Sony VPL-VW60 Home Theater Projector Review - General Performance
There's lots to cover in this section. These links will allow you to quickly get to any topics of interest to you.
Sony VPL-VW60 Menus
Sony VPL-VW60 User Memory Settings
VPL-VW60 Remote Control
Lens Throw and Lens Shift, Pixel Structure...
SDE and Rainbow Effect
Sony VPL-VW60 Projector Brightness
Sony VPL-VW60 Light Leakage
Sony VPL-VW60 Audible Noise Levels
VPL-VW60 Projector Screen Recommendations
The Sony VPL-VW60 projector loads most of their image related controls in the Picture Menu. They also have more "main" menus than most, which means several only have two to four items, and I have skipped images of some of them, to reduce clutter.
The first item on the Picture menu is the Picture Mode. Sony offers a choice of Cinema, Standard Dynamic, and three custom User settings.
The Cinema Black Pro setting contains two options, one for selecting the Iris setting (choice of Off, Manual, Iris 1 and Iris 2). It is the Iris 2 setting that, according to Sony, yields the highest contrast ratios.
The other option on the Cinema Black Pro menu is Lamp, with a choice of High and Low. I like having lamp control on a Picture submenu, although since you have to find in in the Cinema Black Pro submenu, it takes a bit to find it if you aren't using the manual.
Next comes all the usual settings; Contrast, Brightness, Color (saturation), Hue, and Sharpness, plus two additional sub-menus - Color Temp, which gives you a choice of High (default for Dynamic mode), Middle (default for Standard, and Low (default for Cinema). In addition there are thre Custom settings; 1, 2, and 3. I used (randomly), Custom 3 for calibrating the VW60's grayscale. Shown is the Color Temp menu.
To the immediate right is the Custom 3 color temperature menu, with the settings that I ended up with for viewing movies (this will be discussed in the Calibration heading below.
The Expert Setting area, also offers two sub menus, Black Level Adjust, with choice of Off Low and High (I found Off worked best on most movie content), and Gamma Correction.
Gamma correction offers four choices; Off, Gamma 1, 2, and 3. I preferred Off or Gamma 1. Gamma 2 offers a lower gamma (brighter in the mid-ranges), and Gamma 3, was a high gamma - rather dark, and crushes near blacks a noticeable amount.
Moving to the next main menu - Advanced Picture, you wil find sub-menus for RCP (Real Color Space), which contains 3 definable User areas. For each you can tweak each of the primary and secondary colors, with saturation and hue controls. This offers serious capability for performing more advanced calibrations than I do (I stick with just a grayscale calibration for optimum overall color balance). There is also a colorspace menu with standard and wide settings (I left the projector set in Wide.)
A Screen menu (not shown), offers aspect ratio control, (yes the Sony supports anamorphic lenses), Overscan Control (which offers off or on), and a Signal adjust which allows you to adjust the image on the screen vertically and horizontally by pixel.
The Setup menu shown here offers language choices, fan choices, Power saving mode (off/on), and the Lamp reset feature for when you replace the lamp.
That leaves two other "active" menus, as well as an Info menu. The next active menu is the Function menu, which controls auto input select, HDMI control the default background color, and the test pattern option. When On, hitting the Lens control button the remote, brings up a test pattern to make it easier to focus, fill the screen with zoom, and to adjust the vertical lens shift. The last active menu is Installation menu, which sets projector orientation (flip image), which allows front or rear projection, ceiling (inverted) or table. It also offers IR control features and Lens Control (off / on). I would presume that turning Lens control off, prevents anyone from changing the three settings (focus, zoom, lens shift) once a projector is fully set up in your room.
Overall, a good layout for the menus overall. I think seven main menus might be one or two, too many, but it is definitely functional.
VW60 User Memory Settings
There are three main user savable settings in the Mode area, in addition to Cinema, Standard, and Dynamic. In addition, there are thre custom settings for Color Temperature. These can be incorporated into the Custom mode settings.
User defined modes will also retain settings for most other controls such as Iris, Gamma, Brightness, Contrast, and more.
Considered together the Sony is more than reasonably flexible, in this regard. No issues.
VW60 Projector - Remote Control
The VPL-VW60 remote control is new, with more buttons and control that the one that accompanied the VW50. Overall, I liked using the remote a great deal. Not my favorite, but very good.
Across the top, from right to left - a green Power button (press once for on, twice for off), in the middle top, the Input select, and on the left, the backlight button (note - none of the buttons on the top row light up).
Next comes two rows of three, mostly image quality controls, from left to right: Color Space, Color Temp, Black Level. On the next row: Gamma, Advanced Iris, and Lens (lens controls focus, zoom and vertical lens shift), and brings up a green test pattern for focusing and placement.
Further down you'll find the reset on the right, and the four arrow keys with center Enter button for menu navigation. Right below that is the wide Menu button itself.
Next, a row of three, with Aspect ratio, RCP (color management) and Adj. Picture, which lets you toggle through most picture settings in order.
After some space, the next row down has three buttons, one for Cinema, Standard, and Dynamic, immediately followed by User 1, 2, and 3, for all your presets.
Lastly there is a row of rocker switches: One each for Sharpness, Brightness, and Contrast.
Buttons are reasonably large, and the remote should work well for even those with really large hands. That's about all I can think of, about the Sony remote.
Sony VW60 Lens Throw and Lens Shift
This Sony projector has a 1.8:1 zoom lens, which provides for excellent flexibility. Owners can choose between ceiling mounting or shelf mounting in most rooms. And yes, of course, you can put it on a table.
To fill a 100" screen (16:9 aspect ratio), the closest the VPL-VW60 can sit to the screen is approximately 10 feet, 2 inches, and the furthest back, 17 feet 6 inches.
Considering the 19 inch depth of the projector, and some space behind that, for that 100" screen that works out working in a room of up to about 20 feet deep.
The Sony has motorized vertical lens shift. It will allow the projector (measured at the center of the lens), to be about as high as almost 7 inches above a 100" screen (surface), or as low as 7 inches below the bottom of the screen. The projector also has a very small amount of horizontal lens shift, which is set manually. This is enough if you have to mount the Sony just slightly off center, or if your measurements were off slightly. This differs from other projectors with horizontal lens shift, most of which have significant range. The adjustment is not handy, rather designed to be accessed by your installer, if needed. I better also mention that some Sony materiels, notably the first brochure, incorrectly state that the horizontal lens shift is 25% (which would be significant). Consider yourselves warned!
VW60 SDE and Rainbow Effect, Pixel Visibility
THE VW60 is a 3 chip LCos projector (liquid crystal on silicon), which Sony brands as SXRD. LCos projectors have pixel structures (visibility of the pixels themselves) far less noticeable than standard LCD and DLP projectors. On a 100" screen, you'll have to get around 3 feet away before pixels are easily visible. As such, there are no Screen Door Effect issues, or even basic pixel visibility at anything considered normal seating distance.
Rainbow Effect is also not an issue. Since this is a three chip device, not a single chip like most DLP projectors, there's no spinning color wheel to create the color strobing effect called the rainbow effect.
Bottom line. No issues at all with screen door effect or rainbow effect!
Review continues below this advertisement.
VW60 Projector Brightness
Generally LCD projectors produce the least brightness in their best modes, with single chip DLP projectors and LCoS projectors like the Sony VPL-VW60, doing better. But, those LCD projectors generally do much better in their brighter modes, DLP projectors and LCoS projectors tend to get less of a boost in their brighter modes, but the DLP's are often the brightest.
Thus, the measurements of the Sony VW60 are no surprise. Brightness was very good in best mode, cranking out 493 lumens. This drops significantly to 329 lumens in low lamp mode. That's a 1/3 drop. You can assume that the drop will also be the same 1/3 in all preset modes.
Moving to Standard Mode, which we used for watching HDTV/TV/Sports, brightness (at lamp full power) increases only to 605 lumens.
Dynamic Mode, the Sony's brightest produced 665 lumens after we reset the color temp to low. Without doing so the image is way too cool (bluish). However, if you need every last lumen, leave the Color Temp at default and you end up with 723 lumens. By comparison, the other LCoS projector, the JVC RS1, musters almost 900 lumens in its brightest mode, and almost 800 lumens in best mode.
The Sony is brighter in best mode than the three recently tested LCD projectors, the Mitsubishi HC6000, Panasonic PT-AE2000U, and the Sanyo PLV-Z2000.
Since it relates to brightness, I should point out that Sony says its lamp is rated at 3000 hours. Unfortunately, they don't specify whether that is at low lamp mode or high. Checking with Sony, they confirmed that the VW60 is rated 2000 hours (typical for most projectors) for lamp life at high power mode, and 3000 hours (also typical) in low lamp mode.
VW60 Projector - Light Leakage
Nothing to be concerned with. There is definitely a little light coming out the lens below the screen in particular, but I only noticed it rarely, when the screen was black or, for example, with the near black Sony PS3 opening screen is up. A non-issue
VW60 Audible Noise Levels
Very quiet. Sony claims 22 db in low lamp mode. That's very believable. it is quieter than my JVC RS1, and all of the DLP projectors, and is competitive with the quieter of the LCD models. Overall, excellent.
VW60Projector Screen Recommendations
As you might expect, a projector with excellent black levels really doesn't need a High Contrast gray surface, to further enhance blacks. And, since the brightness of the projector is only average, you are generally best served by choosing the screen surface that will work best with your rooom conditions and screen size.
If you are a movie fanatic, and aren't worried about watching assorted TV/HDTV/Sports with some room lighting, then the Sony VW60 is going to be very comfortable on a 110" screen and you might push out to 120". If you want to go much larger, though, you'll need a white surface screen with some serious gain (over 1.5), to help out. That will, of course, cut down on your viewing area.
If, however, you plan a mix of sources, and viewing with some ambient light is important to you, then I'd recommend keeping the screen size to a maximum of 110", with a white surface with 1.1 to 1.4 gain. If you have some significant ambient light issues, keep the Sony to 100" or 106" screens.
I was able to do a lot of viewing in my testing room filling all of the 1.4 claimed gain, Carada Brilliant White surface. Every DVD I looked at looked great, no sense of being short of lumens at all
In my theater (still off-white walls), using the Firehawk - the relatively brightest of all the HC gray screens, I was also very comfortable at 110" diagonal watching movies at night, with no ambient light issues. Football, on the other hand, during the day, with my shades leaking some ambient light, was just acceptable at that screen size. My JVC, with its extra 30%+ lumens was able to do equally well in its Dynamic mode filling the full 128" diagonal (as would be expected).
I must add that the Sony looked great on the Firehawk, with the projector showing rich colors and an exceptional feel of depth. And the Firehawk helps out significantly with side ambient lighting issue.
Sony engineers and product managers must like the Firehawk too. Sony got together with Stewart last year to create a special version of the Firehawk, for the Sony, and it's called the Firehawk SST. Now there isn't anything really special about the SST relating only to the Sony, rather the SST has slightly lower gain, and works better than the Firehawk G3 (the one I use), if you are placing the projector fairly close to the screen. Stewart recommends the SST instead of the G3, if you are filling a 100" diagonal screen from 16 feet or less, as it will show less roll-off in the corners. That makes sense, so if you mounting the Sony anywhere so that you have the zoom set for the middle of its range to full wide angle, the SST is the better choice.
This is the caliber of projector that calls for a high quality screen, so I would say spend for a good one.
Of course all major screen manufacturers have white surface screens, but if you do choose a high contrast gray, the Firehawk is the way to go, as it is the brightest (to my knowlegde) of the typical HC gray variety screen.
VW60 Projector Measurements and Calibration
Ahh, what fun. Of all the brands out there, based on reputation, you would expect a Sony projector to do especially well, right out of the box, in terms of color accuracy.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This Sony VW60 was further off of the ideal 6500K grayscale balance, than any other home theater projector I've tested recently. I'd have to drop back a few months to a couple of Optoma reviews to find another projector that needed as much adjustment. I'm talking about Cinema setting, with Color Temp set to Low (default for Cinema). The default measurements were dramatically too cool, (higher color temp - favoring blue).
Let that be a warning! If all production VW60's look like this one out of the box, then you are going either to need to spend on a professional calibrator, or at a minimum, get a calibration disk like AVIA (from most dealers). Plan C would be to copy my settings. However projectors will vary from unit to unit, but my settings should at worst, provide a rather significant improvement.
OK, let's start with the initial performance in Cinema Mode with Color Temp set to Low. Again, ideal would be all measurements to be right at 6500K, but consider +/- 200K to be really excellent. Overall measurements of over 7000K will definitely be off. Not only is white too cool, but as we move to darker and darker grays the color temperature gets cooler and cooler.
With lamp at full power:
White (100 IRE): 7023K
Light gray (80 IRE): 7229K
Medium gray (50 IRE): 7611K
Low gray (30 IRE): 8260K (Ouch!)
By the way, with lamp in low power, white measured almost the same 7073K, so it's likely that the gray measurements in low power will be very similar to hi power on the lamp.
Fortunately, the grayscale balance can be drastically improved (it was a bit of a struggle - as various controls effect each other, as is typical). After almost an hour trying to get a good grayscale, I called it a night. The following night I started all over, but ended up with excellent results in probably 35-40 minutes. (Some projectors take me only 15 minutes, most a half hour to an hour, some longer.)
Corrected Cinema Mode: Color Temp set to Custom 3. Custom 3 settings:
Gain: Red=5, Green=-1, Blue=-5
Bias: Red=9, Green=-12, Blue=-4
Other settings: Contrast: 79 (default is 80), Brightness: 48 or 49 (default is 50)
The end result proved to be a truly excellent set of numbers, and corresponding color accuracy for movie watching:
White (100 IRE): 6420K
Light gray (80 IRE): 6611K
Medium gray (50 IRE): 6803K
Low gray (30 IRE): 6421K (Ouch!)
I should note, however in the darkest levels below where I can measure - that is 7.5 IRE or lower (black), there definitely remains a bluish cast to the blacks. This was also true on the older VW50. It rarely is noticeable, more in the letterboxing below and above the movie image, than in the image itself. Overall, while I would like to see that better, it didn't prevent the overall picture quality and color accuracy from being excellent after adjustment. The color shift in the blacks, is most noticeable in a side-by-side with another projector. It wasn't evident under normal viewing, unless I was really looking for it.
Moving on to other settings, Sony offers up Standard mode, with defaut color temp being Medium. Another near disaster. With ideal color temperature being around 8000K, the Sony was almost off the chart.
White measured a too cool 8810K but it got much worse after that, with the color temperature steadiy rising to almost 11,000K by 30 IRE.
Fortunately, there is a quick fix for the Standard setting for your TV/HDTV/Sports viewing. All you have to do is reset color temperature to Low (from medium). While not perfect it does provide very good results:
White (100 IRE): 7080K
Light gray (80 IRE): 7527K
Medium gray (50 IRE): 7577K
Low gray (30 IRE): 7820K
Once again notice the steady shift towards blue as the grays get darker.
Review continues below this advertisement.
Ideally, I would have created a second set of custom color settings, adjusting Bias and Gain, but I found these settings, while just a trifle warm and shifting from white to black, to be more than adequate.
That brings us to Dynamic mode. Theoretically this is the brightest mode, and one where we tolerate some non-realistic colors in exchange for the horsepower to cut through a bit too much ambient light.
Like the Standard mode, Dynamic, which defauts to High on Color Temp, is too cool (shifted towards blue), but it takes that shift to almost new levels, with even white measuring 10,275K, and rising from there to 11,670, by the time I got down to 30 IRE.
Once again, though, the simple fix was to reset Color Temp to Low. This resulted in white (100 IRE: 7039) and the gray scale settings to all measure similarly to our adjusted Standard mode. Dynamic mode was just a little strong on greens, unlike Standard mode where greens were just about dead on.
Switching the Color Temp (for Dynamic mode) to Low did exact a price in terms of brightness, with a drop of almost 10%, as indicated in the lumens measurements listed in the Projector Brightness section above.
What we have here is a projector that does not perform well out of the box, but once properly set up produces excellent grayscale and color balance in Cinema mode. Settings for TV/HDTV/Sports viewing can be easily compensated for, by using the Low setting for each, however that is an acceptable solution, not an ideal one. Better to have a custom setting created for Standard at least, and one can probably get a slightly brighter, usable, and punchy image out of Dynamic with some tweaking as well.
VW60 Image Noise
The Sony VPL-VW60 demonstrated no problems in terms of jaggies, background noise or motion artifacts that would be considered a problem. I used the HQV 1080 test disk and observed more than satisfactory results. I did notice on occasion, during normal viewing, what might be a little bit greater than typical background noise, however, I did not run the Noise Reduction filter. The background noise was detected in my testing room, where I often view the screen closer than one would normally consider typical viewing distance.