Posted on March 1, 2020 By Art Feierman
Greetings, projector professionals: AV managers, IT, tech coordinators, educators, presenters, and buyers.
Sony, as one of the most recognized brands in the world obviously needs no formal introduction. Their reputation for quality goes back to the late 1960’s with their invention of the Trinitron picture tube for TVs. 50 years later, those of you in the need of projectors are almost certainly aware of Sony’s leadership in the world of commercial laser projector solutions (home theater too).
Today’s focus will be on Sony’s newest laser based projectors, and to introduce you to a pretty important new capability that should factor into your decision process!
Sony has contracted me to write this “advertorial” for the purpose of presenting to our readers, Sony’s new lineup of laser projectors, and do so with minimal hype, and maximum insights to “help you choose wisely!” BTW, more on how this and previous features were created, at the bottom of this piece, also links to some of our Sony laser projector reviews, and to more info about the newest models, found on Sony’s website.
OK, despite my claim I have to add just a touch of hype: Sony is one of the dominant laser projector manufacturers and they have been for many years. While Sony can’t claim the first laser projector, they were the first to ship a 3LCD laser projectors roughly seven years ago, but that’s just one of many Sony “firsts.” 3LCD laser projectors – thanks to major players like Sony – as well as Panasonic, NEC, and Epson – favoring 3LCD for the value proposition, I believe that 3LCD is now the “go to” technology for todays commercial projectors.
Sony has a ridiculously large laser projector line-up, that includes 24 different laser projectors, including five just announced. These five, sport prices from $1,599 list price for their new WXGA “affordable” to $14,999 for their new 13,000 lumen, WUXGA laser projector, the VPL-FHZ131.
I want to touch on these five today. And also on Intelligent Settings, a pretty new capability found on all five. Previously, (months ago) we’ve discussed Sony’s native 4K projectors, which (no surprise) naturally cost far more, and which I’ll also just mention below. Those are targeted to the verticals which already have demand for native 4K projectors, such as simulators, and scientific renderings/engineering docs…
So, check this out. Sony, with the release of these five new projectors is officially now releasing its 7th generation of laser projectors using 3LCD technology! (OK that’s some more hype. Sorry!)
The $1,599 list price on their newest “affordable laser” is noteworthy in its own right. By the way, for you educators – that $1,599 is before any special education pricing and discounts.
Note that as I write this, these are just announced, but with the “affordable laser” models shipping in April and May, and the “heavy metal” models also shipping in May (the FHZ131L is the last – scheduled for June deliveries.) But with those dates all will be shipping in time for the big education purchases this summer for both K-12 and higher education.
Let’s get into the heart of it: want to give you a close look at three areas that I consider most important.
It’s your call. Definitely check out Intelligent Settings. Before or after that (since I do not know your specific area of interest, you can click the links to jump to) I’m going to lead with a bit of a product overview, then Intelligent Settings, then the higher end commercial projectors, followed by the new “affordable laser projectors.”
Link to Affordable Sony Lasers
Link to Intelligent Settings
Link to High End Sony Lasers
On the moderately high end, Sony has just launched three new commercial projectors. Mind you, these aren’t Sony’s most expensive – these only top out at $14,999 list. Sony also offers a line of native 4K commercial lasers geared for specialties primarily focused on scientific and engineering work (charting, renderings, drawings, medical imaging, etc.), and for use in simulators.
And, of course, Sony is one of the biggest names in commercial movie theater projectors found at your local Cineplex, but those movie theater projectors are beyond our focus. By the way, I didn’t count the movie projector lineup, when I came up with the 24 total laser projectors.
These new, high-powered WUXGA projectors, however, will light up a large auditorium or a house of worship rather nicely, thanks to plenty of horsepower and advanced features. Features such as projection mapping and edge blending make these great for digital signage, worship, medium and large entertainment venues, and of course, museums. All three of the new laser projectors can not only work in multi-projector setups, but can also be “stacked” to double or triple their total brightness!
Understand, that the discussed Intelligent Settings found on these powerful projectors are designed to simplify, making creating the optimal setup much faster, easier, and at the end of the day, better performing!
More on both the affordable lasers, and these new commercial models below.
Sony’s two new affordable lasers are essentially replacing older ones. The new entry level is the VPL-CWZ10 – that’s the $1,599 list price projector, that sports the laser light engine, with 5,000 lumens.
Sony not only shrunk the price dramatically to $1599 MSRP, but also the weight – now at 13 pounds, down 35% from the older PWZ10 (same resolution). The CWZ10 is also physically 40% smaller than the model it replaces. It’s now not just a powerful laser projector, but a very compact one at that.
The CWZ10 should be an excellent low-cost laser projector for higher education, conference rooms, and, where they have healthy budgets, even some K-12 schools – probably high schools buying in volumes.
If more resolution is needed, look no further than the WUXGA (1920×1080) VPL-PHZ12, which replaces the PHZ10. The PHZ10, it should be noted, won our Hot Product Award when reviewed over two years ago. It also won an award our Best Classroom Projectors report:
Best in Classroom: Best Performance Large Venue Projector Award
(very suitable, and affordable, for those large university halls)
Here’s one for you. The VPL-CW10, in getting smaller, lighter, and a lot less expensive, did give up one feature: It lacks lens shift. Of course, it has plenty of keystone correction, but cutting out lens shift is a good move if your goal is smaller, lighter, more affordable.
Three years has allowed for a number of improvements since the older PHZ10 was launched. The first improvement, a list price drop to $2,499. Some of the other changes that are rather noteworthy:
Bottom line on Sony’s Affordable Lasers:
A Brief Intro: Intelligent Settings
Essentially, Sony provides the ability to easily “tweak” their projectors now, to a mix of settings that match the requirements of the application they are being used for, rather than the usual controls which allow a lot of control, but don’t work together to come up with the best solution for the application and environment.
Of course, that’s what installing AV experts are supposed to do, get you the best setup possible for your needs. Intelligent Settings is designed to both simplify the install and setup, and provide the best possible performance for the type of use. Installing dealers should love Intelligent Settings, and large institutions with their own teams will likely agree.
Intelligent Settings may well be the most exciting new part of the new Sony story. Now, remember what I said about hype. Every company hypes many features, even if those features are virtually identical to the competition’s. In most cases, that feature would come with a fancy trademark on its name, and you end up seeing hype like “Only ABC Projectors have Super-Duper-Smooth image processing (aka CFI). Of course, everyone has processing for the same purpose with their own names, like “Smooth Motion” or “Smooth Cinema,” or “Dynamic Interpolation,” or “Motion Enhancer.”
On the other hand, Intelligent Settings appears to be a suite of abilities that are pretty unique. This suite certainly seems to provide a capability that offers real benefit for different types of installations. I will describe those abilities shortly, because they are part of why Sony has a history of being especially successful with their commercial laser projector line-up.
Four “Vertical” Markets supported by Intelligent Settings (and Sony’s projectors!):
Given: Projectors, in normal operation, balance color accuracy and fidelity, brightness, audible noise and other capabilities. But all of that is determined and set up manually, by professionals. It’s up to them to determine when one capability takes precedence.
Here’s how different verticals markets that rely on projectors tend to configure them:
Vertical 1: In certain presenting rooms, like a boardroom or classroom, a quiet projector is needed so projectors would usually run in those places at reduced brightness to stay quieter. Note: Of course, everyone’s had full power and eco modes for years and years, but it is a good thing when the projector knows the best settings to use, because you have defined the type of usage, and environment.
Vertical 2: In a museum environment, color accuracy/fidelity are most critical. Brightness and audible noise are, relatively, secondary concerns. By selecting the museums, of course, are a rather huge market for projectors, and one Sony definitely focuses on.
Vertical 3: In entertainment venues – perhaps, a bar, nightclub or a concert venue, there’s less demand for color accuracy, but a whole lot more need for maximum brightness. And audible noise is basically a non-issue!
Vertical 4: Let’s call this Multi-projector (Sony calls it Multi Screen). Multi-projector setups span a wide range of vertical markets, from large auditoriums, to digital signage (and also higher end Museum displays. Note: This setting is not available on the “Affordable Lasers”, because they lack the necessary features. No surprise that Sony even has an Intelligent Settings mode for doing Multi-Projector setups: That is when using more than one projector handling the same image, typically combining Edge Blending, Constant Brightness, and automatic Color Calibration in what is often a museum type environment, but also for digital signage.
In Museums, in particular, it’s critical that all projectors in an array have exactly the same color, and brightness, to seamlessly great one very large image. Multi-projector setups are also used in large lecture halls, and houses of worship, and definitely they are huge in creating Command and Control Centers!
Note, the FHZ series supports Edge Blending, Projection Mapping and Constant Brightness, and the ability to auto calibrate. The more entry level “affordable lasers” don’t offer those four abilities. (That’s one way to stay affordable.)
Sony provided me with this image (the chart below), showing the different “intelligent settings” and how they would differ in mix, depending on the room and applications the projector(s) are tackling!
Note, it shows three environments (there are four different environments plus off). But, upon thinking on it, I can see them adding to that. You can see in the illustrations below the photos, how some applications are more brightness first, others color first, and so on…
Below are some of the controlling menus, where you can see how a projector (or projectors) can be “focused” on the best combination of settings for the situation! A quick look at some of the Intelligent Settings setup screens, gives you an idea of how easy it is:
With Intelligent Settings, IT/AV professionals can dial in their projectors to have the best mix of these abilities, suitable for the specific type of application.
OK, true, this isn’t rocket science, but upon thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense.
It’s going to be a real plus for those responsible for choosing – and then configuring projectors for ideal performance in the type of setup planned! By going this route, I would expect configuring the projectors for best picture/brightness/audible noise and other trade-offs will be much easier.
At the same time, not only faster/better when setting up, but also that the end performance is optimized for what is important for the client for their environment -including, for example, color accuracy vs brightness. Other benefits of optimizing for the usage can include better reliability and longer life.
Of additional note, the new FHZ models are more sophisticated, calling their implementation of Intelligent Settings, as Advanced (version 2.0).
Below are settings for museums, entertainment facilities, and multi-screen options:
Good news: We will soon be reviewing one of the new models (once they start shipping in May) with these Intelligent Settings abilities, and discuss in detail, our take on how well these Intelligent Settings aspects work together, to provide a better solution.
Below you’ll get to meet Sony’s VPL-FHZ131L – a 13,000 lumen beast, and also its equally new siblings, the FHZ-1010L and FHZ91L, with 10,000 and 9000 lumens respectively.
In fairness, most major commercial projector manufacturers offer sophisticated projectors with interchangeable lenses and other features in the 8,000 – 15,000 lumen range. There’s plenty of competition there.
Sony, of course (like much of the competition) works closely with top AV system integrators, and other various forms of dealers, as well as partners. One of our star reviewers and engineer by trade – Phil Jones worked for Sony for about a decade, until late 2018. There, he created training materials trained and supported a lot of Sony’s dealer/integrator network, and ran technical events at trade shows.
Those of you who attend major display trade shows may well have taken in demonstrations and workshops he ran over the years (I certainly attended a number of them). My point being, Sony not only has quality product, but a very well-trained and experienced network of dealers, integrators and partners. And those folks work not only with corporate and education institutions but also major verticals such as Entertainment, Houses of Worship, Simulators, Science/Engineering Applications (i.e. hi-res renderings), Digital Signage and others.
[That’s my nickname for full-featured commercial projectors]
I’m going to keep my comments primarily to these three brand new FHZ series Sonys; the FHZ131L, the FHZ101L, and the FHZ91L. I will simply say that Sony has a number of additional, less expensive FHZ series projectors, including the very popular VPL-FHZ75, and the VPL-FHZ66.
The FHZ66, it’s worth noting, replaced the older FHZ65, which was one of our top-rated reviewed projectors in its class and price range.
The flagship of the FHZ series is now the 13,000 lumen, 3LCD VPL-FHZ131L. The other two brand new models, the FHZ101L and FHZ91L offer identical feature sets, just cost a bit less, and are appropriately less bright at 10,000 and 9,000 lumens.
As mentioned above, there are 8 different lenses, from very short throw to extremely long throw, that work with each of these FHZ models.
Vertical lens shift is almost an astonishing 107%, far more than most of the competition, and that means superior placement flexibility.
These are, of course stackable, to double the brightness. 26,000 lumens, for example, is rock concert brightness.
But even the FHZ91L has enough brightness to handle most medium and large auditoriums or any size lecture hall. This group of Sony projectors will find lots of homes in larger houses of worship, even some of those huge mega-churches.
These Sonys are pretty aggressively priced thanks to a 3LCD/laser combination for superior color without the mega-price tags of 3 Chip DLP projectors, and with:
Great placement flexibility. Multiple benefits from Sony’s Intelligent Settings, Full advanced networking with support for the key protocols like Crestron and Extron. HDBaseT (of course), and Sony’s excellent reputation for support.
If you’ve been around a while (1980’s) – whether in the AV industry or not, you likely remember how Sony presented itself as a leader in TVs and AV:
“It’s a Sony!” Which has been synonymous, with high quality!
Links For More Info:
“Affordable Laser Projectors:”
Sony LaserLite VPL-PHZ10 Laser Projector Review (Our full review of the PHZ12’s precedessor – a winner of two top awards)
Sony VPL-PHZ12 Projector 5000 lumens (More info from Sony’s website)
Sony VPL-CWZ10 Projector 5000 lumens (More info from Sony’s website)
Commercial Laser Line-up
Sony VPL-FHZ61 Commercial Laser Projector Review (current model, lacking Intelligent Settings
Note, the FHZ61 in this past year’s Best Education Projectors report received our Best In Classroom: Price/Performance award for, “High End, and Specialty Projectors”
Sony VPL-FHZ131L/FHZ101L/FHZ91L Projectors 9000 – 13,000 lumens (More info from Sony’s website)
This Document: I use the term Advertorial in quotes, because this isn’t a traditional one. Normally content for an advertorial comes from the advertiser. For these monthly features, though, although paid for my the respective manufacturers, give me full editorial control. I write these, show the manufacturer a rough draft, just to check for technical errors. Next thing they know, you folks are reading this. -art
That’s it everyone! Thanks for “listening” -art
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