Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Projector Review

VPL-VWPRO1 vs. Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, 9700UB

Price wise, the Sony VPL-VWPRO1 is a full $1000 more than the Epson 8700UB, and nets out to about $500 more than the 9700UB. The two Epsons are pretty similar, with the 8700UB offering a 2 year warranty (like the Sony), and the 9700UB with a three year. (Epson also has the advantage of a fast replacement program). Both the PRO1 and the 9700UB come with a spare lamp, but Epson’s lamps are rated 4000 hours at full or eco power, vs. the Sony’s 2000/3000 expected life. Those add up to significant cost of ownership differences. But let’s move past cost.

The Sony is 3 chip LCoS vs. 3 chip LCD (3LCD) for Epson. The Sony is physically much larger, and finished in black (like the 9700UB – the 8700UB is finished in white).

Last year, the Epson equivalent was about equal in brightness to the older HW15 in “best mode”, and a whole lot brighter, when comparing “brightest modes”, but this year the really major improvement in the new PRO1 is a huge jump in brightness. This year, there’s no comparison, the Sony’s “best” mode, is more than 40% brighter than the Epson – (2-3 years ago, the Epson was probably 20% brighter than the Sony.)

Switching to “brightest” modes, the Epson still has an edge, but its brightest mode isn’t quite as good as the Sony’s. Figure the Epson is about 100 lumens brighter with roughly comparable color, but can still muster up a good 200 more lumens in “brightest” mode, just not look as good. The key thing is that they are close in “brightest” mode. With my old 128″ firehawk, I could have owned the VWPRO1 for it easily would handle my Firehawk G3 in “best” mode, something the Epson lacks the muscle to do. True, the Epson could be a touch brighter on sports, if needed, but for comparable color in a bright mode, the two brands are pretty similar.

The 9700UB brings full anamorphic lens support to the party for Epson. Sony saves that for their far more expensive VW90ES projector.

The Epson 8700UB, for a black level fanatic like myself, is the better value, if you aren’t going big screen, but, then brightness is a key aspect of a satisfying setup. In past years, for most people, I recommended the older Epson over the Sony, regardless of price differences. I felt the Epson was an overall better projector. This time around, with Sony now having a big brightness advantage, I’d have to own the Sony myself, over the Epson. That’s a first for me – in comparing 4 generations of more expensive Sonys, to 4 generations of lower cost Epson UB projectors.

In other words, this time, Sony has really impressed!

Sony VPL-VWPRO1 vs. HC7000

Bright vs. Dim? Yep, there’s no comparison, the Sony is blinding compared to the HC7000. Now, if you are a smaller screen person, you may still want to compare these two, but if you are thinking larger than 100″ diagonal with any kind of normal screen, in this comparison, just forget the Mitsubishi.

If, however, you are looking at a nice 92″ screen for a smaller room, the HC7000 has a lot of things going for it, and it therefore may prove to be a better choice than the Sony.

Consider first, audible noise levels. The Sony is pretty average, but, let’s say it could be quieter in “brightest mode”. (28db). The Mitsubishi is much quieter even in full power, than the Sony in low power. It’s virtually silent. In a small room, the Sony especially if hanging over your head, will have enough audible noise at full power to scare away those who are noise adverse. Sounds like a killer advantage for the Mitsubishi, but remember, the Sony is brighter in eco-mode than the HC7000 at full power. The Sony in low power is very quiet, so, that does negate the Mitsubishi audible noise advantage. The large size of the Sony projector can be too much for smaller rooms. That’s mostly a cosmetic call (check with wife).

Both, when calibrated, look really good, with the Mitsubishi HC7000 having a black level advantage, but not a great one. As noted above, the brightness factor makes them very different projectors. The Mitsubishi is also a bit physically smaller, with both finished primarily in a shiny piano black.

Sony VPL-VWPRO1 vs. JVC DLA-RS40 and DLA-HD250

We have yet to have any of the new JVC’s in, as of this writing. For an updated comparison check out the JVC reviews, after they are posted. The Sony VWPRO1 competes directly with the JVC DLA-HD250. They are simiarly priced, with the JVC being $2995 and the Sony being $3400 but includes a spare lamp. Before speculating on how those two compare, let me mention the DLA-RS40 first. The RS40 is one of three, more expensive JVC’s, that are all brighter than the HD250 and the Sony VWPRO1 – or HW20a, to use its other designation. The Sony is not a competitor of the RS40 in that it’s roughly $1500 less, and it’s not as bright, but the real difference is that the RS40 is a fully 3D capable projector. Sony has one (for just under $10K), the VPL-VW90ES, but the only way I can consider them competitors would be if you had the budget for the RS40, and wanted its brightness, but without 3D interest at all. In that case, let’s say it’s a brighter projector with better black levels, and likely worth the difference in price if you need just that. But, if the Sony has the lumens you need, then the JVC HD250, which seems to be more similar to last year’s RS15, than to the RS40 (which is technically the RS15′s replacement). The HD250 is likely to measure a little less bright than the Sony, though in past years, the JVC’s had the edge. This has been Sony’s big change for 2011.

The HD250 claims slightly less contrast than last year’s RS15, which could easily offer up better blacks than the Sony, Epson or others. Expect the JVC HD250 to have better blacks, by a fair amount. (I’ve seen the HD250 in places other than my facilities, and it seems consistant in this regard with the RS40.)

The HD250 comes in the same box as that old RS15, so that makes the JVC just a tad smaller than the Sony. Both are black.

Bottom line, short of having the JVC for review: Slight brightness advantage for Sony, Black levels will be a win for JVC (no dynamic iris). One thing of note, if you aren’t going to get yours calibrated, JVC’s THX mode will have better color than the Sony will, without adjustment.

Sony VPL-VWPRO1 vs. BenQ W6000

I wanted to cover at least one DLP compared to the Sony. The BenQ W6000 – a projector that’s been around a year as of this writing. The W6000 has a lower price, originally around $2500, but seems to be selling for about $2000 (no spare lamp) for about a $1000 net difference. The BenQ has similar placement flexibility (both are very good, not great, with lens shift and mid-range zooms). They should have similar black level performance. The BenQ can put out more “best”, and “brightest” mode lumens. You get an extra year warranty with the Sony. The BenQ is a touch rougher around the edges, smaller, and has less frills, but is a first class performer, for the money, and has an extra year warranty. The BenQ has that not quite definable “DLP look and feel” to the picture, which I best describe is being able to do dark rich colors without seeming over the top (with the competition not quite as rich…) I think that holds here, but the Sony is just plain more projector. When the BenQ has its brightest advantage, it can’t match the color of the Sony. Still, there are times you want that – for that superbowl party in the family room…

Sony VPL-VWPRO1 - Warranty

The Sony VPL-VWPRO1 projector comes with a two year, parts and labor warranty.

Two year warranties are pretty much the standard for 1080p projectors, with some models offering three and a number of low-cost models, offering only one year.

Three year warranties will be found on the BenQ W20000, the Sanyo projectors, and the Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB and Pro Cinema 9100 (both of which include an overnight replacement program).

There are also a few one year warranties, including the Panasonic PT-AE4000U. The new BenQ W6000, and Sharp XV-Z15000 also come with only one year (that’s not confirmed on the BenQ W6000, which hasn’t started shipping).

Other 1080p home theater projectors with 2 year warranties include all the Mitsubishi projectors, all the InFocus projectors, the Epson Home Cinema 8100 and the 8500UB (with replacement programs for both years), plus, most Optoma projectors…

Bottom line: There are better warranties, and worse ones, but the Sony VPL-VWPRO1 warranty is pretty much in the middle of the pack, and most typical one for this class of projector.

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