With the ability to put on a shades-up, lights-on presentation or digital lesson, Sony’s VPL-FHZ85 can optimize its settings without any human intervention and even clean its own dust filter, making it an excellent option for set-and-forget installations.
- 3LCD design
- Bright image that stands up to sunlight
- Automatic dust filter cleaning
- Wide zoom and image shift range
- Good assortment of lenses
- Choice of automatic operation or Picture Modes
- No Wi-Fi built-in or as option
- Some sacrifice of brightness with automatic operation
The VPL-FHZ85 may not be the brightest installation projector on the market, but with its 7,300 ANSI lumen rating (measured at 6,650 lumens), it can help businesses and schools with presentations and lessons that don't require a darkened room. Based on a trio of LCD imagers, a laser illumination engine and a self-cleaning dust filter, it's also close to a no maintenance design— a set-and-forget projector that combines a wide 1.6X zoom with the ability to shift the image to the center of the screen and a good assortment of easy-to-install lenses to suit a variety of locations. In addition, a light sensor and automatic brightness leveling circuit can help facilitate changes in ambient light as they occur.
Based on Sony's time-honored 3LCD architecture, the VPL-FHZ85 combines a zero-maintenance philosophy with an easy-to-use design that can automatically adjust its output to match the current conditions. It can be that elusive projector that gets installed and only needs to be checked and dusted once a year.
Available in either black or white (your choice to fit your environment), the VPL-FHZ85 has a trio of 0.76-inch LCD panels that are 16 percent larger than the 0.64-inch devices used on Sony's VPL-PHZ60 projector. It uses Sony's latest BrightEra design with an optimized micro lens array that provides sharper imaging. Of course, like any 3-chip projector, it is immune to DLP rainbows and offers equal color and white brightness.
The VPL-FHZ85's illumination components combine for more than enough light to be used in the dark or a well-lit room. Its light path starts with a pair of powerful 67-watt blue diode lasers that are tuned to a wavelength of between 449- and 461-nanometers. The stream goes through three dichroic mirrors to extract beams of red, blue and green light that are aimed at the projector's three LCD panels. It can accept inputs of up to 4K video at 60 frames per second, and projects a high-definition, 16:10 aspect WUXGA image with 1920x1200-pixel resolution.
Behind the scenes, the projector has a Reality Creation Engine that continually optimizes the images. Using the latest image processing tricks to resolve the conflicts between sharp readable text, smooth gradients and sharpness, the VPL- FHZ85 did particularly well for making spreadsheet numbers and graphs look crisp and clear. In other words, it should fit right into a school's lecture hall just as well as in a corporate boardroom.
Close to maintenance free, the VPL-FHZ85 has lighting components that are rated to last 20,000 hours of use at the projector's full power. In addition to the ambient light sensor to tune its output to the room's environment, the whole thing is topped off with a dust filter that automatically cleans itself. Every 100 hours of use, a robotic plunger taps the filter to remove accumulated dust or dirt. If the projector is in use when the cleaning time comes up, the mechanism waits until the projector is idle.
As is the case with others in its class, the VPL-FHZ85 offers multiple lens options, in this case a choice of six lenses that are easy to change and cost between $2,000 and $4,400. For large rooms, the included standard 1.6x zoom should do fine with its throw ratio between 1.39 to 2.23:1. It also offers powered zoom, focus and image shift, the latter spec'd at +60% up/-5% vertical, and +/-32% horizontal. It all combines to make it a snap to get the image exactly where you want it. Image size for this lens is rated at 3.3-feet diagonal to 50 feet.
For increasingly popular ultra-short throw installations, it's an easy swap to the VPLL-Z3003 lens. Like a lot of UST lenses it lacks optical zoom, but the image is projected over the VPL-FHZ85's case and can create a 7-foot image from just two feet away for anything from digital scenery at a school play to a presentation projected behind the speaker with no shadows cast on the material. ProjectorCentral's online throw calculator for the VPL-FHZ85 will show you all the lens options and their associated throw distances for different image sizes.
The VPL-FHZ85 has a pair of LED status lights: one that shows if the device is turned on and the other for warning of a fault. If both blink red, it's time to turn the projector off before any damage is done. Next to them are the projector's light sensor which provides feedback data for automatically adjusting its output to suit the room's lighting. Be ready to sacrifice top brightness for this automatic control, though.
The projector's control panel is on the side below its hot air exhaust. In addition to turning the projector on or off, the panel has a mini four-way control that doubles as an enter button. There are buttons for opening the Menu, picking the input source and selecting the light output mode as well as those for shifting, zooming and focusing the image.
The supplied remote control is a comfortably sized wand similar to prior Sony commercial projectors and provides easy access to a variety of functions. It uses a pair of included AAA batteries and worked reliably as far as about 40 feet away. For anything farther, the remote control can be hard-wired to the projector using an audio jumper cable and the IR jack on the remote's bottom. You can do everything from turning the projector on or off to picking the input to selecting the Picture Mode. It not only can move the image around on-screen, zoom in and out and focus the projected image, but can freeze the action and mute the audio. Some spare buttons for picture-in-picture position and Auto pixel alignment are reserved for when this remote is mated with other projectors.
The projector's port selection is impressive, and the markings are upside-down with the expectation that most installations will be inverted ceiling mounts. The video inputs range from legacy composite and VGA to digital DVI and HDMI; there are also DVI and VGA outputs for streaming the input signal to an overflow room's display, podium or control room. It has audio-in and -out as well as a RS-232 serial link for remotely controlling the projector using PJ Link, Crestron Room View or AMX control software.
Two RJ-45 ports are provided for a dedicated network connection and HDBaseT link; the latter can be used for both control and signal acquisition via long-run Cat cable. But the projector lacks Wi-Fi capabilities, either built-in or via an optional dongle. At least there's a pair of USB ports which can power a streaming device like a Chromecast dongle to help fill in for the projector's lack of a wireless data connection. The USBs can also be used for diagnostics or conveniently sharing settings among projectors in a facility.
Like other Sony professional models, the VPL-FHZ85 comes with an impressive warranty that covers the device for five years or 12,000 hours of use, whichever comes first. That's two years of extra coverage compared to projectors from Panasonic or Epson. The company includes Advanced Exchange, so that if the projector fails, a replacement can be on the way next day.
From a competitive perspective among 7,000-lumen class 3LCD projectors, the VPL-FHZ85 at its current street price of $6799 is more expensive than Panasonic's PT-MZ780BU; though the Sony is a bit brighter they match each other in most respects. The much less expensive Epson PowerLite L735U has roughly the same output at about half the size of the others and adds Wi-Fi, but it lacks the ability to change lenses or enjoy powered lens functions.
As a mid-sized installation projector, the VPL-FHZ85 is 18.1 x 6.9 x 19.5 inches, although its lens barrel sticks out another 0.9-inches. It's relatively light for its lumen-class, but still weighs a hefty 30 pounds, so count on having two installers around to mount it in place.
Underneath, the VPL-FHZ85 has adjustable front feet for leveling and aiming the projector from a tabletop, nook or shelf. It can be used at any angle but be careful as the device needs about 20 inches of open space all around for cooling air. It worked well with my generic mounting hardware; Sony does not sell a bracket for the projector.
Once it's placed and plugged in, the VPL-FHZ85's remote control let me pick the source, tweak the color and settings as well as cycle through the VPL-FHZ85's three built-in test patterns. The projector can turn trapezoids from as much as 30-degrees horizontally and vertically into sharp rectangular images. It can also shift the image on the screen and focus it remotely for ease of set up.
The VPL-FHZ85's menu is straightforward, although the trick to using its four Picture Modes is to turn off the Intelligent Setting that automatically adjusts the light output to the room's brightness; it also lowers the output. Emphasizing its focus on graphic material, the projector has settings for Dynamic, Standard and Brightness Priority; there's also a Multi Screen setting for setting up a projector array.
To lower the power consumption and brightness, I needed to dig into the Light Settings and choose among Standard, Middle and Extended options that are akin to other projectors' Eco settings. Here, the Eco mode controls when the VPL-FHZ85 goes to sleep and how much power it uses when it's turned off.
Need more control? There's also a Custom mode where I was able to use a slider to adjust the brightness in one percent increments. It doesn't make the image brighter than in Brightness Priority mode, however.
Brightness Priority pumps out the lumens but at the most of color balance, with the image shifted heavily towards green hues. It's fine for presentations and most digital schoolwork, but the Dynamic and Standard modes have lower brightness and look much better. Unfortunately, the projector lacks dedicated color-accurate modes for movie and video content such as a Cinema, Rec 709, or sRGB mode. On the other hand, while there's also no dedicated DICOM Sim. picture mode, the projector's Gamma menu does include a DICOM GSDF setting suitable for use in medical training.
While it lacks Wi-Fi, the VPL-FHZ85 offers HDBaseT for playing uncompressed video as well as gigabit wired networking for connecting the projector to the building's digital infrastructure. After plugging in a Cat 6 cable, I got the projector's IP address and opened its online page. The Information page showed the projector's status with things like the light mode and error status.
By contrast, the browser-based Control page let me remotely turn the projector on or off as well as pick the source and adjust the volume. Most of the Menu choices were at my disposal, and I could have adjusted the keystone correction (but not shift the image, focus it or use the optical zoom). The web-based control would work regardless of whether you are at the projector or on the other side of the campus.
Like other projectors lit by lasers, the VPL-FHZ85 is a quick starter—even quicker than some others, with it taking only 10.8 seconds to get going. It took 2.9 seconds for it to shut down after turning it off. This makes it perfect or use in a shared room—like a conference room or lecture hall—where people will come and go all day. The projector can even be turned on and off with a wall switch wired to an AC outlet for stop and go use.
In Brightness Priority mode, the VPL-FHZ85 put out 6,650 ANSI lumens, about 9 percent below its 7,300-lumen spec. Still, that's well within the accepted 20% ISO tolerance and it's more than bright enough for filling a 40-foot screen or running a presentation or lesson with the lights on. However, its color balance in Brightness Priority is shifted heavily to the green tones, which makes photos of people look like they're the Grinch.
Despite not having a dedicated mode for photos, movies or Rec. 709 or sRGB, the Standard and Dynamic modes do surprisingly well for this purpose. They lack the richness of some other projectors with this kind of content, but have a more neutral balance than Brightness Priority and should be fine for showing a video clip of a new commercial or running an interactive science lesson. Because it has three LCDs and doesn't employ a color wheel to separate the light beams, the VPL-FHZ85's white brightness was roughly equivalent to the sum of its red, blue and green streams.
While the Standard setting delivered 3,918 lumens, the Dynamic mode put out 5,555 lumens. Switching to Intelligent Settings and its automatic brightness mode lowered the output by 26% in a dark room. This puts it between the brightness yielded by using the Dynamic and Standard setups.
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In addition, the VPL-FHZ85 has three laser brightness settings: The Standard setting delivers the brightest images and was used to take the readings above. Next down is the Middle mode, which lowered output by 27% and power use by 20%, followed by the Extended mode, which lowered brightness by 61% and power use by 58%.
When running full blast, the projector used 417 watts of power, which declines to 10.3 watts in sleep mode. If it's used for eight hours a day for 200 days a year, it should cost an estimated $104 a year to operate, assuming you pay the national average of 14 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity. The bonus is that it will never need a lamp and thanks to its automatic filter cleaning technique, it won't need a filter change over its life, unless it's used in an unusually dusty place.
In its highest output mode, the VPL-FHZ85 put out 45.6 dBA of fan noise, making it fairly quiet for its lumen class and even quieter than the smaller VPL- PHZ60 reviewed last year. Using the Middle and Extended lighting settings cut this to as low as 43.4 dBA in a room that measured 35.5 dBA of background noise. Sony engineers recorded the VPL-FHZ85's noise level at 38dB in a sound-proof room. The case never got hotter than 97 degrees Fahrenheit.
By combining a 3LCD design with a strong laser illumination engine, the Sony VPL-FHZ85 can run a corporate presentation or classroom lesson with the lights on and the shades up. It comes with an excellent long throw lens that allows remote focusing, zooming and shifting of the image around on the screen, although there are five others for a variety of installation locations. It's got some stiff competition among installation in its 3LCD lumen class, notably from Panasonic's PT-MZ780, but the Sony offers a more generous warranty and with its automatic filter cleaner, it should never need maintenance. This makes the VPL-FHZ85 a good choice for those who never want to climb a ladder to touch a projector once it's been installed.
Brightness. Using the projector's Brightness Priority mode, the VPL-FHZ85 produced 6,650 ANSI lumens, about 9 percent under its 7,300-lumen spec but well within ISO21118 tolerance. Using the Dynamic and Standard settings, it dropped to 5,555 and 3,918 lumens.
Similar to other three-chip projectors with dedicated imagers for the red, green, and blue primaries, its white brightness level was within a percent of the projector's color brightness as calculated by adding together the red, blue and green brightness components.
Sony VPL-FHZ85 ANSI Lumens
Zoom Lens Light Loss (from widest to maximum zoom): 57.6%
Brightness Uniformity: 80.4%
Fan Noise. Sony specifies a fan noise level of 38 dB in a soundproof room using the industry standard test that averages noise from multiple locations. In a test room that had an ambient noise level of 35.5 dBA, the VPL-FHZ85 hit a peak of 45.6 dBA in Brightness Priority mode with the measurement taken 36 inches from the projector's exhaust vent. That makes it a bit quieter than we measured for the smaller VPL-PHZ60 (47.2 dBA).
- HDMI 2.0 with HDCP support
- DVI in
- DVI out
- VGA in (15 pin D-Sub)
- VGA out (15 pin D-Sub)
- Composite Video in (BNC)
- HDBaseT (RJ-45)
- Wired LAN (RJ-45)
- Audio in (3.5mm headphone jack)
- Audio out (3.5mm headphone jack)
- Remote control (3.5mm headphone jack)
- USB Type A (x2)
- RS-232C Serial Port (9 pin DB)
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Sony VPL-FHZ85B projector page.