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

Above – Jen, from the band Sugarland, from M-HD (MTV’s hi-def music video channel – great stuff).

Perhaps the best example of “almost” is this shot below of Pete Townsend from The Who (who, I must punningly note, I will be seeing with The Who, this evening in Long Beach).

OK, a brief interesting story – While Pete looks great below, the color balance, though close, I started to write yesterday,” is not, quite, believable. You know, a bit thin on red, and a touch low on green.”

Boy was I wrong. Last night I had floor seats for The Who (in Long Beach, CA), and to my amazement, under the stage lighting, Pete really did have the skin tones you see below. (The projection displays had a bit more red, but live, well, the Sony captured him really well. (Live and learn!)

Overall, all of the HDTV images above still have a real Wow factor, people who have joined me watching snippets of movies, or the concerts or a playback of Leno on DVR, were all consistantly impressed by the Sony VW50. Although the usual crowd doesn’t contain any hard core videophiles or home theater geeks, at least two people, very familiar with my room (and BenQ) didn’t take long to comment that “that new projector” looks better than yours, and in all cases, they weren’t talking about resolution, but the overall image quality, especially in how natural everything looks on movie sources.

Sony VW50 Pearl Projector: Image Sharpness

Normally I tackle sharpness further down in this section, but with the VW50, sharpness has been one of the controversial issues. The word out there, on the Sony Pearl, as well as the older Sony Ruby, has almost consistantly been that these LCOS (SXRD is Sony’s name) projectors, just aren’t quite as sharp as other technologies.

The first LCOS projector I reviewed – about 2 years ago, the 1080p JVC HD2K, was very impressive, but my comment about it was that it wasn’t as sharp as I would expect from a 1080p projector, when compared to the sharpest 720p resolution projectors available.

Some people conjecture that LCD projectors look the sharpest – not because they resolve more detail, but because the visible (or nearly visible) pixel structure at normal seating distances gives the impression of more sharpness/detail. Following that logic, DLP projectors, while having far less noticeable pixels than LCD, but far more visible than LCOS, would also appear sharper than LCOS models. Then consider Panasonic’s two home theater projectors, the PT-AE1000U (1080p) and PT-AX100U (720p) thanks to their SmoothScreen technology, have essentially invisible pixels even much closer than seating distance, also are not considered sharp, in their class. Could that be, not because of lack of detail, but because lack of subliminally detectable pixel structure?

Myself, I have been in the camp that simply says, LCOS projectors just don’t appear as sharp as… But, then, at EHX last November, JVC showed their (just released) RS-1 LCOS projector (JVC calls it D-ILA), side by side with the very, very sharp Mitsubishi HC5000. Under the JVC controlled environment, I strained to detect a real difference in sharpness, but failed. So, perhaps JVC has something, which – since the RS-1 is our next 1080p projector review, which is sharper than other LCOS projectors, or maybe the HC5000 just wasn’t as sharp as it could be.

I watched, and watched, and watched. The Sony VW50 Pearl never gave me that razor sharp feeling I got from the Mitsubishi HC5000, nor for that matter the two sharp DLP’s the Optoma HD81 and BenQ W10000.

But, it still appeared to produce a sharper, more detail revealing image than any of the 720p projectors.

Time to look at what I’m talking about – first, our closeup of the necklace from Phantom, off of HD-DVD (click to enlarge), and immediately below it, a shot of the necklace from the BenQ W10000, and from the Mitsubishi HC5000.

Sony VW-50 PhantomNecklaceLarge
BenQ W10000 Phantom NecklaceLarge
HC5000BL Phantom jewelryLarge
Sony VW-50 PhantomNecklaceLarge
+BenQ W10000 Phantom NecklaceLarge

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