Sony VPL-VW40 Home Theater Projector Review

The Sony VW40 takes advantage of very good native blacks, by enhancing performance with a good dynamic iris system, which tends to stay invisible under most watching conditions. Once in a while in a change of scene, you might just detect something, but mostly, you would have to be looking for it.

First, a couple of space scenes. When you click on the image below of the satellite (which is only barely overexposed), you will see a more over-exposed, large version of the same frame. As you can see, the stars are very rich, and numerous. In the small image, it is the camera that is crushing blacks and losing the starts. Overall, the Sony delivers really good black levels, but not the best in class.

As well as the Sony does, the Epson is revealing more stars, and you can just, barely see the difference in background blacks. (Sorry, I should have overexposed it a little more, but no fear – I have other images.)

So, while we are focused on the black levels, here’s another side by side compared to the Epson (left). No image, and a very long exposure.

You can see here, (and both do have their iris’es engaged), that the Sony cannot match the Epson. As with the image above, both projectors are matched in terms of brightness. The Sony (right side), shows two issues. First, the blue hotspots in the upper right and lower left. This seems to be a genuine defect on this Sony projector. With any 3 panel (or 3 chip) projector, this problem sometimes occurs, or rather, evenness of color is never perfect. In this case, however, it is a definite problem.

To see this much difference between those corners and the others, usually I’m working with a pre-production sample. I’ve probably seen problems of this magnitude 4 or 5 times in the last year. Once in a while, it shows up in a full production projector, but in a case like this, one would consider that projector to be defective. It’s normally dealt with in quality control. I should note, however, that I’ve seen this happen due to just too much bouncing around of the projector from shipping. With reviewer units, they go from the manufacturer to a reviewer, back to the manufacturer, then to another dealer, ad nauseum.

I notified Sony, and they will be sending me a full production projector early March. At that time, I’ll confirm. I fully expect this to be an isolated problem. Afterall, the VPL-VW40 is essentially the same engine as the older VW50, and that review unit only exhibited the normal minor amount of variance. In other words, don’t worry about it.

More significantly, look in the upper left corner of the Sony. There you have what I would call its normal black levels. You can easily see that the blacks are a bit lighter gray than the right corner of the Epson, opposite it. BTW, you may notice a thin border around the Sony. That is because their panels are larger than 1920 x 1080, so there are unused pixels. I presume that the border is brighter than the main area, because I figure Sony isn’t using the dynamic iris on that area. That’s just a guess. Of course that border will coincide roughly with the frame around your screen, which is black, so you aren’t likely to ever notice it.

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