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CEDIA 2006: Sony polishes Pearl

CEDIA 2006: Sony polishes Pearl

Sure, Sony introduced a couple of new LCDs today at CEDIA, but to home-theater enthusiasts, the company's most important announcement concerned its new front projector, the VPL-WV50 (September, $4,999), nicknamed Pearl. It's the less expensive version of the Editors' Choice VPL-VW100, also known as Ruby, and it offers the same 1080p native resolution, courtesy of an SXRD light engine, for half the price.

Judging from the specs, the main difference between the two lies in the lamps: the physically much smaller Pearl has a conventional 200-watt UHP lamp as opposed to the bulky Ruby's exotic 400-watt Xenon lamp. One of our few criticisms of the Ruby was the price of replacement lamps ($1,000 a pop, so to speak) and the fact that, at its quoted brightness of 800 ANSI lumen, screen sizes are practically limited to 100 inches diagonal or less. According to its specs, the Pearl has a 900 lumen lamp, so it should be a bit brighter than its big brother. Other than that, we can't really speculate on its image quality, but we expect to have a full review in the next month. And in case you're wondering, the VPL-VW50 is not the least expensive 1080p projector announced at the show. That honor belongs to the Mitsubishi HC5000, at least for now.

Speaking of screens, Sony and Stewart Filmscreen also announced a specialized screen that's supposedly designed with the Pearl in mind. No word on pricing yet, but the new screens have a catchy abbreviation: Stewart Firehawk SST, for Sony/Stewart Theater, and will be available this month in a variety of sizes.

Update: I attended Sony's VPL-VW50 demo and learned a few new pieces of information. First off, the new projector looked pretty darn good, although some of the footage appeared a bit soft to my eyes. That could be due to any number of factors, such as setup or source, but either way I'm looking forward to seeing one in a real lab environment. Sony had one of the new screens in use and the rep claimed that it cost about $2000 for the 100-inch wide version. Replacement bulbs cost around $300 and should last 2,000 to 3,000 hours, depending on which setting you choose. We'll have a full review as soon as possible.