Sony VPL-AW15 Bravia Home Theater Projector - Overview05/7/2007 - Art Feierman
Sony contacted me a few days before my family's spring break vacation, and offered an AW15 for review, if I could get it back to them very quickly. So, with vacation almost upon us, and two back to back trade shows the week after, I naturally said: "sure, ship it out". And so, for the first time, I had a home theater projector in here for review, for less than 3 full days, instead of the usual 10 days. As a result, I must apologize, in advance, I was able to do all the usual measurements and adjustments, but wasn't able to spend all of the dozen plus hours viewing the AW15 Bravia, that I normally consider a minimum for a good review.
That said, with the more limited time, this review is a bit more shakey, in terms of my more subjective recommendations, especially as relating to how good I feel the overall image quality is.
OK, time to get started:
First, the Sony AW15 isn't expected to ship until June, so you can read this at a leisurely pace.
The Sony VPL-AW15 (MSRP: $1300) is definitely a very nice, compact, and affordable home theater projector. From a pricing standpoint, it is very agressive, especially considering some of the technological features included. It's claim of 12,000:1 contrast ratio, I do believe that is the highest current claim for a 720p resolution projector. To achieve this, Sony apparently has two separate dynamic irises that work differently. I'll go into this far more in image quality, but I did want to point out, that all the fancy dynamic gadgetry these days, is pretty much making contrast ratio a meaningless spec, for judging black level performance.
The AW15 also supports 1080p/24fps, a feature that new projectors are just starting to support. Next - so far, only a couple of very expensive Blu-ray DVD players can output 1080p/24, and interestingly, both have list prices higher (May 07) than this Sony projector (They are both around $1500.)
However, as the Hi-Def DVD war evolves, and prices fall dramatically in the next 12 months, it wouldn't be too surprising to see $199 players supporting 1080p/24. My point is, Sony's decision to support 1080p/24 in a 720p projector is a good thing.
Next point I should mention, is that Sony also launched an even lower priced sibling, the AW10, with an anticipated $999 list price, which makes it the first 720p projector featuring 3LCD technology, to start out under $1000 Of course, we are getting these prices from an eary press release. I suspect the actually MSRP's will be $1299 or $1295, and $999 or $995 respectively, when they actually ship. But, I digress.
The lower priced AW10 has a single dynamic iris, and claims a still impressive 6000:1 contrast ratio. Again, I will address the "out of control" contrast ratios issue later.
Overall, though, the AW15 looks like the more attractive product for the relatively small price difference, especially considering that it also offers lens shift, in addition to producing a better image.
Sony VPL-AW15 Bravia Projector: Basic Specs
For more complete projector specs click here
Technology: 3LCD front projector
Native Resolution: 1280x720
Brightness: 1100 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.6:1
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal
Lamp life: Not published, so assume average - 2000 hours
Weight: 13.25 lbs.
Warranty: 2 years
Sony VPL-AW15 Bravia Home Theater Projector: Physical Tour
Starting at the front, the Sony AW15 has a 1.6:1 zoom lens, mounted far to the left. For a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen, the front of the projector can be as close as 9 feet 8 inches, or as far back as 15 feet 8.25 inches. Many home theater projectors have lenses not centered. No big deal, as long as you take that into consideration when mounting or putting up a shelf. Since the Sony AW15 does have horizontal lens shift, it really is no issue at all. The Zoom lens and focus are manual, controlled by the inner and outer rings around the lens. There is also an infra-red sensor for the remote control.
On the projector's left side (looking from the front, are the two lens shift dials, one for horizontal, one for vertical. I'll cover the range of the lens shift in the general performance page.
The top of the Sony projector has its control panel, which is a bit interesting. It's not so much that there is anything unusual, in terms the buttons, but that it has a very tiny joystick instead of the usual arrow keys. Personally, I like the way it works.
The only other time I have seen a micro-joystick is on a number of Panasonic portable business projectors. In the case of the Sony AW15 Bravia, the joystick handles the up/down/left/right functions, and pressing straight down on the joystick is the Enter function.
Beyond that slightly different way of doing things, the control panel is very basic, with a power button, Input (source select), Menu button, and the joystick.
The Sony VPL-AW15 has four screw adjustable feet, two under the front (left and right) and two more (left and right) below the rear of the projector.
That takes us to the back of the Sony AW15 to the input panel.
From the back left, first is an RS-232 port for command and control functions (controlling the projector from a computer. Moving to the right, are the obligatory S-video and Composite Video inputs. Next are the three color coded (Red, Green, Blue) RCA jacks for a component video input. An analog computer input (a standard HD15 computer connector) is next, and lastly the HDMI connector for a digital source. Directly below the HDMI is the AC power recepticle.
That covers the physical tour of Sony's VPL-AW15 home theater projector. Time to consider image quality.