Projector Reviews

1080p Home Theater Projectors – Sony VW40 and Optoma HD803 reviews – First Look

Yep, boys and girls, I am working now, on reviewing two more 1080p home theater projectors, the last two before I publish our 2nd Annual 1080p projector comparison report. Sony’s new VPL-VW40, a lower cost  – $2999 – alternative to their VPL-VW60 (reviewed in December), and Optoma’s HD803.The Sony, is, of course, another SXRD (LCoS) based projector, while the Optoma HD803 is apparently the third in a family of almost identical Optoma DLP home theater projectors, including the HD80 and HD8000.

The Optoma is coming out of its box in a few minutes, so I still don’t know what differences (if any) between it, and its siblings.

The Sony VW40, however, has already been measured and calibrated, and I’ve done some watching, side by side, with Epson’s Home Cinema 1080UB.  

As Sergeant Schultz (of  Hogan’s Heros fame – for those of you with limited life experience), would say…. “verrrrry interesting”.

So, here’s a couple of initial impressions of the Sony.  I’ll do another blog in a couple of days, with some thoughts on the Optoma.The VW40, in best mode, measured 460 lumens, after some tuning.  That put it about dead even with Epson’s 1080UB.   It sure doesn’t have a great deal in reserve though, if you need to fight ambient light, measuring just under 900 lumens in a retuned and pushed Dynamic mode (that’s roughly 40% less than the Epson).

Surprisingly, the Sony VW40 produces a slightly sharper image.  It almost looks like they’ve got some edge sharpening algorithm  going, I’ll take a closer look.  Based on initial impression it seems sharper than the VW60, which would be equally surprising.Black levels, were the most interesting – I had both projectors – Epson and Sony – side by side, and found black levels to be near identical.  It seems at it’s very best, the Sony can get a slightly blacker black than the Epson.  Remember they both use dynamic irises. Most of the time, however, the black levels of the Epson has a slight advantage.  These two home theater projectors are in the same league!  The Epson also has a slight advantage in shadow detail – slight – being the operative term.  The Sony though does suffer from some uneven illumination, and Sony’s usual slight blue tint on blacks.  LCD vs LCoS is going to be personal preference for many, I think.

It will be interesting to see how the Optoma HD803 fits into this.  I’m tuning it as soon as I finish this posting, and this evening, I’ll be shooting some side by side images with the Optoma HD803 and the Sony VW40, and also the Optoma HD803 vs. the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB.  Last night I shot the Epson vs Sony VW40. This should all make for some interesting results and commentary, as we get comparisons between three relatively low cost 1080p projectors – one LCD, one DLP, and one LCoS.

Once I get these two reviews posted, I’ll be immediately staring on the 1080p Home Theater Projectors: Comparison Report, which will cover about a dozen and a half 1080p projectors, although several will be variations of the same projector – such as Epson Home and Pro Cinema 1080UB, and the Optoma HD80, HD803, HD8000.Stay tuned!  -art