Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Projector - Physical Tour
12/24/2010 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Projector - Appearance
The new Sony VPL-VWPRO1 projector is physically identical to the HW15 it replaces. Like the older projector, the VPL-PRO1 is a larger home theater projector, finished in an almost black, piano type, shiny finish on the top, while most other surfaces are a flat black. If you are ceiling mounting, of course, the projector is inverted, with the piano finish facing down, where it is nicely attractive with lights on.
Sony's manual zoom lens, with its 1.6:1 zoom ratio, is partially recessed.
The lens zoom and focus are adjusted from the lens trim rings. If you are facing the front of the projector, the infra-red sensor for the remote, is just to the right of the lens area. Two screw thread adjustable feet can be found on the bottom just behind the front.
Moving to the top of the Sony VPL PRO1, all you will find, are the two manual lens shift wheels, just behind the lens in the front.
Sony VPL-VWPRO1 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 projectors which tend to put the control panel on the top. There are others like this Sony, though, including the Panasonic PT-AE3000.
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. The rest of the control panel consists of four arrow keys in a round configuration, with a center enter button. 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 that side, they will have the best look at all those cables. Not an issue for most of us, but, forewarned is forearmed, as they say.
No changes compared to the older HW15, the input panel of the Sony PRO1 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 1.3 inputs, and a standard HD15 connector for the usual analog computer input (it can alternately be used as a second component video inputs). Next, comes the S-video (DIN connector), and composite video (RCA jack). Then comes the standard component video input (3 color coded RCA jacks), and finally 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 all the newest standards. This is an improvement over the older Sony VPL-VW40 and 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 2009).
Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Menus
The Sony's menus are well organized. Type size is reasonable, smallish, but not too small to be difficult to read at normal seating distances. This year, the menu is white on an opaque, charcoal gray background. (Much more pleasing than Sony's old bright, light blue menus). I'm sitting 20 feet back right now, from a 100" screen, and while the type size is fairly small, I have no problem at all reading the words.
The menu layout is a little different than older HW15. You'll need to get used to where certain menu items are hiding, such as the lamp power control being found in the Picture Menu, but hidden in the sub-menu called Cinema Black Pro. Who would have thought? Dynamic iris control is also hiding in the Cinema Black Pro sub-menu.
There are three pre-configured picture modes (Cinema, Dynamic, and Standard), and three User modes where you can save your settings changes. I like the way the three user modes are matched to the pre-defined ones. User 1 starts out the same as the Dynamic settings, User 2, Standard settings, and User 3 is based on Cinema. It's often a nuisance, when calibrating a projector, that starts out very close to ideal, only to find that the user area defaults are horrible, thus making a good calibration far more difficult than it needs to be. Note, this the assignment of User 1,2,3, is the same as last year.
The Expert Setting sub-menu (of Picture menu), gets some new items, which offers 6 gamma settings, with some control, a choice of wide or normal color space, noise reduction options, and a control called Black Level Adjust. That last one is designed to let you enhance black performance. It works, but it does seem to wipe out some dark shadow detail. Added to the Expert Setting sub-menu for the VWPRO1, is the addition of x.v. color (on/off), and Film mode (auto).
Some may like using the Black Level control to get more "pop" into those darker scenes, but the price for that is lost dark detail. The low setting crushes a fair bit of blacks, High, is "out of control" nasty, with the dark shadow detail gone. Unless you have something special in mind, Off is the preferred setting.
There are a number of other menus, and another of note is the Setup menu. Besides the language choices, and postioning for the menus, there's the high altitude fan control, standby and power options, and control of source type for Input A. There is also a Lamp Setting item, but on this menu, that's for resetting the lamp counter, after replacing a lamp.
Despite the color change of the menus, and the moving of a feature or two, the PRO1's menus are similar to last years' layout. That means once again, what I consider to be a very good layout. A few items are hiding where you might not think to look, but that's my only real complaint, and you'll find those controls quickly enough.
Sony VPL-VWPRO1 Remote Control
Sony introduced a new remote control last year for the VW85, and I'm pleased to report, they've stuck with it, with the new VWPRO1. 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.
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 its 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-VWPRO1 Lens Throw
The lens is a manual, 1.6:1 zoom lens. Per the user manual, if you have a 100 inch diagonal 16:9 screen, the lens allows the projector to be placed as close as 10 feet, 1 inch, or as far back as 16 feet 4 inches. Despite the reasonably good zoom ratio, the PRO1 can not be placed as far back as most projectors that are rear shelf mountable (has lens shift). Most of the non-DLP competition can be placed as far back as 19 - 21 feet, for the same sized screen.
The bottom line, therefore is while you can of course ceiling mount the VPL-PRO1 projector, many will not be able to place the Sony on a rear shelf, unless they are using an unusually large screen for a that room size. Let me restate that - you aren't likely to be able to rear shelf mount unless your room isn't very deep - a fairly square room, though should work fine.
The Sony VPL-PRO1 has vertical and horizontal lens shift. Both functions are manual, and controlled by the adjustment wheels on the top of the projector, just behind the lens.
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.
The Sony PRO1 does not inherently support an anamorphic lens and motorized sled, for those wanting to go with a 2.35:1 (Cinemascope) shaped screen. Sony does provide said support on their higher end VW projectors. This is not an unusual marketing decision. Few folks will spend about $4000 for a lens and sled, for an under $3000 projectors. Still, if you want to go anamorphic after you buy an PRO1, it can be done, by adding an outboard processor that can provide the necessary stretch aspect ratio to make it work. As outboard processors typically start around $1000 and go up from there, if you are really serious about going that route, you might want to consider the more expensive Sony VPL-VW70 (or its replacement), as you will be getting a better projector, and the cost differential isn't great, compared to an PRO1 and external processor.
As an additional note, there is no 12 volt trigger for controlling a lens sled, but the most popular anamorphic lens/sled combination is Panamorph, and they provide what you'll need to control the sled.