Sony LaserLite VPL-PHZ10 Laser Projector Review – Summary

SONY VPL-PHZ10 LASER PROJECTOR REVIEW:  SUMMARY!   Picture And Performance, Feature Set, Laser, Competition and Positioning, Bottom Line, Pros and Cons

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The VPL-PHZ10 produces a clear, dynamic image, and in it’s best modes, with very good color accuracy for a business/education/commercial projector

Sony has not finalized the color tables.  That indicates that the three color modes will all each look at least a little better on full production PHZ10s.  Still I have to concede that even before further improvement,  this sample does a pretty impressive job in all modes.

VPL-PHZ10 Picture and Performance

Dynamic mode is likely your best bet with some ambient light present.

Presentation mode – the brightest, has the typical projector tendency to be a bit strong on greens and yellows, but it acceptable for most presentation, classroom, or collaboration work, unlike some projectors where I like to say – use this “brightest” mode only as a “break glass in case of emergency.” That is, some other projectors brightest modes are so strong on greens and yellows as to look pretty bad color wise. That’s not the case here, even if both Dynamic, and Standard are noticeably better.

Standard overall is the best color, and assuming that holds with production units, consider that the preferred mode if you need the most accurate color for skin tones, or even matching a corporate logo’s color, especially if ambient light is under good control.  For most typical presenting, though, Dynamic should be more than sufficient picture quality wise.

Despite the high contrast ratio claim – thanks in large part to the laser design) black level performance – except on black scenes – is just typical for 3LCD commercial projectors – acceptable, but far, for example, from home theater quality black level performance.  Still, the Sony’s contrast should be fine for all but the most demanding images.

This is one bright projector – even in “eco” mode, with the least bright color mode, were’ still talking 2000 lumens (there was a time when 2000 lumens was typical for hotel ballroom presentations (in seriously darkened rooms).  But with full power, and Dynamic mode this Sony laser manages a very bright 3750 color and white lumens (widest on the zoom lens.)  And as pointed out, there’s just shy of 5000 lumens maximum output in Presentation mode. In all cases, production models are likely to measure a bit brighter (5-10% is what I expect – we shall see).

Bottom Line on Picture and Performance:  For a laser projector this VPL-PHZ10 offers a very good picture, and plenty of brightness, for what is now, the lowest price commercial laser projector on the market (with WUXGA resolution).

Sony VPL-PHZ10 Feature Set - Summary

HotProduct_largeMost laser projectors are bigger, brighter, and more loaded with features than this Sony VPL-PHZ10, but then most of those are also several times this Sony’s price (or more)!

The Sony has a respectable zoom lens, but lacks the interchangeable lenses found on Sony’s more expensive laser series, and for that matter, most of the competition.  That, along with “merely” 5000 lumens maximum will limit its use in some extremely large installations, but then this could be considered the first “mainstream” affordable laser projector – that is, it will find itself in applications where those big commercial systems are not practical (due to size, brightness and drastically higher prices!)

There are the usual 2 HDMIs to serve as the primary source inputs, but the Sony has most of the usual others including composite, and USB.  There’s also support for LAN – local area networks.

Missing is 3D.  There’s little call for 3D in the business/education world, so no real problem there, but a decent internal speaker would be nice for the smaller room installations.

Still, as noted, this VPL-PHZ10 may have plenty of brightness for large university classrooms, even a full 20 watt sound system (about as big as one ever finds in a projector) won’t cover that size classroom (or large multi-purpose rooms) without help from an external sound system.

Bottom line on feature set: This Sony is missing a couple of standard features that some slightly less but similarly bright lamp based projectors may have (such as built in Wi-Fi instead of it being optional, but most notably compared to more expensive laser projectors, it lacks interchangeable lens options. That’s what makes this Sony an affordable projector  – because it lacks some of the more expensive features.

Laser Light Engine

It was inevitable.  Until recently any reasonably bright laser projector with 1080p or WUXGA resolution has been at least $5000, and that makes this Sony with a projected street price of $3000 – a real game changer.

This is a typical laser engine – that is, it works in conjunction with phosphors – it does not project directly from the lasers to the screen.

What the laser brings to the party – in summary:

  • Long life – no maintenance
  • Projector dims slowly over time
  • Color holds far longer than lamp based projectors
  • A larger color gamut, which produces output that appears brighter than an equally bright (by measurement) lamp based projector
  • Constant brightness and Auto calibration – for applications requiring consistent brightness, and color that won’t shift noticeably, as is needed in some commercial installations

The big question for many is will an “affordable” laser projector make sense compared to even less expensive, but otherwise similarly featured lamp based projectors.  Let’s consider:

Competition and Positioning

Laser vs. Laser

This is easy.  Let’s consider the VPL-PHZ10 against another laser projector that has fairly similar feature set – that would be the NEC NEC P502HL Last year Ron reviewed the WXGA version (the P502WL),   That NEC at the time we considered to be about as affordable as laser projectors got.  The WUXGA version today has a street price that’s a little bit under $4000, which is therefore, almost $1000 more than the PHZ10 is projected to have (at $3000) Note there are already dealers taking orders for the VPL-PHZ10, and they are quoting right around $3000!  For those not needing WUXGA – the Sony PWZ10 (WXGA) is expected to street for $2199, while the comparable NEC projector is about $800 more.

Also of note, though, the NEC has 3D, it’s a DLP projector. But also for that same reason (being a single chip DLP), it’s low on color lumens, so that the Sony will do superior color without sacrificing near as much brightness.  The NEC supports edge blending applications and also DICOM SIM for reading X-rays and other films with it’s own mode, while the Sony supports DICOM SIM which it does by changing the gamma of a preset mode such as Standard, instead of having a unique mode for it.  That’s a pretty specialized feature, but if you need it, you need it.  The NEC has a 20 watt speaker built in, while the Sony has 16 watts.  Close enough.

But the real competition won’t be the occasional more expensive laser like the NEC, but rather, classic lamp based projectors that cost less, but have similar feature sets (other than the laser engine.  For your consideration let’s compare to an Epson that also won one of our Hot Product Awards recently, the Powerlite 2265U, which Ron just reviewed.

The Epson Powerlite 2265U claims to be slightly brighter at 5500 lumens.  Like the Sony it’s a 3LCD so it’s got as many color as white lumens, and therefore can do some pretty good color near maximum output.  The Epson measured right around it’s claim, but as a lamp based projector it will start losing brightness immediately.  As you know, from earlier in this review, the Sony can go 14,000 hours at a constant brightness of 4500 lumens.  The Epson, by comparison is likely to be below 4500 lumens (down almost 20%) before 2000 hours (although it will jump back up to max brightness, briefly, with each lamp change).

The Epson is lamp based, and claims some respectable lamp life, but 5000 hours on full power is nothing like 20,000 hours at full!  Long term, therefore there will be lamp expenses with the Epson, and the time/money to maintain the Epson. Like the Epson,  the PHZ10 has a manual zoom lens, but the Epson’s 1.6:1 is a bit more range than the Sony’s 1.45:1.  The Epson however, lacks lens shift, which the Sony has in abundance, a plus for the Sony.  Both the Epson and the Sony have a 16 watt speaker system. Both projectors have HDBaseT, LAN, and optional Wi-Fi. Both support DICOM SIM (ok, in fairness only a tiny slice of the market required that feature).

Should portability be important to you, the Epson weighs in at just over 10 pounds compared to the Sony’s just over 19 lbs – so the Epson is definitely a bit more portable – not that either are considered true portables. Both projectors are reasonably quiet in Eco modes, but the Sony will be a good bit quieter at full power (not drastically so, however, as the Epson’s noise levels are reasonable for it’s brightness).

Figuring at least one replacement lamp over the life of the Epson, and a couple hundred dollars of install and purchasing time for the lamp, we figure each lamp replacement costs close to $500.  So, long term, if use is moderately heavy, the Sony will end up costing more up front, but only slightly more  or the same, over the life of the projector depending on whether you end up using 2 or 3 lamps with the Epson.  If you are a heavy user in hours (especially if at full brightness), the Sony will end up costly less over its lifetime.

With much of the rest of the feature set being similar: What you should come away with, is that the VPL-PHZ10 (and likely the lower res PWZ10) are competitive with comparable lamp based projectors, when factoring in cost of operation/cost of overall ownership.  

This is the first time that could really be said!

The Bottom Line

Sony has a laser projector, and it is priced aggressively enough to go head to head with the better lamp based projectors with similar brightness.  There are financial trade-offs of course.  The Sony requires no maintenance, but is heavier than a lamp based equivalent.  The warranty is excellent – 5 years parts and labor, or 12,000 hours, whichever comes first.  This projector can, it should be noted, used in 24/7 applications but with one important caveat:  The projected material must be changing (i.e. video, animation) one cannot put up a single image and run 24/7.

Still when it comes to long term cost of ownership, the “affordable laser projector” has arrived.  Organizations buying a single projector, and who want to hang it, use it, forget it, will not mind the increased up front costs.

Organizations including corporations and universities, looking to install a significant number of projectors will now be able to weigh whether the advantages of laser will make them buy less laser projectors than they could afford if they go with lamp based projectors.  They need to keep in mind, that in the long run the costs will likely be the same, with the VPL-PHZ10 offering other real advantages – primarily relating to less maintenance.  After that, it’s a matter of does the Sony have the features your installation calls for.

I believe that as Sony rolls out this projector (June 2017 – Infocomm time frame), that the value proposition of the PHZ10 looks very strong for medium to heavy users.  The biggest question regarding value, is whether we’ll see any other affordable laser projectors being announced at Infocomm in June.  As of right now, there’s no other expected laser projectors this bright, with a cost near the Sony, at least not that I’m aware of as of this review’s publication.  The lower resolution VPL-PWZ10 – WXGA, which should street price for about $2199 is scheduled to ship a bit later – August time frame.

Congrats to Sony for the first “affordable” high brightness laser projectors and to earning a Hot Product Award for the VPL-PHZ10.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Laser engine for better color, long life, low maintenance
  • Almost 5000 lumens measured – Bright (despite being an early sample)
    • Will deliver equal numbers of color and white lumens for better color in brighter modes
    • Better able to cut through ambient light with colors
  • Impressively good color (for an early sample, or any projector)
  • HDBaseT
  • 1.45:1 zoom and lots of lens shift for very good placement flexibility
  • Can be mounted/used at any angle
  • Suitable for 24/7 operation
  • Constant Brightness feature (4500 lumens for 14,000 hours)
  • Has DICOM SIM gamma mode for working with X-rays, medical films
  • Full power mode: 20,000 hours (brightness dims over time)
  • Built in Local Area Networking, Wi-Fi is optional
  • Internal 16 watt speaker
  • Fast power up/power down
  • Very good menu system
  • First affordable WUXGA laser projector
  • Great warranty:  5 years parts and labor, or 12,000 hours whichever comes first
  • Excellent value proposition – rivaling top quality lamp based 3LCD projectors

Cons

  • No 3D (not much demand for 3D other than home, these days)
  • Remote has limited range, not backlit
  • Lens shift, other controls clunky – but Sony already advised reviewers that this will not be the case on production units
  • Full documentation not available at time of review (but will be by launch)
  • No support for Edge Blending or Projection Mapping (this support not normally found in projectors this inexpensive)
  • Panels a bit more out of alignment than normal, but Sony assures alignment will be much tighter on production units (as expected)
  • 16 watt speaker isn’t going to be enough to fill a large university classroom or ballroom (but then no projector can with only internal speakers)

Current dealer prices for Sony VPL-PHZ10

Seller State tax Price Description
Projector People 
Projector People
FL 3,199.00 Free Shipping! In Stock Now! 30 day no-hassle guarantee and FREE lifetime tech support from projector experts. We are an authorized dealer.

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