Projector Reviews

Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB vs. Sony VPL-VW40

When it comes to the physical attributes of these two projectors, they are extremely similar. Both have very flexible zoom lenses (actually, the Sony offers 1.8:1 while the Epson is 2.1:1, but that’s not a huge difference). Note, though that the Sony’s lens, overall, is slightly shorter throw, so it definitely cannot be as far back as the Epson can get. If you are shelf mounting, the Epson almost certainly will work, unless your room is very, very deep. The Sony, though, may not quite be able to get as far back in some more “normal” rooms. Both have vertical lens shift, as well, combining for easy placement, although the Epson again, has a bit more range. When it comes to horizontal lens shift, the Epson has the usual significant amount typical of projectors with horizontal lens shift. The Sony, does have horizontal lens shift, but its very minimal, there for people with minor mounting problems. To use the horizontal lens shift, it has to be manually adjusted, by first removing the lens trim ring. So far, that gives the advantage, although not great, to the Epson, but the Sony does have one advantage as well. Its zoom, focus, and vertical lens shift are motorized, while the Epson is manual. That’s also not a big difference, but it sure makes it a lot easier to get the best possible focus when you are able to stand 2 feet from the screen, rather than back by the projector.

Projector Warranties

It always makes sense to talk warranties when talking about hardware. The Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB has a two year warranty. The Epson warranty also includes two years of replacement warranty. Your projector breaks under warranty, and they ship out a replacement. You return your original, after you receive the replacement. A great way of handling warranty. By the way, the Pro Cinema 1080 UB has a three year warranty with three years of replacement, the best warranty of any projector in the comparison, along with the Optoma HD81-LV which offers the same. The Optoma, however is far more expensive than the Epson Pro Cinema 1080 UB. By comparison Sony comes with your basic one year parts and labor warranty. Bottom line: No comparison, Epson has it hands down, when it comes to warranty! Time to consider the differences:

Projector Sharpness

The review Sony VW40 I received was sharper, I felt than the VW50 reviewed last year, but by only a tiny amount. The Epson, I believe is just a little bit sharper, still. Let’s just say, that you won’t choose one, over the other based on sharpness!

Out of the Box Projector Performance

This is mostly a win for the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB. The Theatre Black 1 mode, which I define as “best” mode, is very good out of the box, but can use just a little “fix’n”. The Sony unit I received, by comparison, was a mess in best mode.

The Epson, though, is hardly perfect. Its Living Room mode, is also a mess and definitely needs “fix’n” as well. Of course the absolute brightest modes tend to be intentionally off in terms of color accuracy, in exchange for more lumens. Epson’s Dynamic is definitely “over the top”, but can be tamed reasonably well. This can be done by sacrifcing about 15% of maximum lumens. That still leaves 1500 for your usage, in Dynamic mode.

With the Sony VPL-VW40, Cinema mode was the main problem, with the color temp range being over 850K, but worse, starting just a little too cool (bluish) at about 6800K (ideal is 6500K), and rising to even cooler 7668K. By comparison, the Epson out of the box, just requires on minor change, setting color temp to 6500K, and bingo, its range is from 6261K to 6547K. That’s almost as good as it gets, without calibrating a home theater projector.

Wheras Epson’s Living Room mode is way off, Sony’s also needs work, the same settings that “fixed” the Sony’s Cinema mode, work for Standard mode.

Where the Sony is “way over the top” is in its Dynamic mode which was similar to Epson’s Living Room mode, in the case of the VW40, all measurements were over 10,000K. Nasty, when 6500K is ideal, and some of us like sports type viewing a bit warmer around 7500K.

Bottom Line: The Epson is very good out of the box, (in best mode, and good in Dynamic), the Sony, is definitely no match, in this regard.

Still, both of these projectors need some adjustment, and we provide our recommendations in their respective reviews. That said, the Epson, with just one simple menu change is really ready for prime time movie watching, and the Sony isn’t. Unfortunately there is variation from one projector to the next, so while the settings we provide will help, I always recommend you at least use a consumer calibration disc, like AVIA, or DVE. The Sony, more than the Epson, begs for a professional calibrator!

Black Levels and Shadow Details

I definitely believe the Epson has a distinct advantage here, even though the Sony is also one of the best projectors around. Since both use dynamic irises, and treat each frame differently as the content’s mix of bright and dark change, and since each company has its own algorithms, performance differences will depend on the scene you are watching. At it’s best, (on the right scene) the Sony can match the Epson, but overall, the Epson produces deeper blacks. A win for Epson. Again, though, these two projectors are excelent in terms of Black levels. When it comes to shadow details, on the other hand, I found the Sony has a very slight advantage.

Overall Picture Quality

After reading all that has come before, about these two, we get to the point, where the whole is more important than the sum of its parts. For all of the Epson generally, beating the Sony, when both of these are properly set up (not out of the box colors, but post calibration), you end up with two superb, affordable projectors.

I put about 70+ hours on the Sony, and far more on the Epson. I also did a lot of watching movie clips on the Epson, then switching to my reference – my JVC RS1, and back again, usually on 10 – 30 minute movie sequences. I did the same with the Sony and the JVC. And also the Sony and the Epson.

My bottom line is that I favor the Epson, but once calibrated, these two projectors are more different than better/worse. There are definitely folks with discerning eyes, that will favor the Sony, and others, the Epson.

For me, the telling difference was comparing to the JVC. The JVC, in most ways is a better projector than either.

But, for me, the Sony was, in a sense, a poorer imitation of the JVC. I’d always feel, that the JVC was better, and I wouldn’t want to trade down.

With the Epson, I felt it was not only closer to the JVC in quality, but it was a bit different, and even though when watching it, I realized that technically the JVC produced a superior (slightly) image, but I really didn’t care. I could more easily live with the Epson than the Sony, if someone took away my JVC.

I think the better black levels give the Epson more dynamics on the mixed and darker scenes, and I never found it wanting. That, people, is the bottom line.