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Sony VPL-VW200 review:

Sony VPL-VW200

In terms of overall picture quality, Sony's VPL-VW200 is simply the best projector in its class by a wide margin. Most notably, the company has done an excellent job of significantly improving color accuracy over the earlier VPL-VW100, and the VW200 exhibited the most accurate color we've seen from just about any projector, with the exception of the ultra high-end Runco units.

The Sony isn't perfect, of course; we would love to see the company improve on its video-processing scheme, as well as give the VW200 the ability to fully resolve 1080p sources without any loss whatsoever, but in fairness, almost everything we see on the market exhibits the same problem. As for now, $15,000 can't buy you better performance--to achieve that, you will need to spend about twice as much or more.

By "color accuracy," we mean the combination of color decoding, grayscale tracking, and the primary and secondary colors themselves. The Sony's color decoding is spot-on, and grayscale tracking is excellent, but most gratifying to our eye was the accuracy of all six primary and secondary colors. While not exactly perfect, they are close enough to the HDTV standard that we don't think any improvement is necessary. We seriously doubt whether anyone, even a seasoned professional, could tell that they aren't perfect without the benefit of some very expensive test equipment.

White-field uniformity, which can be an issue with three-chip projectors, also looked pretty good on the Sony. The scene in the beginning of Chapter 5 on the Blu-ray version of The Italian Job, where the crew celebrates in the snow-capped Austrian alps, is a good test for this. The snow did have some minor color splotches--red in the upper-right side, to be specific--but it was subtle and not distracting. The Carl Zeiss lens on the VPL-VW200 is also a step up from the VPL-VW100, and panel alignment, especially after the adjustment we mentioned, was far superior.

Measuring both 1080p and 1080i at the HDMI inputs, the amplitude was down a bit, indicating a slight loss of resolution because of the internal scaling. The same thing was visible on the HD DVD version of Silicon Optix HQV test disc. This area of performance could stand some improvement, though it isn't a major knock. Notably, the Sony passed both of HQV's resolution loss tests, indicating proper de-interlacing of 1080i material.

With the iris set to off, we achieved a nice, bright image on an 80-inch-wide Stewart Grayhawk RS screen. With that said, the 400-watt Xenon lamp in the projector is not capable of as much light output as we would have expected, and so the maximum screen size will be limited somewhat. The Auto Iris modes are a bit brighter, but you don't want to employ them because black level changes on the fly, and we found the change clearly visible and distracting, as the picture content changes.

Blu-ray and HD DVD discs looked superb on the VPL-VW200. Chapters 4 and 5 of the excellent transfer of The Italian Job on Blu-ray looked awesome, with exceptional color saturation and accuracy. We also spun up the HD DVD version of Batman Begins to take a look at some dark material. The very beginning scene, when young Bruce Wayne falls into the cave, revealed excellent black-level performance. In the same chapter, when the adult Wayne ends up in a Chinese jail cell, shadow detail abounded in the dark parts of the wall. Overall, blacks looked rich and inky on the Sony.

To test the MotionFlow 120Hz video processing, we repeatedly played back the opening scene in the diner on the Blu-ray transfer of The Departed. Motionflow on Low and High changed the look of the pan across the counter from filmic to cartoonish. In Chapter 5 of The Italian Job, serious artifacts were introduced around Mark Whalberg's face when it was engaged. These two scenes were enough to convince us to leave this hyped video feature set to "Off" with the VPL-VW200.

Before color temp (20/80) 6375/6100 Good
After color temp 6600/6500 Good
Before grayscale variation +/- 319K Good
After grayscale variation +/- 53K Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.635/0.331 Good
Color of green 0.3/0.59 Good
Color of blue 0.156/0.066 Good
Overscan 0% Good
Black-level retention All Patterns Stable Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Y Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

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