Editors' note, April 16, 2008 The rating on this review has been lowered from 7.7 to 7.5 due to changes in the competitive marketplace.
Sony's entry-level SXRD-based front projector, the VPL-VW60, is the successor to last year's price-busting VPL-VW50. Also as a 1080p resolution projector with the same $4,999 list price, it faces stiffer competition these days with more 1080p projectors available for lower prices. Based on my findings with the company's flagship VPL-VW200, I had high hopes that the VPL-VW60 would exhibit the same kind of greatly improved color fidelity. I presumed wrong however, as primary and secondary colors unfortunately remain inaccurate. The good news is that Sony has improved its black level performance significantly and added a couple of useful features that help improve overall picture quality over the previous model. Despite a couple of performance issues, it is difficult to argue against the Sony VPL-VW60's value, as it still outperforms just about everything in its price range.
I found the VPL-VW60 stylish and elegant, especially for the price, with a sleek and sexy design. Its rounded edges and curves suggest the shape of an eye, a look first introduced by Sony with the $30,000 Qualia 004 several years ago. Finished in a glossy gunmetal gray, the VPL-VW60 is more attractive than any of its competition. It has a compact design and is light in weight, measuring 15.5 inches wide by 6.8 inches tall by 18.6 inches deep and weighing 24.3 pounds. All of the connections, as well as the Menu, Power, Lens, and four-way rocker keys, are located on one side of the chassis.
Sony's remote control is a simple, easy-to-use design. It is fully backlit with the push of the Light button on the upper left of the unit. It is slender and fits well in the hand, and the menu, rocker, and Enter buttons are all within easy thumb's reach. The internal menu system is identical to last year's VPL-VW50, and I found it intuitive and easy to navigate.
The VPL-VW60 has a large number of features, most of which are designed to help fine-tune the picture. Zoom, Focus, and Lens shift features are all electronic, which is a pleasant surprise given the price of the projector--I don't know of another projector in this price range that has those electronic adjustments. However, I do wish there was a bit more range on the vertical lens shift.
The Cinema Black Pro menu contains the settings for the Iris: Auto 1, Auto 2, Manual, and Off. I don't recommend ever using either of the Auto modes, as they shift blacks up and down depending on whether the content in the picture is bright or dark. I used the Manual mode and dropped the value down to 45 for slightly darker blacks. Settings below that dropped the light output down too low on my 80-inch wide Stewart Grayhawk RS screen.
As expected, Sony includes the usual picture modes and color temperature presets. Modes include Dynamic, Standard, Cinema, User 1, User 2, and User 3. Color temperature selections include: High, Middle, Low, Custom 1, Custom 2, and Custom 3. I used Custom 3 as it came closest to the broadcast standard color temperature of 6,500K.
A couple of new features include the Wide Anamorphic aspect ratio, which has been added for systems that integrate an outboard anamorphic lens for constant height 2.35:1 (CinemaScope) aspect ratio screens, and the Panel Adjust feature, which lets you converge the center of the screen if there are any panel alignment issues. The latter is restricted to the center of the screen, much like the static convergence controls in older CRT TVs. Far more comprehensive is Panel Adjust on the more expensive VPL-VW200, which gives you the ability to tweak the panels in zones all over the screen.
In the Expert Setting menu, both Black Level Adjust and Gamma Correction should be set to off, as should Real Color Processing, while the Color Space should be set to Normal. I tried correcting the inaccurate primary colors with the RCP feature, and found that it still basically doesn't work. It does change the color, but it negatively impacts the color decoding, making it unusable.
Connectivity on the VPL-VW60 is decent, with two HDMI inputs heading up the list. There is also one component video input, one S-Video, and one composite video for older analog video sources like VHS tape. A 15-pin VGA, an RS-232 control port, and a 12-volt trigger for electric drop-down screens rounds out the connections on the projector.
Overall, the VPL-VW60 is a solid performer. I was disappointed to find that it didn't deliver more-accurate primary colors, especially since Sony's much less expensive A3000-series SXRD rear-projection sets, as well as its flat panel LCDs such as the KDL-46XBR4, have extremely accurate reds, greens, and blues as well as accurate secondary colors. I would've thought Sony would apply it across the board for all its TVs and projectors.
The color decoding, as I have come to expect from Sony, is dead-on accurate so color saturation is excellent. Black level performance is a notch above last year's VPL-VW50, giving the 60 better contrast ratio for snappier, more three-dimensional pictures. The Sony's 200 watt UHP lamp won't drive large screens, but for screen sizes up to about 84-inches wide, it will do an excellent job.
Video processing on the VPL-VW60 leaves something to be desired. One example is the slight loss of resolution for both video and film-based HD sources at the HDMI inputs, which was clearly discernable on the HD DVD version of the excellent Silicon Optix HQV test disc. This issue is less visible in program material, as usual.
Blu-ray Discs looked mostly excellent on the little VPL-VW60. To examine black level performance, I watched some scenes from Pearl Harbor and the excellent transfer of Live Free or Die Hard. Chapter 15 of Pearl Harbor provides some good, contrast-intensive scenes with light and dark areas in close proximity, and the VPL-VW60 fared very well with this kind of material. In the beginning scenes of the most recent Die Hard flick, when Bruce Willis is out late at night, the blacks and shadow detail again looked really solid. Chapter 4 of The Italian Job showed off the 60's high-contrast ratio with great snap and pop, as well as excellent color saturation.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7,650/7,250||Good|
|After color temp||6,450/6,550||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 886K||Average|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 162K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.645/0.351||Poor|
|Color of green||0.314/0.653||Average|
|Color of blue||0.151/0.073||Average|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Yes||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Fail||Poor|