Samsung's flagship one-chip DLP-based home theater projector, the SP-A800B, takes accuracy of signal reproduction to a new level. My previous reference projector, the Samsung SP-H710AE, was designed by Joe Kane, and that well-known video guru and author of Digital Video Essentials also designed the SP-A800B. While the 710E is spectacularly accurate in just about every regard, the new SP-A800B surpasses its predecessor's performance in several important areas. First off, it has a 1080p native resolution, which becomes more important when using gigantic front-projector screen sizes. A brighter, more stable lamp provides longer life at light levels far above those of the 710, and the lens is considerably better with far fewer chromatic aberrations. Finally, black levels are much better in the right Iris setting, albeit not as deep as some high-end LCoS and LCD projectors or as the more-expensive Samsung SP-A900B. The SP-A800B is one of the most stylish and attractive designs in front projection, however and when you consider its solid feature package and good connectivity, the Samsung SP-A800B ($7,495 list) you have an unbeatable value in the high-end projector space.
Editors' note: The rating on this review had been lowered, the text modified and its Editors' Choice award removed, because of the review of the step-up Samsung SP-A900B.
Samsung has done a complete redesign on this projector. Rounded edges and a lens assembly centered on the chassis give it an extremely sleek, high-tech look. The unit is finished in a glossy black that should impress everyone, including an interior designer.
The remote control mimics the projector with its own rounded edges and black glossy finish. The medium-sized clicker fits in the hand comfortably and every key is within easy reach. I was also very pleased to find that it is fully backlit, which is another little improvement over the previous 710 design. Also, the menu system is quite intuitive to use and easy to navigate.
A strong feature package is one of the many strengths of the SP-A800B. A unique feature--one that I have yet to see on any projector in its class--is selectable color space. You have a choice of SMPTE C (for America), EBU (for Europe), and HDTV. The best part of the feature is that all of these color spaces are pretty accurate out of the box, and scarily accurate after a service level calibration.
A total of seven picture modes seems somewhat overkill. Movie mode is the best and most accurate for out-of-the-box post-calibrated use. The Color Pattern feature lets you isolate blue for setting color and tint properly, and shows off the excellent color decoding on the 800 by letting you isolate red and green only. An overscan feature can be engaged to intentionally cut off the extreme edges of a cable or satellite input, to eliminate compression artifacts for example. Be careful with this though, as it appears to overscan at least 5 percent, which may be more than you want.
Three gamma settings are onboard, including Film (the best for home theater purposes), Video, and Graphic. Of course, there are the obligatory selectable color temperatures: 5500K (for Black & White), 6500K (for Color), and 8000K and 9000K for bluer grayscales. Needless to say, the 6500K is the setting you will want to utilize the most, but being able to select 5500K for an accurate grayscale when watching a black and white source is really a plus.
Gain and Bias controls are available in the User menu for fine-tuning of the grayscale if it is necessary after the service menu calibration is completed. The Dynamic Black setting is where the adjustments for the iris reside. These settings open and close the iris respectively for balancing good blacks with an acceptable amount of light output. I found that the Middle setting produced the best compromise. I would stay away from Auto, which will open and close the iris depending on how bright the content of the picture is. The Off and Light settings produce brighter pictures with severely compromised black level performance, while the Deep setting produces the best blacks, but with an unacceptably dim picture on my 80-inch wide (92-inch diagonal) Stewart Grayhawk RS screen.
The SP-A800B does have vertical lens shift, but not horizontal, which I found a bit disappointing at its price range.