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The world is full of big-screen plasma and LCD televisions trying to encourage us to part with our cash. But why bother with a 60-inch or above TV when you can have the ultimate in home cinema for not much more? The three-chip DLP projector is currently the last word in bringing the excitement of the multiplex to the comfort of your own home.
The Sim2 C3X is just such a projector, and one that not only offers you all of the above, but does so very close to the bottom end of the three-chip price scale. So while we'd be hard pushed to claim that £13,000 is a steal, it does offer excellent value for money when you consider what you are getting.
One of the first things the Sim2 C3X offers is Italian design to die for. Whatever other manufacturers may offer in terms of features, specifications and performance, there's not a projector on the market that can touch this beauty when it comes to good looks. The smooth contours and curvaceous styling really make this projector a talking piece, which is unfortunate considering that most potential buyers will shove it out of the way on the ceiling.
Perhaps more importantly is the fact that the build quality is a mark of Italian craftsmanship -- think more Ferrari than Fiat. It's remarkably compact and light for a three-chip DLP projector, which once again has advantages if you were going to give the C3X the benefit of ceiling mounting it, where it will perform best.
Connection options are also first rate, with most of the requisite boxes ticked, however with this kind of set up you're not going to want wires spewing out of the back of your ceiling-mounted high-end toy, so it's only a single important socket that we need concern ourselves with -- the HDCP-compliant HDMI input. Having this on board means that you'll be able to access high-definition video, whether from a disc source such as up-sampled DVD or from the new HD broadcasts promised soon from Telewest and Sky. As expected, this high-end projector is compatible with both the 720p and 1080i formats that these services will use.
The really clever stuff is in the proprietary technology that's tucked away inside, the highlight of which is including the new Alpha Path light route. This nifty design allows for the longest possible light path -- between the lamp and the chip -- through the use of folding mirrors that bend the light beam to the required position along the optic path. What this means is that the boffins at Sim2 have more control over any possible aberrations in the optics, therefore hopefully resulting in improved picture quality.
Also inside the highly attractive, Italian-styled casing lurks a trio of Texas Instruments HD2+ DarkChip 3 chips, the latest and greatest in digital light projection. And because of Sim2's close relationship with TI, they get first call on the chips, and get to work their own magic around them before the projector hits the stores. With a resolution of 1280x720, these chips are capable of producing amazingly sharp and cinematic images, and can cope with all the forthcoming high-definition standards, which if you are looking at any kind of projector or large screen plasma or LCD is vital at this present time, with the promise of hi-def only just around the corner.
There's also a specially designed 250W lamp in there, which is considerably brighter than most of the competition and really adds to the viewing experience. Lamp life isn't the best at a claimed 1500 hours, but this isn't the kind of projector that you're likely to use to watch Emmerdale on -- it's a big time projector for blockbuster movies and major sporting events.
It also doesn't seem to matter how large your room is, because unlike some lesser products the C3X offers an amazing level of throw (the distance away from the screen you can site the projector), with up to 20m not being a problem, especially with the optional Type 2 lens attached. In fact, the C3X is used in some cinemas to project the adverts before the main attraction. However at only a few metres from the screen, the C3X also provides an excellent, if smaller, image.
The Alpha Path light route does its job well, and results in better contrast and deeper, darker blacks than we've encountered on any other projector at this, or nearly any other price point. With high-contrast footage such as the latest instalment of Star Wars, with the C3X there's a strong clarity to the picture.
The whole system is amazingly quiet, with little in the way of fan noise getting in the way of viewing, even with quieter discs such as the excellent Blue Planet series, which again benefits from crystal clear images, especially when viewed on a DVD player that can upscale to 1080i.
The word cinematic often gets bandied about when it comes to projectors, but the C3X offers something that really is close to the experience of sitting in a cinema. The image with a good quality DVD disc is full of texture and depth, with all the data up there on the screen for you to scrutinise.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield