Sony has provided a huge array of controls to customize the picture. These include six aspect-ratio modes for standard-def (but, strangely, none for high-def); three separate independent custom picture memories in addition to the three adjustable presets; three preset and three custom color-temperature settings; three levels of noise reduction; three iris-control settings; four gamma-correction settings; and three to adjust black level. There's also a Real Color Processing (RCP) option with three custom memories that allows independent adjustment of red, blue, green, cyan, magenta, and yellow.
The Sony VPL-VW100 employs a dynamic iris that can deepen the black level of the projector by sensing a dark scene and closing its aperture to cut down on light output. When a normal or bright scene occurs, the iris opens, maximizing the light output. There are also preset adjustments for gamma, the rate of transition from black to white. Gamma two provided the most ideal setting and was used for performance testing.
The VPL-VW100 has one of each major type of video input: HDMI, DVI with HDCP, VGA-style RGB (15-pin sub-D) for PCs, component, S-Video, and composite. That's a comprehensive selection that allows you to hook up two digital sources directly, one via HDMI and the other via DVI, which is easily adaptable to accommodate a second HDMI source.
In short, the Sony VPL-VW100 exhibited excellent video quality with just about every source, although we still found a few signs that Sony was building its projector to hit a price.
The evaluation began with a series of test signals, which the Sony generally aced. Its internal scaler did a commendable job of upconverting standard-definition 480i content to 1080p, introducing few artifacts or jagged lines. It also properly de-interlaced 1080i content to 1080p, using all 1080 lines in every frame. A number of 1080p rear projectors we've tested use only a single 540-line field for each frame when upconverting, dropping half of the resolution, which softens detail in 1080i sources.
The VPL-VW100 passed the highest-frequency multiburst signal, indicating it will display every pixel of 1,080x1,920 sources. Color was excellent, with rich crimson reds and nonyellow greens. The Warm color-temperature setting came reasonably close to the 6,500K standard, and after , it was tuned to near perfection. One minor anomaly did appear during setup. The contrast control would clip light areas of the image, obscuring detail in whites, if set to more than 53 out of 100. Usually a projector clips or crushes detail at a setting that is much closer to its maximum.
The Sony's optics yielded a sharp image, although there were some chromatic aberrations, which appeared as some colored fringing around white lines, visible from a viewing position close to the screen. This was not an issue at the optimum viewing distance for 1080p displays (3.2 times the screen height), which on a 92-inch-diagonal screen worked out to a viewing distance of about 11 feet. White-field uniformity was good but not perfect, but the slight color imbalance in white areas was not notable with real-world content, only with test signals.
After looking at test material, we moved on to sample DVD content. The built-in scaler did an admirable job of scaling standard-definition content to 1080p--the best we've seen to date on a front projector that costs less than $10,000. Black levels were admirably deep, and colors looked excellent.
Next we changed to high-definition sources, beginning with broadcast HDTV. The Sony did a tremendous job with broadcast content, providing outstanding images that showed every detail and every flaw. As with every other 1080p display we've seen, the high native resolution exposes broadcast MPEG-2 compression artifacts in the source, such as mosquito noise, seen as wispiness around objects and people. These aren't the Sony's fault, or course.
The ultimate viewing experience came when we connected the Sony VPL-VW100 to a Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD player. We watched a variety of HD-DVDs, including Serenity, The Last Samurai, Apollo 13, Training Day, and Rumor Has It, allowing the Sony to de-interlace the HD-DVD player's 1080i output. The image was outstanding--crisp and clear without the compression artifacts seen on broadcast HD. When displaying such a high-quality source, the Sony provided the sharpest, most amazing front-projection home-viewing experience we've seen to date.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6,230/6,305K||Good|
|After color temp||6,460/6,470K||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 200K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 19K||Good|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|