Sony VPL-VW85 Projector - Physical Tour
1-4-2010 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL-VW85 Projector - Appearance
The VW85 is a very good looking projector physically ("wife friendly"), in almost all ways, except that it is one of the largest home theater projectors around, in the under $10K price range. The top of the projector is done in a nice, shiny, black finish with embedded blue speckles. When the room lights are on, that does add just a touch of blue to its look. Most of the other surfaces are a matte very dark gray.
The fully motorized zoom lens, with its 1.6:1 zoom ratio, is recessed. A shutted covers and protects the lens when the power is off.
Below the front of the projector is the air filter. It is located just in front of the mounting holes for a ceiling mount. Some mounts may prevent removing the filter for cleaning, without unmounting, so pay attention.
Sony recommends cleaning the filter every 1500 hours (with mild detergent in water, see the manual for more info).
The control panel is located on the left side (looking from the front), and below it, are the VW85's inputs and outputs.
The door for the lens is located on the bottom by the back. The good news is that it is located well behind the mounting holes for a ceiling mount. No one really wants to have to unmount their projector to change the lamp. In choosing a ceiling mount, you probably want to pay attention that the mount you select does not prevent changing the lamp without unmounting.
The back of the projector has nothing but intake vents.
There are two screw thread adjustable feet on the bottom below the front of the VW85.
VPL-VW85 Control Panel
Sony relies on a very small, and basic, control panel located on the side of the projector, right above all the inputs and outputs (left side, if viewing from the front). This is unlike most other projectors, which tend to put the control panel on the top. There are a few others though, besides this Sony, including the Sony VPL-HW10 and the Panasonic PT-AE3000. The recessed control panel is opened by a small Push Open button just to the front of the panel.
Looking at the control panel from that side of the projector, you'll find a small power button, closest to the front (once for on, twice for off). Next to it, is a button for Input selection, then one to bring up the menus. Next is navigation with four arrow keys in a round configuration, with a center enter button. Finally, furthest to the back is the Lens control button which let's toggles you through power focus, zoom, and lens shift (using the arrow keys to adjust).
I'm not sure if I'm a fan of side mounted control panels and input areas. It may allow you to place the projector a couple inches closer to the back wall, if shelf mounting, but when ceiling mounting, if people enter your theater from the side where the connections are, they will have the best look at all those cables. Not an issue for most of us, but, forewarned, is forearmed, as they say. My own JVC projector also has side inputs, but, fortunately for me, they are on the opposite side from where people enter the room, so no one sees them.
The input panel of the Sony VW85 is located on the left side (if looking from the front). Facing that side, from back of the projector to the front, you'll find the power receptacle, two HDMI inputs, and a standard HD15 connector for the usual analog computer input (it can alternately be used as a second component video input... Next, comes the S-video (DIN connector), and composite video (RCA jack). Then comes the standard component video input (3 color coded RCA jacks). Next to that are two jacks for screen triggers (or controlling an anamorphic lens sled, or masking system (trigger 2 engages when "wide mode" is set to anamorphic zoom). Finally there's an RS-232 serial port for command and control by a room control system, or a computer, if so desired.
The HDMI inputs support 1.3, Deep Color, x.v.Color, HDCP, computer HDMI standards, and LipSync. That pretty much covers the newest standards. This is an improvement over the older Sony VPL-VW60, which had HDMI 1.3, but, for example, lacked Deep Color support. (No content yet, for Deep Color, but, we should see some content in the next year?)
The Sony's menus are well organized. Type size is on the small size, but still readable at normal seating distances.
The Picture menu is the one that people will use most often, and is shown here. From it, you can access sub-menus inclucing Picture Mode (ie. Cinema), color settings (Color Temp menu), Iris control and Lamp brightness (Cinema Black Pro), Gamma settings, black level and color space (Expert Setting).
Below are images of three of the Picture mode's sub-menus:
Please note, on the Picture/Expert Settings Menu, the Gamma is listed. Sony provides six different gamma settings, as well as gamma adjust off.
Please note, per the manual, on the provided disc, there is a program ImageDirector3, which allows you to save your preferred gamma in a computer. I did not look at this, but I suspect it allows you to fine tune the gamma.
There are a number of other menus (including a passive Information menu). These menus control everything from intial setup - menu language, projector orientation (front, rear, ceiling, floor) to things like where the menus will appear on the screen. Shown to the right is the Setup Menu.
Sony VPL-VW85 Remote Control
Sony introduced a new remote control last year for the VW70, and I'm pleased to report, they've stuck with it, with the new VW85. It t is different than the one provided with the VPL-HW10 and HW15 (which used a remote we've previously seen from Sony). This Sony remote control is brightly lit with blue LED light. It's easy to read, and, as I have mentioned before with other remotes using blue LEDs (like some Optoma projectors), if anything, it's almost too bright. That's still better than too dim!
The layout is now, perhaps my all time favorite remote control, at least of all the remotes I've worked with while reviewing home theater projectors. Keep in mind that I spend a lot of time using remotes, as I try out different settings. As a result, my usage is a lot different than the typical owner, but I still think everyone should find this to be an excellent remote control.
If the nice bright lighting and layout weren't enough, the VPL-VW85 remote control also seems to have excellent range.
I should note, this is one large remote - measuring a full 10 inches in length, also of note, a few of the keys do glow dimly so with some difficulty, you can find it in a fully darkened room. That may sound minor, but, I got so frustrated over the last year plus, with my remotes for my two Sony PS3s, when trying to locate them when the lights are off, that I finally put a couple of day-glow stickers on both of them.
Let's start at the top, and work our way down...
On the top right is a green power switch. Press once to power up, press twice, to power down. Next to it, is the Input button allowing you to toggle through the different sources. To it's left, is the Light button, that turns on the blue LED lights that illuminate the buttons..
The next two rows are for the six Picture modes: Cinema, Standard, and Dynamic, pluse User 1, 2, and 3.
Because this Sony remote can control other Sony Bravia devices such as Blu-ray players and camcorders, you will next find a full set of playback controls, such as play, fast forward, next/previous chapter, pause, etc.
Also included in that section are the Sync Menu and Options buttons, to define and select those other Bravia devices. Different options are available depending on the devices. This whole control section only works when the compatible Bravia devices are hooked up via HDMI 1 or HDMI 2.
Next comes the main navigation section. It consists of the usual four arrow keys (in a round configuration), with a center Enter button.
Surrounding the navigation area are three buttons in a larger circle. The one to the upper left brings up the Lens functions (focus, zoom, lens shift). The bottom one is the Menu button to launch the menus, and the top right one is the Reset button. Personally, I find large Reset buttons located near navigation to be scary. Nothing worse than, "oops" I just reset everything." Still there is a confirm function, but, pay attention!
Below the navigation area are five buttons that provide direct access to some of the more frequently selected controls: Gamma, Black Level settings, Advanced Iris, Color Space, and Color Temp.
Then there's a decent space, and three more buttons. On the left, is Wide Mode, which lets you toggle through different aspect ratios, RCP, which is Sony's color management system, and lets you individually tune each primary and secondary color. Note; We do not work with this section as part of our own "basic" grayscale calibration of the VW85. Most likely, if you hire a good professional calibrator, they will adjust the individual colors, as well as the grayscale balance.
That leaves just six more buttons - actually 3 pairs of direct controls. They are Sharpness, Brightness, and Contrast.
Again, an excellent remote. It is logically laid out, the buttons have a good feel. It fits well in your hand (mine is pretty average sized), and has excellent range.
Sony VPL VW85 Lens Throw
The VPL-VW85 lens is a motorized, 1.6:1 zoom lens. According to the user manual lens allows the projector to be placed as close as 10 feet, 1 inch, or as far back as 16 feet 4 inches. Note, that the user manual itself contradicts itself, at one point indicating that the furthest as 15 feet, four inches which is a typo. The moderate throw range in full telephoto (16 feet four inches), is less than many other shelf mountable projectors, which, for the same sized screen can be as far back from a 100 inch screen as 20 feet. Some owners will not be able to place the Sony far enough back in their rooms to be shelf mountable.
The VPL-VW85 has both vertical and horizontal lens shift. Both functions are motorized, and controlled by the the remote control or the small on-board control panel
For a 100" screen, the center of the lens can be placed as high as approximately 7.5 inches above the top of your screen surface Actually Sony quotes, in their manual a maximum of 31 - 7/8 inches above the center of the screen, which is about 49.5 inches high, so top of the screen is about 24.3 inches above the center of the screen.
VPL-VW85 Anamorphic Lens
The Sony VW85 does support an anamorphic lens and motorized sled, for those wanting to go with a 2.35:1 (Cinemascope) shaped screen. This is one of those extra features that Sony has put on the VPL-VW85 to differentiate it from the lower cost VPL-HW15.