Sony VPL-VW90ES Projector - Performance
3/14/2011 - Art Feierman
In this section we consider the brightness, sharpness, and image noise of the Sony VPL-VW90ES home theater projector. We'll discuss brightness in conjunction with 3D usage, as well. Also considered are the physical attributes of light leakage and audible noise.
Sony VPL-VW90ES Brightness
Sony upped the ante, with a 1000 lumen claim, up from 800 on last year's projector. Unfortuately, we didn't see anywhere near as big a boost as the 25% increase that jump to 1000 lumens would promise. Still, we did get close to a 100 lumen bump, and that's noteworthy, even if not a blinding increase.
I consider the VPL-VW90ES "best mode" brightness to be very nicely above average for today's quality home theater projectors (until you get up into a much more expensive class of projectors, such as the $27,000 Runco LightStyle LS-10.) That means you can enjoy a nice sized screen. Without going to real high gain screens, 130 inches diagonal is perfectly reasonable.
Considering the VW90ES has to deal with 3D, it needs every lumen it can find (as do the other 3D home theater projectors out there).
And it just doesn't have enough, if you expect to fill that 130" screen with 3D, and if you are sticking to white screens with typical gains of 1.3 or so, it would seem that even 100 inches diagonal image size is too much to comfortably watch, without feeling the picture is dim. If you want a nice large screen, I suggest just zooming the image out - make it smaller, when watching 3D. It will help! Watchable is good, but dim will get old quickly, and as a projector's lamp dims, it's only going to get worse. And so goes early 3D projection.
The Sony VPL-VW90ES projector brightness numbers below were recorded by Mike before and after calibration. They were taken using a full production VW90ES projector.
Lumen Output and Color Temp at 100 IRE (mid zoom):
Dynamic= 633 @ 11437
Standard= 681 @ 9659
Cinema 1= 619 @ 7757
Cinema 2= 603 @ 7099
Cinema 3= 629 @ 7728
User= 629 @ 7743, 753 lumens with Color Temp on Custom 5
With this Sony, with all its presets, color temps and gammas, fortunately the manual does a respectable job of explaining it all. OK, note, above, all modes are about the same brightness, until you change to the bright Custom 5 setting.
Effect of zoom on lumen output (Dynamic mode):
Wide angle (close to screen): 672
Based on our normal mid-point measurement, you will get an additional 6% of brightness if you mount closer so the lens is full wide-angle. Conversely and more notably, backing the projector further from the screen, by mounting further back, the brightness drops 23% from the midpoint. As is usual, the closer you mount, the brighter your image.
The 1162 lumen measurement is the brightest combination of lens position and settings we were able to obtain, and that is almost a perfect 10% below Sony's 1300 lumen claim. Since the home theater projector that actually beats its claims is rather rare, we consider getting within 10% of claim to be better than most.
Color Temp over IRE Range (Best Mode, Pre calibration):
30 IRE 7921
50 IRE 7766
80 IRE 7329
100 IRE 7099
Effect of Iris settings on lumen output (Dynamic mode):
Iris on Manual (maximum opening) = 575
Iris on Manual (50% open) = 440
Iris on Manual (minimum opening) = 231
Iris Off or on Auto 1 or 2 = 633
Our "quick-calibration" of Dynamic mode (which is designed to improve color as much as possible without sacrificing a lot of lumens), yielded 751 lumens, just a handful less than the not as good looking "out of the box" mode.
"Best mode" calibration of the VW90ES yielded a better than average, healthy 588 lumens.
Here's how the final color temp looked:
Color Temp over IRE Range (Post calibration):
20 IRE 6116
30 IRE 6519
40 IRE 6634
50 IRE 6653
60 IRE 6620
70 IRE 6560
80 IRE 6477
90 IRE 6436
100 IRE 6552
Average gamma= 2.23
Mike's NOTES: Results were almost identical to the VW85. The grayscale was further off than the VW85 with default settings, but the VW90 has a lot of hours on it.
Unlike most projectors that come in, new, this Sony had over 220 hours when it arrived. This is important to note, that just figuring normal lamp characteristics, this projector's probably already lost something between five and ten percent of brightness.
The Calibration page provides the settings we used. That includes basic settings as well as gain and offset.
Sony VPL-VW90ES Sharpness
For your consideration, our usual close up images:
Top left: VPL-VW90ES, Top Left Center, Runco LS-10d, Top Right Center - JVC RS25, Top right - Mitsubishi HC7000
2nd row left: Panasonic PT-AE4000, left center: Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, right center: older Sony HW15, right: Sony Pro1.
Please note, we have switched to using the Playstation PS3 start screen for a sharpness test.
Close up of a computer monitor, from Space Cowboys (Blu-ray), left to right: VPL-VW90ES , InFocus 8602, Vivitek H5080, and Sony VPL-VWPro1.
Sony VPL-VW90ES: Bottom Line Sharpness
LCoS projectors, like 3 chip LCD and 3 chip DLP projectors, tend to be a little less razor sharp than good single chip DLPs. As I like to say, most 1080p home theater projectors fit into one of two categories: sharp, including this Sony, and sharper still. On movies, there's little difference between the two, but you can notice that extra sharpness, often found in good single chip DLP projectors, on HD content. Still, I haven't used a single chip DLP projector for several years, and have gotten by fine with various 1080p projectors, that are 3 chip devices... If you are coming from a particularly sharp DLP, though, the slight additional softness, will be noticed by some.
As with previous VW Sony's, light leakage isn't a problem. There's a minimal amount coming out through the lens and hitting outside the image that you can spot on a white or near white wall, on a totally dark scene. It is very minimal, and is most evident if you are using a lot of lens shift. In other words - not to worry.
VPL-VW90ES Image Noise
I'm waiting to hear back regarding an issue I spotted which is actually not noise related - mosquito (background) noise is pretty good, better than a typical DLP, for example. Sony normally uses Silicon Optix HQV processing.
The problem I'm seeing is how the VW90ES handles some panning in movies at 24fps. It's got more jittering than I expect from a good projector. It is not uncommon for a certain speed of panning to have a real jumpy look on certain projectors. In this case, the slow panning in the movie RED (first couple of minutes of the movie), looks worse than the Epson's handling of it, and the Runco was even better. I will now pay attention to panning more closely, and update whether this is an issue, or if it's just on the movie's really unusual panning speed that might be causing the rough results.
Sony VPL-VW90ES Audible Noise
I wouldn't worry about the audible noise levels on the VPL-VW90ES. Not only is it quieter than most projectors, but the sound is nice and low pitched. As I sit here with my head two feet from the Sony's right front, I can't hear a thing with no audio playing. The reason I can't hear it at all, is that the Sony PS3 - about 10 feet away, is drowning it out.
Almost certainly, the audible noise is in the mid-20 decibel range. Sony claims, 22 db at low power I believe, and it's certainly believable. Nicely quiet! Even those really noise adverse can probably live with the Sony VPL-VW90ES.