Higher contrast and anamorphic widescreen compatibility sets Samsung's step-up SPA-900B apart from the still-available SPA-800B.
Consider the SP-A900B a “tweaked” version of the well-regarded SP-A800B front projector (reviewed in Playback issue 12); it is the latest collaboration between Samsung and noted video guru Joe Kane. Indeed this latest model now bears the Joe Kane Productions logo along with a “Special Edition” moniker on the projector’s front panel.
Mr. Kane and Samsung have succeeded in improving an otherwise excellent projector, and have added a few new features that are of interest to both home theater enthusiasts as well as the Hollywood film-to-video post-production community. First off, the SP-A900B now sports Mode 1 anamorphic vertical stretch processing, which allows true 2.40:1 widescreen presentations with a suitably wide screen and an outboard anamorphic lens—that takes care of the # 1 gripe that I have with the SP-A800B model. This latest version also features improved contrast, with a quoted spec of 35% practical contrast increase compared to the SP-A800B.
Finally, the SP-A900B now features the ability to scale HDMI sources for both HD video and computer/PC video – consumer HD video is encoded over the range of 16-234 levels, while PC video is encoded over a 0-255 range. Having both range choices allows proper black levels and optimum contrast for each video encoding method.
Consider this projector if: you’d like the anamorphic widescreen compatibility, a feature missing on the lower-cost SPA-800B. The increased contrast over the SPA-800B is also noteworthy.
Look elsewhere if: you’re on a budget as the Samsung is most definitely premium-priced for a single chip 1080p DLP projector.
With the anamorphic vertical stretch scaling I can use the SP-A900B along with my Stewart CineCurve 2.40:1 widescreen and an outboard Panamorph anamorphic lens to enjoy widescreen movies in their original theatrical presentation, with no black bars above and below the image. For home theater fans, that’s one of the SP-A900B’s two main advantages over the lesser SP-A800B model.
The other significant improvement is the improved contrast, which helps produce better deep blacks. While the SP-A800B is a very good performer in this regard, the step-up SP-A900B model is noticeably better.
The marvelous self-calibration function is carried over from the SP-A800B, which chops the calibration time down from a couple of hours to perhaps five minutes or so, and the post-calibration results produce outstandingly accurate scores that match to the highest possible degree the specifications of the HD video standard, qualifying the SP-A900B as a true reference grade display device. A color analyzer is required however, so you’ll still need the services of a competent calibration expert to get everything dialed in just right—something you’d want to do anyway with a front projector of this caliber.