Two years ago, Sony took the front projector market by storm with their unveiling of their infamous VW50 1080p front projector, code-named Pearl. The Pearl was so good, in fact, that I bought one immediately upon returning from its unveiling at CEDIA in Denver. The Pearl has been my reference projector since its arrival two years ago. But now Sony has had another go at making an affordable, kick-ass projector to mess with the competition and its only fitting that, this time around, it’s black. The VPL-VW60, or Black Pearl, looks a lot like the old Pearl, same shape, dimensions and vibe, but underneath, the VW60 is far improved.
Light output, an Achilles heel of the old Pearl, has been increased to 1000 lumens, which isn’t mad, but adequate to ignite a moderate-sized screen between 90 and 120 inches in a darkened room. The contrast ratio is upped to (a reported) 35:000:1 with Advanced Iris Auto On. Contrast numbers are usually trumped up by manufacturers and 35:000:1 looks to be no different. However, numbers or no numbers, the VW60 does produce a deeper, more textured picture than the old Pearl. The VW60’s native resolution is still 1080p (1920 x 1080) and is 1080/24p-capable.
Connection options are the same as well, with two HDMI inputs, a PC video input, component video input, S-video and composite video. There is a 12-volt trigger for your screen, as well as RS-232C ports for your control system. The remote is pretty much the same with the VW60 as it was with the Pearl. All focusing, framing and picture adjustments are done via remote control.
Where the differences start to mount is the VW60’s ability to be used with an anamorphic lens adaptor, taking full advantage of 2:35 source material. It features the latest BRAVIA Engine SXRD chipset that has been at the forefront of Sony’s stunning picture quality for years. The VW60 also features RCP or Real Color Processing, which allows viewers to fine-tune the colors during calibration by targeting specific hues without doing a massive shift over the whole image. However, the VW60’s best feature of all is that, despite its upgraded status, it keeps the price the same at $4,999.99 retail. Of course, the new VW40 (which is basically a VW50 repackaged from what I can tell) is now only a mere $2,999.99.
Read about the high points and the low points of the VPL-VW60 on Page 2.
• The VW60 maintains Sony’s strong aesthetic design, making for a sleek-looking statement in your living room or home theater.
The image quality is punchier and more detailed this time around and
light output is better, but only just. Still, the differences aren’t
so subtle that you won’t notice.
• Black levels and edge fidelity appear richer and more defined with the VW60 than on the Pearl.
The uniform color shift that plagued the early Pearls (mine was
decidedly blue out of the box) appears to be gone, although the image
still tends to lean a bit cool.
• The 1080/24p support is a godsend with 1080p content from Blu-ray discs.
• The VW60’s anamorphic support is nice and a good way to get into 2:35 heaven on a much lower budget.
• The new black color, while menacing, isn’t as room-friendly if you’re going for a ceiling-mounted stealth look.
• The projector, while quiet, is far from silent.
The VW60 still can only be enjoyed to its fullest in a completely
darkened room, for the light output just isn’t there if you so much as
turn on a small lamp.
• The remote control picture adjustments and focus, while convenient, are still a pain in the ass.
• While the VW60 has improved over the old Pearl, I’m not sure current Pearl owners need to upgrade.
With a price tag of $5,000, the Sony
VW60 is a solid performer and a great projector, but it’s not the
breakout runaway success the Pearl was a few years ago. You see, since
the advent of the Pearl, every manufacturer has released their “answer”
and some, not all, bettered the old Pearl by wide margins for about the
same money. The VW60 could’ve taken this opportunity to wipe the floor
with its competitors, but instead Sony opted to wade into battle with a
sort of dressed-up, slightly better version of what they already had
with the Pearl. Sure, Sony has a terrific projector in their new
Qualia killing VPL-VW200, but that’s $15,000 and something many
consumers will never afford or justify. However, at $5,000, the VW60,
while good, has some stiff competition.