Sony VPL-VW50 “Pearl” 1080p Home Theater Projector Review: Overview

Sony VW50 Projector – SDE and Rainbow Effect

Straight A’s here for the Sony Pearl. The pixel structure is essentially invisible. It certainly is from any normal viewing distance, as you would have to get within 2-3 feet of a 100″ screen to spot those pesky pixels. Click on the thumbnail image below my of my cable guide, for an extreme closeup of the lower center. The thumbnail gives you a good idea of how small an area, the enlarged image is looking at. As you can see, the pixel structure is basically invisible (there’s still the structure of the data itself, but not the projector).

Sony VW50 Projector – Light Leakage

No issues here!

Sony VW50 Projector – Audible Noise Levels

Extremely quiet, whether in low or high power fan mode. (Sorry, never tried the high altitude setting, but considering the other two modes, it’s still going to be very quiet compared to others.

Sony VW50 Projector – Projector Brightness

For a projector who’s reputation almost immediately included “not very bright”, I was pleasantly surprised, both viewing and measuring the projector’s performance. As many will say, the high contrast and excellent black levels make the projector, perhaps, seem brighter than other projectors with the same lumens, but poorer contrast. I should note, that to my surprise, I was able to watch the projector – in essentially Cinema Mode, Gamma 1, High Power lamp, and Auto Iris set to 1, and just about fill my 128″ Stewart Firehawk screen. I found the brightness to be just (barely) acceptable.

First, an important consideration: When I set up the Pearl for measurement, I inadvertantly had the zoom lens about 3/4 towards widest angle (in other words, towards the largest possible image I could project from that distance). With the 1.8:1 zoom, there is a dramatic drop off in brightness from wide angle to full telephoto. I normally try to set the zoom at the halfway point. With most DLP projectors -with their very narrow zoom ranges, the difference might only be 10% or so between the two maximum settings. With Sony’s 1.8:1 zoom, we are looking at a potential drop from full wide angle to full telephoto of about 50% of brightness. A quick estimate, based on where I had the zoom positioned, works out to almost 25% brighter than if I had it at the usual mid point on the zoom.

Sony VW-50 CableGuideCloseLarge

BenQ W10000 pixelstructurecloseup

As a result, for the numbers below, figure that at the midpoint, measurements would have been almost 20% lower, and those numbers (shown sometimes in () ) will serve you better for comparing with other projectors measurements.

For convenience, based on where the projector sits in my theater for viewing, I filled only about 124″ diagonal.

And despite all the Sony’s strengths, that killed the Pearl, as my next projector. Remember – that’ just barely handling the screen room, with a brand new lamp. I’d never survive watching the Sony with 500-1000 hours on the lamp, after it’s dimmed 10-25%, especially since I would be almost full telephoto (dim) mode.

But, I digress. Let’s consider the measurements.

First, an important consideration – which is, where I had set up the Pearl for measurement, I inadvertantly had the zoom lens about 3/4 towards widest angle (in other words, almost the largest image I could project from that distance). With the 1.8:1 zoom, there is a dramatic drop off in brightness from wide angle to full telephoto. I normally try to set the zoom at the halfway point. With most DLP projectors -with their very narrow zoom ranges, the difference might only be 10% or so between the two maximum settings. With 1.8:1, we are looking at a potential drop from full wide angle to full telephoto of

In “best” mode – Cinema – with lamp of full, I measured (after grayscale balancing for 6500K), a pretty impressive 538 lumens! (approx 430 lumens at mid-zoom point). In low power, the Sony drops off more than most projectors, and it clocked in at 373 lumens (298).

Where the Sony comes up short is in trying to get a brighter image when you really need it. The Standard setting on full power, still only yields 596 lumens (477).

Worse, Dynamic – where you expect to sacrifice image quality for some serious horsepower for fighting ambient light, was a real dissapointment. It yielded somewhat more, after adjusting Brightness, but still only 746 lumens (597). Interestingly green measured low, (most projectors push green hard, to get more lumens out).

Here’s some good news. Because the 746 lumens just didn’t cut it for me, for watching sports or, any TV, for that matter, with more than a very small amount of ambient light, I decided to play a bit.

The magic came when I set the Color Temp to Custom 1 with a boost of 30 on green. Color balance actually improved over the default with its weak green, and I was actually able to measure 1157 lumens (925 lumens at zoom mid-point) Note: Sony rates the VW50 at 900 lumens. Not bad at all, but todays brighter home theater projectors can with a bit of similar adjusting, often crank out 1300 – 1600 lumens in their “worst modes” and some break 2000 (although no 1080p projectors I’ve seen yet). By comparison, the BenQ W10000 pushed out about 150 lumens more, in its brightest mode.

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