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New 'Joe Kane projector' coming soon

Samsung is releasing an updated version of the highest-rated projector from 2008, designed with input from video guru Joe Kane.

The high-end Samsung SP-A900 will be available this month from select retailers. Samsung

Last year we awarded our Editors' Choice among front projectors to the Samsung SP-A800, saying the unit "outperforms every projector in its class hands-down." Its successor, the SP-A900, is coming soon, and we expect the new model to offer even better picture quality. For well-heeled home theater enthusiasts, the new SP-A900 will likely be the new Holy Grail of projection performance.

That expectation is based on the fact that both the SP-A800 and SP-A900 were designed with significant input from video guru Joe Kane who, among other accomplishments, created the reference calibration series Digital Video Essentials, including the "HD Basics" Blu-ray we use in every HDTV review at CNET. Mr. Kane is passionate about picture quality in general and projectors in particular, and that passion showed through on the SP-A800, which displayed the most accurate color we'd ever tested on a projector.

The principal improvement over the SP-A800, which will remain in the line, is the A900's use of Texas Instruments' latest DLP chip, dubbed DarkChip 4. As the name implies, the new chip will enable darker blacks, which improve the contrast ratio spec from 10,000:1 on the 800 to 12,000:1 on the 900, which the company claims produces a "35 percent improvement in practical contrast."

The SP-A800's estimated selling price is $9,999, while the SP-A900 will cost $12,999. The latter should be available later this month.

Samsung says both projectors will continue to be available only through select specialty retailers. According to the company's spokesman, "We limited the distribution to a small group of high-end home theater rep firms that can provide the necessary pre- and post-sales support." More information is available at the official distribution Web site.

The spokesman said he expects to be able to get CNET an SP-A900 review sample by IncoComm in mid-June.