There's no doubt that Sim2 knows how to make seriously tasty projectors. The only problem is that, traditionally, Sim2 quality hasn't come cheap. All that is set to change with the £2,850 Sim2 Domino 18 (Well, £2,850 is relatively cheap for Sim2, at any rate!)
Design has always been one of Sim2's strongest suits, so it comes as no surprise that the Domino 18 is a seriously attractive model. In fact, with its crisp white finish and joyous use of curves, some folk may consider it the most attractive projector in this entire magazine.
High and dry
Enthusiasm is tempered when you check out the connections, though. The problem is one that was depressingly common in our budget group test, but is thankfully rare at this more elevated level: no digital video input. Since Sky announced in December that its upcoming high-def broadcasts would likely require a digital input on your display device, we've found the lack of a digital input even on budget models quite hard to take. So, on the mid-price
The Domino 18, the lack of digital capability delivers a knockdown that will be phenomenally hard to recover from. The Domino 18 does boast one unusual connection in the form of a 12V trigger jack - for, say, automatically positioning a hydraulic screen when you switch the projector on.
Sim2 projectors are normally renowned for their healthy features lists. But the Domino 18 shows more signs of price-induced corner cutting. There's really nothing here that warrants particular attention on a £2,850 model.
Some specifications are worth a swift mention, though. First up, it employs Texas Instruments' Matterhorn chipset, which delivers a native widescreen resolution of 1,024 x 576. This makes it perfect for unscaled TV and DVD viewing - but does leave you needing scaling for high definition sources.
The claimed contrast ratio of 1,800:1 and brightness of 900 ANSI Lumens, meanwhile, seem at least able to deliver an eminently video-friendly mix.
Given these specs and Sim2's almost flawless history, it comes as little surprise that the Domino 18 does very nicely indeed with our Star Wars test disc. At first, you might not like the unusually low-brightness approach to pictures - requiring the removal of practically all ambient light from your room. If you can achieve the necessary darkness levels, though, you'll soon grow to love the extraordinary amounts of subtlety and texture the Domino 18 delivers, even in ultra-dark backdrops like many of those aboard the Millennium Falcon. The image is much more involving and layered than usual. Some of this subtlety is down to a supremely natural touch with colours, while some is down to contrast that makes the quoted 1,800:1 figure look conservative.
The picture is also impressively sharp, combining immaculate fine detail with noiseless edges, ensuring that the reflections in C3PO's gold chassis at times look so good that you almost forget about the rest of the movie!
More good news is found in the Domino 18's handling of the traditional DLP bugbears of the rainbow effect and fizzing noise over movement. In terms of the former, we only really noticed it at all during the opening sequence, where the back history to Star Wars scrolls away into space. The fizzing problem, meanwhile, was hardly evident at all, with usually troublesome shots such as Luke's dune buggy ride looking crisp and smooth.
In fact, provided you can live with its requirement for a completely dark room - and the fact that it runs a touch loudly - the Domino 18 doesn't really put a performance foot wrong. For us, though, this just makes its lack of a digital video input all the more tragic. Quality projection such as this simply demands to be fed the highest possible quality signal, yet the lack of a digital input means probably no Sky HD, no upscaled signals from many of today's high-level DVD decks, and not even the simple joys of an all-digital standard definition picture. The result? Frustration with a capital F...