They still exist, the good European brands, also in the video segment. SIM2 from near Trieste is a manufacturer that develops and produces in Italy. The last time I tested a SIM2 projector was a little over five years ago, but this was due to sales difficulties. To start with, the SIM2 Crystal4 Superhybrid projector is for testing. A piece of cream.
The special features of the SIM2 Crystal4 Superhybrid
Visually, the Crystal4 Superhybrid is a gem in the truest sense of the word: Italian design art that is not meant to be hidden in a dark cinema cave. The front, back, and top shine with real, cut crystal glass, and the whole thing floats on acrylic feet. Even the connections are hidden by a crystal glass tailgate.
The ribs on the sides are plastic when touched, but this is not visually noticeable. The connections are set back behind the cover, and there is a slit at the bottom (or at the top if you hang the projector under the ceiling) to discharge all cables unobtrusively. Important: The cables should not be too stiff or have oversized plugs. Otherwise, everything is wonderfully solid: solid furniture hinges guide and hold the heavy glass back, into which an infrared receiver is integrated.
The solid steel cone that holds the zoom lens is designed to keep out stray light through a short, black tunnel. It looks classy, but with manual focussing, it has the disadvantage that you partially cover the image you want to focus on with your hand. The reason: Depending on the zoom setting, you must reach deep into the tunnel to turn the focus ring.
The process itself is as smooth as butter, like a high-end camera. The zoom lever, which is sunk below the lens at the bottom of the housing and regulates the image size, is less fiddly but slightly simpler. The 1.6x zoom leaves room for maneuvering but less flexibility than LCD colleagues know. But no one in the LCD camp has such a noble design.
On the other hand, the housing cover has a countersunk Allen screw that adjusts the lens shift. SIM2 includes a corresponding key – just like the gloves, so you can position or hang up the shiny housing without fingerprints. With the adjustment options mentioned, the projector can be placed 1.4 to 2.24 times as far away from the screen as it is wide (16:9 format). The vertical position of the projector can be varied by up to 15 percent of the image height using a lens shift screw so that it can be hung slightly above the screen or placed on a table underneath.
The fact that the SIM2 Crystal4 Sh can be supplied in white also speaks in favor of installation under the ceiling, which makes it perfect for installation under a typical German living room ceiling.
The inner values: As is typical for SIM2, a purely digital DLP heart does its job here. A 0.66-inch DMD mirror chip works – as is common today with UHD resolution – together with an E-Shift mimic to assemble all 3840 x 2160 pixels. Full-HD is possible with up to 120 frames per second, with 4K with 60. So that the full DLP-typical in-image contrast also arrives on the screen, the images are projected with pure glass optics in a pin-sharp manner.
The light source is the eponymous super hybrid laser, Sh for short. This does its job by liquid cooling. The laser shoots pure blue (453nm) directly onto the screen and simultaneously stimulates a yellow phosphor to glow, the light from which is broken down into the other primary colors, red and green. As connoisseurs can already read from the spectrum, there is little separation between the light primary colors. Accordingly, the spectrograph exposes the engineers’ goal of trimming the display for brightness rather than maximum color space. And that’s a good thing because in the living room – the natural environment for this designer piece – there is always a certain amount of scattered and ambient light to be expected, and you can only get at it with even more light. The “crystal chandelier” emits up to 3,600 lumens and is significantly brighter than most of its competitors.
Like the living room projectors from other manufacturers, especially those of the so-called laser TVs (i.e. extra-bright ultra-short-throw projectors), the SIM2 projectors are trimmed to maximum brightness during development and factory calibration. Therefore, the results are neither standard nor comparable with standard measurement methods under perfectly black laboratory conditions. Therefore, I spare myself details here, but I can say that the Crystal4 always exaggerates the color saturation and pushes medium tonal values, which, together with a certain amount of white ambient light, results in a full and amazingly vivid picture.
Practice and handling
As mentioned, the solid crystal glass back can be folded or swiveled down if hung up. Below are the menu buttons on the sides and – deeply sunk – the connections. You will find an HDMI 2.0 input with MHL, an HDMI connection according to the 1.4 specifications, and a VGA port. Clever: A USB power connection, for example, to supply a fiber optic HDMI receiver, was also considered. The second USB socket is used for firmware updates. Of course, the usual sockets for the 12V trigger, LAN, and RS-232 are also in place.
The remote control is comparatively large and has an intensively blue-illuminated keyboard with clear and tactile keys. With the clear arrangement of the buttons in patterns, the hand control can also be operated quickly without looking. Practical: Three function keys can also be assigned individually.
Other interesting features and modes include – in addition to a three-stage interframe calculation for smoother movement when playing movies – a game mode with increased brightness and, at the same time, reduced latency for gamers. The laser can be controlled in fine steps and adaptively adjusted to increase contrast. There are two modes each for HDR and HLG: a qualitatively optimized and a “Bright” mode for the maximum bright display in low light. Instead of the widespread static setting with manual controls for HDR (or the technically sophisticated automatic controls such as JVC’s Frame Adapt HDR) stores a whole battery of ready-made and optimized tone mapping curves, the projector selects independently using the film’s metadata. The Crystal4 adjusts to the value of the maximum brightness of the reference monitor used for the mastering. This value is always part of the metadata of the HDR video. This worked well in the test. And if you like it manually, you can also select four curves manually.
Conclusion: The most beautiful crystal chandelier for the cinema
Maybe it’s because of the proximity to Venice’s glass factories in Murano, which aren’t far from SIM2 Multimedia in Pordenone: Making a projector out of crystal glass probably wouldn’t occur to the technically-oriented Japanese. They do have a feeling for aesthetics, the Italians. And so, the SIM2 Crystal4 Superhybrid is difficult to compare with the plastic monotony of the competition.
Nevertheless, the engineers have built a very practical living room projector. Although the glass lens is adjusted manually, it delivers crisp contrast right into the corners. In addition, with a 1.6x zoom and ±15 percent vertical lens shift, it offers certain flexibility in positioning and plenty of contrast with good black.
At the top end, the “super hybrid” laser puts out a mighty pound of light – at up to over 3,000 lumens in practice. This is optimal for presets optimized for living rooms with residual light and HDR/HLG. The SIM2 offers sufficient reserves even for larger picture formats and screen cloths that absorb dark ambient light. In short: This is the projector for the living room cinema with style!
Pros and Cons
|+||Elegant design, real crystal glass|
|+||Sharp, residual light-optimized image|
|+||Adaptive HDR, 2 basic settings|
|–||Focusing a bit fiddly|