When it comes to connections, the SP8604 is surprisingly ahead of the game. For while most projectors - even mega-expensive stuff like SIM2's Francis Ford Coppola-favoured beasts - still only carry two HDMIs, the SP8604 manages three. All built to the v1.3 spec, and all equipped with Deep Colour support.
Even more surprising, perhaps, given the SP8604's affordability, is its carriage of a RS-232C control port and two 12V triggers, making it an ideal candidate for integration into a wider AV system.
After the startling decision to ship the SP8602 with a remote control designed to mimic the appearance of its host projector, it's slightly disappointing to find the SP8604's remote being a wholly more 'normal' affair. But all that really matters, of course, is that it gets the job done very well thanks to a decently logical and spacious layout, and a bright backlight. Heading into the SP8604's onscreen menus finds a decent level of presentation together with a strong set of features for the projector's price level. There's no sign of the presumably proprietary 'Vivixxx' features found on the Vivitek H5080, but so far as we can tell without still having an H5080 here to compare with, pretty much the same sort of stuff is on offer under different names with the SP8604.
Kicking things off are a series of presets (movie, normal and bright), plus three user-definable setting memory slots. Handily you can pick which of the factory-defined presets you want to use as the starting point for your own user settings. Obviously given our blacked out room environment we used the movie preset as our calibration starting point, but we guess the others could come in handy if, god forbid, you have to use the SP8604 in a room with some ambient light in it.
In the basic picture setup menu are typical brightness, contrast, colour, tint and sharpness settings, while in the Advanced menu can be found much more interesting options such as a noise reduction system, gamma settings, a colour temperature adjustment, adjustment of the hue, saturation and gain levels of the RGBCYM colour elements, a flesh tone adjustment, 10 different iris settings, and a couple of more controversial options in the form of a Motion Smoothing system and a DynamicBlack mode that automatically adjusts the iris in response to the content of the image. We'll come back to why these are controversial later.
The only other really important feature, tucked away in the Advanced Setup menu, is the option for toggling the lamp between normal and 'boost'. This is definitely worth visiting, for ensuring it's not set to its Boost position will increase the life of your bulb, reduce the projector's power consumption, stop the projector running so noisily and best of all improve your picture quality - so long, at least, as you've got a darkened room.
When we first started testing the SP8604, we weren't totally blown away. First, the picture didn't look very stable, with obvious brightness shifting. And second, motion didn't look quite right, with most fast or large moving objects tending to have a slightly flickery look, or a shimmering halo around them.