The VPL-PHZ61 is one of two new 3LCD projectors in Sony’s ultra-compact projector series, that sells for an MSRP of $3,437.50. The VPL-PHZ61 is a WUXGA (1920 × 1200) professional projector designed for conference rooms, university lecture halls, large classrooms, entertainment venues, and e-sport applications. This projector displays a manufacturer-rated brightness of 6,400 ANSI lumens of brightness.
Sony has a documented history of making incremental upgrades for next-generation product introductions instead of reinventing the wheel each year. Sony has an “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” attitude toward their professional video products. I’m not saying that Sony is averse to re-design and innovation; far from it. I am saying that Sony is not really into change for the sake of change, and their professional projection products are probably one of the best examples of this attitude.
In this review, I’m writing specifically about the Sony VPL-PHZ61, but I want to note that, like the previous models in this series, Sony has two models where brightness is pretty much the only difference. Last year's models in this ultra-compact series, the VPL-PHZ50, and VPL-PHZ60, were like this. This year's models, the VPL-PHZ51 and VPL-PHZ61, are the same. I won’t rehash the previous two models, but if you want to read my review of the VPL-PHZ50, just click on the link. Also, for the rest of this review, I will only refer to the VPL-PHZ61. However, everything I write, except for brightness, can also be attributed to the VPL-PHZ51.
In short, take everything I liked about the VPL-PHZ60 projector, improve many things (not all) I didn’t like about it, and add some completely new (to these products) convenience features.
|Sony VPL-PHZ61 Specs|
|Displayed Resolution||WUXGA (1920 x 1200)|
|Brightness (Manufacturer Claim)||6400 ANSI Lumens|
|Light Source||Z-Phosphor Laser|
|Zoom Lens Ratio||1.6:1|
|Lens Shift||H: +/- 15%, V: -35% to +55%|
|Light Source Life||Unlisted|
|Sound System||16 watt Mono|
|Weight||15 lb (7 kg)|
Limited 5-Year or 12,000 Hours, Whichever Comes First)
3LCD projectors like the VPL-PHZ61 can display equal color and white lumens compared to 1-chip DLP projectors, whose color output does not match the white light output. 3LCD projectors never suffer from DLP's rainbow effect, which looks like rainbows appearing across the displayed image. Even with improvements in DLP technology, about 5% of the population, including myself, can still see this issue.
It’s been a little over a year since I reviewed Sony’s first entry into a new category for the company, one of the industry's leaders in business, education, and installation class projectors with the VPL-PHZ50 and VPL-PHZ60.
Like last year's model, the VPL-PHZ61 uses a Sony Z-Phosphor laser light source sealed for increased reliability. The VPL-PHZ61 is a brighter projector offering a rated brightness of 6,400 ANSI lumens compared to the previous model, which has 6,000 ANSI lumens. Sony's Z-Phosphor laser light source allows the VPL-PHZ61 to start up in seconds and shut down just as quickly, saving both time and energy.
The PHZ series are bright, compact projectors; two models are in this year's lineup. Except for brightness, the VPL-PHZ51 is identical to the VPL-PHZ61.
|Brightness||5300 ANSI Lumens||6400 ANSI Lumens|
|Light Source||Z-Laser Phosphor||Z-Laser Phosphor|
|Resolution||WXUGA (1920 x 1200)||WXUGA (1920 x 1200)|
For those who need the additional installation flexibility provided by interchangeable lenses, Sony offers the larger FHZ Series. Sony projectors in the FHZ are available in brightness ranging from 6000 ANSI lumens all the way up to the 13,000 ANSI lumens
This year, Sony upgraded the VPL-PHZ61's Intelligence Settings to version 3.0, which automatically controls temperature based on the installation environment, frequency of use, and several other parameters for long-term, stable operation. What is nice about this feature is that the user can select from four different room types: Meeting Room/Classroom, Museum, Entertainment, and Multi-screens.
Intelligence Settings 3.0 has a new feature called Ambiance, which adjusts the projector's laser light output based on the room's ambient light level. The Ambiance feature combined with the PHZ61’s new light sensor has the benefits of added longevity and a lower operating cost over the projector's life.
Bright View mode, combined with the addition of a sensor, is Sony’s unique processing technology that brightens images while maintaining rich color even in brightly lit business and educational environments.
Support for 4K 60P input signals simplifies setup and operation when using the VPL-PHZ61/51 in multi-screen set-ups with flat panel sub-screens. Split the same 4K 60P signal to drive all your display devices without conversion hardware. A high-performance image scaler also effortlessly converts 4K input signals to WUXGA resolution while achieving close to 4K image quality. There’s also support for devices with content protection, such as 4K UHD players.
Sony has been the king of image processing for almost since the brand has been making digital technology. Sony has added to its Reality Creation image enhancement technology that uses a proprietary algorithm to maximize on-screen detail. On a frame-by-frame basis, Reality Creation technology analyzes displayed images. It compares them against Sony's unique pattern database to optimize upscaled images while minimizing the addition of noise sometimes introduced into the picture. Now optimized for 4K60P signals, Reality Creation gives projected images improved crispness and depth without over-sharpening and adding noise.
This year, Sony has added a new feature to the VPL-PHZ61’s Reality Creation technology called Reality Text. Reality Text focuses on the characters and lines in a wide range of content, including drawings, presentations, and spreadsheets.
I’ve already talked about technologies like Sony’s Bright View mode and the projector Intelligence Settings 3 that can extend the overall life of the projector.
Sony has a variety of hardware and software techniques to keep core components safe, including a dedicated cooling duct structure to keep the projector’s 3LCD panels cool. In addition, this ducting is covered with an air filter to prevent dust from entering the components.
Sony redesigned the projector's air filter to offer better particulate protection and reduce how often the filter needs to be cleaned compared to last year's projectors. Sony estimates this new filter should only be removed and cleaned after 10,000 hours of operation compared to the previous models, which only lasted 1,500 before cleaning would typically occur.
Be sure to let your clients know that with the new filter design, Sony has added a brand-new airflow-clogging sensor for dusty environments. This new clogging sensor alerts the user when filter cleaning is needed.
Sony also redesigned how users get to the filter to clean it. Based on placement, the new filter design improves on last year's re-design and removes the need to disconnect the projector from a ceiling mount or have a big enough stand-off between the projector and the ceiling to remove the filter. The new filter easily slides out rather than up, making it easy to remove, clean, and re-install the filter without disturbing the alignment of the projector by moving the projector.
Several other features are new to this projector and designed to make it easy to set up. DATA CLONING, AUTO INPUT SELECT, an update to last year's AUTO INPUT DETECT, and AUTO POWER ON mode. I’ll discuss these in detail in the review's HARDWARE - INPUTS AND CONNECTIONS section.
The VPL-PHZ61 is a second-generation product in the company's ultra-compact business series of projectors that was introduced in 2019. The VPL-PHZ61 features a slim, stylish body with a flat top, what Sony calls a blend-in design. From a design perspective, Sony is creating a projector that will fit unobtrusively into almost any space without drawing attention to itself. Sony wants to make a projector that does not call attention to itself and is away from the speaker and the content displayed on-screen.
The projector is the standard Sony creamy white. It is compact, light, and one of its class's smallest and lightest WUXGA projectors. The PHZ51 and PHZ61 are compact, measuring under four inches in height. These two models offer several flexible installation options, which I’ll discuss in upcoming sections.
The VPL-PHZ61 offers various inputs and connections designed for business and education applications. This second-generation series of projectors will natively accept 4K 60P signals, making life simpler when using the VPL-PHZ61/51 in multi-screen set-ups with flat panel sub-screens. Split the same 4K signal to drive all your display devices without converting the signal from 30p.
The VPL-PHZ61 makes it easy for network admins to set up multiple projectors using Sony Data Cloning, which allows settings for one projector to be copied to other projectors using a USB memory drive, greatly simplifying installation and set-up of multiple projectors.
The Auto Input Select feature automatically selects an active signal input, so there’s no need to change input each time a device is connected to the projector. Connect the VPL-PHZ61/51 to a switched-on computer, and the projector turns on automatically without operating the power button.
The inputs and connectors panel is on the projector's rear when looking at the lens. Like the previous projectors in this series, it would appear that Sony feels that this projector will typically be ceiling-mounted since all input labels only appear right side up when mounted this way. I have inverted it in the image so that it is easy to read, and I will describe the inputs as if the projector were ceiling mounted.
In some boardrooms, you may have 4K flat-panel TVs on the wall and an HD projector installed in the ceiling. In these cases, the source might "dumb down" the resolution to match the lowest resolution display, causing a real headache. Solving this issue could require a costly external scaling solution. Although the VPL-PHZ61 is a WUXGA (1920 x 1200) projector, it offers a 4K 60P input to simplify integration with 4K flat-panel TVs.
To drive all your displays, just split the 4K signal for supreme ease of operation, with no scaling or conversion needed. This feature is an upgrade from the VPL-PHZ50 that I just reviewed, and it's an almost identical twin, the VPL-PHZ60.
From a design perspective, the tiny remote included with the VPL-PHZ50 is not incredibly complicated but offers a full range of projector controls. The remote has no backlight, which could be helpful, allowing the projector to be used in pretty dark venues (usually with some giant screens).
The VPL-PHZ61 lens displays a uniform image with no visible optical artifacts. The lens features a zoom ring and a focus control around the lens perimeter, providing easy access for the initial setup. The VPL-PHZ61 has a 1.6X zoom ratio to facilitate a high-quality picture without needing digital image correction. The VPL-PHZ61 allows the lens to be manually shifted within the Vertical: -35% range to +55% and Horizontal: +/-15%. The projector's throw ratio is 1.23:1 to 1.97:1.
The VPL-PHZ61 features two manual dials on the top front of the projector just above the lens, one each for horizontal and one for vertical lens shift. The projector's optics deliver a sharp image and feature a manual focus and zoom with plenty of horizontal and vertical lens shift. This level of flexibility means the VPL-PHZ61 extracts as many details as possible. It reduces the need for digital image distortion correction, like digital keystone correction, that can negatively impact the display's picture quality.
|Throw Distance By Screen Size|
|80 inches||84 in - 133 in (2.12 m - 3.39 m)|
|100 inches||105 in - 166 in (2.65 m - 4.24 m)|
|120 inches||126 in - 200 in (3.18 m - 5.09 m)|
|150 inches||157 in - 250 in (3.98 m - 6.36 m)|
|200 inches||209 in - 333 in (5.30 m - 8.48 m)|
Sony uses a common menu system across its entire lineup of business projectors. While Sony has not changed the look and feel of their menus in years, they add extra menu items to control any new features and capabilities as needed. See my photos above.
Sony has been using the same layout for a long time because it is well laid out and includes all the settings needed to setup the projector and fine-tune the image.
One of the huge standouts of the Sony Professional projectors is their ability to preserve color output at brightness levels that would normally not be possible for lower-grade projectors. Colors remain more prominent than I typically see in projectors capable of producing this projector's brightness output.
The VPL-PHZ61 can display stunningly colorful images. Sony has a history of creating display devices that offer excellent color processing without blowing out primary colors that bleed your eyes. Some people attribute this to Sony owning their movie studios and their experience in post-production. While I’m sure this helps, I think their experience in image processing, including color that goes back to the days of dedicated CRT monitors, has much to do with it. This was long before they bought Columbia Pictures.
The VPL-PHZ61 uses Sony’s Bright View technology, designed to provide consistent color even as the projector's brightness automatically adjusts up or down in response to room lighting changes. The displayed image can be bright without significant color loss, even in well-lit environments, which is ideal for spaces where it's impossible to be completely dark.
Like the previous projectors in this series, the image has a warmer hue in each of the projector's preset modes. Sony's built-in presets are Dynamic, Standard, and Brightness Priority.
In my opinion, the Dynamic and Standard modes are the best modes, with Dynamic being the brighter and producing a more vibrant image that looks excellent when projecting presentation slides and websites. Standard has a slightly warmer tone and is most suitable for video in cases where there is some control over ambient light.
Brightness Priority mode is the projector's brightest mode and has an obvious blue-green tint, as is typical of bright modes, but it is certainly good enough to use in venues with high amounts of ambient light.
Specialty venues like museums, galleries, and theaters are becoming more photo and video oriented. This type of use requires good or even excellent color capabilities. Colors a bit off on your PowerPoint pie chart are not a big deal. However, if you have too much green hue, everyone will notice immediately.
The Sony VPL-PHZ61 produces excellent colors in two out-of-the-box picture modes without adjustment. If you want the projector to produce even more accurate color and skin tones, you can always calibrate it.
Sony’s intelligent settings maximize performance based on how much the projector is being used, usage, image detail, color richness and fidelity, light output, cooling level, and output noise. The Meeting/Classroom function controls laser output to keep brightness as high as possible for years of real-world use.
The VPL-PHZ61 has a rated brightness of 6,400 ANSI lumens. Just how close did the VPL-PHZ61 come to hitting that target? I set the projector to Brightness Priority mode, the brightest picture mode, and then took three to four readings about 15-20% from the center of the screen.
The Sony VPL-PHZ61 measured 6,517 ANSI lumens which is 117 lumens brighter than Sony's brightness claim.
The Sony VPL-PHZ61 is an incredibly bright projector with a rated brightness getting closer to the step-up VPL-FHZ85 interchangeable lens projectors 7,300 ANSI lumens.
For reference, 10-15 years ago, a mere 2,000 lumens was considered the brightness standard in most rental and staging applications, such as presenting in hotel ballrooms on 15 to 25-foot diagonal screens in front of 400 people.
6,517 ANSI lumens in a business and education projector means that the VPL-PHZ61 can be used in many environments, including many large environments.
Sony VPL-PHZ61 Brightness
|Image||Brightness Measured (ANSI Lumens)|
The photos above show various dark scenes, giving you an idea of the VPL-PHZ61 black-level performance.
Sony rates its projector with a dynamic contrast ratio of infinity to one. About a decade ago, Sony decided they didn't like how manufacturers defined a display's contrast rating. In short, it was misleading and did not give customers an accurate idea of any given projector's contrast rating.
According to Sony, the way that a typical projector's contrast is rated "...allows for manipulation of the number and questions the concept of what is black with some manufacturers; it's more about the lack of a projected black or no black at all versus a full-on white image.” Sony continues "...this specification is a disservice to the industry and allows for misinterpretation by the end-user, so we say infinity to one to eliminate or try to abolish dynamic contrast as a specification."
The company has a rich history of leading the industry in establishing standards, but It’s been over a decade since Sony took their ball home regarding contrast ratio.
The VPL-PHZ61 is a projector for a user base that is focused on brightness, and as such, the black levels on the projector are average. Shadow and bright area details on the VPL-PHZ61 are excellent, it’s just that the shadows are very gray, not black.
The photos of the presentations, websites, and our text test image included in the slide show above are pleasantly sharp. Not much has changed from my review of the previous model. The text looks detailed and clear, even from the back of the room. The presentations I looked at looked colorful and were very legible.
I wish I could tell you I noticed a significant difference between the VPL-PHZ50 and the new VPL-PHZ61, but I can’t. I don’t have the older model to do a side-by-side, so I can’t tell if the new Reality Text mode looks significantly better than just using Reality Creation alone when displaying text between the old and new models.
The VPL-PHZ61 has a single built-in mono speaker. Sony has included a 16-watt amplifier in the projector's sound system. The sound of this projector is just okay, without any significant or noticeable distortion. My biggest concern is volume. I don't think that the sound the VPL-PHZ61 produces is suitable for use in anything except smaller classrooms or boardrooms.
This speaker, while clear sounding, is not dynamic. Tones tend toward the mid and high frequencies, so if your installation needs vibrant and audible sound, I recommend an external sound source.
Sony rates the audible noise, or what they call "Acoustic Noise," at 37 dB (Standard light output) and 34 dB (Middle light output), respectively. We don't measure sound output here at Projector Reviews since how it sounds to my ear is as much about the projector's performance as my testing room, which will likely have different acoustic properties than your space.
My opinion about the sound level of the VPL-PHZ61 is that it is very noticeable, far more than many home theater projectors I've reviewed. Does this matter in a boardroom or retail installation? No. How about a meeting room or classroom? I think it does. Also, this projector generates a lot of heat consistent with such a bright projector. The heat is also why there is audible fan noise. When the projector is sitting on a table, anyone sitting on the right side of this projector when it is on a table will feel and hear it.
The VPL-PHZ61 is one of two new 3LCD projectors in Sony’s ultra-compact projectors that sells for an MSRP of $3,437.50. The projector is an excellent business/education projector and a worthy follow-up to the VPL-PHZ60 that sold for an MSRP of $3,125.00. For a little over $300 more than the previous model, the VPL-PHZ61 offers improvements and new features worth the price difference.
The VPL-PHZ61 is a projector designed to work well in almost any education or business space, like a medium to a large meeting room. This projector is also an excellent simulation projector. The speaker is loud enough for a classroom and even a meeting room, but using it in an auditorium or lecture hall may require connecting it to an external audio source.
The VPL-PHZ61 is not a digital signage projector that can be mounted at any angle Sony warns not to use the projector if it is tilted more than 15 degrees, and while this projector comes with a very generous Sony warranty, it is not designed to be run 24/7. Based on Sony’s clearly stated use cases, neither of these should be an issue I just thought you should be aware. If you need these features, Sony has a range of projectors that should do the job for you.
The Sony VPL-PHZ61 is a WUXGA (1920 x 1200) laser projector boasting a rated 6,400 ANSI lumens of brightness but measures 6,517 ANSI lumens in its brightest mode. This projector is stunningly bright. The VPL-PHZ61 is so bright it can easily be used in environments with little control over artificial light sources, like retail shops or museums. One of the advantages that the VPL-PHZ61 provides is the Sony Bright View technology that allows the projector to maintain incredibly good color in venues with large amounts of uncontrolled ambient light.
Sony Reality Creation technology presents visual content like presentations beautifully, and Reality Text makes fine edges and text pop without introducing additional noise into the image.
Reality Creation combined with the VPL-PHZ61’s new ability to accept a 4K 60P signal means the displayed image looks closer to an actual 4K image than previous models that only supported accepting 4k 30P signal compatibility.
The VPL-PHZ61 comes with a 1.6X Sony BrightEra optical zoom lens that displays an incredibly crisp and clear image that is free from distortion and creates an incredibly uniform image even into the extreme edges of the screen. I could not see any chromatic aberration on displayed images. This is a quality lens.
Sony allows users to shift the projector's lens horizontally and vertically, which makes setting up this projector fast. I found this remarkably useful in my lab as I could fill the screen without the need to either shim the projector up or down or adjust the screen on the wall. The lens also has a manual focus wheel around the lens that stays in focus with no drift, even as I bumped the projector or the rolling cart it was set on.
Instead of only increasing the brightness on this new series of projectors, Sony has also added a range of useful features designed to make set up and use of the projector easier.
Intelligent Settings version 3 uses a new light sensor and the Ambiance feature to maximize the projector's performance based on how it’s being used, how much detail is in the image, color settings, light output, the room's temperature, and the projector's output noise. The Meeting/Classroom function carried over from last year, controls laser output to keep brightness as high as possible for years of real-world use.
Last year Sony introduced a new filter attach and detach process designed to improve on previous builds and make the filter more accessible when the projector is mounted on the ceiling. The new low-profile clip design did help but did not fully solve the problem. One generation later, Sony did a complete redesign providing easy access to the filter for removal and replacement by sliding the filter horizontally in and out.
Sony has also completely redesigned the filter material extending the operation time from 1,500 hours to 10,000 before the filter needs to be cleaned. As if they were not enough, Sony has also added an air flow sensor which should alert admins if airflow becomes restricted so the filter can be removed and cleaned. These small things add up and can significantly extend the projector's life and decrease the ownership cost over time.
The VPL-PHZ61 has Data Cloning simplifying the installation and set-up of multiple projectors. Sony also added Auto Input Select, which automatically selects an active signal input, so there’s no need to change input each time a device is connected to the projector. Auto Power On works when the VPL-PHZ61/51 is connected to a switched-on computer, then the projector turns on automatically without operating the power button.
The VPL-PHZ61 is a powerful projector that offers users an excess of brightness, allowing it to be used in almost any environment. The projector can display an image with detailed colors even in environments with little control over ambient lighting.
Black levels on this projector are not great, but the VPL-PHZ61 does an excellent job maintaining details in the darkest areas of the displayed image and not completely blowing out details in the brighter parts of the image.
This projector can accept content from various consumer products, including 4K UHD Blu-ray players. It does not display HDR, but it still does a commendable job of displaying a balanced and pleasant picture.
The Sony VPL-PHZ61 delivers a bright, accurate image from a compact package. Anyone who is looking for a 600 lumens projector for a classroom or office space should definitely consider the VPL-PHZ61.
|Displayed Resolution||WUXGA (1920 x 1200)|
|Native Resolution||WUXGA 1920 x 1200|
|Brightness (Manufacturer Claim)||6400 ANSI lumens|
|Light Source Type||Z-Phosphor Laser|
|Light Source Life||Not listed|
|Zoom Lens Ratio||1.6:1|
|Lens Shift||H: +/- 15%, V: -35% to +55%|
|Native Aspect Ratio||16:10|
|DVI or HDMI||Yes|
|Speakers||16 watt Mono|
|Noise Level (-db)||Standard 37 dB / Middle 34 dB|
|Low Lag Gaming||No|
|Special Features||Data Cloning. Auto Input Select, Auto Power On, Intellignt Settings|
|Dimensions (HxWxD)||16 5/8 x 5 3/32 x 13 5/16 inches (422 mm x 129 mm x 338 mm)|
|Weight||15 lb (7 kg)|
|Warranty||5 Years or 12,000 Hours (Whichever Comes First)|