videophile seeking the best image quality that the budget will allow. The projector is designed to be used in a darkened theater space with moderately large screen sizes. It carries a theoretical 700 ANSI lumens rating, and in bright mode we measured an actual light output of 580 ANSI lumens. Switching to "theater" mode netted a respectable 465 ANSI lumens. So the H710's actual lumen output is much closer to its theoretical maximum than is the case for most competing home theater projectors. In reality, the H710 puts out more light than many models rated at 1000 lumens or more. So buyers should not try to compare the H710 to other models based on the official specifications.
The H710 has enough lumen power to light up a 120" diagonal 16:9 screen, and even larger if you desire a very big image. However, this unit is built to deliver maximum image quality, and image quality always degrades degrades on any projector as you increase the size of the image. For our taste, in order to obtain the best results, we would prefer to use the H710 with a screen size in the 100" to 120" range.
Brightness uniformity is an impressive 88% when the H710's lens shift is in the neutral position. When the lens shift is set to one of the extremes of its shift range, brightness uniformity drops to between 75% and 78%. There is no hotspotting or distracting fade at the extremes, but it is better to avoid an installation that requires use of the extreme ends of the shift range if you have a choice.
The H710's contrast rating is only 2500:1, but it produces an image that is comparable in contrast with other projectors rated up to 5000:1. Shadow detail is very well defined, and black level is deep and inky. Even especially dark scenes were a pleasure to watch on the H710. We did find it useful to change the gamma settings, as occasionally the projector suppresses an image's midtones. Adjusting gamma corrected this minor annoyance.
Adjusting color on the H710 took all of five seconds. After taking green down a few notches, white balance needed no further adjustment. Color accuracy is top notch and grayscale tracking is consistently good, with near-perfect 6500K readings from 30IRE to 90IRE. 10, 20, and 100IRE are biased by a few hundred degrees, but this is unnoticeable in the viewing experience.
Internal scaling is outstanding on the H710. DVD source material was upscaled to a sharp, detail-rich image, and HDTV 1080i is compressed into a beautiful, clean high resolution image. While many projectors yield better results when used with an upscaling DVD player or video processor, this is not necessary with the H710.
Deinterlacing was mostly acceptable, with some small quirks. For example, the H710 produced a cleaner, sharper image with component progressive-scan than with a component interlaced signal. There is more image noise and dithering with an interlaced signal, while switching to progressive-scan eliminates most of this noise. Of course, users of this projector will be particularly interested in achieving the best possible picture quality, and for that the DVI connection is the best choice. This not only avoids the projector's deinterlacing quirks, but also eliminates the D/A conversion, which cuts down the noise.
The H710 is an excellent projector that is ideal for darkened room home theater projection. The SP-H710AE is a videophile's projector, designed to be incorporated into a dedicated home theater, and packed with features to bring the best possible image quality for the price into your home. If you are looking for the best possible image you can afford, the H710 will not let you down. From a pure performance perspective, it gets 5 stars. However, in assigning a value rating we must take into account that there are home theater projectors selling for quite a bit less that can rival the H710 in its overall price/performance proposition. So it has been assigned four stars for comparative value.
If you are among the many new home theater enthusiasts looking for an inexpensive large screen solution, the H710 is probably not for you. However, if you are looking for an elegant picture from a truly premium product and are willing to pay extra for it, the H710 will reward you with one of the finest home theater pictures you will find anywhere under $5,000.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Samsung SP-H710AE projector page.