Projector Reviews

Class: Premium Priced 1080p Home Theater Projectors: $3500 – $10,000

This price class has proven the toughest to select the award winners. In these higher price ranges, the projectors over all, have really good to excellent black level performance, they look great on dark scenes.  3D brightness is still an issue, but this year’s crop, the projectors seem to be, overall, a bit brighter, and glasses in some cases have gotten a little brighter as well.  Not everyone cares about 3D, and even those of us who do, the bulk of the content out there is 2D.

I mention 3D in particular, because more than anything else, 3D was a deciding factor for our tie for Best In Class.

I still don’t think almost any 3D capable projectors in this price range can comfortably tackle a 120″ diagonal screen with out seeming dim, assuming we’re avoiding high gain screens (which bring their own trade-offs). I’m having trouble not feeling a little dim at 100″ with most of them.

Best In Class Award (Tie): Sony VPL-VW95ES

OK, the tie decision in this Price Class is my “cowards” choice. I couldn’t decide between this Sony VPL-VW95ES and the more expensive JVC DLA-X70R. When I reviewed the Sony VPL-VW95ES a while back, I figured it was really improved from last year’s first generation 3D Sony, the VW90ES. It’s got great blacks (uses a dynamic iris), that beat out the Epson (which we use for reference), and should be extremely close to the JVC DLA-X70R.

With all the other goodies I liked about the Sony, I figured it would win top honors. Alas, last projector to be included in this year’s report is the JVC DLA-X70R. Each has advantages.

Truth is, not sure which one I like better. With the JVC here right now, I am favoring it, but I didn’t have these two projectors at anywhere near the same time – I finished with this Sony about 3 months before the JVC arrived.

Let’s start with blacks, since that’s not the area where the Sony should be able to beat the JVC. It doesn’t, but it does come close. I’m using the Epson 5010 as my black level reference, though it’s not as good as either of these. From comparing this Sony, the JVC RS45 (X30) and the X70R all to the Epson, it plays out like this: That JVC RS45 is overall just a touch better at blacks (than the Epson), the Sony is significantly better than the Epson, and the JVC DLA-X70R is significantly better than the Epson as well, a touch better than the Sony. Mostly though in mid-bright scenes. In the darkest scenes, that Sony is going to be extremely close to the JVC.

Color accuracy: The Sony 95ES, out of the box, is just a touch cool, but otherwise, color is excellent. Calibrated, it rivals the Runco LS5 – that is, not only is color on the money, but looks extremely natural. Unles you start pumping up those assorted dynamic features, this projector is the kind that seems invisible – doesn’t color the content, but more importantly never interferes with your immersing yourself in the content. Essentially – it’s invisible – not on your radar, only the picture is. Things like the color not quite looking right, or visible iris action, or dynamic sharpening can make you aware. This Sony doesn’t, unless you push it to. And that folks, after all the fancy features, and incredible number of controls, may be its most impressive feature – “invisibility”, not black levels, not Lens Memory, not brightness.

Overall, the picture seems near flawless. Not perfect, but, one more time: Nothing seems to call attention to the projector. Not when you are watching a movie, not when you are watching March Madness or a replay of the Superbowl, not when you are watching Discovery HD.

3D could definitely be brighter, (sound familiar), but overall, Sony’s getting a brighter image out this year that last year’s 90ES. VPL-VW95ES: 725 lumens calibrated, and just under 1000 lumens in Stage (1031 in Stage, lens at wide angle). That makes it about 20 lumens less bright at “best”, and 80 lumens brighter, at “brightest” compared to the JVC.

Brightness for 3D, is adequate for a typical 100″ screen, but hardly bright. While the Sony can tackle much larger screens than that in 2D, it’s one of many 3D projectors that might benefit from a dual screen system. A great 2D screen, and screen for 3D viewing, that’s optimized for brightness (high gain). Getting beyond the 3D brightness issues, I found the Sony 3D to look especially good. It’s not as clean as a first class DLP, in terms of things like 3D crosstalk / ghosting, but it’s pretty good. (Definitely better than the JVC in this regard.)

The Sony VPL-VW95ES is a big improvement from last year’s 90ES. It looks great, comes loaded with features, has very good brightness for a “theater only” projector – 725 lumens calibrated for Best Mode, and a great looking Brightest mode, but one that after tweaking only produces 877 lumens (mid-point on the zoom, you’ll get more lumens of course, if the lens is at wide angle).