|Sony VPL VW200 SXRD Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors SXRD Projectors|
|Written by Kevin Miller|
|Tuesday, 01 April 2008|
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Sony’s latest top-of-the-line front projector effectively replaces the company’s original flagship SXRD projector, the Qualia 004. The new VPL-VW200 is not only superior in performance to the original statement piece, but also half its price. It is amazing how quickly things change in the world of video. The VPL-VW200 is a three-panel LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon)-based unit with a native resolution of 1080p. Probably the most impressive aspect of its performance, once you have it set up properly, is its color accuracy. In fact, it is the most color accurate front projector under $30,000 that I have tested. Nothing at or near its price ($15,000) can come close to the performance of the VPL-VW200 in terms of color.
I am a big stickler when it comes to color accuracy, and my latest pet peeve has been inaccurate primary and secondary colors. Until the 200 came along, the price tag for accurate primary and secondary colors, along with everything else required for stellar video performance, started at $30,000 with Runco’s 720p three-chip DLP projector, the VX2i. It is refreshing to see Sony step up to the plate and deliver a projector at half that price with twice the resolution, and very accurate color reproduction. The one area where it is lacking, compared to the three-chip DLP category, is light output. The VPL-VW200 has an awesome features package for set-up and calibration, with good connectivity options. It is one of the most attractively designed projectors on the market today.
The VPL-VW200 is very similar in design and overall look to the original Qualia 004, only slightly smaller. As far as front projectors go, it is the sleekest, most high-tech-looking and attractive design to come along since the Pina Farina-designed Vidikron CRT chassis in the 1990s. The finish is a metallic gray with black accents on the top and bottom, and soft sloping sides. It measures nearly seven inches high by 19-and-a-half inches wide by 22-and-a-half inches deep, weighing a hefty 44 pounds.
I also like the design of the remote. In fact, Sony remotes have long been my favorite remotes, as they are generally well designed in terms of ease of use and have a comfortable feel in the hand. It weighs a virtual ton for a remote and exudes exceptional build quality, not unlike the projector itself. The GUI (Graphical user interface) or internal menu system is identical to the Qualia 004, and its smaller sibling the VPL-VW100, a.k.a. “The Ruby.” It is simple and easy to navigate, with a vertically arrayed set of pages. I was pleased to find that it is fully backlit, making adjustments in a darkened theater environment much easier.
Features and Connectivity
This projector is definitely feature-packed. As with many projectors, there are a number of very useful features, including a few that help the marketing department brag that are best left off. One nice feature that came out of the CRT era, rare even on the most expensive fixed pixel projectors, is the blanking feature. Blanking was designed for CRT projectors that inevitably left you with some overspray of the picture beyond the borders of the screen area. On the 200, it works the same way it did on CRT projectors by simply masking the picture to the edge of the screen’s frame, eliminating any distracting overspray.
The VPL-VW200 has vertical lens shift, which will aid in the installation of the projector relative to the screen. However, at $15,000, I was a little disappointed at the lack of horizontal lens shift, which would make it even easier to install. Perhaps the coolest feature of any projector so far to date is Sony’s Panel Adjust feature, which actually allows you to move the LCoS panels to improve alignment, much like converging a CRT. It is the most comprehensive feature of its kind, with a Zone feature that lets you tweak red and blue anomalies all around the screen. This feature will sharpen the picture on units that have some slight misalignment of the LCoS panels.
The VPL-VW200 features the usual selectable Picture Modes and color temperatures. The color temps include High, Mid, Low and three User temps, with grayscale controls for each. I found the Mid color temperature to be the most neutral and closest to the broadcast standard color temperature
of 6500 Kelvins. Modes include Dynamic, Standard, Cinema and three User modes. As with earlier SXRD models, I found the Cinema mode to be flat, uninvolving and rather two-dimensional. I chose Standard, as it had a much better snap and pop factor. In the Expert Setting, you will find Film Mode, which should be turned on, and Gamma Correction, which I turned off for the best gamma curve, and the slowest rise out of black. The Cinema Black Pro feature is the iris set-up, which gives you Auto 1, Auto 2, Manual and Off. I found the Off position to be the best, as it gave me enough light output, and blacks remained stable whereas the Auto modes change both white and black levels, as the content of the picture changes from brighter to darker and back to brighter, which is very distracting.
Two dubious features that I highly recommend you leave off are RCP (Real Color Processing), which was originally designed as a Color Management System, but never worked well, and Motionflow, which is Sony’s version of 120Hz video processing. Now that Sony has greatly improved its color accuracy for primary and secondary color space, there is no need for the RCP feature, which never works properly and adversely affects the color decoding. If you set the Color Space feature in the menu of the 200 to Normal, the primary and secondary colors are nearly spot-on to the HDTV specifications, which make for extremely realistic-looking color. The Motionflow feature is a perfect example of the consumer being duped by marketing hype. I have yet to see this 120 Hz processing feature work well on any product. On the Sony VPL-VW200, it creates so many problems that it simply needs to be left off. Details to follow in the performance section.
Connectivity is reasonably comprehensive for a front projector. There are two HDMI inputs, which are the most important video connections, and only a single component video input. One S-Video and one composite video input might be useful for legacy Laserdisc, VHS and SVHS sources, although most folks will either switch these through an A/V receiver or an outboard video processor like the excellent DVDO VP50 or VP50Pro. There is also a 15-pin VGA input for computer hook-up, and an RS-232 port for control touch panel programming. Finally, an Ethernet port labeled Network rounds out the connectivity of the VPL-VW200.