There are two steps to high-end projection TV heaven. Step 1: get the latest projector that video guru and industry veteran Joe Kane helped design. Step 2: have Joe Kane personally install and set up/calibrate same, all the while telling you about the product and why it’s superior to the competition. Such was the case this past summer, when, after quite a lengthy gestation period, Samsung finally released its SP-A800B single-chip 1080p DLP projector.
Many video enthusiasts know Joe Kane from his various test and evaluation discs, first of the laser disc variety way back when that was the best quality home video format, followed by DVDs and then most recently on high-def Blu-ray and HD-DVD. But, few know that Mr. Kane also consults with numerous HDTV manufacturers, often quietly in the background, advising them on how to make betterlooking HD displays.
The SP-A800B isn’t the first projector that Samsung has had Joe Kane involved with (an earlier 720p DLP projector was the SP-A800B’s precursor), but with this latest effort, top-end single chip DLP projector performance has been elevated substantially.
For optimum picture quality with a twopiece front projection system, a full precalibration and post-calibration analysis is a must, as the screen adds variability to the mix (two piece means just that, as the projector and the screen together decide the resulting picture quality—one can’t be evaluated without factoring in the other).
For this reason, Joe had inquired in advance of his visit as to what screen I had on hand. Actually, I have three screens on hand here, all from Stewart Filmscreen, with the principal screen being the company’s deluxe CineCurve variable aspect ratio model, outfitted with its Firehawk G3 screen material. Joe indicated his liking for either of his preferred (and Joe Kane Productions-badged) screens (Stewart’s StudioTek 130 and Grayhawk RS), both of which I also have on hand, so we set up the system with the Grayhawk RS screen.
Ordinarily the calibration process is both time-consuming and extensive, with numerous measurements made, followed by various tweakings of the display’s settings, more measurements and tweaking and so forth. In this case, however, the entire process was made ever so much faster and simpler due to the projector’s unique single-step calibration regimen. Within minutes, we had measured the color characteristics of the six principal colors (red, green and blue primaries, and cyan, yellow, and magenta secondaries) and then white, and entered the measured values into fields in the projector’s service menu. A push of a button and the projector calibrated itself in an instant, adjusting all of the six color points and the white point at the same time. A quick check afterwards showed indeed that the white point (gray scale) and the colorimetry were indeed spot on, putting the SP-A800B into the absolute top rank, with post-calibration results the best I’ve ever seen from any display, front projector or otherwise.
Ovoid-shaped, as is the projector itself, the remote control features backlighting (always a good thing for a front projector, presumed to be used in a darkened, light-controlled room). It includes discrete power on and off buttons, which makes it compatible with external third-part controllers and system remotes where startup and shutdown sequences can be programmed. And, it has discrete input buttons, another plus. The layout is sensible, although I wish both the buttons and labeling were somewhat larger, but overall it’s one of the better-designed projector remote controls I’ve come across.
Typically Samsung, which means typically excellent, with logical and sensible groupings, clear and easy to find sub-menus, with concise information available that includes full disclosure about the incoming video signal—especially useful to ensure that the source components are properly configured and a feature I wish that all highdefinition displays provided. Often, with HDMI connections, source components and the display don’t quite get the hookup handshake just right, which can result in the source component putting out a computer-type video signal (which differs from a video source signal in terms of below-black and above-white capability). If that occurs, it’s impossible to properly adjust brightness and contrast.
In order to properly adjust any display, you’ll need a good test disc. When Joe Kane comes to visit to assist in the Samsung projector setup, the only choice is, of course, his Digital Video Essentials HD Basics, which includes all of the test patterns necessary to match the projector to the screen, as well as fine-tuning the source.