|Sony Cineza HS-51 LCD Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors LCD Projectors|
|Written by Jeremy R. Kipnis|
|Wednesday, 01 June 2005|
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No sector of the home theater is hotter than HDTV and, with recent advances in video technologies, it is now possible for the mainstream consumer to buy a projector that is capable of beaming a gigantic picture onto a screen that is nearly twice the width of even the largest big screen sets. Historically, it cost tens of thousands of dollars to accomplish this feat in rooms that were dedicated for home theater use. Today, thanks to technologies like DLP, LCD and D-ILA, you can enjoy a bright, beautiful picture from a projector that weighs less than Paris Hilton’s dog and fits in a Jimmy Choo shoebox.
The Sony Cineza HS-51 video projector is a three-chip LCD machine that is priced relatively affordably at $3,495.00. The HS-51 includes a number of unique features that contribute to its overall success as a terrific home theater projector. One of these features is the incredibly bright 135 watt UHP bulb, which allows one to create images as wide as 16.6 feet (200 inches, according to the manual). Installation and set-up for the mainstream user is pretty simple, thanks to the manual vertical and horizontal lens offsets. This allows the projector to be extremely far off-center and still create a beautifully square image without the usual keystone effects. Positioning of the projector can be as far off as the sides of the screen. A manual zoom (1.23-1.46) and focus ring provide quick adjustments that will let you create an image on a wall or screen in less than five minutes. The input complement features options for composite, S-Video, Component (YPrPb SD and HD 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i), D-Sub 15 (computer/Sat RGB input) and HDMI. The arrangement is physically a little tight, but it is far better than the extension cable input that has been featured with earlier Cineza projectors.
I was able to get a terrific image in one my testing labs, which features an 18-foot x 10.125 foot Stewart Snowmatte 1.0 gain screen with a light output of as much as 7.2 foot-Lamberts, fully calibrated, using the Minolta CS-100A photo spectrometer and my own analysis and data-gathering software. The measured contrast was 1657 ANSI Lumens (using the standard checkerboard pattern) with the iris off and the bulb on the high setting, which is much better than earlier Cineza or VPL series projectors like the VPL-12. With the HS-51’s new “Auto Iris” setting activated, the projector modulates a camera-like iris between the lamp and the prism that splits the light beam into red, green and blue sectors.
The “auto iris” monitors the incoming signal and makes continuous adjustments, closing down the iris during dark scenes in order to enhance the apparent black level, and opening up during bright scenes where light output becomes critical. With “auto iris” engaged, the 3 -1366 x 768 LCD panels (erroneously noted as 1280 x 720 in the manual) can produce a contrast ratio of 3129 ANSI Lumens. This measurement shows how the HS-51 is competitive with many DLP designs in terms of contrast when comparing the projector to ones costing more than twice as much.
The HS-51 came, as nearly all projectors do, in the dynamic mode. For the purist, this feature comes with what I consider some nasty picture enhancements, which help with daytime viewing, but mar the picture under optimal viewing conditions. Fortunately, there are five other picture modes, (Standard being my choice), each of which can be set up any way you like.
I found the Standard color temperature setting to be close to the D6504 Kelvin standard (+1562/-1871), but it was noticeably green in the darkest part of the picture.
The HS-51 makes beautiful, bright images with standard definition (SD) sources like DVD, DirecTV or TiVo but truly accelerates when fed high-definition (HD) sources, such as Optima HD Cablevision, D-VHS or an HD camcorder like my HDR-FX1 (1440 x 1080i). DirecTV HDTV looked good, but not as good as cable HD. Gamers take notice: video games and the output from a computer or laptop were things of beauty with this projector. X-box, Playstation 2, and Gamecube all displayed fantastically rich and bright colors with a complex degree of shading never hindered by the lack of absolute black level output, even with Halo 2 or Star Wars Battlegrounds. The analog inputs were quite nice, although not as crisp and noise-free by any extent as the HDMI input. It is my recommendation to stick with digital HDMI connection wherever possible for any variety of video displays, ranging from projectors to plasmas to big screens.
I was particularly impressed and surprised that the HS-51 was able to easily sync with my Apple G4 computer’s video card, creating a wide screen desktop resolution of 1280 x 768 WXGA, a vast improvement over the previously crippled operating systems found in so many wide screen projectors. It is amazingly easy to surf the web in widescreen projection glory.