Best In Class Runner Up Award (Tie): Sony VPL-VW95ES
Instant replay: Go back a year, and the Sony VPL-VW90ES and the JVC X70R slugged it out for Best In Class. This year it's the improved Sony VPL-VW95ES vs. the newer JVC DLA-X75R (and X95R). The only difference is they are tie for the runner-up spot.
Good looking turned off, great looking, turned on: Sony VPL-VW95ES Projector
Sony's real strength is price performance for this home theater targeted projector. Compared to these competitors; the JVC X75R, X55R, Runco LS-5 (another oldie), the X55R is less, the others more. The X55R isn't a match for the X95R at black levels, but does have e-Shift2.
With barely just over 1000 lumens at the brightnest, this isn't necessarily the best choice for a family room, but it depends on your life style. In my last house at night, movie viewing was great on my 128" screen with my old JVC, a touch less bright than this Sony. Of course I'm talking 2D, not 3D in that situation.
Black levels are really excellent. For a projector that uses a dynamic iris for achieving best black levels on dark scenes, the only projector I've seen that can do better is the VPL-VW1000ES. This VW-95ES seems to produce a "blacker black" than the JVC competition (on dark scenes), but those guys do it without an iris and come extremely close. Great job Sony, but if we were scoring, black levels would have to favor the X75R, however slightly.
When it come to color, and natural look and skin tones I have to slightly favor the Sony. Gorgeous. Don't get me wrong, the JVC competition looks great too, but if I'm going to make a "call" as to which is the better, it's going to be based on viewing, not looking at calibration measurements.
Having the new Reality Creation feature of the newer projectors would be a plus, but this Sony is about a sharp as one would expect from a 3 panel projector without artificial sharpening.
The Sony VPL-VW95ES offers excellent blacks that should satisfy everyone willing to have a projector with a dynamic iris.. For the purists, there are the dynamic iris free JVC projectors, of course.
Remember please that the VPL-VW95ES was in last year's Home Theater report. What I said here last year about the VW95ES'es color, doesn't need any editing:
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 crank up all those fancy dynamic features.
Folks, after all the fancy features, and incredible number of controls, maybe the most impressive feature is it's relative "invisibility", not black levels, not Lens Memory, not brightness.
Essentially the Sony has about a 75 and 100+ lumen advantage over the X95R based on our measurements for "best" and "brightest" modes. Not huge, but when you are thinking 3D, every lumen counts. And if you aren't thinking 3D, then you've still got that extra brightness for a touch larger screen or more ambient light.
For an official just under $6000 price, and a street price that is usually not far from there, the VPL-VW95ES is a quality projector, great feature set, good price value, complete with a high quality natural looking and pleasing picture.