The Sony VPL-PHZ12's balance of strengths—most notably brightness and image quality—make it an impressively capable choice for boardrooms, large conference rooms and classrooms, museum exhibits, sports bars, and even for home use in high levels of ambient light.
- Laser-phosphor light source with 20,000 hour rated lifetime
- Constant Brightness mode keeps brightness consistent for the entire recommended laser life at just a 10% drop from the maximum brightness when new
- Impressively high quality video for a business projector; suitable for sports bars, museum exhibits, and even home use
- 1.45x zoom lens; vertical and horizontal lens shift
- No 3D or 4K signal support
- Support for 24/7 operation excludes static images. Sony warns that—as with any LCD—a single, still image can result in burn-in
The Sony VPL-PHZ12 is the replacement in Sony's line for the VPL-PHZ10, a popular model that reviewed well when we tested it in 2017. As with the PHZ10, it's built around Sony's Z-Phosphor light source and BrightEra 3LCD engine using 1920x1200 (WUXGA) LCD chips. More important, it's a strong contender against today's much stiffer competition, delivering a step up from the PHZ10 in performance at an aggressive $2,499 price.
Rated at 5,000 lumens, the PHZ12 is designed primarily for large rooms, up to and including auditorium-style conference rooms and classrooms, where it can deliver a bright image and suitably sharp text for business and education along with vibrant color for graphics. However it also adds support for 360-degree orientation in any axis and for 24/7, virtually maintenance free operation, which makes it a tempting choice for signage and exhibits in retail locations and museums. And it even handles video and film well enough to make it suitable for sports bars or for watching video and movies at home in ambient light.
The PHZ12 is large enough to be a little awkward to handle during setup, at 4.4 x 20.1 x 14 inches (HWD), but it's light for the size at only 19 pounds, which helps make handling easier. Among its more unusual features is that it offers two entirely different ways to pick settings, yielding a wealth of choices that can be a little confusing if you've never seen this menu logic before.
One of the critical steps for choosing settings for most projectors is to decide which color preset to use. The PHZ12 calls them Picture Modes, and offers three to choose from—Dynamic, Standard, and Presentation. But it also offers an Intelligent Setting mode—designed for easier setup—as an alternative. Turn it on, and the Picture Modes disappear from the menus. Instead you can choose one of three Intelligent Setting presets: Meeting/Class Room, Museum, or Entertainment. Sony says these presets optimize picture settings, brightness, and fan speed all in one step.
Additional settings with either approach include brightness, contrast, sharpness, gamma, color temperature, and even the CIExy color settings for red, green, and blue. There are also two settings meant primarily for video and film: Sony's Reality Creation for reducing noise and for increasing both sharpness and apparent resolution, and Contrast Enhancer, which increases image sharpness and adjusts contrast dynamically, based on the image brightness.
One particularly noteworthy feature is Constant Brightness. Turn it on, and the brightness of a brand new projector will drop—by about 10% in Standard mode (full power) and 6% in Middle power mode in my tests. However, the projector will automatically boost power as the light source ages, and is rated to give constant brightness for 14,000 hours in Standard Mode. Note that the Constant Brightness setting isn't available in Low power mode or when the Intelligent Setting mode is on. According to Sony, the brightness decays slowly enough in those modes that there's no need to offer the setting for them.
Another key variation for setting brightness is that when you use a Picture Mode, you can choose Standard, Middle, Low, or Custom brightness, where Standard gives the same brightness as the maximum Custom setting of 100. When using an Intelligent Setting mode, the Custom brightness setting is the only choice available.
Physical setup on a flat surface or in a ceiling mount is straightforward and is made easier by the flexible positioning allowed by the 1.45x zoom and both horizontal and vertical lens shift. With the projector sitting on a table and the lens at the lowest point in its vertical shift, the bottom line of the image was roughly 25% of the image height below the centerline of the lens. At the top of the shift, it was roughly 10% above the centerline, for a 35% total vertical shift range. The horizontal shift was +/-10% of the image width. Note too that the menus offer both vertical and horizontal keystone correction and 4-corner correction if needed.
I measured the PHZ12's brightest mode at 5,386 ANSI lumens with Constant Brightness off and 4,876 lumens with it on—enough to fill a 180-inch screen in moderately bright ambient light. Throw distance for a 180-inch image ranges from roughly 16.25 to 23.9 feet. (For the range for your screen size see the Sony VPL PHZ12 projection calculator.)
Note that the onboard 16-watt mono speaker offers good enough sound quality to be worth using along with a high enough volume for a medium to large size room. You can also connect an external audio system to the 3.5 mm audio out port.
Here's a more complete list of the VPL-PHZ12's key features:
- 1920x1200 (WUXGA) native and maximum input resolution
- 3LCD design, using three 0.76-inch LCD chips, guarantees no rainbow artifacts and matching white and color brightness
- Laser-phosphor light source
- 20,000-hour rated lifetime for light source
- 5,000-lumen ISO 21118 rating (essentially the same procedure as for ANSI lumens); 5,200-lumen center spot rating
- Constant Brightness mode provides consistent brightness for 14,000 hours at full power
- LCD chips include integrated optical compensator to enhance contrast by improving black level
- [infinity]:1 contrast ratio rating (full on/full off)
- 24/7/365, virtually maintenance-free operation; filter designed to last 20,000 hours, with automated filter cleaning every 100 hours
- 360-degree orientation in any axis
- DICOM gamma setting turns any picture mode into a simulation mode for medical education and presentations; works with input from computers only
- 1.45x zoom lens; 1.28 - 1.88:1 throw ratio
- Lens shift: 35% total vertical shift; +/-10% horizontal
- Vertical +/- 20 degrees manual keystone correction; horizontal +/- 30 degrees; 4-corner correction
- 19-pound weight
- Digital inputs include HDBaseT and 2 HDMI 2.0 ports
- Supports PJ Link, Crestron RoomView, Extron, AMX, ADCP, SDCP (PJTalk), SDAP (Advertisement), and control using a browser connected to the onboard webpage.
- Onboard 16-watt mono speaker; 3.5 mm stereo audio out
- Slightly larger than credit card-size remote
- 5 year/12,000 hour warranty, including the light source
Most of the Picture Modes and Intelligent Setting presets are nearly indistinguishable from each other. If there is difference between the Entertainment Intelligent Setting and the Dynamic Picture mode, it was hidden by the several steps it takes to switch between them. And with Standard and Dynamic modes both set to the same brightness, there was literally no difference between them for graphics. I saw a barely visible difference—apparently due to the gamma setting—in a few photorealistic images, but it was noticeable only because the switch from one mode to the other was instantaneous.
In all three cases, colors in graphics were nicely saturated, even for pastel shades, and the photos in my test suite retained a surprisingly high level of photorealism for a business projector. Colors in photos were spot on, complete with the subtle gradation that helps make faces and other rounded objects look three dimensional. Contrast for brightly lit scenes was also good. Dark areas in photos were a touch brighter than they should be, and black backgrounds in graphics were more of a very dark gray than black. But they were dark enough to look suitably black in ambient light, which is what the PHZ12 is meant for.
The same overall description largely applies to the other two Intelligent Setting modes. Color accuracy wasn't quite as good as for the first three modes, but most people would still consider it more than acceptable in both.
Presentation, the brightest mode, adds a green bias, as is typical. It's enough to be easy to see, but still less obvious than for many projectors. Most people will judge it acceptable even for presentations with photos if they need the extra lumens. But if you don't need the high brightness, the trio of the Entertainment Intelligent Setting and the Dynamic and Standard Picture modes are on essentially equal footing as the preferred choice both for presentations and for film and video.
Viewing Film and Video
I tested the PHZ12 with Blu-ray discs, news shows, movies and scripted shows on Netflix and cable TV, and a digital recording of a football game on YouTube. I ran most tests with ambient light, but did some testing in a dark room. In all cases, the image was easily good enough for extended viewing, not to mention short video clips in a presentation.
As expected for almost any business projector, the image had noticeably low contrast and showed loss of shadow detail in particularly dark areas of dark scenes. However, contrast looked good in brightly lit scenes, thanks in part to the nicely saturated color and subtle gradations. In movies I'm familiar with, including Casino Royale and Batman v Superman, colors matched what I expect to see. Contrast improved somewhat when viewing on my Screen Innovations Slate 1.2 ALR screen—with its gunmetal gray color—with lights both on and off, but not by much.
Brightly lit video, including a 49ers vs. Saint's game on YouTube, fared well, with the Saint's black uniforms looking suitably dark black and the 49ers' gold and red popping nicely. So while you might complain about a lack of shadow detail in dark scenes in some movies, the projector takes sports and other brightly lit video, like news shows, in stride.
The Sony PHZ12 delivers impressive performance for a 5,000-lumen, laser-based projector aimed primarily at business and education use—a statement that applies both to its brightness and to its image quality for both presentations and video or film.
The brightest of the three modes we picked as our preferred choice for any type of material delivered roughly 3,280 ANSI lumens—enough to light up a 145-inch diagonal 1.0-gain screen in moderately bright ambient light. With Constant Brightness mode, it still delivered about 2,950 lumens, or enough to fill a 140-inch screen. And if you don't mind a slight green bias, Presentation mode offers a still brighter image.
Going well beyond the sharp focus and vibrant color in graphics needed for presentations, the PHZ12 handles video and film well enough for extended viewing, whether for a full length movie, a night of TV, or a football game. So in addition to being an impressive choice for conference rooms, boardrooms, and classrooms, it's also a strong contender for applications like museum exhibits, sports bars, and home use in ambient light. And its support for nearly maintenance-free, 24/7 operation and 360-degree orientation enhances its usability for signage and similar displays. It is, in short, an excellent choice for a range of applications and a solid value at $2,499.
Brightness. Based on our tests, the rated brightness for the PHZ12 is notably conservative. The measured center-spot brightness was 6,098 lumens—more than 17% higher than the 5,200 center-spot lumen rating. The ANSI lumen measurement (based on measuring nine points across the image) was 5,386 lumens, or 9% higher than the 5,000 lumen rating.
With the 1.45x zoom lens set to its widest angle setting, the measured ANSI lumens for each brightness mode was as follows for each Picture Mode and for the default brightness setting for each Intelligent Setting mode:
Sony VPL-PHZ12 ANSI Lumens using Picture Modes
Sony VPL-PHZ12 ANSI Lumens using Intelligent Setting Modes
Note that when using the Intelligent Setting mode, there are no predefined brightness settings. The Custom slider is available and set to the maximum level by default.
Constant Brightness Mode. For all three picture modes, turning Constant Brightness Mode on reduced the brightness in Standard brightness mode by a minimally noticeable 10%. For Medium brightness mode the reduction was an almost unnoticeable 6%. The Constant Brightness option is not available in Low brightness mode or the Intelligent Setting modes.
Zoom Lens Light Loss: The 1.45x zoom reduces brightness by 19% at its longest telephoto position.
Brightness Uniformity (Wide Zoom): 76%
Brightness Uniformity (Telephoto): 71%
Lowest Measured Input Lag (1080p): 36 ms
Fan Noise. Sony rates the PHZ12's fan noise at 36 dB in Standard mode, 28 dB in Middle mode, and 25 dB in Low mode. These ratings, as well as my subjective impression of the sound, are in the typical range for a 5,000-lumen laser projector, and should not be an issue for most applications.
High Altitude mode, which Sony recommends using at 4,921 feet and above, increases both volume and pitch enough that if you need to turn it on, you might want to consider acoustic isolation for the projector.
- HDMI 2.0 HDCP 1.4 (x2)
- HDBaseT (for presentations, video, audio, control)
- LAN (for control and presentations)
- VGA/component video
- Composite video
- 3.5 mm stereo audio in (shared by VGA and Composite video ports)
- 3.5 mm analog stereo audio out
- USB 2.0 Type A (For service, firmware upgrades)
- USB 2.0 Type B (For USB audio and video display from a PC)
- RS-232 (for control)
- Optional Wi-Fi includes support for connecting to a network
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Sony VPL-PHZ12 projector page.