Sony VPL-VW85 Projector Review
January 2010 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL-VW85 Projector Overview
The Sony VPL-VW85 is the middle projector in Sony's SXRD (LCoS) home theater projector lineup. There's a much more expensive VPL-VW200, and the much less expensive VPL-HW15 (which we've reviewed).
The Sony VPL-VW85 is a larger projector, it sports a motorize zoom lens, and lens shift. It's reasonably good looking, physically more attractive than most, but it's the performance that will have you putting a serious dent in that credit card.
The Sony VPL-VW85 has a dynamic iris to achieve its best black levels. It seems though, this year, Sony has improved the light engine so that black level performance is noticeably improved. This Sony seems less dependent on its iris thanks to better native blacks. Or rather, the end result, is much improved black level performance.
One would certainly expect the Sony name to assure you of at least very good color. The VW85 delivers - post calibration, while not perfect, its still one of the best. There is a very slight emphasis on reds in skin tones that remained after Mike's calibration, but a second attempt might well reduce that shift. Even so, "look'n good!"
As will be discussed, picture quality is very good overall, a blend of excellent color, and superior black levels, and decent brightness (more would be better).
The Sony VPL-VW85 is for the person with a good, light controlled room, a not too large screen, a desire for a truly excellent picture, and willing to pay the price.
VPL-VW85 Projector Highlights
- One of the absolute best under $10,000 projectors
- Very good color out of the box, excellent, post calibration
- Brightness in best mode, better than last year, is above average - with 598 lumens measured after calibration
- Brightness is definitely below average in brightest mode, when you need extra lumens for ambient light -we measured a slightly depressing 727 lumens
- Significantly improved black level performance, while still not the best, so close that it has to be considered comparable
- Sony adds CFI - creative frame interpolation this year
- Zoom lens is moderately short thow, may not work shelf mounted, in deep rooms, or in typical rooms with small to medium sized screens
- Adjustable vertical and horizontal lens shift, not as much range as some, but not bad at all!
- Dynamic iris offers very smooth operation
- Image sharpness is just average for a 1080p projector
- Premium projector, premium price: Good value. If you want this level of picture quality, the price is very reasonable. While not drastically better than the best $2000 - $3500 projectors, those craving top performance won't have a problem rationalizing the $7500 retail price of the VPL-VW85
Specs for Sony VPL-VW85
Technology: LCoS (SXRD)
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: 800 lumens claimed, 725 lumens highest we measured
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.6:1
Lens shift: Vertical and horizontal
Lamp life: Sony does not provide info, we assume 2000 hours at full power, 3000 in low (the industry standard)
Weight: 26 lbs. (11.6 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Years Parts and Labor
Click for more detailed specifications: Sony VPL-VW85
Sony VPL-VW85 Special Features
Sony SXRD panels - (LCoS)
(This paragraph taken right from the older HW10, HW15 reviews.) The vast majority of home theater projectors use either DLP or 3LCD technology. Sony uses Liquid Crystal on Silicon, a reflective panel, as opposed to the translucent typical LCD panels. Sony calls their LCoS implementation SXRD. In the under $10,000 price range, JVC and Sony are the primary manufacturers of LCoS home theater projectors. The advantages of LCoS, these days, are two fold: First, LCoS panels have, for all practical purposes, invisible pixel structures, way below visibility at normal seating distances with a 1080p projector. Only the 3LCD Panasonic PT-AE4000, with its addition of their SmoothScreen technology, has less visible pixels, and it comes with a price, a slightly softer image.
Pixel visibility, and screen door effect are, effectively non-issues, with this Sony, thanks to the LCoS panels.
The second advantage, it seems is in terms of black level performance. Although it seems that JVC's panel/light engine designs are still slightly superior to Sony's, Sony has closed the gap dramatically with the VW85, landing the VW85 in the same performance space as the RS25. Even if it still takes the Sony a dynamic iris to get there, it "has arrived."
Football over HDTV looked great, but more lumens (brighter) would have been better!
Individual SXRD panel adjustment
A very nice, touch, this Sony allows individual adjustment of each panel for more precise alignment. This feature carried forward from the older Sony's. And, it works nicely! Like the JVC, though, it adjusts digitally, so adjustments are in 1 pixel increments. For example, if a red panel is off by, say 1/3 a pixel diameter to the right, there's nothing that can improve that, since shifting red a pixel to the left, would then have it off by 2/3s of a pixel. On the other hand, if that red pixel was off by 3/4 of a diameter, then the adjustment could reduce that to 1/4: 3/4 shift to right - 1.0 shift to left = 1/4 shift to left. In other words, it can improve sharpness if your projetor is off more than 1/2 pixel, but still doesn't get you to a perfectly converged set of panels.
CFI - MotionFlow
Creative Frame Interpolation! Sony calls theirs MotionFlow, and there are two settings. We stuck to low. Good for sports. With movies, like with others, you get a little of that "live digital video" or "soap opera" look, that most enthusiasts and all purists will avoid on movies, but, hey, some folks like it. When my daughter has friends over, they mostly watch stuff like Iron Man, or Star Trek, or Across the Universe, or High School Musical 3 with CFI on low. (strange child!). To put it in further perspective, anytime I have a projector on with CFI running (always on low), Lisa can walk into the room, and in about 1 second she'll say "you've got CFI on".
Which just goes to show you that it does have a very visible impact.
Also on the MotionFlow menu are settings for Film, which seem to be more dynamic type controls. There are three different settings, and off. The picture contrast and balance seem to change from one to the next, with overall, setting 2, darker than one, etc. The thing is, everytime I played with these choices, I was aware of a fast flicker added to the image. I have no idea if this is supposed to be there, or if this review unit has a problem. After playing a while, I gave up, and turned it off. I don't think you're missing anything, but then dynamic controls can do good things, but accomplish such things with trade-offs elsewhere in the image processing.