Sony VPL-VW40 Home Theater Projector Review

VW40 Projector Brightness

Brightness of the VW40 is very similar to the VW60. The measurements of the Sony VW40 are no surprise. Brightness was very good in best mode, measuring 460 lumens after basic calibration. The projector produced 16 more lumens before adjustment. This drops significantly to 307 lumens in low lamp mode. That’s almost exactly a 1/3 drop. You can assume that the drop will be the same proportion in any mode, between low and high lamp.

Next was Standard Mode, which we used for watching HDTV/TV/Sports with brightness at lamp full power, but still using the Custom 3 settings I set up for Cinema. Doing it this way, it really isn’t any brighter than Cinema mode at 475 lumens, but it is brighter, in its default Standard mode.

The Sony is brighter in best mode than the three of the four recently tested LCD projectors – the Mitsubishi HC6000, Panasonic PT-AE2000U, and the Sanyo PLV-Z2000, but can’t quite match the Epson Pro or Home Cinema 1080UB.

Moving to Dynamic mode, this time I set up several customized variations, and depending on what I was after, the brightness varied dramatically.

In default Dynamic, I measured 568 lumens. Setting Color Temp to Low, for better color, though, it dropped significantly to 483. However, setting Color Temp to the default Custom 1, lumens jumped way up, to a much more impressive 895 lumens. But, taming the colors so they are more watchable, pulled brightness back down into the high 400 lumen range. In my last attempt, I tried to push the Sony as far as I could, keeping the overall color temperature under 7000K, but with green WAY up (great for cutting through ambient light), and I was back right at 900 lumens (which is what Sony rates the VW40 at).

Bottom line: The Sony set up best for movies, does mid 400 lumens with lamp on high. Standard mode is not much brighter, and Dynamic, if really color balanced, is more of the same. You can, though configure Dynamic to be far brighter, at the expense of color accuracy.

Even doing that, the Sony VPL-VW40 is still no match for most of the LCD 1080p projectors, when comparing brightness. For example, the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB, a particularly bright competitor, manages over 1500 lumens in its dynamic mode, after adjusting to improve color, and over 1800 lumens at default, which might be comparable in overall color accuracy, to the best 900 lumens the Sony could do. That makes the Epson twice as bright when you need it.

VW40 Projector - Light Leakage

You can see some light leaking out of the bottom of the lens, but it is very low level, and you are unlikely to be able to spot it, unless there is no picture on the screen. Note, when I have been using the Sony, the lens shift has always been at, or very close, to maximum, and, I suspect the problem is even less with less lens shift.

VW40 Audible Noise Levels

Very quiet. Sony claims 22 db in low lamp mode. That’s very believable. It is quieter than the vast majority of home theater projectors, and should be a total non-issue, even to those who are particularly noise adverse.

VW40 Projector Screen Recommendations

While the VW60 has even better black levels, the VW40 is extremely good. A projector with excellent black levels really doesn’t need a High Contrast gray surface to further enhance blacks, although it still helps. Once you consider, though, that brightness of the projector is only average, you are generally best served by choosing the screen surface that will work best with your rooom conditions and screen size.

If you are a movie fanatic, and aren’t worried about watching assorted TV/HDTV/Sports with some room lighting, then the Sony VW40 is going to be very comfortable on a 110″ screen and you might push out to 120″. Last night I watched segments from three movies. I tried filling about 124″ of my 128″ Firehawk, and felt I was a little underpowered.

Interesting, since with the Epson, I was perfectly happy even a little larger. The cause for this, no doubt relates to gamma, and other subtle aspects of the overall picture quality. It’s not that the Sony, overall, wasn’t bright enough, just the picture balance left me wanting to reduce the zoom to a smaller size, something I never felt with the Epson. I conclude, therefore, that if you want to go much above 110″ diagonal, I’d recommend a white surface with some gain (1.1 to 1.4). With the larger surface, overall black levels will be a bit darker, but they’ll come back up with the positive gain screens. If you are a black level fanatic, and want a large screen, you just might be better off with a different projector, like the Epson, the VW60 (not brighter, but better black), and of course the JVC RS1.

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