Sony VPL-VW70 - Competitors
How does the Sony VPL-VW70 compare to other 1080p home theater projectors on the market?
5-20-2009 - Art Feierman
In this section, you will find my comments on how the Sony VPL-VW70 stacks up compared to a number of projectors. Of the projectors mentioned, several are noticeably less expensive, the least expensive of which is the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, which sells for well less than half the price. Others selling for noticeably less are the Mitsubishi HC7000 and the BenQ W20000. If you are torn between a significantly less expensive projector or dropping the "big bucks" on the Sony, there are others you can consider, but we just can't spend the time to compare every projector to every other.
Let's get started with what is perhaps the Sony VPL-VW70's closest competitor, the JVC DLA-RS10 (read review), and it's virtually identical twin, the JVC HD350.
VPL-VW70 vs. JVC DLA-RS10 and HD350
Before we get started, note that the only difference between the HD350 and the RS10 is cosmetic. The two models are sold by two different JVC groups: The RS10 from the Professional group, and the HD350 by the Consumer group.
Let's start by saying both the Sony and JVC are excellent projectors. Both use LCoS technology, though each gives theirs, their own name (SXRD for Sony, D-iLA for JVC).
Let's start with brightness. No contest here, the JVC projectors simply out-power the Sony projector. In "best mode" the JVC models are just over twice as bright. This assumes that the Advanced Iris (dynamic iris) is engaged on the Sony. The JVC's don't have a dynamic iris. Without the dynamic iris engaged, the JVC is still 50% brighter and does better black levels. With the dynamic iris engaged on the Sony VW70, the VW70 can beat out the JVC RS10 and HD350 slightly in black levels on the darkest scenes with no really bright areas. In mixed scenes, the JVCs beat the Sony. Overall, however, I consider the RS10 and Sony VW70 to be roughly equal in black level performance.
When considering "brightest mode", the JVC projectors still have a real advantage, as they measure about 33% brighter than the Sony. Bottom line on brightness - JVC wins hands down.
When it comes to image quality, again, both projectors are very good, however, I give the advantage to the VW70. With its sophisticated color management system, it will produce slightly more accurate color, and tighter grayscale balance. The JVC does have a tendency to oversaturate some primary and secondary colors, such as green. Without a CMS (color management system), you just cannot reduce that green oversaturation on the RS10 (and HD350).
Here are a pair of side by side images of the Sony (left) and JVC RS20 (right):
As a result, skin tones do look a little more natural on the Sony. Mind you, both produce a really impressive picture, but for purists, at least from a color standpoint, the Sony has the advantage.
Both Sony and JVC projectors do offer support for an anamorphic lens. The JVC is definitely about a size smaller as the Sony is particularly large. Both are very attractive looking projectors (for those that care, or perhaps, their wives).
The JVC likely should have noticeably longer lamp life (keeping ownership costs down), but hard to say for sure, since Sony does not publish lamp life specs. Both offer a two year, parts and labor warranty.
Sony has a great remote control (outstanding). JVC's, well, it pretty much sucks! I normally don't toss around terms like that, but I am a JVC owner, and while their remote has a very good layout, its range is a serious problem. You can get a bounce off of the screen in most setups, but you'll need to be very precise in your pointing, just a few degrees off, and, bingo, the projector won't react. With the Sony, on the other hand, getting a good bounce doesn't require much more than pointing to almost any part of your screen. (Of course anyone can buy a universal remote and solve that problem for the JVC.)
Handling of dark scenes is worth additional comments. While black levels will vary on the Sony depending on what a particular scene allows the dynamic iris to do, when the Sony iris does close down, there is definitely some compression of the image's dynamic range. In other words, the JVC produces a dark scene with slightly more ":pop and wow" factor. This should not be great, but it would be noticeable in a side by side.
Neither projector offers creative frame interpolation, but both will convert 24fps to 48fps (basic frame interpolation).
All considered, two excellent projectors, with the JVC typically being a bit less expensive. It's a tough call between these two. The JVC wins in more areas than the Sony, but the Sony VPL-VW70's slightly more accurate color will be tie breaker for some. Had the Sony been reviewed in time for my 1080p Projector Comparison Report, I would have spent a good amount of time trying to decide which one would have received our Best In Class - Runner-up award (which did go to the RS10).
Sony VPL-VW70 vs. Mitsubishi HC7000
The Mitsubishi HC7000 is significantly less expensive, and is worthy of consideration if the price of the VW70 is about to break the bank. In this comparison, we have a 3LCD projector doing battle with an LCoS one.
Both use dynamic irises, both offer frame interpolation (but not creative). Neither is particularly bright, so both are best suited for smaller screens 100 inch diagonal or less, unless you go high gain screen.
Both support an anamorphic lens, both have two year warranties, both are good looking projectors (although the Mitsubishi HC7000 is definitely, significantly smaller).
And, both are definitely below average in brightness! If the Sony VW70's brightness was already a matter of concern for you, you can probably forget the HC7000 altogether. The HC7000 is about 20% less bright than the Sony, in both "best" and "brightest" modes.
Both projectors are what I call "ultra-high contrast" projectors, with impressive black levels. That said, the Sony definitely has the advantage over the Mitsubishi. When you get into this level of black level performance, were not talking huge differences, and even the Mitsubishi does well enough that black level differences may only be one factor.
In terms of image quality, both do a great job on skin tones. It's been a few months since I've worked with the Mitsubishi, but was extremely impressed with the HC7000's overall image quality and color accuracy. Between the two, it should be very close.
If the even lower brightness of the Mitsubishi isn't an issue for you, then the HC7000 might well be an excellent lower cost alternative to the VW70. Let's say, however, that most will find the extra cost for the Sony to be a reasonable value.
Sony VPL-VW70 vs. JVC DLA-RS20 and HD750
OK, how do I think the Sony stacks up against our Best In Class winner, the JVC DLA-RS20 (and it's almost identical twin - but for cosmetics - the HD750)?
I've been going back and forth between this Sony, and my own JVC RS20 for 3 weeks now. Many evenings I've watched part of a movie (or HDTV) on one, then switch to the other, and sometimes back and forth a couple of times. In other words, I have a very good feel for the differences. Whether your priorities are the same as mine will factor into your decision.
First, price. Officially, the Sony is $500 more than the JVC, but the Sony seems to be available for less than the JVC, possibly as much as $1000, based on what I hear from feet on the street.
Black level performance: As I reported elsewhere in this review, the Sony, in Cinema mode with its dynamic iris engaged, can, on some scenes just barely match (or be so close as to not matter), the black levels of the JVC RS20. Sounds great, but there is some compression of the Sony image. While the blacks get nice and black on dark scenes, the bright areas on those scenes - say street lights, or lit windows of buildings in city scenes, are also darkened. With the JVC, there is no such compression due to no dynamic iris. From a practical standpoint, that makes the JVC superior. There is one consolation though, for the Sony. One aspect of having blacker blacks is so that letterboxing, and large black areas of an image appear close to black. In that, the Sony is, overall, close to the JVC. The thing is, the bright areas aren't as bright, and therefore, it just makes the Sony seem dimmer on dark scenes. The fact that the Sony measures just over 500 lumens with its iris off, and only 366 with it on, gives you a good idea at the amount of compression of bright areas on dark scenes - almost 1/3 of the brightness of whites is lost.
Skin tones are excellent on both. Both offer a good CMS system. When I view them side by side, it's a tie. They aren't identical, but close, and I can't pick a winner. On some scenes on some movies, the Sony might look a touch more right, on others, the JVC.
Sharpness - both are what I call average sharpness for 1080p projectors. If I had to pick a winner, it might be the Sony by a hair, but it's not enough to quibble over.
When it comes to brightness, no contest. While the RS20 is hardly the brightest projector around, it is about 1/3 brighter in "brightest" mode, and more than twice as bright when comparing cinema modes (we assume iris on for the Sony, otherwise, the two aren't close in black level performance).
Both offer power lens features, support for an anamorphic lens, and two year warranties. The Sony remote is much better than the JVC's by virtue of the JVC's limited range, although they both have good layouts. Both have their input panels on the side (though different sides). The Sony as a 1.6:1 zoom, while the RS20 can be placed further back, with its 2:1 zoom. The JVC also has noticeably more vertical lens shift range.
My two cents - the RS20 is the champ. There really isn't any aspect (other than the remote) about the Sony that I think is noticeably better than the JVC doing the same thing. On the other hand, the JVC wins in black level performance, and fairly dramatically in brightness.
Sony VPL-VW70 vs. BenQ W20000
LCoS vs. DLP
The BEnQ W20000 isn't the best DLP projector we've reviewed in the last year, that honor goes to the Planar PD8150 (comparison below), but the W20000 is a formidable projector considering its much lower selling price.
Both projectors use dynamic irises, the BenQ comes with an extra year of warranty (3 total), and has a replacement program for the first year, compared to Sony's standard 2 years. Both are physically large home theater projectors. The Sony is almost black while theBenQ is primarily silver, for those that care. Both will support an anamorphic lens.
Black levels favor the Sony. The BenQ is very good, a cut above the entry level 1080p's, and all but a couple of less expensive ultra-high contrast 3LCD projectors, and enough to satisfy many. Still, you will see a very evident difference side by side.
Brightness is next. No contest here at all. The BenQ W20000 is relatively dripping in lumens. Even with the W20000's manual iris closed all the way down (default) the BenQ measured 475 lumens, but with it opened, it increased to 537, about 50% brighter.
If you want some lights on for TV and sports, no contest at all, with the BenQ pushing out about double, with 1250 lumens compared to the Sony's 636.
Next is sharpness. While the VW70 is average for the 1080p class, the W20000 is razor sharp. When reviewing the W20000, I was always impressed with the clarity, especially digital HDTV source material.
There is a a slightly different feel to the picture of a DLP projector than an LCoS one. I've never been able to really describe it, although I often describe some DLP projectors as having especially rich dark colors. At any rate there are differences. Some prefer DLP's. I've owned all three technologies (including 2 BenQ's), and find it to be more projector vs. projector, than which technology is better, even if each technology has a slightly different feel.
The short of it, is that the Sony VW70, should have just slightly better color accuracy, and a bit better black levels, as well as an advantage in placement flexibility. The BenQ W20000, on the other hand has brightness going for it, plus a sharper image. Although placement flexibility on the BenQ isn't as good, it does have lens shift, and its lens throw (placement distance), is fairly long for a home theater projector with a 1.2:1 zoom. That makes it viable in a lot of rooms for rear shelf mounting. In fact the Sony and the BenQ aren't much different in terms of how far back they can be from a given sized screen.
The BenQ W20000 is also going to be significantly less expensive.
Sony VPL-VW70 vs. Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB and Pro Cinema 7500 UB
Since the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB is one of the best mid-priced projectors (sharing the Best In Class award, with the Panasonic PT-AE3000), it seemed like a good idea to put these two quality, widely different priced projectors up against each other. Those considering a projector in the Sony price range, but wondering if it's worth the money, might well consider either of these Epson's as a lower cost alternative.
The Epson 6500UB sells for around $2500, so well less than half of the Sony. The Pro Cinema 7500UB sells for about $1000 more than the 6500UB, but comes with a spare lamp and ceiling mount. That still works out to about half the price of the VW70.
Warranty - the Home Cinema 6500UB and the Sony have 2 year warranties, but Epson includes an overnight replacement program for both years. The 7500UB goes even further with 3 years, and a 3 year replacement program. With either Epson, you get a better warranty package than the Sony.
Both the VW70 and the Pro version of the Epson support an anamorphic lens, while the 6500UB does not. The Epson projectors have more zoom range (2.1:1) than the Sony's 1.6:1, and more lens shift range as well. The two Epson's have the best placement flexibility around, while the Sony's not bad at all.
Image quality: In terms of color accuracy, the Sony will deliver a slightly more natural looking image. I've always liked the Epson's but their skin tones are just not quite as natural as a number of other commercials, although it's still very good.
The Sony also delivers a bit better dark shadow detail, not a particular strength of the Epson projectors.
That brings us to black level performance. For the price, the Epson is the best thing around, but the Sony, though far more expensive will best the Epson by a bit in terms of black levels. I'm not sure if the Epson's are compressing dark images as much as the Sony, (I don't think so), which may be what's helping Sony do slightly darker blacks. The Epson are excellent, the Sony a touch better.
Brightness: Again, we run up against the Sony's limited brightness as a deal breaker for those wanting larger screens. The Epsons are light canons in their brightest mode (Dynamic) pushing out a measured 1566 lumens, a pair of the brightest 1080p projectors around. That makes them almost 2.5 times brighter in best mode, a really dramatic difference.
Things aren't quite as bad for the Sony in "best" mode, where the Epsons mere 491 measured lumens are still over 1/3 brighter. Put this way, for movie viewing, the Epson will be as bright on a 116 inch diagonal screen as the Sony on a 100 inch screen.
Sharpness is similar. Lamp life should favor the Epsons whose 3000 hour lamp life at full power, and 4000 in low, should easily trump the VW70, which doesn't provide a lamp life claim, so we assume it to be about 2000 hours in high lamp power, and 2500 to 3000 in low. That translates into a lower cost of ownership for the Epsons.
The Epsons offer an array of frame interpolation, including creative frame interpolation for both 24fps (to 96fps) and 60 to 120, it also offers 5:5 frame interpolation (non-creative) taking 24fps to 120fps. The Sony, by comparison only takes 24fps to 48fps, (2:2), no creative. If you are into a lot of sports, or want smoother panning on your 24fps blu-ray movies, you probably will like Epson's interpolation schemes, however I don't think it's a big consideration for most people.
Ultimately, the Sony will provide a more refined image - that a purist will appreciate, and with it, slightly better black levels and shadow detail. The Epson's will have more horsepower, and more "pop and wow" factor. The Epsons, therefore, might be more fun to watch, but the Sony, overall, more technically correct. It's a lot of money difference, so much depends of your decision may be based on how much fanatacism you have vs. a limited budget.
VPL-VW70 vs. InFocus IN83
Ah, here we have two very different competitors. I'm a huge fan of the IN83's superb color accuracy. Its still got the best skin tones of any projector I've worked with in the last year. The Sony comes very close, but I have to give the advantage to the InFocus IN83 projector.
Black levels performance, though, is the IN83's weakness. Although not bad, the IN83's Darkchip4 DLP processor, without a dynamic iris cannot begin to match the Sony VW70. Of course, though, the IN83 does not compress the dynamic range of dark scenes like the Sony does. Both have excellent shadow detail, not enough difference for us to concern ourselves with.
Sharpness would be another strength of the IN83. Like the BenQ just covered above, and like most DLP projectors, it is exceptionally sharp. As I have stated many times, I don't have a problem with the Sony's sharpness, but some will really appreciate the extra crispness of the InFocus's image.
Placement flexibility is all Sony. The IN83 lacks lens shift and has a limiting 1.2:1 zoom lens, making it strictly a ceiling mountable projector, not suitable for rear shelf mounting. Both support an anamporphic lens.
And finally, brightness again, becomes a very defining difference between these two projectors. The InFocus IN83, afterall, is very bright, something the VW70 will never be accused of. In best mode, it's not even remotely a contest, with the Sony's 366 measured lumens paling by comparison to the IN83's 787 lumens. The difference is further magnified when you need maximum lumens. The Sony again has less than half the lumens, with just 636 lumens in dynamic mode, compared to the IN83's 1382 lumens! One thing I can tell you, the IN83 is a pleasure to watch sports on, filling all of my 128 inch screen even with moderate ambient light, that would drown the Sony.
I'm generally torn between these two projectors. I'm a huge fan of using medium to larger screens, and of having lots of lumens for sports viewing with ambient light, but I'm also a black level performance fanatic. As a result, choosing between these two rather different projectors, to me, is pretty much a tie. It just comes down to which one is is better at the things you value most.
VPL-VW70 vs. Planar PD8150
I really would have loved to have these two projectors in house at the same time. The Planar PD8150 projector is the more expensive of the two, and the best of the recent DLP projectors I've reviewed. Neither is particularly bright, so they are very similar in that regard.
Both projectors have excellent black level performance, the Sony one of the very best, and the Planar, well probably very close to the Sony, and possibly its equal.
The Planar, though, does possess the sharper image of the two.
The battle for placement flexibility is close, despite the Planar's zoom lens not having as much range as the Sony. In reality, the Planar is the more likely of the two to be rear shelf mounted in most rooms, as for a 100" screen it can be as far as 17.4 feet, while the Sony can only be as far back as 16.3 feet. On the other hand, for ceiling mounting, the Sony can be placed substantially closer - only 10.1 feet vs. 13.4.
When it comes to lens shift, the Planar offers unequal shifting. For ceiling mounting, it can be placed (center of the lens) about even with the top of the screen or lower, and down to as low as about 29 inches below the bottom of the screen (with a 100 inch diagonal screen). The Sony can be placed a little higher still (7.5 inches above the top of the screen surface, and the same 7.5 inches below the bottom), or, of course, anywhere in between.
Overall picture quality is a tough one to call. Both are particularly excellent even among a strong field of competitors. As good as the skin tones are with the Sony VW70, the Planar PD8150 likely bests the Sony by a little bit.
Both support an anamorphic lens, neither has creative frame interpolation. With the Planar, you get the look and feel of a DLP projector (Darkchip3) enhanced with a dynamic iris for better blacks. With the Sony, it's LCoS, also with a dynamic iris.
And that brings us to brightness. The Planar has about 1/3 more lumens in "best" mode with 468. The Sony's 636 measured lumens in "brightest" mode beats the Planar by 30 lumens - about 5%. All considered they are very close with the Planar having the advantage for those primarily interested in movie viewing.
Between these two pretty equally matched projectors, the Sony's much lower street price makes it the better value for most.
NEXT: Sony VPL-VW70 warranty