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Sony VPL-VW50 "Pearl" Home Theater Projector Review - General Performance-4

Posted on February 27, 2007 by Art Feierman

So, to my surprise, the Sony, (if you work on the Dynamic mode settings so that you can get some decent lumens out when needed, actually turns out to be very average in brightness among the 1080p projectors (so far), and is, overall, brighter than the two LCD entries we have reviewed, the Panasonic PT-AE1000U and Mitsubishi HC5000.

And consider, that until Epson starts shipping their Cinema 1080p (shortly) at $4995 (about same list as the Sony), that makes the Sony the brightest under $5000 MSRP 1080p projector. Very cool! Note: Epson home theater projectors are usually brighter than most.

Sony VW50 Projector - Lamp Life and Replacement

Sony does not provide lamp life ratings for the VW50. This may be general paranoia, due to the other Sony SXRD projectors, the more expensive older VW100, and Qualia 004. Both used $1000 Xenon lamps, and extremely high operational cost per hour. (Fortunately, the Pearl, uses traditional UHP lamps, with more traditional (under $400) prices.)

The lamp door to replace the lamp is located on the bottom, back from the ceiling mount holes, but whether you can change out the lamp without unmounting is going to depend on the mount you are using. I suggest getting assurances from the dealer you buy (the mount) from, that they KNOW whether it will be necessary to unmount the projectors, with the mount they recommend, is required.

Sony VW50 Projector - Projector Screen Recommendations

The story goes that Sony went to Stewart Filmscreen and requested a custom version of the Stewart Firehawk G3, that would be optimized for the the Sony VW50 Pearl.

And voila' Stewart has created the Firehawk SST. Now that SST works with lots of projectors, but was created with the Sony in mind. What about the Sony VW50, you ask, made them want a special screen?

As noted elsewhere, the Sony has a very wide range zoom lens, and, in its widest angle settings can sit relatively close to your screen - For example, a 100" screen can have the Pearl only 10 feet 2 inches back.

Now, Stewart recommends that for use with the "standard" Firehawk G3, that the projector be a minimum of 1.6x screen width (more is better), to maximize the viewing cone, and provide the most even screen illumination. That works out (for that 100" screen) 87"(wide) x 1.6 = 11 feet 8" inches. In other words, many would want to mount the Pearl a bit too close for the Firehawk to perform at its best. Why? Because of brightness! The closer to that screen, the brighter the Sony will be because of the lens brightness issues just discussed.

The Firehawk SST has a wider viewing cone (officially 33 degrees instead of 30), and has slightly lower gain (1.1 vs 1.3). The Firehawk SST, of course would be recommended for any other home theater projector that you want to mount "close".

I spent the vast majority of my viewing time in my theater, on my Firehawk G3 (with the projector just beyond the 1.6x recommendation).

It really made the Sony look great. Based on the 30+ hours of watching, it is a great match. So, go with the SST if you mount close, or G3 for much further back.

Is the Firehawk the only screen for the Sony VW50? Of course not. In my testing room I had plenty of opportunity to watch it on my Carada Brilliant White, an excellent positive (1.4 rated) white surface. Thanks to the excellent black levels (and the lack of excessive lumens), the VW50 looked great on the Carada as well. And, it should look great on competing screens like the Stewart Studiotek 130, and entries from Da-lite, etc.).

Now my Carada is 106" diagonal, and with the projector setup in that room, also fairly wide angle on the zoom, the image was very bright.

As much as I really like the Firehawk combination. I'm going to have to vote for a white surface positive gain screen like the Carada, for 110" diagonal or larger screens. Actually 110 could go either way, and take into consideration your zoom settings... Let's say with the zoom lens at mid setting, 106 would be largest for me to prefer the Firehawk.

With zoom forward of middle setting, I wouldn't consider going above 120" diagonal, and if you are mounting further back, even with the Carada, you may not want to go over 106" diagonal.

I better stop writing about this, you get the idea: Where you place the Sony is going to have big impact on what sizes are maximum for different screen types. I think you have enough of my ramblings to figure it out for your room.

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