Sony VPL-VW85 - Review Summary
A summary of the Sony VPL-VW85 projector's pros and cons and capabilities.
1-4-2010 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL-VW85 Projector - The Bottom Line
Nice! The Sony VW85 is a great projector. It's extremely well balanced. It's not without minor flaws, but technically, it's well done and puts a great picture up on the screen. You'll be spending something approaching $8000 and you have a right to expect an excellent picture, and the Sony VPL-VW85 will deliver. Even the remote control is particularly excellent.
What many really want to know is if Sony this year, can take on the JVC projectors (which have dominated the last few years) and do serious battle. I do wish to save the full direct VW85 vs RS25 commentary for the Competitors page, but let's say here, that these two projectors are definitely comparable. The question will be which one is best suited for your needs. There's other serious competition, but the Sony and JVC demand comparison because they are so similar overall, being LCoS, not drastically different in brightness, and sensational black level performance.
Sony VPL-VW85 Brightness
While there is virtually nothing to fault with the picture quality - color, blacks, and shadow detail, brightness is another matter. The VW85 isn't an overly bright projector. It's brighter than last year's VW70, but still one of the least bright in its brightest mode, which should make all sports fans cringe a little.
At least, when in its best picture mode, the Sony is reasonably bright, in fact brighter than average, though not by much. With only 725 lumens measured (zoom at mid-point), at its brightest, this projector needs a smaller screen to handle the ambient light others can do with larger, or much larger screens.
If you are a small screen person - under 100 inches, I'd say don't even worry about brightness too much, you'll have tons, for movies, and will handle some reasonable ambient light pretty well. Move up to mid-sized screens - 100" to 119" diagonal, and you'll still be well endowed for movie watching in the dark, but I'll tell you, I couldn't watch the Sony on sports without my brain screaming "too dim" any larger than 100" diagonal with what I consider nicely acceptable (non-cave) lighting - suitable for having friends over, and a party atmosphere.
Of course you can also compensate with screen surfaces. If you can live with the downsides of high gain screens, of course you can go up several sizes. That's up to you. Remember, lamps dim over time, and I try to factor that in to a good degree.
Placement flexibility is very good, not exceptional. the 1.6:1 zoom may not work if you want to rear shelf mount, in a deep room. Still, it's better than most DLP projectors if not quite as wide ranged as most other LCoS and LCD projectors.
The Sony is pretty well endowed. It's creative frame interpolation is fine for sports but like CFI in general, it changes film movies enough to be "fun" but to no longer accuratey reflect the "director's intent". There are at least a couple of other dynamic controls in addition to the dynamic iris. Let me put it this way. Things like dynamic contrast, sharpness, etc., deliver their desired affects but also detract slightly from the original.
The very bottom line:
What a surprise! I had expected a really first class projector, with very good black levels, excellent color, and a host of features. I also expected a projector that wouldn't be overly bright, but then not everyone needs a really large screen, nor wants to watch with lights on. I expected this year's Sony, like so many other projectors this season, to be only a very slightly improved replacement, with an extra feature or two, such as CFI.
What I found instead, was a projector that far exceeded those expectations, because a projector just meeting them, would have left the Sony, overall, still coming up noticeably short of the JVC competition.
The Sony VPL-VW85 has significantly improved black level performance. They have effectively closed the gap between them and the JVC RS25, that the difference is only one slight advantage for the JVC, not an overpowering strength as had been the contest last year.
And with that virtual parity in black levels, and adding in some of the Sony strengths, and the VPL-VW85 is now effectively the equal to any under $10,000 projector I've seen so far. It may not be the best one for your situation, but is certainly one to be reckoned with by all wanting a really excellent projector.
Sony VPL-VW85 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Sony VPL-VW85 Projector: Pros
- Excellent Color with particularly good skin tones (with a hint of too much red)
- Slightly above average brightness in "best" movie mode
- Superb black level performance
- Very good shadow detail performance
- If not using the dynamic iris, manual iris allows you to dial down brightness for smaller screen, which in turn increases contrast and black level performance slightly
- Good quality CFI (MotionFlow) creative frame interpolation, best for sports, and digital source material
- Outputs 24 frame per second sources at 96 fps
- Excellent remote control with very good range, excellent backlight, good organization
- Good color management system
- Good placement flexibility (1.6:1 zoom, lens shift)
- Focus, Zoom and Lens shift all motorized
- Very good menus
- Expensive but it performs - it offers a good value proposition
Sony VPL-VW85 Projector: Cons
- A relatively dim "brightest" mode, of 725 lumens means it can't deal with very much ambient light, at all
- Average sharpness (ok, that's more of a "typical" than a Con, but, sharpness is a big thing, for many, a key deciding factor
- Likely average to below average lamp life
- Slight (but acceptable) pixel misalignment, only partially corrected on this unit by the pixel adjustment feature
- Although not bad, could be a little quieter with lamp at full power
- Documentation is typically weak in terms of explaining a number of settings features and modes, but competent at setup and getting started
Sony VPL-VW85 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Selection of inputs
- Lamp life is likely typical or below average in life
- Documentation (I'm still waiting to see a projector that really does provide good explanations of all the menu functions).
My last thoughts: Well, I'd rather have the VW85 over my RS20, if for no other reason, for the CFI for sports viewing. I'm even more intrigued, by JVC's DLA-RS35. The RS35 is essentially an VW85 with hand picked components and a higher level of quality control. That means the best of the optics, light engines, etc.
How much of a difference can that make? I'm not sure yet, but my contacts at JVC tell me you really can see a real difference. I suspect that means there probably won't be an VW85 projector in my theater, but, if JVC can prove to me that the RS35 really will look better, I may have one of those under my tree for the holidays. -art
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