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Samsung SP-A900B review: Samsung SP-A900B

Samsung SP-A800B
The projector offers a pair of HDMI inputs and a PC input, among other connections.

Connectivity is adequate, with two HDMI and two component video inputs heading up the list. S-Video and composite inputs (one of each) are on tap for legacy formats like VHS and Laserdisc. Also onboard, a 15-pin VGA style input for use with a PC, and an RS-232 port is on tap, which will enable custom installers to program the projector's functions into a touch-panel remote system like a Crestron or AMX.

The SP-A900B is the fifth front projector that video guru Joe Kane designed for Samsung, and each new product surpasses the last in terms of picture quality. Compared with last year's SP-A800B, the 900B exhibits significantly increased contrast ratio by virtue of better black-level performance, thanks in large part to the new Dark Chip 4 DLP chip. As with its predecessor, the SP-A900B outperforms every other front projector, right up to the entry-level three-chip DLP units that start at a cool $30,000. Color accuracy, setup features, an excellent lens, and a lamp with high light output are all areas of performance that make the 900B superior to anything at or near its price range, including the $15,000 Sony VPL-VW200. Gamma, primary colors, and grayscale accuracy are all also superior to the Sony.

The only reason we didn't give the Samsung SP-A900B a perfect "10" in performance is because the best LCoS and LCD projectors still deliver superior black-level performance.

The Samsung's color fidelity is unmatched by any projector in its class both straight out of the box, prior to professional calibration, and of course afterward. In fact, the 900B has probably the most accurate picture of any projector I have ever tested if you simply choose the Movie 1 picture mode. Samsung is one of the few manufacturers of DLP projectors to incorporate a Texas Instruments utility for primary color correction. This utility allows technicians like me to dial in the primary colors, which in turn corrects the secondary colors, to near perfection. This makes the difference between good and great color accuracy. This feature, combined with all of the other performance parameters, makes the 900B capable of delivering astonishingly accurate and truly spectacular-looking color.

The opening scene from "The Dark Knight" on Blu-ray, for example, looked incredible with great snap and excellent color saturation. Chapter 2, which opens with a night shot of Chicago and then segues into a shot on the street at night, provided a real feel for how good the blacks are on this projector. Shadow detail also abounded in these scenes, and low-level noise was also kept at a minimum.

Next, I turned to the excellent transfer on Blu-ray of "The Departed." The opening scene in the diner is an excellent test for how well 24fps material, which includes most films, is handled by a projector's onboard video processing. When Nicholson waives the young girl over to him, the sharp right to left camera pan was rendered quite smoothly and film-like on the 900B, effectively eliminating the slight stuttering artifacts otherwise created by 2:3 pull-down.

High-quality cable HDTV channels, such as the YES channel here in New York, looked great as well. The grass on the field, for example, looked exceptionally realistic instead of the neon-like lime green most projectors reproduce. TCM (Turner Classic Movies) in HD provided ample opportunity to take advantage of the projector's awesome 5500 black and white grayscale setting. This setting gives you the sepia look that black and white film presentations deliver. Again I appreciated the great snap to the picture, indicating excellent contrast ratio. On color material, skin tones and colors were extremely realistic looking.

I began my evaluation of the 900B alone without an external video processor, and was quite impressed with its performance as far as video processing is concerned. It passed the Film and Video Loss tests from the Silicon Optix HQV Blu-ray test disc with flying colors, and also handled lower-quality standard-definition signals well. I then finished my observations with program material by using the DVDO VP50Pro, which is my current reference video processor.

Before color temp (20/80) 7056/7046 Average
After color temp 6607/6496 Good
Before grayscale variation 556; Average
After grayscale variation 162 Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.638/0.332 Good
Color of green 0.301/0.601 Good
Color of blue 0.152/0.067 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

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