Sony VPL-VW90ES Home Cinema Projector - Review Summary
Time for a free ranging summary of the Sony VPL-VW90ES projector's pros and cons and general capabilities. The short version: The Sony VPL-VW90ES is a great 2D projector with 3D too.
3/15/2011 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL-VW90ES Projector - The Bottom Line
OK, let's see what we've got here. The Sony VPL-VW90ES is their flagship home theater projector, and their first 1080p projector sporting 3D. It commands a $9999 list price.
That's a lot of loose change, but the least expensive serious1080p home theater projector with 3D is the Sharp, and that guy's almost exactly half the price.
"Out of the box" color needs some work, not impressed, but I am impressed with the final picture after Mike did his calibration.
Truly excellent skin tones are obvious. I'd probably be gushing about them, but for the fact that the last projector through - the $27,000 Runco, was even better (perhaps mostly by virtue of more lumens behind the Runco's color).
My one concern has been the panning issue I spotted. I am finding that the VW90ES does seem a touch worse than some others, but it seems to be panning speed based. After noticing the horizontal panning at the beginning of RED, I looked at some other movies. The Sony's panning is generally about typical, but on the right speed pan, it does look worse than others. I have queried Sony about this, awaiting reply.
Black level performance is very good. The projector seems roughly comparable now to the Epson UB, which still has the best blacks short of the higher end JVCs. When you achieve that level of black performance, other things become the more critical things to improve. In other words, if you asked me which I would want for this Sony projector, a step up in black performance, or a step up in brightness, in this case, give me the brightness, I can defiinitely live long and prosper, with the Sony VPL-VW90ES's black level performance.
Sony VPL-VW90ES for 3D
The 3D is cool. Look, from a big picture standpoint, 3D isn't quite ready for prime time, but it really can look great. Those of us who are enthusiasts, recognize that the 3D artifacts are significantly more noticeable than small things we still complain about with 2D noise. If you are a person who wants a relatively flawless image, 3D isn't there yet. Maybe if they up the speed to 240 hz, and maybe 196hz for 24 bit movies...
But, how that plays out, we'll have to see.
What I do care about discussing, is what you can expect with the VW90ES when watching 3D.
To a large extent, you are trading brightness for coolness (in a "3D looks cool" sense). It's not just cool though, it's intense. 3D can really up your emotional response to the content.
Brightness a key issue, but the oft pleasure of 3D is a major offset. I can't wait until we have projectors with lots of lumens in addition to excellent 2D home theater, but that's not just out there yet (at these "bargain" prices).
I was most skeptical when Sony announced a 3D, 1000 lumen projector. I've now played with three different fairly expensive 3D projectors and so far, when doing 3D, the Sony looks the brightest. This is interesting since the Sharp measured almost 40% brighter. The Sharp is a DLP projector, the Sony 3 panel LCoS. Now, I'm being told, that the differences in polarization retention is a factor with screens with some 3D technologies.. The screens I've been using are the Carada Brilliant White, in both rooms. I will have other screens soon, including the Studiotek 130, and the Screen Innovations BD1.4.
So, it may well be, with a different screen, that the Sharp will appear as bright, but, meantime, the difference must be somewhere - glasses? Screen?
No matter, what matters is what they look like when you are watching. If you are used to "normal brightness" when watching 2D, then 3D is going to be dim on the same screen. It's not like you can forget how bright 2D is, all you have to do is peek out from under your glasses.
Above: Sony on the left, Sharp on the right - 3D, no, glasses won't help. They appear to have very different looking color, with the Sony showing very strong blues here, the Sharp a bit the other way. I give the Sony the edge in side by side viewing. It not only seems as bright, or a tad more so, but had the slightly more enjoyable looking picture.
Back to Brightness:
For perspective about 3D brightness, my old JVC (with a new lamp - about 700 lumens), filling my old Firehawk G3 - a 128" diagonal gray surface, put a brighter image on the screen than this Sony can in 3D with a screen size in the 80-90" diagonal range.
Of course in 2D, this Sony and my projector are very comparable in brightness.
For all of the issues, I really do enjoy watching 3D.. With the Sony, last night, I watched part of Alice In Wonderland again. I started at the full 106 inches, but after 15 minutes settled on about 88" diagonal (the smallest I could get without moving the projector closer.)
It was bright enough for me. But one of my friends, still was very unhappy.
Watching 3D, though, is really great despite all of that...
It's the significant percent of HDTV type content though - Discovery HD, sports, etc. that's really killer in 3D, and it's coming! I'm more interested in that, than upcoming movies, although that works too.
So, how is the value proposition for this Sony? Let's consider:
You are getting to buy a brighter projector than last year's VW85. Some modes measure 10% or more brighter, others about the same, but overall, the projector is brighter. In "brightest mode", this year's Sony is 10% brighter than last. I point this out because that improves value. I give a lot of value for the extra lumens. In exchange for that boost, plus the usual other year to year improvements, Sony has upped the price point to $9999, a $2000 increase over the older model. You'll have to weigh all the improvements and 3D against that $2K.
You can look at that two ways. If you don't care about 3D, or 3D in its current state, in terms of content availability, equipment choices, then the 90ES may not be worth the difference and you might look for the older VW85, despite the slight improvements in blacks, and brightness. If you want to play with 3D, though, I'd say that, relative to the early days of 3D, and the pricing, which of course will come down as 3D catches on. (I'm assuming it will.) Then this Sony provides a great balance; a great 2D projector, and an extra couple thousand for the 3D, some more brightness and other improvements.
When it comes to the competition, the Sony VW90ES has only a very few competitors that can do 3D. Your selection process will be different if you don't care about 3D. If you are shopping for 3D (like I am) and would like it now (I do), at least occasionally. There are only 4 1080p competitors within a magnitude of price. At the lower end, is the Sharp XV-Z17000 a great 3D projector for half the price of the Sony, but it really isn't in the same class from a picture quality standpoint. (It's older 2D version, the XV-Z15000, we considered a better than average $2000 projector.)
That leaves the JVC RS50 and RS60, at $8K and $12K, plus the LG CF3D at $15K. A few more are coming, but not in the next few months. Because of the brightness issues we discuss in the Competitors page, unless our JVC RS60 review unit proves defective (JVC's looking at it), we don't see very viable for 3D, at least not without high power screens, etc. If the Sony needs more brightness, then the JVC we had needs lots more. Comparing brightest modes, the Sony's over 40% brighter based on our measurements. With my rather average white screen, the JVC just wasn't bright enough to watch in 3D even at 80" diagonal. If you want 3D and the JVC's are producing well less than 600 lumens (mid-point on zoom), then the Sony advantage is huge. With 3D where every lumen counts, you
The Very Bottom Line on the VPL-VW90ES projector:
Sony continues to improve it's home theatre projectors, and the VW90ES is a better replacement than the older VW85. What's unusual, though is a price increase from one generation to the other. In this case, you get one, but, it would seem that's the price for 3D. I suspect that, otherwise, the projector would have the same price as last year, be a little brighter and better, and that would be that - typical.
Best I can tell, so far, if you want a projector to do both 2D and 3D, for some serious home theatre, then so far, I'd have to narrow the choices to the lower cost Sharp, or the better image of this Sony. I'll pass on those JVC's as 3D projectors, unless they do prove to be significantly brighter than the one JVC shipped me.
When it comes to choosing the VPL-VW90ES strictly for 2D, then there's more competition in the quality class. The JVC's, for example, will still have slightly better blacks (and no dynamic iris), but this year, it would seem that Sony is brighter than JVC. That's a complete reversal from a couple of years ago, when I ranked JVC's hands down my favorites, for the combination of being brighter than those old Sonys, plus the black advantages (Sony always wins for most controls, for tweaking!)
Above: taken using "best" mode color - 2011 Superbowl
This time around, as I've been saying all along, the Sony VPL-VW90's blacks are good enough that I start refocusing my attentions on to other aspects of the projector, such as brightness, or 3D, or creative frame interpolation. So, any way I slice it, the VPL-V90ES is a top contender up there around $10,000. In Sony's perrenial battles with it's competition in these price ranges, I think this Sony is going to capture more souls (and sales) relative to the competition, than the VPL-VW90ES predecessors have. has in the past.
The Sony is not without flaws. It has exhibited a minor problem with panning at a certain speed, it definitely could be brighter in brightest mode and, even brighter still for 3D.
This Sony VPL-VW90ES is just a classy projector. Excellent picture with great but not the best blacks, better than average brightness for movie watching, power everything, a good feature set including creative frame interpolation, and 3D.
If you are really stretching your budget to the bursting point, to make this Sony your next projector, you may have a tough time selling yourself. On the other hand...
If the VPL-VW90ES is comfortably in your budget, you are almost certainly giving it serious thought, then it seems to me to be a very reasonable value, compared to the competition. I suspect plenty of you shopping in this range will select the VW90ES, for those reasons above. That's why there's a Hot Product Award now attached to the Sony VPL-VW90ES projector.
Sony VPL-VW90ES Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Image above, from The Fifth Element, Blu-ray disc
Sony VPL-VW90ES Projector: Pros
- Excellent color, and overall picture quality, post calibration
- Really good black levels, but not the best
- Above average brightness in "best" movie mode
- Very good dark shadow detail
- 2D to 3D conversion - interesting
- 3D can be played as 2D
- Dynamic iris action is smooth generally invisible- a real plus
- Zoom, Focus, Lens shift, are all motorized
- Wide variety of gamma and color presets
- Very nice menu layout
- Very good documentation (a rarity)
- Excellent remote control, well laid out
- Very good placement flexibility
- Does a very good job on 3D, within the limits of overall brightness
- Fairly quiet projector
- Very good value proposition
Sony VPL-VW90ES Projector: Cons
- A more noticable than most amount of stuttering on slow pans of a scene at apparently a certain speed or speed (24 fps content) (only seen on two different scenes so far)
- Remote control's range is good, but could be a bit further
- Black levels not up to the very best in the price range
- Not priced for the masses (well they do offer the VWPro1)
- Will look dim on typical 90 inch and larger screens in 3D (you really can compensate with a high power screen)
Above, from the movie Inception, on Blu-ray disc.
Sony VPL-VW90ES Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Lamp life (our guess, since they don't publish lamp life)
- Medium large projector
- Vertical and horizontal lens shift (now pretty much standard at this price point)
- Dynamic iris
- Smooth motion (creative frame interpolation)
- Selection of inputs
I could live with one of these. When not watching 2D, I'd watch tons of 3D content, but I'd still wish for a usable 2000 lumens for 3D.
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