The Art of Home Theater Projectors

1080p Home Theater Projectors – Sony VW40 and Optoma HD803 reviews – First Look

Yep, boys and girls, I am working now, on reviewing two more 1080p home theater projectors, the last two before I publish our 2nd Annual 1080p projector comparison report. Sony’s new VPL-VW40, a lower cost  - $2999 – alternative to their VPL-VW60 (reviewed in December), and Optoma’s HD803.The Sony, is, of course, another SXRD (LCoS) based projector, while the Optoma HD803 is apparently the third in a family of almost identical Optoma DLP home theater projectors, including the HD80 and HD8000.

The Optoma is coming out of its box in a few minutes, so I still don’t know what differences (if any) between it, and its siblings.

The Sony VW40, however, has already been measured and calibrated, and I’ve done some watching, side by side, with Epson’s Home Cinema 1080UB.  

As Sergeant Schultz (of  Hogan’s Heros fame – for those of you with limited life experience), would say…. “verrrrry interesting”.

So, here’s a couple of initial impressions of the Sony.  I’ll do another blog in a couple of days, with some thoughts on the Optoma.The VW40, in best mode, measured 460 lumens, after some tuning.  That put it about dead even with Epson’s 1080UB.   It sure doesn’t have a great deal in reserve though, if you need to fight ambient light, measuring just under 900 lumens in a retuned and pushed Dynamic mode (that’s roughly 40% less than the Epson).

Surprisingly, the Sony VW40 produces a slightly sharper image.  It almost looks like they’ve got some edge sharpening algorithm  going, I’ll take a closer look.  Based on initial impression it seems sharper than the VW60, which would be equally surprising.Black levels, were the most interesting – I had both projectors – Epson and Sony – side by side, and found black levels to be near identical.  It seems at it’s very best, the Sony can get a slightly blacker black than the Epson.  Remember they both use dynamic irises. Most of the time, however, the black levels of the Epson has a slight advantage.  These two home theater projectors are in the same league!  The Epson also has a slight advantage in shadow detail – slight – being the operative term.  The Sony though does suffer from some uneven illumination, and Sony’s usual slight blue tint on blacks.  LCD vs LCoS is going to be personal preference for many, I think.

It will be interesting to see how the Optoma HD803 fits into this.  I’m tuning it as soon as I finish this posting, and this evening, I’ll be shooting some side by side images with the Optoma HD803 and the Sony VW40, and also the Optoma HD803 vs. the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB.  Last night I shot the Epson vs Sony VW40. This should all make for some interesting results and commentary, as we get comparisons between three relatively low cost 1080p projectors – one LCD, one DLP, and one LCoS.

Once I get these two reviews posted, I’ll be immediately staring on the 1080p Home Theater Projectors: Comparison Report, which will cover about a dozen and a half 1080p projectors, although several will be variations of the same projector – such as Epson Home and Pro Cinema 1080UB, and the Optoma HD80, HD803, HD8000.Stay tuned!  -art 

News And Comments

  • http://google STEVE ASH

    Art,the 1080ub is brighter than the sony VW 40,does a better shade of black,not a blue black and is blacker most of the time and has slightly better shadow detail.The epson is lighter and smaller in size and has the best waranty.The epson is sharp enough, with very good shadow detail.In my opinion with performance this close BRIGHTNESS AND WARANTY HAS TO TIP THE SCALES.The Epson a no-brainer and the predicted winner.

    ***************

    Hi Steve, All your points are good ones. However, there is one you haven’t mentioned, that also comes into play – and that is, the different technologies. LCD vs LCoS. The two projectors have a different feel to them, in terms of picture, much like my RS1 vs the Epson. Strangely, I would have expected the Sony to be the more subdued – more film-like, but at least after initial calibration, the Sony has the more dynamic looking image.

    When my wife cruised by the testing room, for example, I asked her which one looks better. Took her about 3-4 seconds – she picked the Sony. Myself, I found the Sony to be (for lack of a more precise description, at this time) to be “overdriven” – basically oversaturated, but the initial view of the two side by side, is that the Sony (to my surprise) has more sizzle, and many will like that. As time goes on, I’ll be doing real

    It’s always something. If it were all specs, I wouldn’t have to watch the projectors. So, despite your points above, the Sony is definitely going to appeal to some. My job is to further define what those differences are in image quality, to help everyone with a more educated choice (guess?). -art

  • Tim E

    Art,

    Thanks for the mini-review on the VW40. I’ll be buying a projector in the next month or so. Since I will be mostly watching movies in a light controlled environment, “film-like” is more desirable as opposed to “video-like”. Looking forward to the complete review.

    Did you get a chance to check and see if the VW40 has the vertical stretch needed to fill my 2.35 screen? If the VW40 doesn’t do the scaling, then I’ll probably be getting the AE2000. Thanks again.

    *********

    So far, I haven’t cracked the manual, so I don’t know. I’ll get to such things as Cinemascope aspect ratios, before writing up the review. I usually go through the whole manual before writing the General Performance sections. Hang in there. -art

  • http://google STEVE ASH

    Art,blue-blacks,over driven colours,and uneven illumination all will continue to sign Joe Kane’s pay check:maybe that is why epson puts some stock in the I.S.F.What is pleasing to the eye in 3 or 4 seconds may not be so pleasing in the long haul.My eye usually prefers accurate colours and black blacks with the lumens to go with it if i need it.Why does’t the sony vh 40 offer i.s.f. colour modes?Art,remember your review of the optoma hd 81 lv?…..horsepower is sweet when you need it…..like when the sony bulb gets about 1000 hrs. on it and the owner then wished he had the 1080 ub.

  • Aki H.

    Thanks for the prelude.

    I like Tim E want to know if VW40 does the vertical stretch needed for cinemascope aspected Blu-ray movies (particularly Blu-ray). I am also very interested to hear more about this projectors behavior in a pitch black room on movies.

    Thank you for your other reviews as well! For me they are the best in the web.

  • http://google Steve

    Art,please give us something to chew on concerning the optoma hd 803.I is the sony vw 40 sharper than your own jvc rs1 ?

  • Phil

    All this is very interesting. I am about to buy either the Sony VW60 or the Epson 1080 UB Pro. Now I see the VW40. I was leaning to the Sony VW60.

    Bottom line: What is the better…VW40 or VW60?

    *****

    Greetings Phil,

    The VW60 is the better. The VW40 is not quite as good as the Epson in black levels. It seems to perform much like the older VW50. Other than that, you’ll have to wait til Monday night for the review. -art

  • Aki H.

    “No support for a 3rd party Anamorphic lens for those wanting true Cinemascope aspect ratio 2.35:1″

    Thank you for clearing this up and also for the professional review.

    Sony would have kept me as their customer if that sentence would have instead read: “support for a 3rd party Anamorphic lens for those wanting true Cinemascope aspect ratio 2.35:1″.

    *****

    Hi, Aki

    I suspect it is the usual – Sony needs to have sufficient differentiation between the VW40 and VW60, and that’s one of the ways, to make the 60 more valuable. It’s fairly common for manufacturers to do something like that, be it anamorphic support, or ISF certification/memory areas, etc. Best of luck. -art

  • Red3

    Hi Art,

    I have the Sony VW40, I was strongly influenced by your review to purchase this unit.
    Thank you for being so thorough in your reviews.

    However, my post-production unit displays the blue hue at the corners which you mentioned you didn’t think would be an issue.

    In your “The Best 1080p Resolution Home Theater Projectors of 2008 ” report you state:
    “Sony VPL-VW40 projector:
    The pre-production unit I tested definitely had issues out of the box, with some background blue hotspots in the corner. While I never received a 2nd one, I do expect that this would be a non-issue in post-production units. Even so, the Sony’s out of the box performance definitely needs work. It is noticeably strong on greens in Best mode. In addition, the darker the image, the more shift towards blue. All of these problems were calibrated out without too much difficulty. Strangely, Dynamic mode was better balanced, but not significantly brighter.”

    I have taken a 15 sec exposure shot of my brand new, shipped from Sony warehouse VW40 displaying a ‘black’ screen and there are definitely still ‘blue hue’ issues.

    Should I get the unit replaced, in your opinion? Can the issue be ‘calibrated out’ of the projector?

    ***********

    Greetings,

    Your 15 sec image looks very much like mine.

    Sony never bothered to send me a production unit follow-up, despite my requests, and only needing it for a couple of days, to confirm.

    However, in that your blue corners do look like mine, with my unit it was virtually undetectable when watching content, only on very dark scenes could I spot the blue in the corner when specifically looking for it. In other words, even if there, it shouldn’t be a problem.

    On the other hand, if you send it in to Sony, I’m sure they’ll take a shot at correcting whatever caused it.

    I’ve heard from others who have not experienced the blue corners, or at least not the pattern you and I have (upper right, lower left), and others still, who report a tiny amount barely visible when feeding it a black screen, but never with content.

    My two cents is: If you can’t spot it at all, while watching content, forget about it. But then, if you are the type, that can’t forget about it, then get back in touch with your dealer, or Sony.

    Personally, I find the general tendency of the Sony’s to shift to blue (overall) in the lowest gray registers (under 30 IRE), to be a much bigger issue, and that I was not able to calibrate away, that tendency is across the screen, even in the center. That impacts colors in dark but not black scenes, By comparison the blue corner issue, isn’t an issue at all.

    Few projectors end up with perfect grayscale calibraton, most do tend to shift in the darkest grays. Sony has always had the blue shift- on the VW50 and VW60 as well. I’m writing up a blog on the IN83 InFocus right now. That sucka, after calibration…

    Naw, read the new blog in a few minutes! -art