Small and easy to set up, the Sony VPLP-PHZ61 is not only a bargain at a street price of $3,438, but outshines larger and more expensive projectors with more than enough brightness to use in the typical conference room, classroom or museum exhibit.
- Excellent brightness in a small and light cabinet
- Intelligent Setting with light sensor
- Settings cloning for multiple projectors
- Five-year warranty
- No built-in Wi-Fi
- Manual focus, zoom and image shift
- No 360-degree placement option
- No USB media player
It may look like just another small conference room projector, but the Sony VPL-PHZ61 punches above its class to deliver a projector that downsizes bulk, not brightness. Its low-maintenance laser illumination engine is complemented by the VPL-PHZ61's excellent image uniformity and color balance, even at its maximum output.
At an aggressive typical street price of $3,438, the VPL-PHZ61 is promoted at 7,000 center lumens and is rated for 6,400 ANSI lumens. It falls into a highly competitive class of WUXGA, 3LCD projectors in the 6,000 to 7,000 ANSI range, but one that narrows when you account for the Sony's unusually compact size and weight. Epson's PowerLite L630 is similarly priced but less bright at 6,200 ISO lumens, and both larger and heavier. (ISO is a near-ANSI equivalent). Panasonic's PT-VMZ61 is similarly petite and costs a bit less, but is also less bright with its 6,200 ISO lumens, as is the larger and heavier 6,200 ANSI lumen Sharp/NEC P627U priced at $3,499. You'll need to spend nearly $4,000 to gain noticeably higher 7,000 ISO brightness in a portable, lightweight chassis from the Panasonic PT-VMZ71. In other words, Sony's VPL-PHZ61 just might be the bargain of a stealth projector that you've been looking for to fit in small places but still light up a room on a price sensitive budget.
Regardless of whether it's for a conference room, school's lecture hall or part of a digital museum installation, the Sony VPL-PHZ61 is among the smallest projectors in its class. Its 16.6 x 5.1 x 13.3 (WHD) inch dimensions and 15-pound weight mean that one person can easily set it up and it can go places where larger projectors wouldn't fit.
The VPL-PHZ61's adjustable feet allow it to be used on a tabletop; they add 4.8 inches to its height. Underneath its four threaded attachment points worked with my generic mounting hardware for hanging it from a ceiling.
Inside, the projector's sealed-diode blue laser's beam is converted to red and green streams with a pair of dichroic mirrors. All three color components travel to individual 0.64-inch LCD panels that show WUXGA (1920x1200) resolution and are combined to create the final image that's sent through the VPL-PHZ61's output lens. As with all 3LCD projectors, this arrangement delivers equal white and color brightness and makes this Sony immune to single-chip DLP rainbow artifacts.
The VPL-PHZ61 carries a 20,000-hour rating from Sony, which should translate to years of use but will require occasionally vacuuming its dust filter. To the left of the lens on the front panel is the projector's cooling air input vent and the hot air exhausts are on the left side. It requires 20-inches of side clearance for cooling air but unlike most other laser projectors, the VPL-PHZ61 can't be safely used at any angle. It does work in portrait mode if you set it up with the input vent above the lens.
The VPL-PHZ61 Color Temperature menu offers the choice of 6,500-, 7,500- or 9,300-Kelvin color temperature while the projector's automatic Intelligent Setting configuration uses the 7,500K setting. Within the Intelligent Setting scheme, there are three location selections: Meeting/Class Room (for sharp text), Museum (better color balance and less fan noise) as well as Entertainment (a balance between the two). You can also activate an onboard light sensor with the projector's Auto Light Output feature to further customize the brightness for your environment.
With Intelligent Setting turned off, the projector offers up three Picture Modes: Standard, Dynamic and Brightness Priority. Unlike typical competitors, the modes don't relate to intended content, such as Cinema, Presentation, Rec.709 or Dicom Sim.
Like others in its price range, the VPL-PHZ61 lacks the ability to swap lenses. Its included lens combines sharp focus with a throw ratio of between 1.23:1 and 1.97:1 for a 1.6X optical zoom range. It can create screen sizes from 40 inches to 25 feet diagonal. ProjectorCentral's Sony VPL-PHZ61 Throw Calculator can show if the VPL-PHZ61 is right for your room.
The projector's mechanical image shifting can raise or lower the image by as much as 55 percent or moved right-left by 15 percent. Rather than being shifted by motors, it is all manual with two accurate knobs, which is a step down for those who like to adjust everything from the remote control in a temporary setup or where a mounted projector isn't easily reached for occasional refocusing. There's no lock to keep the image from potentially drifting over time.
The remote control does offer horizontal and vertical keystone correction for squaring the image if the projector is angled by as much as 30-degrees. I preferred using the projector's four-corner correction screen to push and pull its corners until square.
Able to work with signals up to 4096x2160 resolution (4K/60 Hz), the VPL-PHZ61 downscales its video stream to the projector's native WUXGA (1920x1200) resolution—typical of most HD presentation projectors these days. This should be plenty of sharpness for typical office and school tasks, like presentations and Web browsing, but depending on image size might fall a bit short for a photography show.
The port selection for the VPL-PHZ61 is a mix of old and new, with composite and VGA video inputs for older gear and a pair of HDMI ports and a dedicated RJ-45 connector for grabbing HDBaseT video or control signals.
There's also another RJ-45 port for networking. Once the VPL-PHZ61 was online on my office network, I was able to check on its status using the projector's browser-based Information screen. The Control screen went a step further to turn it on or off, pick the input or remotely work through its menu. All this can be password protected, but there's neither built-in Wi-Fi nor the ability to add it later with a dongle.
On top of audio-in and -out jacks, the VPL-PHZ61's 16-watt speaker was enough for a mid-sized conference room or class but sounded tinny. In addition to an RS232 serial port for controlling the projector remotely, the projector offers two Type-A USB ports that can power a streaming dongle or be used update the projector's firmware. There's also a cloning function that allows the unit's settings to be uploaded to a USB drive for transferring to another VPL-PHZ61. However, there's no media player to allow it to project files from a USB flash drive.
The projector's top control panel is rudimentary, with the expected On/Off key, Menu button, four-way control and Input selector. There's a button for blanking the screen and the VPL-PHZ61's two LEDs show status and warnings, such as to indicate overheating or that the dust filter needs cleaning.
Its tiny RM-PJ8 Remote Commander remote control uses a watch battery, which can be harder to find in a pinch than a pair of AA cells. The device can turn the projector on or off, tap into the Menu and bring up the three built-in grid patterns that can help make quick work of focusing and tweaking the projected image. In addition to changing the aspect ratio and blanking the screen, the remote can be used to mute the audio and cycle through the input choices. It lacks dedicated buttons for each video port, and there's no backlighting.
Unlike other manufacturers who include just a year of protection, the VPL-PHZ61 comes with a five-year warranty that covers the projector for up to 12,000 hours of use. Generous by comparison to the competition, it's still half the rated lifetime of its lighting components.
Color Modes. Unlike many competitors, the VPL-PHZ61 lacks specific projection modes labeled for things like movies, PowerPoint shows or displaying medical scans at a nursing school. Instead, its Intelligent Setting feature uses feedback from a case-mounted light sensor to automatically adjust the illumination to suit conditions. Activating the Automatic Light Output (ALO) setting makes some major changes to the projector's brightness, but you need to be patient because the changes can take a minute or two to settle in. For example, using the Intelligent Setting Class Room preset, the projector put out 4,430 ANSI lumens with ALO turned off. This dropped to 2,757 lumens when I turned ALO on and allowed the sensor to adjust brightness to my ambient room light. When an external light was aimed directly at the projector's sensor, the light level slowly rose to a peak of 4,384 lumens, close to its maximum with ALO turned off.
Within the Intelligent Setting, there are three choices: Meeting/Class Room, Museum and Entertainment. As noted, Meeting/Class Room is said to optimize text and graphics, Museum optimizes color accuracy while reducing fan noise, and Entertainment attempts to strike a balance for use in theme parks or other public entertainment.
In addition, there are the three conventional Picture Modes mentioned earlier that become available when the Intelligent Setting option is not active: Brightness Priority, Dynamic, and Standard. Per the manual, Brightness Priority sets the projector for its maximum output for bright environments, Dynamic is said to achieve balance between brightness and darkness, and Standard defaults to achieve more natural tones.
Finally, the VPL-PHZ61 offers three preset Light Output modes to adjust laser power: Standard (brightest), Middle, and Extended. Additionally, there's a Custom mode to adjust the brightness to taste, and a Dynamic Control option that automatically sets the brightness based on the input signal, with dark content resulting in less brightness.
Using the brightest Intelligent Setting, Meeting/Class Room mode, the VPL-PHZ61 delivered 4,300 ANSI lumens in my test space. Its image was clear with sharp type; more than enough for running through sales presentations or watching educational videos. By contrast, the Museum setting is a little warmer and the Entertainment choice is slightly pink. They measured 4,258 and 3,525 lumens, respectively, using the same light conditions.
Presentation Viewing. When I turned the Intelligent Setting off, the projector's brightness potential was set free. While we can't guarantee that all VLP-PHZ61 units will do this well, its Brightness Priority setting in our sample pumped out 7,286 ANSI lumens, or more than 10 percent above its 6,400-lumen ANSI spec. The consistency of the image was also excellent, with a sharp focus and an unusually high 94% measured brightness uniformity.
Using Brightness Priority to project a 5-foot image, the VPL-PHZ61 was more than enough to deliver a sharp rendering of Word docs, Excel spreadsheets and general Web browsing. It stood up to direct sunlight, so the lights can stay on and the shades up. Its color balance was surprisingly good, if overly yellow and green in this mode. While better than many other business projectors in its highest-output mode, Brightness Priority remains more appropriate for showing math equations or sales figures than movies, paintings and photos.
The Dynamic setting dropped the output to 4,346 ANSI lumens, slightly above the Intelligent Setting's Meetings/Classroom brightness, with warmer more realistic images that looked better for videos and photos. That's where the Standard mode came in with 3,761 ANSI lumens on tap and a color balance that was more neutral and just warm enough.
Video Viewing. Watching a bunch of online instructional videos and the University of Colorado's PhET science simulations in Standard mode, the VPL-PHZ61 did well with smooth action and reasonable flesh tones. With the projector streaming a variety of outdoor geology scenes, it showed rock surfaces with a surprising amount of surface detail and rendered grass as a realistic green and the sky a saturated blue.
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It all came together when I turned the projector's Reality Creation image enhancement on, which offered up more detail and texture for underwater videos. Happily, its boost level can be adjusted, although the VPL-VHZ61 lacks the ability to tap into encoded HDR content.
Though it will never be confused with a niche entertainment-oriented projector, the VPL-PHZ61 also did well with realistic and artistic imaging. It was good enough for an art history or filmmaking class or for showing a company's upcoming ad campaign.
I used a UHD computer source that effectively downscaled the video to WUXGA without any artifacts. Regardless of which mode was used, the video was always smooth without any jumps or frame freezes.
One of the smallest and easiest conference room projectors to set up, the Sony VPL-PHZ61 is surprisingly bright for its tiny package and can help with a wide variety of classroom lessons, conference room presentations and digital museum exhibits. It may lack the integrated or easily added Wi-Fi sharing capabilities offered by some projectors, which may require a third party solution. But assuming you can get an appealing and bright-enough image from its Intelligent Settings modes and automated light sensor, you'll potentially extend the life of the projector while having it conveniently adapt to changing viewing conditions. In the final analysis, it is the bottom line that makes the VPL-PHZ61 so appealing. With a competitive street price under $3,500, and Sony's five-year warranty, the VPL-PHZ61 is a genuine bargain that can fill a room with bright images.
Brightness. In addition to three Intelligent Setting modes and three Picture Modes, the VPL-PHZ61 offers three preset Light Output modes to adjust laser power: Standard (brightest), Middle, and Extended. Additionally, there's a Custom mode to adjust the brightness, and a Dynamic Control option that automatically sets the brightness based on the input signal, with dark content resulting in less brightness.
Using the projector's brightest automatic Intelligent Setting mode, Meeting/Class Room, the VPL-PHZ61 put 4,300 ANSI lumens on-screen, well below the device's 6,400 lumen specification. With Intelligent Setting turned off, the projector's full power was unleashed. In the Brightness Priority mode and the Standard Light Output laser setting, but with Dynamic Control and Auto Light Output functions turned off, the projector blasted its maximum, which was 7,286 ANSI lumens for our sample. Using the Middle and Extended Light Output modes reduced the brightness by 22% and 69% respectively. Imaging for Brightness Priority was overly yellow and green, but more than acceptable for spreadsheets, tabular material and the occasional website journey.
Using the Dynamic picture mode produced 4,346 ANSI lumens, or slightly more than the Intelligent Setting's Meeting/Class Room output. It offered a colder image that's still good for office work. The Standard picture mode provided 3,761 ANSI lumens and the best balance between photorealistic imaging and brightness.
Sony VPL-PHZ61 ANSI Lumens
Zoom Lens Light Loss. The projector's 1.6X zoom lens made framing the image easy. Zooming all the way in from widest zoom to full telephoto lowered the output by 24%.
Brightness Uniformity. The VPL-PHZ-61 measured 94% percent brightness uniformity with a 60-inch diagonal image.
Fan Noise. Using a sound meter 36-inches from the projector's exhaust vent, I measured a peak noise level of 43.9dBA in the VPL-PHZ61's Brightness Priority mode. This dropped to 43.6dBA in Dynamic mode and to 41.5dBA in Standard mode. All of these modes should be fine, assuming that the audience will be sitting several feet from the projector. The measurements took place in a room with a background noise level of 37.7dBA. Sony rates the VPL-PHZ-61 at between 34 and 37dB using the industry-standard averaged measurement in a soundproof test room.
Input Lag. The VPL-PHZ61 measured a 53.6 millisecond delay as measured using a Bodnar Video Signal Input Lag Tester with a 1080p/60 test signal. It lacks a gaming or low input lag mode that might have reduced latency further.
Power Use. The Dynamic and Brightness Priority modes were the top power users at 377 watts. It used 14.8 watts at idle. If the projector is used for 8 hours a day and 200 days out of the year, it should cost about $106 a year to operate, assuming you pay the national average of 15 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity. Using Standard mode reduced the power draw to 288 watts, potentially saving $21 a year.
The projector's Eco mode has several adjustments for how much electricity it uses when idle. This is at the cost of a delay in waking it up and is probably not a good idea if the projector will be shared and turned on and off all day.
Temperature. The VPL-PHZ61 kept its cool even when running full blast for hours. Its peak temperature was 114.7 degrees Fahrenheit at the front of its exhaust vent. The case never got hotter than 92.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
- HDMI Version 2.0 (X2)
- Composite Video (RCA)
- VGA (15-pin D-sub)
- HDBaseT (RJ-45)
- Wired Network (RJ-45)
- Audio-in (3.5mm headphone jack)
- Audio-out (3.5mm headphone jack)
- Serial Port (RS-232)
- USB Power (Type-A)
- USB Firmware upgrades (Type-A)
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Sony VPL-PHZ61 projector page.
To buy this projector, use Where to Buy online, or get a price quote by email direct from Projector Central authorized dealers using our E-Z Quote tool.
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