We've prevously tested and adored SIM2's HT3000 Full HD DLP projector. But great though that was, SIM2 apparently thought there was still room for improvement.
Sat before us today is the HT3000E, where the extra E signifies a really pretty major upgrade of the original model.
And so it should, really. For even though it's possible to get Full HD DLP projectors now for under £2k, the HT3000E costs £10,000, defining it as an ultra-premium product that therefore needs to deliver an ultra-premium performance if it's to win hearts and minds. Fingers crossed it doesn't let us down.
If it were safe to judge a book by its cover, the HT3000E would arguably be the finest projector ever. For its extravagantly curvaceous and glossy styling - created by Italian concept designer Giorgio Revoldini - really is a joy to behold, resembling both SIM2's three-chip DLP superstar, the C3X-E and, to some extent, the profile of a Ferrari. You see: really 'serious' home cinema does not have to look dour and miserable.
However much we like our projectors to look sexy, it's what's inside them that really counts. Fortunately the HT3000E punches its weight here too.
For starters, the 1920 x 1080 DLP system is based around a new 0.95in chipset, meaning that the mirrors are so tightly crammed together that it should be practically impossible to 'see the joins' even if you watch the projector on a truly prodigious screen (the projector is rated up to 300in, though to be honest, I suspect it could go even bigger if you really wanted it to).
Arguably even more significant, though, is the projector's phenomenal brightness. New Unishape lamp technology, which allows output of the lamp to be controlled according to scene content, works in conjunction with a full 1080p implementation of Texas Instruments' BrilliantColor system (including the six-segment colour wheel arrangement as well as the software part) to help the HT3000E deliver almost 100 per cent more brightness from a standard 200W lamp than was possible on the original HT3000.
Its potential for making pictures look more dynamic, created by so much extra brightness really, cannot be overstated - especially as the huge boost in brightness is also joined by a massive 60 per cent rise in contrast. The colour temperature, meanwhile, remains set at the D65 level recognised as the best for video playback.
SIM2 quotes a contrast ratio of more than 6500:1 for the HT3000E - a terrific figure by DLP standards - especially as it's not dependent on dynamic iris technology of the sort employed by many LCD-based products.
Nasty person that I am, my main test material was Kill Bill Volume 1 recorded in high-definition from Sky. Now there's nothing wrong with the broadcast; in fact it's quite superb in terms of both its detailing and its freedom from noise.
But I know from experience that its demanding colour palette, sporadically extremely dark scenes and highly stylised lighting conditions can cause real headaches for projectors and flat TVs alike. But the HT3000E passes even the most difficult sequences with utter aplomb.
For instance, when The Bride dumps Sofia Fatale outside a hospital at night, the dark sky looks convincingly black in a way I can't recall ever seeing on a single-chip DLP projector before.
Even better, the immaculate black level reproduction of the background night sky is emphasised dramatically by the extraordinary intensity, solidity, colour richness and brightness of the main action. In fact, this juxtaposition of total darkness and unprecedented vibrancy is the HT3000E's main - or at least most instant and cinematic - appeal. And it's also here that the projector most justifies its cost.
Extreme close-ups reveal the HT3000E's fine detailing, and on many occasions I found myself spotting little details in backgrounds that I don't recall seeing before.
This sharpness isn't weakened in the slightest by any kind of video noise either, be it colour moiré, dot crawl, grain, or motion blur. I couldn't detect any trace of pixellation caused by the mirror array, despite watching the projector on a 200in screen.
The final superb element in the HT3000E's cutting-edge visual performance is the colour toning. It's more or less flawless, with everything from the richest reds and blues, of the Manga animation sequence in Kill Bill, to the subtlest of skin tones all looking equally convincing. BrilliantColor take a bow.
One disappointing aspect of the SIM2 HT3000E is its unnecessarily complicated user interface. I've long found SIM2's onscreen menus quite unhelpful to use, requiring you to 'learn' your way around them rather than just be able to get to grips with them straight away. I repeatedly had to refer to the manual to figure out how to do something or other, and I don't feel this should be necessary.
Particularly irksome is setting up the projector's inputs to receive the correct video signals - the system for doing this just doesn't seem logical at all. And in the majority of other projectors we see most input detection is done automatically.
Of course, nearly all users will opt to have their SIM2 installed and calibrated for them, and so won't come across this setup issue, but there still doesn't seem any need for it to be so fiddly.
Another problem I had was with the DLP 'rainbow effect'. Now, at a recent press briefing, SIM2 UK head honcho Alan Roser suggested to us journos that we stop banging on about the rainbow effect, claiming it really isn't an issue any more.
But while it's very rarely apparent on the HT3000E, I certainly still noticed it - without looking especially - over parts of the image where there's a particularly stark dark/light contrast.
However, the traces of rainbow effect I detected seem like a pretty small price to pay for all the other strengths the HT3000E brings to the table.
While had my doubts about that £10K price tag, I'm already wondering which elderly relative I can bump off to get hold of the necessary cash. This is truly a 'reference' status projector.