Sony's 2007 flagship front projector, the VPL-VW200, uses the company's variant of LCoS, called SXRD, and like most high-end projectors, it features a native resolution of 1080p. Those specs and jargon may well impress your buddies, but the real story is in the picture. The VPL-VW200 is the most color-accurate front projector we've seen for less than $30,000, and it basically smokes anything at or near its price range in overall image accuracy. Sony must have listened to our incessant complaining about inaccurate primary and secondary colors, as the company has delivered near perfection in that area. This unit also adds some really flexible setup features, and it looks great hanging from the ceiling. As of this writing, the Sony VPL-VW200 is the new high-end projector to beat.
Editors' note: The rating on this review had been lowered because of the review of the Samsung SP-A900B.
In the grand tradition of Sony's upper-end SXRD projectors, the VPL-VW200 has a sleek, high-tech industrial design that should appeal to just about everyone. To our eyes, it's the most attractive projector since the days of the Ferrari-inspired, Pinafarina-designed Vidikron CRT chassis. The Sony's finish is a metallic gray, with black accents on the top and bottom, and the cabinet reminds us of an eye when seen from the front.
The design of Sony's remote is equally impressive. It seems as if it weighs 10 pounds, instilling a feeling of outstanding build quality not unlike the projector, which itself weighs a hefty 44 pounds. The remove is fully backlit, making adjustments in the dark a snap. The internal menu system is identical to that of the Qualia 004, the original 1080p SXRD projector, and its smaller predecessor sibling, the VPL-VW100. We found it easy to navigate, and we liked the vertically arrayed set of pages.
The VPL-VW200 is loaded with a number of useful features--and a few you need to be warned against using. Sony gets the unofficial "feature of the year award" in the projector category with its Panel Adjust feature, which enables you to move the LCoS panels to improve alignment, much like converging a CRT's three guns. It is the most comprehensive feature of its kind, and it even includes a Zone option that lets you tweak red and blue anomalies all around the screen.
Another nice option that came out of the CRT projector era, and one that is rare, even on the most expensive fixed-pixel projectors, is the blanking feature, which eliminates overspray (light leaking beyond the borders of the screen area itself) right to the edge of the picture. We were a little disappointed that the VPL-VW200 lacks horizontal lens shift, but it does have vertical lens shift to help in the installation of the projector relative to the screen.
Sony offers the usual array of selectable picture modes and color temperatures. Modes include Dynamic, Standard, and Cinema, while color temps include High, Mid, and Low, with independent grayscale controls for each. The Cinema Black Pro feature controls the iris setup, which gives you Auto 1, Auto 2, Manual, and Off. We liked Off most, as it provided ample light output, and blacks remained stable--whereas the Auto modes change black level as the content of the picture changes.
Under the Expert setting, you'll find Film Mode for 2:3 pull-down, which should be set to "on," and Gamma Correction, which we turned off for the best gamma curve.
There are also two dubious features that we recommend you leave turned off. The first is RCP (Real Color Processing), which was originally designed as a color management system but never worked well, in our experience. In fact, there is no need to even include this feature because the primary and secondary colors on the VPL-VW200 are exceptionally close to the HDTV standard in the Normal color space setting.
The second is MotionFlow, which is Sony's name for its 120Hz dejudder video processing. MotionFlow creates enough problems, to our eye, that it simply needs to be left off; see the performance section for details.
Connectivity is reasonably comprehensive for a front projector. Two HDMI inputs are the most important video connections, followed by the lone component video input. A single S-Video and one composite video input will serve for legacy Laserdisc, VHS, and S-VHS sources. There is also a 15-pin VGA input for computer hookup, and an RS-232 port for control touch-panel programming. An Ethernet port labeled Network rounds out the connectivity.