Who needs a puny 3D TV? Not only does the Sony VPL-VW95ES projector deliver the brightest 3D we've seen to date, but it's also drop-dead gorgeous with 2D hi-def material.
If you're after a genuine 3D home-cinema experience, you'll need to set your sights on something larger than a TV. Video projection is the way to go. When Sony took the wraps off its latest 3D projector, the VPL-VW95ES, at the IFA trade show, we were first in line for a preview.
The VPL-VW95ES will be bundled with two sets of glasses when it becomes available in the UK in October. The price has yet to be set.
At first glance, the VPL-VW95ES appears to be a routine evolution of last year's VPL-VW90ES. It shares the same domed chassis and 240Hz Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SRXD) panel. But, beneath the hood, significant changes have been made to the light engine and associated electronics, which conspire to take the projector's picture performance to a whole new level.
The biggest difference is brightness. Thanks to a new 'dynamic lamp' control, Sony has managed to beef the light output up to1,000 lumens. The VPL-VW90ES wasn't exactly dim, but this model really pings when it comes to delivering whites and vibrant hues.
The lamp syncs with the glasses themselves and increases brightness for each eye when the projector's in 3D mode. It's a variation of the LED Boost technology that Sony has begun to use in its 3D TV line.
The result is one of the brightest stereoscopic images we've seen. Standard theatrical 3D just looks gloomy in comparison. During our hands-on session, double imaging effects around the edges of objects -- often known as crosstalk -- appeared few and far between. While trying to minimise this ghosting, we found that dropping the glasses' brightness to their minimum setting helped to clean up 3D images a treat.
The VPL-VW95ES uses active-shutter glasses. But, unlike other 3D projectors, there's no need to run a separate infrared transmitter to the front of the screen. Sony has built the transmitter into the lens assembly, and it bounces sync codes off the screen straight to the glasses. It's an ingeniously simple solution.
Sony now supplies a dedicated line of active-shutter 3D glasses for its projectors. Previously, you had to use Sony's TV glasses with an extra filter inserted over each lens, which was something of a faff. As the specs are 24 per cent lighter than previous models, we found them quite comfortable to wear. They're also USB-chargeable, so you needn't worry about the battery running flat in the middle of a movie.
The VPL-VW95ES' 2D images are even more impressive. The image clarity is outstanding. With just a 0.2mm pitch between pixels, there's no sense of a grid structure to the picture. Even projected up to 150 inches, images are smooth and cinematic. For added visual punch, there are individual black- and white-level adjustments. This allows deep blacks to be honed without compromising the white-level output.
To test this feature out, we played Casino Royale on Blu-ray. It's a great-looking disc in which Bond tends to wear numerous sharp, black suits. The projector managed to bring out subtle texture and details in his get-up that we'd never seen before.
Also new this year is an integrated 2D-to-3D converter. We played more Bond, but, while Sony's algorithms did seem adept at putting Daniel Craig in the third dimension, this mode really didn't add anything to the viewing experience. Perhaps the effect will make more sense when used to convert games.
Other refinements on the VPL-VW95ES include sophisticated colour management, enabling you to isolate and fine-tune specific hues within a frame. There's also another feature that will prove particularly useful if you have a dedicated cinema room. While TV shows and some films are available in a 16:9 wide-screen format, the majority of movies are released in a wider letterbox shape of 21:9. For those who use 21:9 ratio CinemaScope screens, a single button push will enable the projector to scale the image to fit.
The projector also offers Sony's Motionflow picture processing technology, designed to reduce blur and judder. But this can undermine the texture of movies, giving them a video-camera-like sheen. It's best reserved for sports and video gaming. With Motionflow engaged, the resolution of a moving picture is crystal-clear. Operational noise remains low, dropping to just 22dB when you run the lamp at its most economical setting.
The Sony VPL-VW95ES is a wonderfully exciting hunk of hardware. Home-cinema fans will probably love what it does with 2D even more than 3D, but, either way, it's a no-compromise big-screen treat.
Edited by Charles Kloet