Sony VPL-VW70 Projector 
Home Theater Front Projectors SXRD Projectors
Written by Roger Coakes   
Thursday, 16 April 2009

Sony has placed the VPL-VW70 at the top position of their current home cinema projector line.  I found the design to be reminiscent of the Playstation 3 shell, but with a refined, stylish grace.  The midnight black, curved panels on the upper and lower sections of the unit are slick, glossy and frame the unit perfectly.  The position of the cooling fans is indiscernible and the front of the projector features a motorized lens cover that effortlessly slides open when the power is turned on.  It would almost be a shame to hide the projector from view in a custom home theater installation.  

The VPL-VW70 (MSRP: $7,999.99) utilizes three SXRD 1920 by 1080 display panels and their Bravia Engine 2 digital video processor to produce a high definition 1080p image.  Sony claims that it’s capable of 60,000:1 contrast ratio using the advance iris control.  The projector utilizes a 200 watt lamp that produces 800 ANSI lumens. On the right side of the projector, the VPL-VW70 has two HDMI inputs, a VGA input, one component input, one S-Video input, 1 composite input and a small 3.5mm input for a lens trigger.  

The remote control has a bevy of calibration options not typically found on most projector controls.  There are dedicated buttons for raising and lowering sharpness, contrast and brightness.  The top of the remote has six buttons for picture modes, three default and three user defined.  There’s also direct access to gamma correction, color temperature, black levels and other tuning options.  You can navigate to these through the on-screen menus of course, but controlling it directly is helpful.

Side Panel

Setup:

Physically setting up the unit for the first time is a breeze.  While somewhat unwieldy, it can easily be placed on a table or large shelf for projection.  It can be ceiling mounted as well.  The manual provides an extensive table of mounting distances based on screen sizes and aspect ratio.  It’s also simple to make the lens adjustments for the positioning via the remote.

I spent about 30 minutes calibrating the picture levels using the supplied disc and a couple other calibration DVDs to verify the results.  I spent some time with the advanced iris function which can be set to automatic tuning based on the projected scene or manually tuned.  The automatic function was definitely preferable for my lighting condition and I could see definite contrast differences in the test material.  Some various picture calibration selections include noise reduction, color, hue, film mode and color space.  It's worth fiddling with if you need to setup a few different preset viewing conditions based on the source image.

Other menu functions include aspect ratio adjustments based on the source, tweaking the phase or pitch of the input signal, positioning the menu, altering cooling settings based on altitude, power saving modes and lamp settings.  If you really want to perfectly tune the picture, the panel alignment adjustment options in the installation menu allow for adjusting gaps in the color of the picture.  All of these options are a dream for folks trained on custom calibration of picture quality, but it’s also possible that the average consumer could severely mistune the picture without fully understanding the available options.

 


Movies and TV:

I started with a favorite high definition test disc, Paramount’s Transformers, specifically the crash landing scene in chapter 11.  The deep, crisp blacks in the night sky as the Transformers ripped through the atmosphere were absolutely stunning, so much so that I wondered if I was looking at a flat screen HDTV at times.  The dancing flames of the crash zones gave an extremely intense contrast to the black levels, but not so much that it seemed overbearing or unrealistic.  The vivid detail of the 1080p picture quality was impressive and the picture was smooth as silk during a couple of the later battle scenes.   

I also popped in the HD discs for Batman Begins and Superman Returns for two very diverse types of pictures.  The VPL-VW70 was able to pull off the inky blacks in chapter 18 of Batman Begins, the scene where Falcone is captured.  While the film has always had a dreary, dark image quality, the video processor was able to pull off a strong contrast level.  Alternately, chapter 11 of Superman Returns offered a peek into color management.  The scene in which the 747 begins a freefall from space brought out lush, bright colors as the plane ripped apart in the blue sky.  The rich green grass as Superman stopped the plane within the baseball stadium really popped off the screen as well.

Standard definition material offered a somewhat softer image than the high definition discs, but still a high quality picture in terms of contrast levels and color definition.  White-field uniformity was spot on in all the test material.  Primary and secondary colors were all rendered naturally.  I never found an over-saturation of color during any film and there was very little noise as well.  Most interestingly, this is one of the first projectors that I didn’t notice during any fan noise during any of the films I previewed.  Quiet scenes during a movie were not hampered by a noisy fan in the background.  Even after several hours of testing, the VPL-VW70 was absolutely silent and relatively cool to the touch.  

The Downside:

Sony’s VPL-VW70 Projector is an absolute beast of a projector.  The enormous size may be troublesome for consumers looking to hide the projector effectively in their home theater.  The 26 lb weight and bulky size may also be problematic if self-mounting the unit.  It’s so large that the packaging for the projector is on par with a desktop computer box.  While I’m amazed that the projector is deadly silent during operation, the sliding lens cover can sound overly abrasive when shutting down the unit.  The motorized operation of the two black slats certainly looks stylish, but doesn’t mesh with the silent nature of the VPL-VW70.

I found the color tuning options to be expansive, but calibrating the unit for proper color performance may be overwhelming for the first time user.  The default color schemes are a bit over-saturated for my taste and have to be modified extensively to get an accurate color temperature.  The gamma options only add to the confusion and it’s simply a matter of preference after a while.  The user manual identifies the Gamma 5 setting for use with matt projection screens, but the other setting descriptions are hopelessly unspecific.  Noticing differences between the gamma settings is also tough to discern without the proper lighting conditions.

Conclusion:

It’s absolutely evident why Sony has positioned the VPL-VW70 as their premiere projector.  The near-silent operation, resplendent picture and plethora of tweaking options offer a caliber of quality that I found refreshing for a front projector.  You can even utilize an anamorphic lens with the projector as the VPL-VW70 uses a trigger on the lens sled to slide the 2:35:1 lens into position when turned on.  If you have the skills to calibrate the VPL-VW70 properly or a custom installer to help you, this ridiculously quiet projector is absolutely worth the investment.   

Manufacturer Sony
Model VPL-VW70 1080p Home Cinema Projector
HDMI Input Yes
# of HDMI Inputs 2
# of Component Video Inputs 1
Native Resolution 1080p





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