Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Projector Review

Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Projector - Appearance

The new Sony VPL-VWPRO1 projector is physically identical to the HW15 it replaces. Like the older projector, the VPL-PRO1 is a larger home theater projector, finished in an almost black, piano type, shiny finish on the top, while most other surfaces are a flat black. If you are ceiling mounting, of course, the projector is inverted, with the piano finish facing down, where it is nicely attractive with lights on.

ony’s manual zoom lens, with its 1.6:1 zoom ratio, is partially recessed.

The lens zoom and focus are adjusted from the lens trim rings. If you are facing the front of the projector, the infra-red sensor for the remote, is just to the right of the lens area. Two screw thread adjustable feet can be found on the bottom just behind the front.

Moving to the top of the Sony VPL PRO1, all you will find, are the two manual lens shift wheels, just behind the lens in the front.

Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Control Panel

Sony relies on a very small, and basic, control panel located on the side of the projector, right above all the inputs and outputs (left side, if viewing from the front). This is unlike most projectors which tend to put the control panel on the top. There are others like this Sony, though, including the Panasonic PT-AE3000.

Looking at the control panel from that side of the projector, you’ll find a small power button, closest to the front (once for on, twice for off). Next to it, is a button for Input selection, then one to bring up the menus. The rest of the control panel consists of four arrow keys in a round configuration, with a center enter button. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of side mounted control panels and input areas. It may allow you to place the projector a couple inches closer to the back wall, if shelf mounting, but when ceiling mounting, if people enter your theater from that side, they will have the best look at all those cables. Not an issue for most of us, but, forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

Input/Output

No changes compared to the older HW15, the input panel of the Sony PRO1 is located on the left side (if looking from the front). Facing that side, from back of the projector to the front, you’ll find the power receptacle, two HDMI 1.3 inputs, and a standard HD15 connector for the usual analog computer input (it can alternately be used as a second component video inputs). Next, comes the S-video (DIN connector), and composite video (RCA jack). Then comes the standard component video input (3 color coded RCA jacks), and finally an RS-232 serial port for command and control by a room control system, or a computer, if so desired.

The HDMI inputs support 1.3, Deep Color, x.v.Color, HDCP, computer HDMI standards, and LipSync. That pretty much covers all the newest standards. This is an improvement over the older Sony VPL-VW40 and VW60, which had HDMI 1.3, but, for example, lacked Deep Color support. (No content yet, for Deep Color, but, we should see some content in 2009).

Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Menus

The Sony’s menus are well organized. Type size is reasonable, smallish, but not too small to be difficult to read at normal seating distances. This year, the menu is white on an opaque, charcoal gray background. (Much more pleasing than Sony’s old bright, light blue menus). I’m sitting 20 feet back right now, from a 100″ screen, and while the type size is fairly small, I have no problem at all reading the words.

The menu layout is a little different than older HW15. You’ll need to get used to where certain menu items are hiding, such as the lamp power control being found in the Picture Menu, but hidden in the sub-menu called Cinema Black Pro. Who would have thought? Dynamic iris control is also hiding in the Cinema Black Pro sub-menu.

There are three pre-configured picture modes (Cinema, Dynamic, and Standard), and three User modes where you can save your settings changes. I like the way the three user modes are matched to the pre-defined ones. User 1 starts out the same as the Dynamic settings, User 2, Standard settings, and User 3 is based on Cinema. It’s often a nuisance, when calibrating a projector, that starts out very close to ideal, only to find that the user area defaults are horrible, thus making a good calibration far more difficult than it needs to be. Note, this the assignment of User 1,2,3, is the same as last year.

The Expert Setting sub-menu (of Picture menu), gets some new items, which offers 6 gamma settings, with some control, a choice of wide or normal color space, noise reduction options, and a control called Black Level Adjust. That last one is designed to let you enhance black performance. It works, but it does seem to wipe out some dark shadow detail. Added to the Expert Setting sub-menu for the VWPRO1, is the addition of x.v. color (on/off), and Film mode (auto).

Some may like using the Black Level control to get more “pop” into those darker scenes, but the price for that is lost dark detail. The low setting crushes a fair bit of blacks, High, is “out of control” nasty, with the dark shadow detail gone. Unless you have something special in mind, Off is the preferred setting.

There are a number of other menus, and another of note is the Setup menu. Besides the language choices, and postioning for the menus, there’s the high altitude fan control, standby and power options, and control of source type for Input A. There is also a Lamp Setting item, but on this menu, that’s for resetting the lamp counter, after replacing a lamp.

Despite the color change of the menus, and the moving of a feature or two, the PRO1′s menus are similar to last years’ layout. That means once again, what I consider to be a very good layout. A few items are hiding where you might not think to look, but that’s my only real complaint, and you’ll find those controls quickly enough.

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