DLP technology is capable of producing a beautiful picture, but some folks can’t abide a single-chip display because of the so-called “rainbow” artifacts created by the spinning color wheel. (The color wheel consists of red, green, and blue filters that alternately come between the white lamp and the single DLP chip, which forms the image for each color sequentially. This happens fast enough so that we perceive a full-color image, but some people occasionally see momentary rainbows arising from the use of a color wheel.) The obvious solution is to use three chips—one each for red, green, and blue—but triple-chip projectors have traditionally been out of reach for all but the most well heeled.
Recently, the downward pricing trend for all video displays has started to affect 3-chip DLP projectors, bringing several under the $20k mark. Among them is SIM2’s C3X, which is available in three versions: Lite ($15,990 with lens and 150W lamp), Link ($23,990 with lens, 250W lamp, and outboard input/processor box), and the standard model reviewed here ($19,990 with lens and 250W lamp).
All versions of the C3X use 1280x720 DMDs (Digital Micromirror Devices) with DarkChip3 enhancements, providing the best black level currently available from DLP technology. Buyers have their choice of lenses: short-throw (called T1) for projection distances from 10 to 50 feet and long-throw (T2) for distances from 13 to 75 feet. Our review sample had the long-throw lens, and the projection distance was about 13 feet.
The image can be vertically shifted up and down with a manual control on the projector body. Zoom and focus are motorized, which is nice. However, the minimum zoom increment is rather coarse, making it difficult to fit the image to the screen without moving the unit forward or back.
The input complement is pretty skimpy for a $20k projector, with only one each of HDMI, component/RGB, S-video, composite, and VGA. (The Link version’s outboard processor provides many more inputs.) It also has an RS232 and USB port, which is good for advanced control systems such as Crestron and AMX.
The C3X provides many aspect- ratio settings, including three user-programmable settings with separate horizontal and vertical controls. Also available are nine gamma settings (including one user-programmable setting), which are optimized for TV, movies, or computer graphics.
The illuminated remote is a smallish affair with a single toggling power button. The numeric keypad is used to select the input; I would have preferred the input buttons to be labeled Hdmi, Component, etc. Still, the ability to directly select inputs is better than scrolling or cycling through a list, so I can’t complain too much. Two function buttons can be assigned to various duties; they default to Zoom and Focus (with corresponding labels on the body of the remote). They can also be assigned to call up the Color Temperature and Gamma menus as well as magnify or blank the image, though the default labels become confusing if you change the buttons’ functions.
Other dedicated buttons include some that are a waste of remote real estate, such as Freeze (freezes the image), and Blank (blanks the screen). Most are identified with cryptic icons rather than text labels, which solves the problem of selling the product in different countries, but it can be confusing.
Oddly, the menu system is called up by pressing either the + or – buttons, which also cycle through the different menus. For the most part, the menus are well organized and easy to navigate with the up/down/right/left arrow buttons. I never had any trouble finding my way around the menu system. When a picture parameter is adjusted (Brigh tness, Contrast, etc.), the menu disappears, leaving only the selected control at the bottom of the screen, which is great.
To position a projector and adjust the image to fit the screen, I normally feed it a white-on-black crosshatch test pattern. As I was positioning the C3X, I immediately saw some serious chromatic aberration, which manifested as green and red fringes surrounding white lines.
Horizontally, the aberration was not evident in the center of the image, getting worse toward the sides. Vertically, the bottom of the image looked fine, but things got pretty bad at the top. In fact, this problem occasionally impacted normal program material.
The black level was not quite as low as I’ve seen on other DarkChip3 models. Admittedly, the screen I used with the C3X is at the small end of the appropriate size range, and on a larger screen, the black level would be lower (along with the peak white level, which could stand to lose about 10fL or so in a completely dark room). Even so, the blacks subjectively looked quite good.