Not long ago, projecting an image large enough to fill anything bigger than an 80” screen required purchasing a CRT (cathode ray tube) projector that weighed as much as a Smart Car and who only an investment banker could afford. Those CRT projectors projected film-like images with wonderful lush colors and excellent contrast, but they were slowly replaced with digital projectors weighing and costing one forth as much.
Digital projection technology (DLP, HD-ILA and LCD) has made great strides in color accuracy, saturation, and contrast. Today’s digital projectors can output brighter images on bigger screens and deliver the excitement of a big theater in the home, for prices well below those of our old friend the CRT projector. The Sony VPL-VW85 Bravia SXRD projector is a digital projector based on SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display), which is Sony’s proprietary versions of LCoS technology. LCoS is a reflective technology that is similar to DLP technology, but it uses liquid crystals instead of individual mirrors like in DLP.
The Sony VPL-VW85 Bravia SXRD projector is the first Sony projector I have reviewed and I was anxious to dig-in. I unboxed the projector and must say this is one sexy beast with a dark, sleek, curvy case that measures 18.6”W x 7.2”H x 19.0”D and weighs 26.5 lbs. It is no waif, but no heavyweight either.
The Sony VPL-VW85 has a MSRP price of $8,000.00, but is loaded with features and technology. Rather than put you to sleep with something that reads like an owner’s manual, let me just mention the features I think are important to note. Inputs include RS-232C control, as well as two HDMI inputs, single component and composite inputs, and a PC input. Both inputs and projector controls are located on the side. The lens is mounted in the center and recessed with a protective door that slides open when the projector in powered on, and closes again at power-down, keeping dust off the lens. A very cool feature.
The HDMI CEC technology allows control of multiple devices from a single remote through a feature called BRAVIA Sync. The One Touch Play feature lets a user insert a disc into the player and by simply pressing “play” on the projector’s remote, have the whole theatre system, including the projector, power up automatically and the movie start. In the same way, System Stand-By shuts down all HDMI-connected elements of the system at a single press of the Power/Standby button on the remote. The backlit remote is large, well laid out and works great.
The new VPL-VW85 projector features a full HD 1920 x 1080 progressive Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD) and 24p True Cinema technology, Motionflow 120Hz processing with black frame insertion technology, which is claimed to provide exceptional clarity and resolution for fast moving images and a high dynamic contrast of 120,000:!, with brightness of 800 ANSI lumens. Designed with the custom installation market in mind, the VPL-VW85 has a motorized, fully adjustable, ‘lens shift’ function that offers more options in terms of installation and projector placement, without image distortion. This allows you to tilt the image up or down without physically moving the projector.
The lens offers a 1.6x motorized zoom and focus with horizontal and vertical adjustment, making it easy to set up in a variety of environments and distances from a screen. A motorized lens is nice, because it does not require manually turning the lens by hand to change the image, which is especially important when ceiling mounting a projector. Because of the excellent zoom range, I was able to move the projector closer to the screen than ever before, which was welcome with my forward of seating application. This model also features Sony’s Anamorphic Zoom Mode for use with an external anamorphic lens.
I removed my current table mounted Marantz VP-15S1 projector and in its place went the Sony VPL-VW85. The distance from the projector lens to screen measured about 13.5 feet with a 20 foot viewing distance from a Dalite,133” HDTV, Dalite Cinema Contour screen with High Power 2.8 gain material. On hand for the review was both the OPPO BDP-83 and Sony BDP-S1000ES Blu-ray players, so I connected both to the Sony VPL-VW85 with a 35ft, M1000 HDTV HDMI Monster Cable. For part of the review the video connections were made through a Denon AVP-A1HDC1 A/V processor for video switching, and then also directly to the projector.
Each time Monster Cable M1000 HDTV HDMI cables were used for video connections, Cardas Audio Golden Reference speaker and interconnect cables, and Monster Cable 600sw and Monoprice subwoofer cables. All the cables worked perfectly and had no problems. Associated equipment used for the review was the Sunfire TGA 7400 amplifier, Definitive Technology BP7000SC, Definitive Technology C/L/R 3000, Definitive Technology BPX speakers, Definitive Technology SuperCube Trinity Signature Powered Subwoofers and Buttkicker LFE Kit.. All are outstanding, reference quality products. I then used the Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics Blu-ray disc to calibrate the projector and was ready to start my evaluation.
I started with the Sin City Blu-ray and it looked stunning. The first thing that struck me about the Sony VPL-VW85 was an increased level of detail and clarity I was not accustomed to. Detail levels were outstanding with every blemish, pore and hair visible like never before. Color balance was also spot-on. Whether it was the fishnet design in Gail’s clothing, whiskers on Hartigan’s face, or wrinkles on Marv’s face, every line and detail clearly stood out. This was the first digital projector that was not DLP based that really impressed me.
Iron Man looks incredible on Blu-ray and looks startlingly detailed when viewed via the Sony VPL-VW85. I felt like I could see every grain of sand in the desert scene, and both colors and textures really popped. Certain scenes like Tony Stark’s beach house or when he first regains consciousness after being injured had excellent contrast and image depth. Past HD-ILA and LCD projectors I have viewed had positive attributes like good resolution, but lacked the image depth of DLP. This was the first non-DLP projector I have viewed that has the positive detail and resolution attributes of HD-ILA/LCD with the excellent contrast and image depth of DLP. I watched Iron Man with visitors and they even commented on how they had never seen film images in any theater that looked this good.
My favorite Tarantino film is still Reservoir Dogs, but I think Inglorious Basterds is his best work since Pulp Fiction. The Inglorious Basterds Blu-ray appeared bright, razor sharp with warm, natural flesh tones, which made intentionally shocking moments of deep, red blood spatter appear even more shocking. As a side note, I have experimented with many different screen materials from companies like Dalite and Stewart. For a table mount application, I have not found a screen material that works better than the Dalite High Power screen material. It is retroreflective, so the light that hits the screen is bounced back to the source of the light. Since my projector is table mounted in front on my seating position the light is reflected back to my eyes, without adverse hot spotting or color shifts. Contact Dalite for a High Power material sample and try it if your projector is table mounted. You will be impressed.
The Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City Blu-ray is the best looking concert Blu-ray I have seen to date, and was amazing to watch via the Sony VPL-VW85. It was filmed with nine different high definition cameras and the detail is stunning. Close-ups are razor sharp, so facial detail is so clear you can see every whisker on Dave Matthews’ face. Color realism, shadow detail, and depth-of-field were amazing. The live performance was filmed in native 1.78:1 1080p24, so the Sony VPL-VW85 perfectly filled my 133” HDTV screen. The image was bright, had excellent depth, ideal colors and was the sharpest I have ever seen it look. I could not believe the image I was watching was 133” in size and still as clear as it was.
I also wanted see how the Sony VPL-VW85 handled animation, so I watched Pixar’s Up Blu-ray. As expected with most of Pixar’s animation, color, contrast and black level detail was as good as it gets. From the fine detail in Carl’s face, colors of balloons, to the beautiful views of Paradise Falls, everything looked gorgeous and had excellent depth. Again, the 1.78:1 aspect ratio completely filled my screen with some of the best images I have seen.
Expensive CRT projectors no longer rule the video projector market. There are lower-cost digital projectors produce better-than filmlike images that are razor sharp with wonderful lush colors and excellent contrast ratios. The Sony VPL-VW85 Bravia SXRD projector offers leading-edge technologies, such as a full HD 1920 x 1080 progressive Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD), 24p True Cinema technology, Motionflow 120Hz processing with black frame insertion technology, and a high dynamic contrast ratio of 120,000:1 with brightness of 800 ANSI lumens, all in a sexy package.
It also offers important, flexible installation and projector placement options with a large, backlit remote that is easy to use. Offering a stunning level of detail and clarity, lush colors, image depth and inky black-levels, the Sony VPL-VW85 produced some of biggest, brightest, most beautiful high definition images these eyes have seen. With a retail price of $8,000 and curves sexier than Sofia Vergara, all these good looks aren’t cheap, but I have yet to see a projector under $15,000 that produces a better looking image, which makes the Sony VPL-VW85 a bargain.