While it cuts a few corners, at $3,125, the Sony VPL-PHZ60 is a surprisingly compact, 6,000-lumen steal that can help those on a tight budget fill a lecture hall, classroom or church with images and video.
- Rainbow-free 3LCD design with equal color and white brightness
- Small and light case
- Wide image shift range
- Lacks WiFi
- Manual focus, image shift and zoom lens
- No video output port
- Potentially inconvenient access to filter
Sony's VPL-PHZ60 projector does a lot with a little, making it one of the best buys for companies, houses of worship and educational institutions looking to fill a boardroom, sanctuary or auditorium with video. At just $3,125, its 6,000-lumen laser-driven output will be a plus for cash strapped organizations with a story to tell.
Just as appropriate in a large conference room, lecture hall or mid-sized church, the VPL-PHZ60 is surprisingly small and light, yet, it pumps out sharp, vivid images. By combining WUXGA resolution with a low-maintenance laser illumination engine, a trio of imaging LCD panels, and Sony's proprietary image enhancement technology, it has an excellent mix of components, features, performance and price. With a 1.6X zoom lens and wide range of image shifting potential, the VPL-PHZ60 is easy to set up, even in oddly shaped rooms. On the other hand, to help keep cost down it sticks to basics in other areas, from its manual focus and zoom to its lack of Wi-Fi networking or a video-out port for a supplemental display.
With three 0.64-inch LCD screens at its disposal, the VPL-PHZ60 projects WUXGA images in 16:10 aspect ratio. It uses Sony BrightEra LCD imaging panels with a micro-lens array surface design to sharpen its imaging. This is augmented with the company's Reality Creation Engine digital enhancements to continuously monitor the video on a pixel by pixel basis and optimize the projector's image. It can adjust various parameters to reduce noise while adding extra detail and making shadows and color gradients pop on-screen. The result is a sharp, bright video stream that makes the VPL-PHZ60 stand out in a variety of roles at school, church, the office or even for projecting the images in a virtual golf simulator.
Inside, the VPL-PHZ60's blue diode laser illumination engine creates a beam of light that goes through three dichroic mirrors to create streams of red, blue and green light. These are individually fed into the projector's three imaging panels before being combined and sent via its output lens to the screen. Rated by Sony to last 20,000 hours of use, the projector could run for the equivalent of more than 10 years of business use at 8 hours a day over a 200-day work year. That not only translates into never having to buy a replacement lamp, but never climbing a ladder to replace one. And if the VPL-PHZ60's $3,125 price is still too steep, the $2,500 VPL-PHZ50 matches it feature for feature but has a 5,000-lumen output.
As is the case with other economy-minded projectors, the VPL-PHZ60 has a lens that can't be changed. In this case, it's well-suited to the rest of the device and can fill up a 40-inch to a 25-foot screen (measured diagonally) from between 53 inches and 33 feet. With its lens zoomed out, it created a 6-foot image from 75-inches away. To check the range of throw distances with any screen size, take a look at ProjectorCentral's online throw calculator for the VPL-PHZ60.
The projector's 1.6X zoom lens can provide a good range of image sizes to get a perfect set up. Its action is manual and zooming in all the way to its full telephoto setting diminishes the projector's output by 33 percent.
The projector's two indicator LEDs can show that it's in standby mode, operating normally or is having a problem with overheating or other conditions. Nearby are buttons for turning the projector on or off as well as ones for selecting the input and using the system's menu.
The VPL-PHZ60 projects WUXGA images with a uniform focus and can work with 4K video streams through its HDMI and HDBaseT connectors; it tops out at a frame rate of 30fps with 4K signals. In addition to having a second HDMI input, the projector can accept video from VGA and composite video sources. There're audio-in and -out jacks and an integrated 16-watt mono speaker sufficient for a mid-size conference room. The two USB ports are provided for powering a 5-volt accessory and for diagnostics or updating the projector's firmware. On the downside, the VPL-PHZ60 lacks a built-in media viewer for use with a USB flash drive, which some other projectors in this class, including Panasonic's directly competitive PT-VMZ60, do provide. Similarly, the VPL-PHZ60 lacks the Panasonic's VGA video output for driving an external display. That means it can't easily feed video to an overflow room in a school or church, or drive a secondary display in a boardroom.
Like other mid-range installation projectors, the VPL-PHZ60 can be controlled from afar via its RS-232 serial port or wired 100BaseT Ethernet connector. Once it's connected to an organization's network, it's easy to tap into the projector's Web page that summarizes its settings and allows changes to anything from its On/Off status or adjusting the volume to keystone correction and its menu selections. The system works with PJ Link, Crestron Room View and AMX control software.
More to the point for schools, businesses and houses of worship, like many other mid-sized projectors the VPL-PHZ60 does without Wi-Fi networking for wirelessly connecting to the projector or sharing the screen with students. Unfortunately, Sony doesn't offer a plug-in accessory to retrofit the projector for wireless data as some competitors do, though the aforementioned USB port can provide power for a third-party Wi-Fi adapter or streaming player.
The Remote Commander remote control is powered by a CR-2025 button battery rather than AAA batteries, making it small and comfortable in the hand. It lacks backlit keys, something that's always helpful in the dark but won't be important in the ambient light conditions where this projector is likely to find work. In addition to turning the projector on or off, the remote control can access the projector's Menu, adjust its digital zoom and bring up its three test patterns. It had a range of 30 feet but doesn't allow you to use an audio jumper cable to wire the remote control to the projector for extended range.
The VPL-PHZ60 has a dust filter that should last the life of the projector but lacks the automatic filter cleaner found in some of Sony's higher end models. Under normal conditions, Sony recommends cleaning roughly every 1,000 hours of use. The filter is, unfortunately, accessed from underneath the projector. This inconvenient location means that after cleaning the filter the projector may need to be re-aimed, or if it's attached to a ceiling mount, might require removal and reattachment. On the other hand, Sony has documentation describing an unusual arrangement for the mount arms that allows the filter to be removed without taking the projector down.
The entire projector comes with an impressive warranty that lasts for five years or 12,000 hours of use, whichever comes first. This matches the coverage for many NEC projectors but is better than the three years that Panasonic, Epson and ViewSonic include in this sector of the projector market.
At 5.2 x 13.1 x 16.6-inches and just 15 pounds, the VPL-PHZ60 is among the smallest and lightest projectors in its class. This makes it easy to move around and set up with one person. It has four raised attachment points underneath and a pair of adjustable front feet. Sony doesn't sell mounting hardware specifically for the VPL-PHZ family, but the unit I tested worked well with a generic ceiling bracket. It can also be set up on its feet in a nook or on a shelf as long as you maintain at least 20-inches of clearance to bring in cooling air. If you want to set it up in portrait orientation, make sure that the air input is at the bottom and the exhaust is at the top to prevent overheating.
Those who like to optimize the projector from its remote control should take notice: rather than powered focus, zoom and image shift, all these lens adjustments are done manually. The image shifting is handled with a pair of knobs up front. The action is smooth, geared for precision and able to move the projected image +55%/-35% vertical, or ±15% horizontal.
On top of that, the VPL-PHZ60 can geometrically correct for projecting at an angle of up to 30 degrees up, down, right or left, easing the creation of a perfectly rectangular image that fits its screen. As always, using vertical keystone correction causes some loss of brightness, but at a tilt of 15 degrees, the VPL-PHZ60 lost just 8 percent of the projector's brightness, versus double that for many of its peers we've tested.
The VPL-PHZ60's menu is logically laid out and efficient. There are three picture modes labeled Dynamic, Standard, and Brightness Priority, and four Light Settings to adjust the laser power including Standard, Middle, Extended, and Custom (which allows you to adjust brightness to your preference). There's also a Dynamic Control that, when set to On, automatically adjusts brightness based on the image.
While the mix of picture modes seems lean compared to projectors that have as many as seven, Sony has integrated its Intelligent Setting feature, which pre-empts the Dynamic Control and all the Picture Mode settings and optimizes several image parameters including brightness, color, and fan speed based on your selection of one of three environmental selections: Meeting/Class Room, Museum, or Entertainment. The Intelligent Settings generally provide more mid-range brightness with a more natural color balance than the Brightness Priority's overwhelmingly green cast, while operating the projector more quietly. So the lack of a dedicated Rec.709 or sRBG setting is addressed with this feature.
On the other hand, the VPL-PHZ60 still won't be appropriate for a nursing program or doctor's office because it doesn't have a DICOM Sim mode for viewing medical scans. And the VPL-PHZ60 further lacks a menu option to compensate for projecting on a colored wall or a classroom's blackboard. Nor can it project 3D image streams for showing a rendering of a company's next-gen product or a molecular model simulation in a chemistry seminar.
Setting the VPL-PHZ60 up on the test bench was a welcome relief from 40-pound monster projectors. It took about 14 seconds to get started, although its full brightness wasn't reached for about 3 minutes. Upon turn off, it took about 3 seconds for the VPL-PHZ60 to shut off its fan. A bonus is that the projector can be turned on or off via a simple light switch wired to an outlet and started up when it senses an active HDMI video stream. This makes it a good choice for a day of on-and-off action.
Of its three picture modes, the Brightness Priority setting was the brightest, with the ability to put a measured 6,020 ANSI lumens on the screen in the Standard light power setting, just above its specified 6,000-lumen output. While it had an excellent brightness uniformity of 95 percent with no visible hotspots, the image had an overwhelmingly green cast in its brightest mode, giving faces a ghostly tinge. That can be subdued by switching to the Standard or Dynamic picture modes but at the cost of lower output. They delivered 4,862- and 2,688 lumens, respectively. Thanks to its 3LCD design, the VPL-PHZ60 boasts equal white and color brightness, as well as immunity to rainbow artifacts that accompany some single-chip DLP projectors.
The VPL-PHZ60 used 379-watts in its highest power mode and 12.1-watts in standby. If the projector is used for eight hours a day for 200 days of the year, it will cost about $90 a year to operate. This estimate assumes that the business, school or church pays the national average of 13 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity.
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Sony has a different take on a projector's ECO mode. To start, you can set up a low-power standby mode that draws less than 1 watt but disconnects the projector from network contact. The Static Signal Light Dimming mode lets you pick a time when a static input signal will trigger a dimming of the projector's output to help lower power bills for projectors that stay on between meetings or classes; there's the choice of 5, 10, 15 and 20 minute intervals. After dimming, the system delivered 1,750 lumens and used 130.3 watts—about one-third of its peak output. Finally, there's a mode that turns the lighting off but keeps the projector on that continued to consume about 310 watts of power.
Overall, the VPL-PHZ60 was not as quiet as some other laser projectors in its class. In its high-output Brightness Priority mode, the projector's fan put out 47.2 dB of noise as measured 36-inches from its exhaust vent, while in Dynamic mode, it produced 46.9dBA. In its Standard mode, the VPL-PHZ60 was the quietest at 43.3dBA. The background noise for the testing room was 38.8dBA. Note that Sony specifies 37dB of projector noise in its sound-proof chamber according to industry standard measurements, which are less demanding than our casual real-world measurements.
Throughout testing, the VPL-PHZ60's case never got more than warm and its exhaust vent registered 98 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sony's VPL-PHZ60 is for churches, schools, businesses and religious organizations looking for a genuine projector bargain that doesn't sacrifice brightness. At $3,125, the projector puts out over 6,000 lumens of light, allowing it to compete with more expensive and larger devices. The combination of its wide image shift and a 1.6X zoom lens means that it can fit most medium-sized venues, while its laser illumination components mean that the VPL-PHZ60 will only need to have its dust filter periodically cleaned. On the other hand, the projector falls short compared to some competition by lacking a video-out port, built-in Wi-Fi, powered zoom and focus, and a sealed laser engine that requires no filter maintenance.
Still, the bottom line is that the VPL-PHZ60 packs a lot of projector into a small case and price tag. It should earn a place high on the shopping list for penny-pinching organizations that demand a bright projector.
Brightness. With the projector set to Brightness Priority mode, it delivered 6,020 ANSI lumens. That's a smidge over its rated output of 6,000 lumens. Changing to its Dynamic mode, the projector produced 4,862 lumens, while using the Standard setting lowered that to 2,688 lumens.
As expected for a projector based on three LCD imaging panels, the VPL-PHZ60's color brightness was essentially equal to its white light output.
Sony VPL-PHZ60 ANSI Lumens
*After 5 minutes of static input
Zoom Lens Light Loss (from widest to maximum zoom): 32.6%
Brightness Uniformity: 94.9%
Fan Noise. In Sony's sound-proof room, the company measured 37dB of fan noise while it was operating, presumably using the industry standard measurement that averages readings from four sides of the projector. It was slightly louder in the real world, with the projector recording a peak of 47.2dBA of fan noise in Brightness Priority mode at a distance of 36-inches from the exhaust vents in a room with a background noise level of 38.8dBA. It dropped to 46.9- and 43.3dBA in Dynamic and Standard modes.
- HDMI 2.0 (x2) with HDCP support
- Computer RGB in, 15-pin D-Sub
- Composite Video in
- HDBaseT (RJ-45)
- RS-232C Serial Port
- Wired LAN (RJ-45)
- USB (Type A, 5V/2A for accessory power)
- USB (Type A for diagnostics and firmware update)
- Audio-in (3.5 mm)
- Audio-out (3.5 mm)
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Sony VPL-PHZ60 projector page.