Sony VPL-ES2 review: Sony VPL-ES2
The Sony brand is known for slick design, high-quality video, and--unfortunately--premium pricing. This is indeed the case with the Sony SuperLite VPL-ES2, a simple but elegantly designed entry-level projector. Although its contrast performance is disappointing, it has a slew of impressive automatic-setup features and good color quality and is quite adept at handling video entertainment applications.
The Sony brand is known for slick design, high-quality video, and--unfortunately--premium pricing. This is indeed the case with the Sony SuperLite VPL-ES2, a simple but elegantly designed entry-level projector. Although its contrast performance is disappointing, it has a slew of impressive automatic-setup features and good color quality and is quite adept at handling video entertainment applications. These virtues aren't cheap, however--at more than $1,000, the ES2 costs about $150 more than a typical budget projector.
Of average size for a budget projector, measuring 11.1 by 8.7 by 3.7 inches, the Sony ES2 tips the scales at 6.3 pounds, which is a bit heavier than most of its competition. In fact, only the InFocus X2, at 6.7 pounds, weighs more. The ES2 has a sleek, minimalist rectangular design with a silver-and-gray color scheme. As a nice added touch, the Sony logo on the back panel lights up. And why not? That's part of what you're paying for. The top panel is bare but for a stylish chrome-plated strip of buttons. On the right side of the projector are all the connectors, including audio, video, S-Video, and analog input, however, only an analog cable is included. The inclusion of these standard video ports makes it possible to connect the ES2 to your progressive-scan DVD player with a set of relatively inexpensive, standard component-video cables.
Beyond its elegant design, the real magic begins when you turn this beauty on. The lens cover automatically opens and the projector tilts up to its previously set elevation. Unlike more expensive Sony models, the focus is not set automatically, but it's easy to adjust via the focus wheel that sits on the projector's right panel, next to the optical zoom.
Though the ES2 ships with a small, credit-card-size remote control, it lacks important presentation-oriented features such as a laser pointer and buttons that will allow you to page through a PowerPoint slide show. These features are found on remotes included with other budget projectors such as the BenQ 6110 and the Dell 1100MP. The ES2's remote does include a few less crucial features, such as digital zooming and an APA button, which synchronizes the projector to your laptop's signal.
We like the ES2's straightforward control panel, located atop the projector. The six buttons are arranged in a single row, and one button doubles as a pointing stick for navigating the projector's menu. Our favorite feature is the pair of buttons that control the projector's angle: just press a button and the projector tilts up or down. The projector also automatically eliminates any keystone or trapezoidal image problems.
Inside the ES2 are three 0.62-inch LCD panels. Unlike projectors such as the Dell 1100MP that use newer DLP imaging engines, LCD projectors require periodic cleaning (approximately after 500 hours of use) as well as the occasional replacement of an air filter.
In our testing, the ES2 delivered 1,301 ANSI lumens (at its highest setting)--lower than the 1,500 lumens Sony advertises, but acceptable. At its default brightness level, the machine runs in low-power mode, which produces a slightly dimmer image but allows the fan to run quieter and the lamp to last longer. Like most LCD projectors, the ES2 does not offer great contrast. We measured a contrast ratio of only 166:1--just slightly less than the Sharp PG-B10S, which has a similar LCD design. However, the ES2's colors looked good: greens were slightly shifted to yellow, but reds and blues were almost perfect. We measured its whites at 7,500K, which is slightly bluer than the ideal value produced by the superior InFocus X2.
Perhaps the most notable thing about the ES2's image is its size: it's huge. At a five-foot distance it cast a 51-inch image--28 percent larger than the Hitachi CP-RS55's. There's an optical zoom ring that adjusts the image size to match the screen.
The Sony ES2's lamp should last 3,000 hours in high-power mode and an impressive 4,000 hours in the default low-power mode. When you factor in the price of a replacement lamp, the ES2 costs about 11 cents an hour to run--slightly more than the Hitachi CP-RS55, but better than average.
The Sony VPL-ES2 comes with a two-year warranty--typical for budget projectors--and the lamp is covered for an industry-standard 90 days. The printed user manual has only 13 pages in English, none of which lists a technical-support phone number, let alone a toll-free 24/7 number. But Sony's support site offers live chat and e-mail and phone contact information.