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Sony VPL-HS51A Home Theater Projector

Posted on April 27, 2006 by Art Feierman
Before or after reading this review commentary, you can click on this link- or at the bottom - for the full multi-page review of the Sony HS51A projector

Specs Preview

Sony HS51A Specs
Price 3300
Technology 3LCD
Native Resolution 1280X720
Brightness (Manufacturer Claim) 1400
Contrast 10000:1
Zoom Lens Ratio 1.55:1
Lens Shift No
Lamp Life
Weight 12.4
Warranty 2 years

This Sony Finally Earns a Hot Product Award

We reviewed this Sony back in early February of this year. It was a tough call, at the time, as to whether the Sony deserved our Hot Product Award. To qualify for the award, a projector should be good enough, that it is the best projector in its general price range for a significant number of potential buyers.

It just took a few months for things to change enough, and now the Sony qualifies!


We found, at the time, that the Sony had a lot of things going for it, most notably, an extremely sharp image, and excellent black levels and shadow detail for an LCD home theater projector, also its blacks, were just that, unlike many projectors the darkest blacks it could produce were neutral, not showing blue or brown or other casts. It also had a few weaknesses (don't they all), including being one of the least bright home theater projectors we've worked with. Like most HT projectors, the HS51A needed a calibration (one you can do with a good calibration disk and an hour of your time), to improve color balance including flesh tones.

The Sony also had pretty good placement flexibility, better than the $2000 DLP projectors that lack lens shift, and it had a zoom lens with more range than the DLP projectors, but less than less expensive popular competitors like the Panasonic PT-AE900u and Sanyo PLV-Z4.

Ultimately the tough decision at the time regarding the Award, was based on the Sony's price. Typical online pricing was in the upper $2000 range, and we felt that for a few hundred more, there was another projector on the market, that outperformed the Sony in almost every way, the Optoma H78DC3, which is DLP based and was the lowest priced projector to use the "top of the line" Darkchip3 DLP chip. At that time, we were able to find the Optoma typically for about $3300 including a free lamp, so, for our purposes of calculation, we figured that the Optoma netted out four about $2900.

From what we understand today, the Optoma is discontinued (although a few dealers have limited stock left we are told by Optoma. The free lamp promo is gone and the H78DC3 is still commanding $3000 or more.

So, today, we have a spread between the Sony and Optoma of more like $700+ and that means there is a large number of people who can afford the Sony, that would find the Optoma H78DC3 out of reach.

And, at the same time, the new lower prices on the Sony, bring it much closer but still, well more expensive than the Sanyo and Panasonic LCD models, but not that much more than the projector (for the money), that impressed me the most this year - Optoma's HD72, perhaps the brightest home theater projector around, and with many strengths.

So, let's get down to specifics to help you decide if the Sony is the best projector for your home theater.

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