Projections Look Good
When Dolby Laboratories showed off its much-anticipated concept High Dynamic Range (HDR) LCD in New York City in late March, nearly as striking as the 46-inch display itself (more on that in a bit) was the fact that Dolby chose SIM2 as the hardware manufacturer to bring what was once a pie-in-the-sky dream into reality.
SIM2, which doesn’t even currently produce an LCD—it’s Grand Cinema HTL line is being retired—is known globally for its sleek front projectors, especially its flagship C3X 1080, a 3-chip DLP unit.
However, Sim2 has a reputation for pushing the envelope, so Dolby saw a natural partner in the Italian company.
The HDR-enabled LCD utilizes the capabilities of LED-based backlight units to provide clear contrast combined with crisp brightness to deliver picture quality that even more closely matches real-world visual perception of depth, detail and color. Behind the 1080p LCD display is an LED array (made up of 1,838 LEDs) that can provide brightness levels from absolute black to 4,000 nits (today’s displays max out at 500 nits). While 4,000 nits would most likely blind you if you tried to watch it indoors, the range of brightness is unprecedented. “It’s still a very delicate concept,” says Alberto Fabiano, Western region marketing and sales manager for Sim2. “This is a proof of concept…Dolby developing on the concept of the HDR, which is Dolby’s technology. SIM2 is the manufacturer that they chose to demonstrate this.”
This wasn’t the first time that SIM2 was way ahead of the curve on innovative technology. Its now-retired line of LCDs was the first to feature fiber optics in 2004. This allowed installers to connect up to 12 home theater components to a box in an A/V closet and then run a single fiber optic cable to the display over 1,000 feet away with no signal transmission loss whatsoever. While the LCDs have been retired, SIM2 eventually migrated the technology to its front-projection units.
Despite its short lifespan, SIM2 considered the LCD a success. “It was meant to signify SIM2’s always wanting to be on the cutting edge of technology,” Fabiano says. “It was a success, but the problem was cost. People weren’t willing to shell out $8,000 for an LCD.” But that’s not the end of Sim2’s development of LCDs. In addition to the Dolby concept unit, Fabiano says to “stay tuned for something big on [LCDs] soon.”
Of course, SIM2’s bread and butter is still front projection, for which the company designs, engineers, manufactures, markets and supports the whole product line.
The flagship projector is the Grand Cinema C3X 1080, the world’s smallest 3-chip DLP-based full 1080p unit at 17 square inches, and is made for and specifically limited to select custom integrators. The size and sleek design is meant to offer something that customers won’t mind sticking out from their ceilings all day. Several colors are available upon request. SIM2’s Domino line is its mass-market projector. It features only one chipset and is larger than the C3X.
By controlling the entire supply chain, SIM2 ensures the quality of each part and knows immediately how to support it should a problem ever arise.
“Our tech support has access to the designers of the product,” Fabiano says. “In fact, when there’s a need for a customized application, we can do that through software modification.” SIM2 projectors are “field upgradable,” via RS-232 support. This type of service is why Sim2 has been ranked No. 1 by Inside Track for technical support.
This is SIM2’s competitive advantage in a market that has tough competitors, such as the newly acquired Runco, which Planar merged with last year. Fabiano says it’s too early to say if that transaction had any effect on SIM2. So far, all signs are positive, since the company saw a 20-percent increase in sales in the first quarter of this year.
Aside from service, another competitive advantage will always be SIM2’s penchant for risk-taking and innovation. In May, the company released the Pro 5 DL (DL as in dual lamp). The Pro 5 DL will be SIM2’s high-end, top of the line projector, but with dual lamps. The two lamps can be used for redundancy in case one fails, or used in conjunction to double the brightness for daytime viewing. While there are other dual-lamp projectors, Fabiano considers the Pro 5 DL the “best-looking one.” It will sell for around $75,000. CR