Moving on, I cued up Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) and simply watched the opening sequence, which takes us from Cybertron to the moon to the Kennedy White House, and then back to the moon for the Apollo mission. The opening battle on Cybertron was presented in a decidedly cinematic way, reminding me of the images I witnessed when viewing the film in theaters. The black levels were out of this world, as was the M.150's low-light detail. I saw further into the battle, as well as minute details, like nothing I'd ever seen before. Motion was silky smooth, with nary an artifact present, despite the image's sharp, contrasting edges, mixed with rapid camera movement and onscreen action. Colors were rich, well-saturated (in fact, overly saturated, per the director's intent), and simply leapt off the screen in way only DLP projectors can seem to enable. When the action returned to Earth, the image remained as engaging as it had when it was among the stars. Skin tones, textures and period details were rendered faithfully and without any editorializing from the M.150 itself. Nothing escaped the M.150's lens, and had I had the Sony 4K projector on hand for a head-to-head, I would've sworn the image put forth by the Sim2 was the 4K one - it was that crisp. Moreover, having used the same demo during my Sony 4K review, I was more caught up in the image put out by the M.150, as I wanted to watch it rather than analyze it endlessly, which is what I did when viewing the same content via the Sony.
To evaluate the M.150's 3D performance, I stuck with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which is also available on Blu-ray 3D. I forced the M.150 into 3D mode (for some reason, I couldn't get it to automatically switch) via the remote, threw on a pair of included 3D specs and away I went. What struck me straightaway was that the M.150 didn't automatically pop me into some form of 3D picture mode, meaning my THX calibrated image settings remained intact. While that may sound like a bad thing, it wasn't, for the image had more than enough light to come across as bright and vibrant without burning my eyes with an overly bright torch mode. While I'm not the biggest fan of 3D, since most active demos give me headaches and nausea, I sat through the opening of Dark of the Moon in 3D and came away very impressed. The 3D effect was effective, thanks to the M.150's lack of crosstalk. Contrast remained strong, as did color fidelity throughout. Black levels were also very respectable. White levels did bloom in some instances, but not so much so as to be distracting. The included glasses were comfortable on my face and the added plastic around the side of the lenses kept most ambient light out of my peripheral vision, thereby aiding the 3D effect. The sync between the glasses and the emitter proved rock-solid and synced up without fail on every attempt. As far as 3D goes, the M.150 is as adept with it as it is with 2D. I only wish I could appreciate the 3D as much as I do the 2D. Oh, well.
As impressive as the M.150 is visually, there are a few functional items and day to day livability issues that need to be addressed. First, the M.150 is large and very heavy, which may make it difficult to install in some spaces. I have to imagine those with the means to afford the M.150 have dedicated rooms and/or can otherwise accommodate such a projector. Still, careful consideration should be taken when installing the M.150 anywhere, especially on a ceiling.
Second - I'm told this issue has been remedied but since I have not yet experienced this solution, I must address the matter - the M.150's liquid cooling pump is a bit loud. Sim2 assures me this is an anomaly exclusive to my review unit, but in case it isn't, you should be aware.
Speaking of cooling, the M.150, despite its LED nature, puts out a lot of heat, enough in fact to raise a room's ambient temperature a degree or two - yes, I checked. How much of this can be attributed to my particular unit using an early prototype or pre-production model liquid cooling system, I can't be certain. Suffice to say that, in my experience with my unit, things got a bit warm.
The M.150 does not have a lens cover, automated or otherwise, to help protect its gorgeous optics when not in use. Extra precaution should therefore be taken to insure that excess dust, debris and/or foreign objects are kept away from the lens.
Regarding the M.150's 3D application, I didn't much care for its use of an outboard 3D emitter. At nearly $28,000 retail, I expect the emitter to be built in, though Ray was quick to comment that, should you install the M.150 in its own enclosure or projection booth, you'd want an outboard emitter. While I understand his argument, I still feel as there should be an emitter built-in for those of us without projection booths, if for no other reason than to keep it from spoiling the projector's tailored good looks.
Lastly, and maybe this is more my personal pet peeve than anything else, the M.150's remote is just terrible and about as non-intuitive as anything I've experienced. It's as if all of the projector's features and functions were pulled blindly from a bag and attached to a button on the remote just as haphazardly and then labeled by a child. Seriously, the buttons are backlit, but many of their labels are not. Menu buttons are marked as + or -, whereas Enter is merely a graphic dot - what the hell is that!? At nearly $28,000, Sim2 could raise the price of the M.150 $300 to $500 and throw in a tablet PC or the like and none of their customers would be the least bit upset - at least, not as upset as they'd be if they had to use the included remote.
Competition and Comparison
While Sim2 is not the only front projector manufacturer to offer an LED-based product, it is, it seems, the only one moving forward with the technology in earnest, as both Runco and Digital Projection's current LED lineups seem unchanged at present. Both Runco's QuantumColor Q-750i and Digital Projection's M-Vision Cine LED Series projectors are good in their own rights, not to mention cheaper, but fail to hold a candle to the M.150 in terms of absolute performance. Even Sim2's own Grand Cinema Mico 50 LED projector is left in the dust by the M.150.
So where does this leave the M.150? Among LED-based projectors, I consider it to be atop the heap, but there is the issue of 4K one must now consider. Sony's latest flagship projector, the VPL-VW1000ES, is one such 4K projector. At a hair under $25,000 retail, it's cheaper than the M.150. Both have similar light output, meaning both can be used in large, purpose-built home theaters, but when and if a 4K standard is introduced to the home, the Sony will be ready, whereas the M.150 will not. Does that make the Sony better, or at least a better value? Value maybe, but better overall, absolutely not, for while the Sony may possess 4K powers, it's currently little more than a 1080p projector that upscales to 4K. In doing so, the Sony introduces noticeable grain to the image (I said grain, not pixels), which is nowhere near as laser-sharp as the M.150's natural HD image. Furthermore, there is no way to calibrate the Sony without having to resort to an outboard processor such as a DVDO Duo, which raises the cost of ownership to basically equal that of the M.150. However, should a 4K standard hit the consumer market, the added investment in a product such as the DVDO would be rendered moot, for its calibration features would be relegated to the HD realm only, meaning you'd have to buy another outboard processor or hope Sony updates the projector's firmware in a timely manner. So, with all those factors in mind, it is my opinion that the M.150 is the better all-round projector. When looking only at image quality, it is the hands-down winner.
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So how best to wrap up the Sim2 M.150 LED DLP front projector? On one hand, it is among the more expensive front projectors on the market at just under $28,000 (the most expensive LED model currently). On the other hand, it produces arguably the finest image I've ever seen from any projector, period. While the M.150 may not be the value leader among front projectors, LED longevity be damned, its ability to made near-perfect after calibration and the image quality that is enjoyed as a result is nothing short of amazing. If it were me, and I had the means and opportunity to purchase a truly reference-grade, cost-no-object front projector for my home theater or screening room, my list would definitely include the M.150. Having had the opportunity to experience and enjoy the M.150's impeccable image quality, it may be the only high-end front projector on my list at present.
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