Sony VPL-HW20A, VPL-VWPRO1 - Review Summary
Time for a relatively quick summary of the Sony VPL-VWPRO1 - also known as the VPL-HW20a - projector's pros and cons and general capabilities.
12/28/10 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Projector - The Bottom Line
I've spent a lot more time watching the Sony, since I posted the first pages of the review. Since then, I had the opportunity to do some side by side viewing, primarily with the less expensive Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, and also my JVC RS20. Since the Sony is the first major review in my new location, and my rooms are different (much more theater like), Doing side by side viewing with projectors I am well familiar with, from both the old location and the new, really helped determine how the Sony VPL-VW PRO1 competes.
The Sony is an ultra high contrast projector, offering very good black level performance. That said, in the side by side comparisons, the Epson definitely offered up blacker blacks, and rivaled the Sony in revealing dark shadow detail. The Sony was no match at all in black performance compared to the RS20, which is pretty much a cut above just about everything else.
The really important thing to take away from this, is that the Sony's blacks are still pretty good, and that, if anything is the Sony's weak link.
The Sony looks great in terms of color. Strange to say, but the richness of the colors reminds me a bit of the old InFocus IN83 an old favorite of mine (and one who's blacks were no match for the PRO1.)
OK, so we have great color, very good black performance, but to really make a difference this year, the surprise bonus is all those extra lumens. The VWPRO1's over 750 lumens in "best" mode, makes it one of the brightest home theater projectors around, anywhere near its price. There are a couple of others a bit brighter, but for three grand, (and some "loose change"), this will be one of the best choices for larger screens, and seriously competitive with anything else we've seen so far.
Sharpness is very good as well. This is a 3 panel (or three chip) LCoS projector - an SXRD projector as Sony names theirs. The pixel alignment wasn't particularly good with red pixels being both right, and below less than 1/2 pixel after adjustment. That's still enough to add a touch of softness compared to a nice sharp single chip DLP, but I'm not complaining.
When it comes to cost of ownership, this Sony VPL-VWPRO1 has a two year warranty, which is about average. Lamp life we "assume" is what we used to call standard - 2000 hours. I figure if Sony had improved upon 2000 hours, they'd likely tell us. Especially with some others touting 3000 and 4000 hours at full power, and up to 6000 hours in low power!
That Sony provides a spare lamp (at least at this time - the end of 2010), so even if Sony's lamp life is not particularly long, that should keep all but the most avid watchers, in lamps for several years.
The Very Bottom Line on the VPL-VWPRO1 projector:
With a net price of just over $3000 after you net out the free spare lamp, this Sony is definitely, by my reckoning the most competitive Sony yet, in this series, which includes the VW40, HW10, and HW15, over the last few years.
Remember, the other name for the VWPRO1 is the VPL-HW20a projector. Sure, this is a better projector than its predecessors, but the point is, it is also much more competitive against other projector brands, and the older ones were anything but weak products.
Since I tend to own a respectably large screen - 128" in the old house (16:9) and something even wider (but 2.35:1) coming shortly to my new theater. Last year, for example, if I was looking in the $2K to $3.5K range, neither the Sony nor, the older Epson 8500UB, had the muscle I felt I needed. This year, the same is true of the Epson, but, the Sony would have to be a top choice, if I was shopping in that price range.
With all that in mind, you'll want to give this Sony projector some serious consideration, especially if you aren't a fanatic, as I am, about black level performance. We just finished watching SALT, which has plenty of dark scenes, and I never "noticed" that the blacks were any sort of issue. I'm already 20 minutes into the first Harry Potter, and the dark storm scenes at the lighthouse are darn good.
One last thing, the Sony is also a fun projector if you like to play with toys. It has plenty of controls, including the ability to adjust the projector in 9 separate sections of the screen. Also of note, besides two choices on dynamic iris (I primarily used Auto 1), you can change the iris to a manual mode.
Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Image above, from The Fifth Element, Blu-ray disc
Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Projector: Pros
- Excellent color, and overall picture quality, post calibration
- Very good black levels, but not exceptional
- Very bright "best" movie mode, with well over 700 lumens
- Very good dark shadow detail
- Dynamic iris action is generally smooth - a real plus
- "Brightest" mode is a little brighter than average, and with particularly good picture quality
- Wide variety of gamma and color presets
- Very nice menu layout
- One of the few projectors in its price point, capable of handling larger screens in "best" mode
- Good remote control, well laid out, Rane is good, but could be even better
- Very good placement flexibility
- Better than average documentation
- Very good value proposition
Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Projector: Cons
- Reasonable audible noise level at full power, but could be quieter
- Remote range, could be a bit further, now that projector is brighter, it will end up in some bigger home theaters
- Black levels not up to the best in the price range
Sony VPL-VWPRO1 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)
That's all, folks!
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