Originally, I hadn't planned to review SIM2's C3X 1080 projector today; instead I'd got one of Toshiba's new Resolution+ TVs lined up. But then it tickled me to think that if I did the C3X 1080 today, we'd have reviews of a £440 projector (Epson's EH-TW420) and a £20,000 projector right next to each other, amply illustrating the rich diversity currently at play in the world of home video. So here's the C3X 1080 - in all of its almost unbelievable glory.
The first thing to say, of course, is that £20k really is an extraordinarily large amount of money. It could buy you and your other half a holiday to the Maldives for three years in a row. It could buy you a brand new two-litre Audio A3 SE, or a 2005 Porsche Boxster 3.2 S Coupe with 39,000 miles on the clock. In fact, if the credit crunch continues to have its wicked way with us, the C3X 1080 might even be worth more than a snug flat overlooking a derelict shopping centre in Manchester's Moss Side.
All of which begs one obvious question: just how in the world can the C3X 1080 possibly justify such an outrageous price when you think what else the money could get you? (Moss Side flat excepted…)
The first big part of the C3X 1080's answer is the fact that it's a three-chip DLP model with a Full HD resolution. This matters, in case you're not particularly familiar with DLP technology, because the use of three separate DLP chipsets - one each for red, green and blue duties - removes the need for the colour wheel arrangement found in single-chip projectors. And since there's no colour wheel, there's also no possibility of the picture being affected by the rainbow effect problem (stripes of pure red, green and blue flitting around over the picture) that afflicts all single-chip DLP projectors to some extent. Nor will there be any sign of the dotty noise that can trouble single-chip projectors when trying to show skin tones passing across the screen.
In other words, three-chip DLP projectors, while expensive to make - especially in a Full HD configuration - deliver all the traditional strengths of DLP technology, including fast response times, deeper black levels and richer colour palettes, without any of the usual weaknesses.
Still, tantalising though this sounds, £20k is still pretty steep even by three-chip DLP standards. So it's just as well that the C3X has plenty more high-end treats up its sleeves.
Probably the single most important of these is the projector's truly extreme colour management system. Even just working through the options built into the projector's onscreen menus reveals a staggering amount of flexibility, with six primary presets including Native, HDTV, EBU, SMPTE-C, Auto, and the slightly mysterious-sounding LCC-1. More on this presently. Joining these presets is an extensive list of white point presets too, including standard, high, medium, low, Native, D75, D65, D50, and C options. Plus there's a User option enabling you to adjust the white point to suit yourself using a simple double-axis graphical interface.
But even this is barely the tip of the colour management iceberg. For the LCC-1 preset slot I mentioned earlier can be used for storing settings calibrated to absolute precision via a combination of a colour meter and remarkably sophisticated software package.