Sony VPL-HS51A Home Theater Projector
I touched on it earlier, the Sony offers placement flexibility not found on DLP projectors in the under $3000.
The zoom lens has a 1.55:1 ratio, giving you more placement flexibility than any of the DLP projectors, and since you could fill a 100″ diagonal screen with the lens 15′ back, you have the room to shelf mount the projector (with that size screen) in the back of a room that is 17 feet deep. The zoom lens is similar to the Epson, but has less range than the Sanyo or Panasonic.
The lens shift range (vertical) on the Sony, is also excellent, with more range than the Panasonic (if I remember correctly) and similar to the Sanyo. This will allow you to place the projector even well above the top of the screen surface or well below the bottom. And of course, anywhere in between. Very handy!
A Very Sharp Image
Image sharpness is another big strength of the Sony. None of the other projectors mentioned is sharper. The Sony is notably sharper than the Panasonic and the Epson, and about equal to the Optoma and BenQ projectors. It is particulary good handling current DVDs. In terms of LCD projectors, only the Sanyo is its equal. (Note: these projectors vary in sharpness depending on the source – for example the Epson and Panasonic are notably soft on DVD, but on Hi-Def sources they are much closer to the competition, which indicates that, at least for the lower DVD resolution, scaling is a factor, not lens sharpness.
Brightness vs. the Competition
As noted in the full review, the Sony HS51A arrived with 255 hours on the lamp, so I would anticipate that it was 5 to 10% dimmer than a brand new projector would output. That said, the Sony only measured 221 lumens in its best performance mode (Cinema/low power). Even if we add 10% to estimate the brightness when new, that’s only 243 lumens. Most competing projectors produce output in best mode in the mid three hundred lumen range, and the brightest competitor, the Optoma HD72 produced just over 500 lumens. (The InFocus IN76 produced almost 400 lumens.) Only the Epson Cinema 550 of the LCD models is particularly bright. I should note that it is typical for LCD projectors to be less bright than the DLP projectors when their iris’s are engaged and (if they have it), the lamp is dimming frame by frame.
The bottom line, the Sony is not going to be your first choice if you want a larger screen. Even with a screen with some gain, 100″ or maybe 106″ diagonal is probably the largest sized screen you can use with the Sony. Remember, that lamp will dim as it ages, so even if the Sony can handle a 110″ screen adequately with a new lamp, its going to be dimmer a thousand hours later. Also, consider that best mode has the lamp in low power. You can engage the brighter mode as the lamp dims, but that also increases fan noise. This is not going to be your best choice if you are looking for a larger screen, or if you have any ambient light in the room when watching movies. And if you want to watch TV programming such as sports, with some lights on, again, you are probably better with another projector. This Sony is best on movies in a fully darkened room.
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