Sony VPL-VW50 "Pearl" 1080p Home Theater Projector Review: Overview
02/27/2007 - Art Feierman
This review has been a long time in coming. I had originally hoped (from talking with Sony at CEDIA last September) to get in a review unit in late October or November. Well, it took an extra 3 months or so, but it is here at last.
Over that long wait, I've seen the Sony VW50 - also known as the Sony Pearl - a number of times at shows, and have always had an overall good impression of it, but also some reservations. Now, having worked with it for over a week, and logging about 40 hours on it, I'm pleased to report that this Sony projector really is impressive, though, of course, not perfect. In fact, the Pearl is almost all strengths, and only two weaknesses (neither of them particularly great weaknesses), damping my overall enthusiasm.
The Sony produces (once properly adjusted - more on that later) an excellent overall image, and at its best, some of the best black levels I have seen to date (it relies on a dynamic iris, so contrast varies with the scene).
The image itself is very natural, a key strength, which reminds me of the Samsung SP-H710AE. By comparison, most other 1080p projectors seem initially to have more wow factor, but after watching the Sony for a while, my own adjusted BenQ PE-8720, for example, seems to be oversaturated, more contrasty, overall, less real or natural than the Sony. On the downside, the Sony definitely isn't going to be considered one of the sharper projectors out there, nor one of the brightest. It's brightness, I should note, though, was better than expected, since the Sony is usually considered one of the less bright around. I didn't find that to be true either measuring it, or watching it.
Overall, the Sony VW50 is an excellent projector - especially considering the pricetag relative to other 1080p projectors.
For price/performance, for natural image (after some real adjusting), plus good brightness, silent operation, and overall, a projector that makes watching hi def content a pleasure, we are pleased to give the Sony VW50 Pearl home theater projector our Hot Product Award.
I'll go into more detail on some of these impressions, thoughout the review, but it's time to get started!
Here's the basic info on the Sony VPL-VW50 Pearl SXRD home theater projector
Technology: 3 SXRD (LCOS) panels
Native Resolution: WXGA 1920x1080
Brightness: 900 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.8:1
Lens shift: Vertical only
Lamp life: not rated
Warranty: 2 years
OK, time to get started, by touring the hardware itself.
Sony VW50 Pearl Home Theater Projector: Phyiscal Tour
As usual, we'll start, facing the front of the Sony VW50 projector. Dead center is the Sony's owered zoom lens with a 1.8:1 zoom ratio. Almost above it, and just to the left, is the small front, infra-red sensor for the remote control. (Please note, we will look at the Sony's remote in the General Performance section, not here.)
Hot air vents out on an angle from the vents at the front left and right. Below, are two, screw thread adjustable front feet. There is a non-adjustable rear bar serving as rear feet.
Unlike almost all other projectors, the Sony lacks a control panel on the top. Instead, a minimal set of controls is on the right side (looking from the rear). From back to front, there is the Lens button which toggles between Lens Focus, Lens Zoom and Lens Vertical Shift, and unless turned off, brings up a test pattern to make it easier to focus. Next comes a tiny "disk pad" which handles arrow key functions and if pressed in the center acts as an Enter button. Further front is the Menu button, next is Input for selecting your source, and finally Power off/on. Press once for on, twice for off.
With most projectors, inputs are in the rear. Not so the VW50 Pearl, instead its inputs are also on the right side, below the small control panel.
The selection of inputs is about average for a higher end projector. There are from the left (actually the rear), two HDMI inputs (a third would have been nice, but I'm a bit greedy), A single standard analog computer input (HD15 connector) is next.
An S-video and a composite video input are next, followed by the usual 3 RCA jacks for a component video input. There is also a 12volt trigger for screen control, and lastly an RS-232 jack labeled Remote, for command and control (such as controlling the projector, its menus, etc., from a computer. And that covers the input panel.
I should mention that there are two "idiot" lights on the top of the projector near the front, one is the On/Standby, and the other a "Lamp/Cover" indicator which can tell you two things: If it's time to replace the lamp, or if the cover not closed for the lamp filter area. Different flashing patterns identify the problem. With the On/Standby, it can warn of overheating, a fan problem or a general electrical problem.
Overall, the Sony is a fairly large projector, good looking and designed to blend well with a lighter colored ceiling. Thanks to the forward venting, and the wide range zoom, the Sony should also be equally at home on a rear shelf, although a long shelf, as the VW50 is almost 19" deep, and you won't want to put it flush against the back wall for ventilation reasons.