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Sony Cineza HS-51 LCD Video Projector Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 June 2005
Article Index
Sony Cineza HS-51 LCD Video Projector
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The Downside
I preferred watching 720p programs at 1080i because the picture was noticeably sharper and filled the same screen area. I would like to see Sony address this scaling issue with an option in the user menu to resize 720p or present as a pixel for pixel recreation. Otherwise, 720p will be window boxed on a screen set up for 1080i.

The “auto iris” effect, while initially compelling, ended up leaving me wanting more after evaluation. The opening crawl from any of the “Star Wars” (20th Century Fox) films looked damped down and lacking in sparkle and impact. The yellow typography didn’t leap from the screen, nor did I get chills when the Star Destroyer raced into view, filling the entire screen. Admittedly, the blacks were significantly deeper and richer, much as you would expect from a CRT projector. Nevertheless, the bright spots in each scene didn’t have the crisp, three-dimensional qualities that the non-iris mode exhibited.

The dreaded screen door effect, visible to the trained eye, is often seen in affordable video projectors. This is particularly troublesome with a field of white like the snow scenes on Hoth in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (20th Century Fox). I also was bothered by this effect when any richly saturated field appeared like Captain Kirk’s yellow shirt on the original “Star Trek.” The very texture of the shirt is well defined, but marred by an insufficient fill factor (space between the pixels).

I also must admit that while the blacks are improved over the previous generation of LCD projectors, it only feels like a CRT’s jet blackness under a very narrow group of installation circumstances. Properly calibrated for the best signal sources, black rarely got below 4.5 percent, as seen on the SMPTE Standard Gray Scale Chart in the black 0/5 percent box here.

Another issue is visual fast-forward or rewind with older laserdisc or VHS/Beta players. I found the HS-51 could lose sync and black out the screen for a few seconds. I know they are old formats, but it still noteworthy. Nevertheless, the playback fidelity was really wonderful on these older video formats, considering that great-looking tapes and discs usually pale in comparison to modern SD and HD programming. There were plenty of controls in the HS-51’s user menu that helped to bring out the very best of these vintage sources.

For the price of a good big screen TV, any sports, television or film buff can own a projector that is capable of projecting a bright, color-accurate picture and has very nice black levels. The HS-51 is capable of lighting up a screen that is far larger than most homes can accommodate, with a picture that is enough to impress the neighbors on Movie Night or for a summer baseball game on ESPN HD.

In comparison to other projectors in its class, specifically DLP projectors costing as much as double the price, the Sony HS-51 must be considered a value. Don’t get me wrong, the picture isn’t perfect, but considering its price, you might be able to find it in your heart to not mind not getting the same black levels you get from Sony’s $30,000 Qualia 004.

I own two Sony Qualia 004 projectors, along with a host of other high-performance video products, in my various video testing labs. I can say without question that, whether it was a test pattern on a screen or an all-out car chase in a big-budget film, the Sony Cineza HS-51 was up to the challenge. Overall, I am duly impressed and, considering the money, I am ready to sing this projector’s praises to the masses.

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