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Sony VPL-HS51A Home Theater Projector - Who Should Buy-4

Posted on April 22, 2008 by Art Feierman

Color Handling

The Sony's "out-of-box" colors were definitely off when tested, and the projector really needed calibration. Using a good calibration solution like the Avia disk, will make a major improvement. I used the more capable Avia Pro suite, and their Optic One light meter, and when I finished had near perfect color accuracy, as good as any under $5000 projector I worked with.

How does this compare with the competition? Optoma's HD72 is another projector that is off enough that it too, needs a good calibration. The same is true for the Sanyo. The Epson is better, and the Panasonic, InFocus IN76 and BenQ PE7700 are the best out of box. If you are willing to invest the roughly $40 - $50 for a calibration disk, and the hour or so of your time and patience, the Sony performs as well as any competitor in the price range.

Seating Distance, Screen door Effect and Evenness of Illumination

The Sony is fairly typical for an LCD projector in terms of seating distance for seeing pixels and the screen door effect. I put minimum comfortable seating at 1.4 times screen width vs 1.5 on most LCD projectors in the class (Sony uses its own LCD panels). The Panasonic, though has much less visible pixels, as do all the DLP projectors - lets say around 1.1 - 1.2 times screen width. When it comes to Evenness of illumination, the Sony showed some real problems with different color shifts on grays on different parts of the screen. The good news is that Sony actually has the controls to compensate for that should it actually be noticeable when watching content and not test patterns and gray screens. I didn't mess with the controls, but will assume they do the job.

Summary: Is the Sony VPL-HS51A the right projector for you?

  • Excellent color after calibration
  • Excellent black levels and shadow detail - better than other LCD competitors and roughly comparable to DLP models in best mode
  • Very good placement flexibility (but not the best) better than any competing DLP projector
  • A very sharp image both on lower resolution (DVD and non-HD tv, and on Hi-Def sources
  • An LCD projector so no rainbow effect issues that bother a very small percentage of people with DLP projectors
  • Best overall pure performance of the LCD projectors in the price range, despite brightness


The shortcomings of the Sony are:

  • Not bright, best suited for smaller screens - 82" to 100" diagonalNeeds a basic calibration
    • Note: I would recommend a white surface, non-high contrast screen with gain, such as the Carada 1.4 gain Brilliant White, or Stewart Studiotek 130. (Carada used for the review)
  • Typical LCD projector - requires you sit further from the screen than DLP projectors to avoid seeing pixels and the Screen Door Effect
  • The remote's back light is a bit dim
  • Still priced slightly higher than the competition

In summary, if it looks like an LCD projector is going to work best for you, whether for flexibility in placement, susceptability to the rainbow effect, or other reason, the Sony VPL-HS51A produces the best overall image of any of the LCD models mentioned here, and in many ways rivals the best of the DLP's like the Optoma HD72 (except that the Optoma is drastically brighter). That assumes that you don't need the extra brightness to power a larger screen, or to counter having


a room that can't be fully darkened. Those situations would make you favor (of the LCD projectors, the Epson (brightest) or Panasonic. I should also note that if you really like to "play" or "tweak" your projector, you will just love the Sony. In many ways, the Sony is very similar to the Sanyo PLV-Z4 (also not very bright, needs a good calibration...), but for the extra money, it outperforms the Sanyo in image quality, and is worth the significant difference if your budget allows.

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