Sony VPL-VW90ES Projector Review
Sony VPL-90ES Gamma Modes
Sony now offers 10 different preset gamma modes (#11 is “off” (default). Per Mike’s measurements, the gamma mode closest to the target of 2.2 is gamma 4, which averaged 2.23 gamma. (Interestingly, the lower cost VWPRo1, also has gamma 4 as its best at 2.22, essentially identical). Four is a great mode for movies, though purists who remember CRT home theater projectors might be happier with a higher gamma. There is some correlation between the gamma numbers (2,3,8,9, etc.) and their performance, but it seems almost like two groupings, gammas 1-5, and 6-10. I hadn’t asked Mike to take a close look to determine what Sony’s doing, so he just comes back with the best recommendation, in this case: Gamma 4. The higher gammas aren’t “linear.”
That is to say, one might just alter the low end darker areas, not the brighter ones, whereas 1-5 are linear. One of the higher ones, for example might have an average gamma of 2.1, but average 2.2, everywhere except for between 10 and 20 IRE, where it might be only 1.8 (that would lighten dark shadow detail).
Sony SXRD panels - (LCoS)
A sort of short history of LCoS panels in projectors: It is true, that the largest percentage of home theater projectors use either DLP or 3LCD technology. Sony uses Liquid Crystal on Silicon, a reflective panel, as opposed to the translucent typical LCD panels. Sony calls their LCoS implementation SXRD. In the under $10,000 price range, JVC and Sony are the primary manufacturers of LCoS home theater projectors. with (in the US), LG making their move (they use Sony panels). We’re finally seeing relatively affordable LCoS projectors, which is great news for all of us. Between Sony and LG, you now have a choice under $3000.
But let’s concern ourselves now with the more expensive LCoS. The advantages of LCoS, these days, are twofold: First, LCoS panels have, for all practical purposes, invisible pixel structures, way below visibility at normal seating distances with a 1080p projector. Only the 3LCD Panasonic PT-AE4000, with its addition of their SmoothScreen technology, has less visible pixels, and it comes with a price – a slightly softer image.
Pixel visibility, and screen door effect are, effectively, non-issues with this Sony, thanks to the LCoS panels.
The second advantage, it seems, is in terms of black level performance. While some 3LCD and DLP projectors can match some of the LCoS projectors, at this point in time, the Sony, but more so, the JVC LCoS projectors, outperform almost most of the non LCoS competition, in black level performance. And The Sony’s are pretty much comparable to all but one or two other brands in blacks.
Individual SXRD panel adjustment
A very nice touch, this Sony allows individual adjustment of each panel for more precise alignment. This feature carried forward from the HW10 and their older more expensive models too. This isn’t an end all, there are still limits to the coarseness of the adjustments. If a panel is off 1/3 a pixel, that’s too small to compensate for. By breaking the screen down into nine segments, it allows more precise results, than, for example, the single pixel shift design used in the JVC projectors and some others. It’s a nice extra to have, although I have to think of it providing only minor benefit, at best.
Let's talk 3D active glasses:
For 3D, of course, the Sony VW90ES uses active glasses which means if you have a lot of friends, more money for glasses. I would recommend looking at 3rd party glasses for your extra pairs, you can probably save money, buy a universal pair that will work on your friends projector if they bought a different brand, and because I don’t particularly like the design of these Sony’s, although they are comfortable enough for 3D active glasses. I wear glasses, and Sony’s glasses fit nicely over mine.
In Sony’s attempt at cool glasses, there’s a bad reflection (of the image you are watching) off of the glasses design at the top. I find it occasionally annoying. Although now that I think about it, perhaps some black tape can block the reflection. Still, that’s sloppy design!
Below, on the left, the Sony VPL-VW90ES, on the right, the Sharp XV-Z17000. You are looking at a 2D image of the two projectors projecting 3D onto one of my screens. The glasses mute most of the Sony’s slightly over the top blues you see here. You don’t get this feel when viewing in 3D, it looks a lot more natural. The Sharp is a little closer to more accurate if looking at these two, but the Sony does have the “better looking” image, and that’s not just me. My wife passed through the room and liked the Sony.
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