There's no doubt that most of us would think twice before throwing £23,000 down on SIM2's Grand Cinema C3X 1080 projector. After all, a similar amount of cash could buy you a pretty flash sports car, or a nippy little motorboat to swank around the UK's coastal resorts.
While these traditional status-symbol buys promise undeniable fun, after the week or so I've just spent with the C3X 1080, it's fair to say that my car- and boat-buying plans are now well and truly on hold. This is a very spectacular projector indeed.
My love affair with the C3X 1080 was initially purely physical. Its stunning high-gloss finish and flirtatiously curvy lines are the viewing-room equivalent of a Porsche, or maybe even a Ferrari.
You can choose from any of four colours, ranging from the gun-metal grey standard through to a blazing red that again conjures up saucy images of esoteric automobiles.
Another remarkable thing about the C3X 1080's design is how small it is. In fact, it's the smallest Full HD three-chip DLP projector in the world.
We've seen three-chip DLP models before, but they offered only 720p resolution. 1920 x 1080 resolution is still rare in the world of three-chip DLP, even though it's common on single-chip models.
Having a trio of chips is significant because it removes the need for a colour wheel, as the three primary colours are routed to their own chip. And not having a colour wheel means you eliminate DLP's rainbow effect (where stripes of red, green, and blue flit around your peripheral vision and/or over bright parts of the picture) and reduce 'fizzing' noise over horizontal motion, a lesser problem to be sure.
Not having to suffer such artefacts means that you're free to focus instead on DLP's traditional strengths, such as deeper, more stable black levels, more vibrant and expressive colours, and cleaner, sharper, motion-handling. But there's more than just extra micromirrors at play.
This PJ also has the single most extraordinary colour management system I've ever clapped eyes on. The unit has five sophisticated presets, some based on key video standards, joined by multiple white point presets, again based around well-known video standards – with D65 offering the best movie starting point.
The colour store
One interesting feature is a slot for storing your own colour presets. The projector's internal architecture configuration lets it be directly controlled and manipulated by a sophisticated and exhaustive PC colour-calibration application – which in turn is designed to work with a high-spec colour meter.
Your specialised custom installer will thus be ready, willing and able to calibrate the hues of the C3X 1080 to within a hair's breadth of measurable perfection. Which is precisely what happened during my audition.
Obviously, the C3X 1080 ships with a high level of colour accuracy. But hues can be affected by the reflecting and lighting characteristics of the viewing room and screen. So the C3X 1080's sophisticated system lets installers correct any colour changes introduced by the environment more completely than any other PJ I've encountered.
Is that £23K price tag making sense yet? Maybe not. But there's more. The DLP chipsets at the C3X 1080's heart are the latest DarkChip 4 Texas Instruments specification, delivering a terrific level of contrast (claimed at 10,000:1).
It's also astonishingly bright, courtesy of SIM2's AlphaPath Light Engine technology, and carries 10bit video processing for enhanced de-interlacing and a wider, subtler colour range.
Finally, the SIM2 C3X 1080 can be bought with any of three different throw-ratio lens options, offers an extremely handy vertical-image shifting knob, supports multiple lamp output options, and even provides a selection of built-in test signals. Groovy.
Impressive out of its box
Even in its 'from the box' state the SIM2's picture quality is absolutely stunning. But with every little tweak made through the colour management system, the picture becomes better.
Not surprisingly, the single most mesmerising thing about its post-calibration pictures is colour fidelity. I've never seen such a wide, vibrant and expressive, colour palette. It's a real joy to use a projector that delivers the 'true' colour design of whatever film you care to watch.
For instance, the tough combination of tricky lighting conditions, low-lit skin tones and rich table and card colours during the poker sequences in Casino Royale on Blu-ray is rendered so perfectly that I thought I was sitting at the table alongside Bond.
The subtlety of its palette – together with the blistering resolution – also helps SIM2's high-end PJ deliver immaculate, stripe-free blends that reinforce the unit's prowess.
Visually, the model is a premium player. The C3X 1080 can deliver fabulous levels of fine detail and texture. During the 007 card game sequences, tell-tale signs of HD quality like facial pores, and the weave in suits, are all present and correct.
Subtle shadow details, that lesser projectors will hide behind overbearing blackness, tease with detail – causing 2K images to ping like those in a commercial cinema.
Wrapping up the C3X's peerless performance is the complete stability and noiselessness of its HD pictures. As mentioned earlier, the three-chip system precludes the possibility of any of DLP's usual 'distractions'. On top of that, there were no processing artefacts I could see, no grain beyond what might exist in a source, and no forced edging.
If forced to pick a fault with the C3X 1080, I might argue that standard-definition pictures could perhaps be slightly better. The projector's PixelWorks DNX video processing does a good job, but for £23K it would have been nice to talk about a more innovative solution.
But if a machine was ever built for higher definition, it's SIM2's C3X 1080. And the best way to sum up its majestic performance is to say that the only thing that stands between you and complete immersion in the movie is the screen the image is projected on. Which is pretty much the Holy Grail of any cinema.