Sony VPL-VW40 Home Theater Projector Review

The Sony VPL-VW40 is certainly one of the very best, of the lower cost 1080p projectors. These days, in the US, 1080p projectors can be found for hundreds less than $2000, so the Sony, with a $2999 list price, isn’t really competing against the lowest cost models. Right now, that would be the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 and the Mitsubishi HC4900. It does however price right there with some of the toughest competition, including the Panasonic PT-AE2000U, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, and the Optoma HD8000.

Moreover, the VW40′s performance is in many ways closer to the more expensive LCoS projectors including Sony’s own VW60, and the two JVC’s; the DLA-RS1, and RS2, even though it can’t quite match any of those.

The Sony’s strengths will make it appeal to those primarily interested in movie viewing, especially those with a critical eye, and a limited budget that precludes the more expensive projectors.

While the sample sent to us for review does have an obvious problem with evenness of the image – with blue hotspots in two corners, we do not believe this to be a flaw with the VW40, but rather just with this unit. A 2nd Sony projector will be sent to us, to confirm. The fact that the “engine” is essentially identical to the older VW50, is more ammunition to convince us that this is not a problem with the design, but more likely shipping damage, or possibly, this is a pre-production unit (can’t tell from the packaging), where problems like this one, are more common.

Back to business. The Sony offers black level performance second only to the Epson in this price range, and both are a cut above the rest of the competition. Shadow detail is also extremely good.

If I must take Sony to task for any issues, I come up with only two. The first, is the relatively mediocre color performance out of the box. This projector begs, no, it cries out for a professional calibration, or at least a serious attempt by users, using one of the “user friendly” calibration discs like AVIA.

My second complaint is the one year warranty – too short, but you can supplement that with either an affordable 3rd party extended warranty, or a much more expensive Sony one.

Sony VPL-VW40 vs. Epson Home Cinema 1080UB

This is a serious contest. Picture quality of both, after adjustment, is excellent, although the Epson definitely has the black level advantage. Both produce image quality, that until the last year and change, was unattainable for less than $10,000, and that’s one big improvement in terms of the value proposition.

From a picture quality standpoint, for movie watching, black levels notwithstanding, this is more of a difference in “flavor” than overall better/worse. Some will prefer the Sony’s overall picture, others the Epson. Personally, I favor the Epson, but I can appreciate why many will choose the Sony.

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