There are, of course, some major differences between the Nero 3D range and their bigger brother, the most obvious of which is the use of a single DLP chip rather than three. It would seem that producing high quality images from three DLP chips remains an expensive business which limits such technology to the ultra-high-end but thankfully single-chip DLP projectors have come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years. The other major difference between the Nero 3D range and the Lumis 3D-S is that the former don't include Triple Flash, the technology that allowed the latter to deliver a reference 3D performance when we reviewed it in the summer. However, the Nero 3D does include SIM2's superior optics and video processing, as well as a high standard of build quality. It can also be calibrated using SIM2's proprietary Live Colour Calibration (LCC) software, which, if the Lumis 3D-S is anything to go by, should result in a reference level of accuracy.
The Nero 3D range currently consists of three models, the Nero 3D-1, the Nero 3D-2 and the Nero 3D-HB, which stands for High Brightness. In fact the light output is the only major difference between the three models, with the Nero 3D-1 rated at 1,600 lumens, the Nero 3D-2 rated at 2,000 lumens and the Nero 3D-HB rated at a massive 3,000 lumens. Next year, SIM2 are also planning on releasing the Nero 3D-235, which as the name suggests will be a native 2.35:1 projector aimed at those using a Scope screen. For the purposes of our review, SIM2 kindly provided us with a Nero 3D-2 which we immediately set up and started putting through its paces. Would the Nero 3D-2 be able to deliver an opulent level of performance worthy of its imperial namesake or would it fiddle whilst the home cinema burnt down? Well let's throw the Christians in with the lions and see...
Design and Features
The overall build quality is excellent with the chassis showing a finely crafted attention to detail. Since the Nero 3D-2 uses the same basic chassis as the Lumis 3D-S, it has an equally small footprint and measures only 45cm wide by 45cm deep by 21cm at its highest point. Despite its relatively compact dimensions, it is obvious that SIM2 are utilising every bit of space within the chassis because the whole projector still has a solid feel and weighs in at 11kg. Certainly the Nero 3D-2 is considerably smaller and lighter than some of its counterparts and this might be an advantage if you want to mount the projector on the ceiling. SIM2 offer an optional ceiling bracket for just such a purpose but the Nero 3D-2 can also be mounted on a shelf and has three adjustable feet. The use of three feet actually makes levelling the projector much easier and makes you wonder why more manufacturers don't use this approach.
As we have often mentioned, the quality of the glass in the lens is one of the most important factors in determining the performance of a projector, and in the Nero 3D-2 it is excellent. Of course such high quality glass doesn't come cheap and is one of the reasons for the higher price tag. The lens, itself, is positioned slightly to the right of the chassis - as you are facing it - and we assume this is a result of the optical path within the projector. The Nero 3D-2 uses a 0.95" 1080p DMD chipset from Texas Instruments which has been combined with the precision optics of SIM2's ALPHAPATH light engine. The UHP bulb is rated at a maximum brightness of 2,000 lumens, when new, and from experience we have found that, unlike other projector manufacturers, SIM2's numbers actually tend to be accurate. There is a power consumption level of 280W on the bulb which can be dimmed down to 230W and it has an average life of 2,000 hours in standard mode and 3,000 in ECO mode.
Whilst we would prefer the lens to be centred for easier installation we understand that it isn't always possible, and besides, this can be easily addressed with correct positioning. It is important to position the lens on the centre of the screen because the Nero 3D-2 doesn't have a horizontal lens shift. However, placement in the vertical plane is less crucial because the Nero 3D-2 has a manual shift that can move the image by up to 50%. The lens shift is achieved using an allen key that fits into a small hole above the lens housing. However the lens Zoom and Focus functions are motorised and can be adjusted using the remote control. The Nero 3D-2 has a standard high quality glass lens (T2) with a throw ratio of 1.75-2.48:1 as well as two optional high quality glass lenses, the T1 with a throw ratio of 1.37-1.66:1 and the T3 with a throw ratio of 2.6-3.9:1. There is also an optional anamorphic lens system that can be either fixed or motorised. The IR receiver is positioned just below the lens and there is another one at the rear along with the socket for the power cord. The Nero 3D-2 can run on 100-240V at 48 to 62Hz, uses a fused three pin style socket and comes with a 2m cable included.
As well as the power socket and an on/off switch, all the other connectors are also at the rear, including two HDMI v1.4a connectors. The Nero 3D-2 also has an analogue composite video input using an RCA connector, a component input for YPbPr/RGBs/RGBHV also using RCA connectors and a graphic RGBVH (VGA-UXGA) input using a D-sub 15 pin connector. There is also an RS232 D-sub 9 pin connector and a USB socket for system control, as well as for connecting to a laptop for use with the Live Colour Calibration software, or for firmware updates. There are three 12V 100mA output mini jacks that can be used in conjunction with motorised screens, side masking and anamorphic lenses. Finally the legacy S-Video socket has been removed and replaced with a connector for syncing the Nero 3D-2 to the 3D emitter.
The Lumis 3D-S utilised a third party emitter that was made by XpanD and whilst it worked very well, it was somewhat lacking in the looks department. Although on the plus side it was at least included as part of the package, whereas with the Nero 3D-2 if you want to utilise its 3D capabilities you will need to buy an optional 3D emitter. If you do decide to buy an emitter for the Nero 3D-2 you will discover that it has undergone a redesign and now compliments SIM2's stylish looks far better than the previous rather ugly and industrial looking unit. The new emitter uses IR signals to sync the projector with the glasses and therefore it requires line of sight, either by placing the emitter at the front or by bouncing the signal off the screen. Overall we found that the emitter worked very well and we never had any problems with losing sync when watching 3D content.
The Nero 3D-2 also doesn't come with any 3D glasses included but you can buy SIM2's active shutter glasses for around £100 a pair. As with the Lumis 3D-S, SIM2 are using XpanD's X103 universal active shutter glasses but now they have been rebadged with the SIM2 logo and optimised for use with the Nero 3D-2. We are big fans of this particular design of active shutter glasses due to their large lens size, comfort and ability to block out ambient light. To turn the glasses on you need to hold down the on/off button until the light on the inside of the frame flashes, this means that the glasses are synced and once they stop receiving a sync signal for a few minutes they will automatically turn themselves off.
As usual the Nero 3D-2 comes with the standard SIM2 RCI 2005 remote control which remains one of the least intuitive remotes we have ever encountered. To enter the user menu you hit the Plus or Minus buttons and once there you also use these buttons to navigate from one menu page to the next. Once in a specific menu page you use the Up/Down/Left/Right buttons and the black dot button to navigate around that particular menu and the Escape button to leave the menu screen. There is a standby button which must be held down to turn the projector off - and to turn the projector on you need to press one of the number buttons and whichever number you choose will also select the appropriate input assigned to that number. There is also an Info button that actually brings up a very comprehensive information screen and the remote control itself is well built, comfortable to hold and comes with a backlight. To be honest anyone buying a £16,000 projector is probably going to be using a system controller so the chances are that once the projector is installed you will thankfully never see the remote control again.
Menus and Setup
The Image menu gives the user the option to select the Aspect Ratio and here the choices consist of 4:3, 16:9 Anamorphic, LetterBox, Panoramic and Pixel to Pixel plus three custom-user adjustments. For high definition content, you should choose Pixel to Pixel in order to retain all the resolution and detail. There is also a sub-menu for selecting the [tip=gamma]Gamma[/tip] Correction and within this menu you can choose between 2D.LCC A (a custom gamma loaded from the LCC software), 2D Dynamic and Parametric. The Parametric control will allow you to select the Gamma setting from a number of different settings, with the default set at 2.2. There are also separate Gamma Correction settings for use with 3D content.
There is a sub-menu which allows you access to the Colour Management menu within which you can access the different Primaries or [tip=gamut]colour gamuts[/tip] (Native, [tip=Rec709]Rec.709[/tip] which SIM2 call HDTV, EBU, SMPTE-C and Auto) and White Points or [tip=Colortemp]colour temperatures[/tip] (including the [tip=IndStand]industry standard[/tip] of [tip=D65]D65[/tip]). Finally, there is a control for adjusting the lamp power consumption from 230W to 280W.
The Setup menu includes an Orientation option for choosing whether the projector is installed on the ceiling or the floor and there is also a digital Keystone correction control which you should never use, unless you want to lose all your high resolution detail. There are also options for selecting the Variable Iris, the Test Patterns, the Initial Settings and the RBSs Sync.
The final menu screen is Menu which includes all the controls relating to the menu itself such as which Language it is in, the Source List, Source Info and the HELP Menu. There are also choices for the OSD Background, Position and Timeout.
The Picture menu includes all the standard picture controls such as Brightness, Contrast, Colour, Sharpness and Noise Reduction. There is also a control for choosing between PureMotion and PureMovie. If you select PureMovie then you can choose whether or not to engage the Dynamic Black function but if you select PureMotion then you have a choice of the different PureMotion settings - Off/Low/Med/High.
Whilst the Colour Management sub-menu allows you to select the colour gamut and colour temperature this is not where you will find the [tip=CMS]Colour Management System[/tip] (CMS) or the controls for adjusting the [tip=WhiteBal]White Balance[/tip] and Gamma. These calibration controls are contained within SIM2's incredible Live Colour Calibration (LCC) software which is currently on its second version and provides an unprecedented degree of control. The LCC software is included when you purchase the Nero 3D-2 and can be loaded onto a laptop that can then control the projector via the RS232 or USB connectors.
The screenshot above shows the controls for adjusting the coordinates of all three primary colours (red, green and blue) and all three secondary colours (cyan, magenta and yellow) on the [tip=cie]CIE chart[/tip]. This is the same chart that we use in our before and after calibration measurements and the target coordinates relate to where the primary and secondary colours should appear to perfectly match the targets which, for our reviews, are the industry standards of Rec.709 and D65. For example the x coordinate for red should be 0.64 and the y coordinate should be 0.33 and the LCC software allows you to adjust these coordinates in steps as small as 0.01. The same can be done with the Gain (Y) which is the luminance or brightness of each colour.
As the above graph clearly shows, the out-of-the-box greyscale performance is excellent. The Gamma Luminance is spot on and the Gamma Point is tracking our target of 2.4 exactly. Whilst the red balance is tracking about 5% below are target, all three primary colour are tracking in straight lines and the DeltaEs (errors) are mostly below 3, which is largely imperceptible to the human eye. When we looked at a stair step greyscale pattern, the separate steps were mostly free of discolouration, except for a small amount around 80-100 IRE. Once we have adjusted the colour of white using the Live Colour Calibration (LCC) software, we should get a reference greyscale performance.
The colour accuracy wasn't as good as the greyscale performance and, as the CIE Chart above shows there was a sizeable error in green, as a result of an excess of luminance, an under saturation of the colour and an error in the hue. As a result of these errors in green, there are also errors in cyan and yellow, both of which contain green as a constituent colour. The other primary colours of red and blue are actually very accurate, as is magenta, aside from an error in hue which is skewing it towards blue. The level of control provided by the LCC software should allow us to correct these errors and produce a reference performance in terms of colour accuracy.
As we expected, once we had calibrated the colour of white with the LCC software, the RGB Balance fell into place and all primary colours were tracking exactly at 100, resulting in DeltaEs that were all less than 1, which is totally imperceptible to the human eye. The Gamma is once again spot on and the Gamma Point Graph shows it tracking exactly at our target of 2.4. Overall this is an absolutely reference greyscale performance from the Nero 3D-2.
The same is true for the colour gamut, which after calibrating with the LCC software was producing an incredible level of accuracy. The most important element of colour is the luminance and as the graph shows, the luminance in all three primary and secondary colours is now perfect. Of all the colours, the most important in terms of accuracy is green because it makes up the largest part of the visible spectrum and as such our eyes are most sensitive to errors in green. As the graphs show, green is now perfectly calibrated with absolutely no errors in hue, colour or luminance. In fact, this is also true of the accuracy of all the other colours, except for a tiny error in the colour of blue. The overall errors are all less than one, resulting in one of the most accurate colour gamuts we have ever seen and a reference performance from the Nero 3D-2.
The Nero 3D-2's performance was equally impressive with the film detail test, correctly locking on to the image resulting in no aliasing in the speedway seats behind the race car. In the cadence tests the projector continued to perform flawlessly, correctly detecting the 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format as well as the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. The projector also had no problems displaying mixed film material with scrolling video text and was able to reproduce the text without any shredding or blurring.
The Nero 3D-2 also did superbly in the tests on the HQV Blu-ray using high definition content. With the player set to 1080i the projector correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests (provided the aspect ratio is set to Pixel to Pixel of course) and showed excellent scaling and filtering performance as well as good resolution enhancement. With 1080i material the projector had no difficulties in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems.
There are two display modes on the Nero 3D-2, one is called PureMovie and the other is called PureMotion. You should always use the PureMovie mode when watching 24p content as this option projects the images at 48Hz thus maintaining a film-like quality without any flicker. The PureMotion mode utilises motion adaptive processing which increases 50Hz to 100Hz and 24p and 60Hz to 120Hz. This mode is designed to give moving images a smooth video-like quality that might be useful for fast moving sporting content. Given how well DLP handles motion we found this mode to be largely redundant and always utilised PureMovie for 24p content.
The Spears & Munsil Blu-ray disc includes many of the same tests found on the HQV discs but also includes some interesting additional ones. The Nero 3D-2 passed every single test except for the test showing the peaks for the luma channels of the three primary colours, here green was clearly clipping. This didn't come as a surprise given the initial colour measurements and after calibration the Nero 3D-2 was performing perfectly on this test too.
One of the other useful tests on the Spears & Munsil disc is the Dynamic Range High test which tests whether a display is reproducing all the video levels above reference white (235) up to peak white (255). This test is an easy way of spotting if a display is clipping above reference white and thus losing detail in the brighest parts of the image. The Nero 3D-2 was clearly clipping detail above 235, which means the projector is set up for the video standard of 16-235. Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, a Blu-ray is capable of delivering up to 255, so ideally we would rather the Nero 3D-2 was set up to display from 16 up to 255.
There is also a Dynamic Range Low test which allows you to check that a display is only showing detail down to video level 16 which represents reference black. Once again the Nero 3D-2 was showing detail down to 16 - but not below - which means it is correctly reproducing black whilst maintaining appropriate shadow detail. The Dynamic Black function is only available when the Nero 3D-2 is in PureMovie mode and it is designed to boost the black level of the projected image. However unlike some dynamic black functions, the one on the Nero 3D-2 didn't affect the low end of the dynamic range when it was engaged and the effect was rather subtle, almost to the point of one not being able to see it.
2D - Picture Performance
Thanks to this accuracy and the excellent video processing, the Nero 3D-2 could make both standard and high definition content look incredibly good. In fact, it was a nice surprise to be reminded just how good standard definition content can look when projected correctly, even on a large screen. However it was with high definition content that the Nero 3D-2 really excelled, delivering a incredibly detailed image that contained every pixel of resolution. The sharpness of the image is a major advantage of single-chip DLP projectors and quite often three chip devices can look almost blurry in comparison. However the wonderfully sharp image can also be attributed to the high quality lenses found in the Nero 3D-2, which were exceptional. Of course this level of detail can be ruthless on less than pristine content but when watching well transferred Blu-rays, the available resolution was breath-taking.
Another strong point of DLP projectors in general is their motion handling and here the Nero 3D-2 once again excelled. When it came to 24p Blu-rays, the Nero 3D-2 delivered smooth judder free images, no matter how frenetic the action. The movement in the frame was beautifully rendered and as a result images never smeared or lost definition, resulting in an incredibly film-like quality to the picture.
The other major advantage of DLP projectors, and SIM2 projectors in particular, is the brightness of the image and at 2,000 lumens the Nero 3D-2 had brightness to spare, even after calibration. This brightness gave 2D images a real punch that made them incredibly dynamic and captivating. Of course this level of lumens means that you can use the Nero 3D-2 on a genuinely large screen and still be able to hit a suitable level of brightness. It also means that the Nero 3D-2 can be considered for use in a less than ideal room, perhaps one with white walls and ceiling or a reflective floor.
The only area where the Nero 3D-2 was a slight disappointment was in terms of black levels. To be fair this is a limitation of the technology but in comparison with the black levels on a JVC projector, they were clearly inferior. Of course, as we often point out here at AVForums, on/off contrast ratios aren't everything and the intra-frame blacks looked quite good, especially when combined with the bright image, and the shadow detail was excellent. In addition, black levels are very dependent on the viewing environment and if you were using the Nero 3D-2 in a room with white walls for example, the native black levels would be largely moot.
Of course, the Nero 3D-2 is a single-chip DLP and thus despite all the developments in colour wheels, you might still see rainbows if you are susceptible to them. Obviously if rainbows are a problem for you, then we would recommend you demo the Nero 3D-2 first, before purchasing it.
3D - Picture Performance
The other major advantage that the Nero 3D-2 has over a lot of the competition, is that it's very bright which means it can overcome the other issue that often affects 3D, the light reduction caused by the glasses. The active shutter glasses that are used with most projectors can reduce the light output by 50 to 75% and as such the image can become incredibly dim, robbing the 3D of a lot of its impact. However with the Nero 3D-2, the high power bulb results in 3D images that remain bright enough, even with the glasses on. In fact in 3D the Nero 3D-2 can produce an image that is as bright as many other projectors are in 2D and this makes a huge difference to the 3D experience.
The rebranded XpanD glasses that SIM2 now use have been optimised for use with the Nero 3D-2 and the results were great, with the glasses never losing sync or introducing flicker or crosstalk. As we mentioned earlier, we also like the design of the glasses, with their large lenses providing a wide field of view and providing a suitably neutral tint. We also found that their wide sides and frames blocked out any ambient light and fitted comfortably over regular glasses. However, due to their size, they are quite heavy, so their only major downside is that they could become uncomfortable if worn for long periods of time.
There were also a couple of added benefits when watching 3D content, the first of which was that, thanks to the light reduction caused by the glasses, the blacks were even better. We also never noticed any rainbows when watching 3D content - we're not quite sure why this should be the case but it might also be a side effect of wearing the glasses.
Once you combined the fast refresh rate and superb motion handling of DLP with the quality lenses, bright picture and excellent glasses, the resulting 3D images were absolutely spectacular. The Nero 3D-2 rendered the 3D perfectly, maintaining all the detail in the high definition picture and delivering images that were free of any crosstalk or other artefacts that might distract you. In addition, the absence of flicker meant that the 3D experience wasn't fatiguing over long periods of time. Thanks to the brightness of the overall image and the absence of any other distractions, the 3D had a wonderful sense of dimensionality that was genuinely immersive. With the exception of SIM2's own Lumis 3D-S, this is the best projected 3D we have seen and the result was a genuinely visceral and exciting experience that used the added dimensionality to draw you into the image.
- Very bright image in both 2D and 3D
- Reference greyscale after calibration
- Reference colour gamut after calibration
- Excellent video processing
- Reference 3D performance
- Live Colour Calibration software
- Excellent build quality and attractive design
- The black levels are slightly disappointing
- SIM2 remote is not very intuitive
- Fans are quite noisy
- Video levels limited to 16-235
- Obviously quite expensive
SIM2 Nero 3D-2 Single Chip DLP 3D Projector Review
Starting from the outside and working our way in, the first thing you notice about the Nero 3D-2 is that it shares the same chassis and stylish Italian design as the far more expensive Lumis 3D-S. As one would expect from SIM2, the build quality is exceptional with a beautifully machined and almost hand-built feel to the whole projector. There is a comprehensive set of connections at the rear, but if you want to utilise the Nero 3D-2's excellent 3D capabilities you will need to buy the optional 3D emitter and some glasses. Sadly the Nero 3D-2 comes with standard SIM2 remote control, which remains as infuriating as ever - please redesign it!
Moving on to the interior construction and you immediately notice the high quality lenses which are a vital, but often overlooked, element in any good projector. High quality glass is not cheap and is one of the reasons for the increased cost; but the results speak for themselves. The Nero 3D-2 also uses SIM2's ALPHAPATH light engine, coupled with a single-chip 0.95" DMD and UHP bulb that is rated at 2,000 lumens and delivers brightness to spare. Of course being a single-chip DLP, there is the possibility of rainbows, so if you're susceptible to them, we suggest you demo the Nero 3D-2 before buying one. Since the Nero 3D-2 is a single-chip DLP projector, it obviously uses a colour wheel and this, coupled with the fans needed to dissipate the heat generated by the bright bulb, means that it is quite noisy. Having said that we rarely noticed any noise when actually watching normal viewing material.
The out-of-the-box performance of the Nero 3D-2 was very good, especially the greyscale and gamma accuracy which was excellent. However, thanks to SIM2's proprietary Live Colour Calibration (LCC) software, the Nero 3D-2 is capable of an unprecedented level of accuracy for the greyscale, gamma and colour gamut. The video processing was also excellent and when all these elements were combined the results were superb, even with standard definition material.
Thanks to the high quality lenses and inherent sharpness of the single-chip DMD projector, the high definition performance was staggering with the Nero 3D-2 rendering every last pixel of resolution and detail. Another strong point of DLP projectors is motion handling and here the Nero 3D-2 also excelled, delivering smooth and detailed movement that was free of smearing or a loss in resolution. Thanks to all this, the resulting 2D images had a wonderfully bright, natural and film-like appearance that was a pleasure to behold. In fact we could find little wrong with the performance of the Nero 3D-2 and our only real issues related to the blacks being slightly under-whelming and the video levels being restricted to 16-235.
When it comes to 3D, all the strengths of the 2D performance were equally important, with the Nero 3D-2 delivering some of the best 3D images we have seen. As with the 2D, the image accuracy, brightness, level of detail and motion handling all combine to produce a wonderfully engaging and artefact free experience. Thanks to the faster refresh rates on DLP projectors, we experienced no crosstalk and as a result there were never any distractions to draw us out of the 3D images. The active shutter glasses that SIM2 use are excellent, providing a neutral tint and no flicker, resulting in a pleasurable 3D experience that was free of fatigue. The redesigned 3D emitter is far more attractive and syncs the projector to the glasses using infrared, which whilst it required line-of-sight, never had any problems with loss of sync. As a consequence of all these elements, the resulting images delivered one of the most enjoyable and immersive 3D experiences that we have had.
Whilst perhaps not quite as decadent as its imperial namesake, the SIM2 Nero 3D-2 is a classy and assured projector that is capable of delivering opulent 2D images and a reference 3D performance. Whilst it might not be cheap, you definitely get what you pay for and proprietary features like the Live Colour Calibration Software can deliver an unprecedented level of image accuracy. If you're in the market for a bright and capable 2D projector, that can also deliver some of the best 3D that you will see, we suggest you give the Nero 3D-2 a demo - Highly Recommended.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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