Sony VPL-VW200 SXRD Video Projector Page 3
But if there's one thing likely to disappoint some potential VPL-VW200 users, it's the projector's maximum brightness. I could never get more than a bit over 19fL out of it. I never felt that it looked too dim, but I was using it on a relatively small (78-inch wide) 1.3-gain screen. And with around 60 hours on the projection lamp as I finish this report, lamp wear over time could reduce that peak output by 30% or more. If you want to fill a very large screen with a lot of light, this projector might not be your best choice.
But let's get to nitty gritty. Properly configured and set up, the Sony VPL-VW200 produces an awesome picture. The first thing I noticed was its detail. It looks totally natural, but at the same time dredges out everything that the image has to offer. The structure and texture of the stone walls at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (HD DVD) was so clear that you could almost tell it was a stage set and not real stone—but it never went so far in that direction to take me out of the film. Hot Fuzz (HD DVD) also surprised me with its exceptional transfer quality, and The Chronicles of Riddick (HD DVD), still an absolute reference disc in all video respects, has never looked better.
Just as significant, scenes on some otherwise good films that I thought were a touch softer than the rest of the transfer suddenly on other projectors came to life on the Sony. The Sony's optical path is clearly state-of-the-art. And great lenses cost serious money—one of the reasons that the VPL-VW200 is expensive in today's projector market.
The Sony also has outstanding color—as long as you use the more accurate, Normal Color Space control and have the projector calibrated. Flesh tones were exceptional—correct when the image allowed them to be, and skewed only when the filmmaker or producer made that creative choice.
The stage sets and lighting on the Legends of Jazz Showcase (Blu-ray) popped, but the flesh tones never looked wrong. (I can highly recommend this disc for its music and sound quality, as well as its stunning picture). And while it pains me to refer to High School Musical 2 in the same paragraph, this Blu-ray transfer has some of the most vivid colors you'll ever see. While most of us are not the target audience for this movie about high school students who all look like clean-cut alumni of Mouseketeer Middle School, it made for great eye-candy on the Sony.
While I missed the inky blacks that you can get from the Advanced Iris, I didn't feel too deprived by the Manual setting that I preferred overall. The dark scenes at the beginning of Master and Commander: The Dark Side of the World (DVD) did have a bit of gray haze in them, but I only noticed this because I was looking for it. But later in the film the crew of the HMS Surprise builds a decoy and launches it at night to deceive the enemy of their true position. Here there was no gray haze. The blacks were more than deep enough to convey the darkness of a moonless night, and you could see all the important details.
The uber-dark scenes in Hellboy (Blu-ray) were so dark that they almost looked a bit crushed. But they also looked right. And you can't get much darker than Pitch Black (in more ways than one). I had never seen this film before watching it on the Sony. It was a better movie than I expected, and, more to the point here, I never felt that the image wasn't dark and rich enough.
That image was also more detailed than I expected from this standard definition DVD (Pitch Black is also available on HD DVD, but I did not have that version). The same was true of other regular DVDs. The Sony handled them well, and while most of my viewing was done, for convenience, on an HD DVD or Blu-ray player that upconverted the standard definition source material to 1080p, the Sony's own scaling, as noted earlier, will not limit your enjoyment should you choose to make greater use of it.
I hope to have a review of the Sony VPL-VW60 posted soon, and will have more to say about it at that time, in particular how it compares to the VPL-VW200 in this report. But my first impressions were that it is nearly as bright as the VPL-VW200 and just a hair less detailed. But the VW60 is not soft, and it says a lot about the quality of the VPL-VW200 that it was even more detailed.
I was able to spend more time comparing the VPL-VW200 to the JVC DLA-RS1. Such comparisons can be difficult if you can't match the brightness levels of the two projectors, and that was the case here. At about 19fL on my screen the JVC was over 20% brighter than the Sony when I used my preferred setups on both projectors (and the JVC has over 300 hours on its lamp compared to about 60 hours on the Sony). Since the JVC lacks any sort of iris to help match light output (lowering the Contrast setting on the JVC can match the levels, but this will degrade the contrast ratio), I had to settle for giving the JVC the benefit of higher output in this comparison.
Still, using a splitter to facilitate the comparison (an excellent 1-in, 2-out device from Accel, though of course that's an added variable), I felt that the Sony had marginally more static detail. But the differences were elusive, even though the brighter image on the JVC gave it an advantage by making details more visible. But with the Film Projection mode engaged on the Sony, its resolution was clearly superior on moving images. While this was not dramatic on most program material, it was obvious on scenes specifically chosen to show this characteristic. Apart from the added brightness of the JVC, the superiority of the Sony's resolution on moving images just might be its most distinctive plus.
Though the JVC had measurably superior blacks and a higher peak contrast ratio (with the Sony in Manual iris mode), neither of the projectors was consistently superior in its reproduction of dark scenes. Sometimes the Sony won, other times the JVC. Again, the difference in light output, which favored the JVC, skewed the results. But I did note that on dark scenes with significant bright areas, where ANSI contrast is more important than peak contrast, the Sony often came out on top.
While measurements clearly favored the Sony in color accuracy, on real program material the differences were subtler. Poke me with a stick and I might say that the JVC's reds were a hair more orange, but this was not always clear. The JVC's flesh tones were sometimes slightly rosier, and its bright greens a bit more vivid (less natural), but again these weren't critical distinctions. The color temperature on my JVC I did appear to have drifted a bit toward blue (it needs a calibration check ASAP), but this was only obvious on a direct switchover from one projector to the other. I had to back off quite a bit on the JVC's Color control to eliminate some oversaturation in red and green, but this did not noticeably wash out other colors.
The Sony is also almost silent in operation--significantly quieter than the JVC.
The differences between these two projectors were more elusive than I expected, apart from the added brightness and pop" of the JVC, which is addictive, and the reduced motion blur on the Sony in its Film Projection mode. The latter isn't always easy to spot but once you see it, you want it.
The Sony VPL-VW200 is ready to compete. It offers superb performance, together with an exceptional set of features. Some of these are best left off, but others can provide genuine picture improvements.
It's a tough market out there, with highly worthy competitors out there selling for a fraction of the VPL-VW200's cost- even from Sony. Nevertheless, once you see this projector properly set up and configured, you may find it hard to resist.
• Pristine sharpness and natural detail
• Color is as accurate as it gets
• Very good black level and contrast ratio with the manual iris
• Super quiet
• Advanced (auto) Iris produces incredible peak contrast numbers, but with brightness compression and some noticeable pumping
• Adequately bright, but the maximum light output may not be sufficient for very large screens
• Expensive in today's projector market