With the projection market getting ever more cut-throat, it's perhaps rather surprising that Samsung should decide now to hit the UK with the £2,600 SP-A800B. If any brand has the muscle and know-how to make an impact, though, it's got to be Samsung. Right?
As we'd expect, Samsung has made its projector look rather lovely, thanks to the application to its surprisingly large bodywork of curves and a shiny, semi-translucent finish.
The A800B is also pretty well specified. It's a 1,920x1,080-pixel model with a strikingly high claimed contrast of 10,000:1. Plus, it's had its colour settings fine-tuned by none other than Joe Kane, the man responsible for the popular Video Essentials DVD used by countless AV-loving households to optimise their video gear setups.
The inclusion of two HDMI sockets among the A800B's connections keeps the smile on our faces, too. That smile widens as we watch it in action. Bringing Joe Kane on board for image tuning appears to have been a masterstroke, as the A800B produces the most outstandingly authentic colour tones we've seen on such an affordable projector. Subtle skin tones are immaculate under all lighting conditions; rich reds and blues glow with health but never look over the top; and the shading subtleties are pitch perfect, with not even a hint of a colour striping.
The A800B is also outstanding at reproducing the sort of low-level shadow details that give dark scenes life, depth and authenticity. Actually, the projector is terrific at reproducing detailing of all types, with good quality high-definition pictures looking absolutely pin-sharp -- all without any obvious processing noise or grain to spoil their clarity.
The A800B's final plus point is its quietness; affordable projectors that emit so little running noise are rare.
Oddly, the A800B provides neither horizontal image shifting nor digital keystone correction, meaning you could find it impossible to get the edges of the image looking nice and straight rather than diagonal. We also failed during set up to find a 12V trigger jack for firing up an attached motorised screen.
After our initial excitement over some aspects of the A800B's pictures, we started to discern one or two problems there as well. The worst is that while dark scenes may possess plenty of detail, they also look grey when up against the best of the recent DLP projection crop. This has a knock on effect with pictures that contain a mixture of bright and dark elements, too, as they fail to look as punchy or dynamic as we've seen them look elsewhere.
The reason for these slightly bland black levels could be the A800B's decision to use a Texas Instruments DarkChip 2 system rather than the newer DarkChip 3 incarnation. You can introduce more depth to black levels if you call in a 'DynamicBlack' function, but during our tests this made the picture suffer sometimes quite distracting brightness jumps.
Another area where the A800B could do better is motion, as there appears to be some gentle blurring going on when moving objects are shown, especially during camera pans.
Our last issue with the A800B concerns DLP's rainbow effect. Even though the projector uses a six-segment colour wheel, we still occasionally felt rather aware of tell-tale stripes of pure red and blue flitting around in our peripheral vision, especially over particularly bright parts of the picture.
See the A800B in isolation and you'll probably be blown away by it. It's a genuine benchmark product when it comes to colour response. But if you spend a little time testing other projectors in the same portion of the market, you'll realise that while certain aspects of the A800B are impressive, similarly priced products are even better still.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday