Sony FH35 WUXGA 3LCD Projector
  • Performance
  • 4.5
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value
Price
$5,850 MSRP Discontinued

Some products come out of the box looking so good that you can't help but expect that they'll perform well too. The Sony VPL-FH35, aimed at anything from large conference rooms to small auditoriums, is that kind of product. Even better, it lives up to expectations.

The good looks grow from a combination of smart design and excellent fit and finish. The low profile white case with rounded corners makes the 5.8" x 15.3" x 18.8" (HWD) projector look graceful rather than big and clunky. In addition, the connectors are in front, letting you run the cables so the audience won't see either the cables or connections.

The beauty is more than skin deep. Sony rates the projector at 5200 lumens. We measured it a little lower, but bright enough for the size room it's meant for. LCD-based, its 1920x1200 native resolution makes it a good choice for showing complex data images with fine detail.

Sony also throws in some important extras, including the 1.6x zoom lens and both vertical and horizontal lens shift for easy setup, a side-by-side mode that lets you show two 960-pixel wide images from different sources, and a gamma mode designed for medical images like X-rays and MRIs. The VPL-FH35 is, in short, both impressive and well worth the price, at $5,850 list and widely available for less than $4,000.

Strong Points

Resolution suitable for fine detail or multiple windows. The VPL-FH35's 1920x1200 native resolution is ideal for showing crisp detail in complex images or showing multiple windows with less detailed material, like spreadsheets. It can, for example, show four 960x600 windows at once, with each showing more information than a single 800x600 (SVGA) screen. With video, it can show a full 1080p image without scaling. There's also a side-by-side mode that can show images from two sources at once, as long as one is connected to the VGA port. In my tests, it worked as promised with a computer on the VGA port and a Blu-ray player on the HDMI port.

Excellent data image quality. Data image quality is one of the VPL-FH35's best points. Colors were vibrant and well saturated; color balance was excellent, with suitably neutral grays; and text was crisp and highly readable at sizes as small as 7 points. Depending on the screen size, however, you may have to get close to actually read such small fonts.

I saw some minor pixel jitter, but only in images that tend to cause the problem, and so minor that you have to be close to the screen to see it. However, you might not have the option of switching to a digital connection to completely eliminate jitter. When I tried an HDMI connection at 1920x1200, the projector showed only a partial image. This may be specific to the graphics chip in the computer I used for testing however. Sony says it's not expected behavior. Note too that I also had problems at 1080p with an HDMI connection to the computer, even though the projector worked without problems at 1080p with an HDMI connection to a video source.

Better than par video quality. Video quality in my tests was well short of what you'd want for a home theater projector, but better than par for a data projector. I saw a moderate level of noise, but the projector handled skin tones well, did a good job with shadow detail, and didn't show motion artifacts or posterization. Overall, the quality is good enough for watching a full length movie, but not for showing it to best advantage.

Medical imaging. The VPL-FH35's gamma settings include a choice for medical imaging that follows the Grayscale Standard Display Function (GSDF) for Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM). Sony says the mode is suitable for training and reference only, and should not be used for medical diagnosis. However, it has obvious potential for medical presentations or educational needs.

Zoom lens standard, with a choice of lenses. The VPL-FH35 comes with a 1.6x zoom lens, which gives you lots of flexibility for how far you can put the projector from the screen for a given size image. For the 93" diagonal image I used for testing, for example, the calculated distance is anywhere from 9.1 to 14.6 feet. I measured the distance with the full widescreen (maximum zoom) setting at 9.4 feet, well within the expected variation for individual lenses.

In addition, Sony offers two longer throw lenses at $2,400 each that extend the range for a 93" image to as much as 31.7 feet. Sony pegs the viewable screen size with all three lenses at 40" to 600". However, at 40" the image will be blindingly bright in most lighting conditions, and at 600" it will be far too dim for comfortable viewing. A more realistic maximum size with no ambient light would be roughly 300".

Lens shift for easy setup. With both vertical and horizontal lens shift, the VPL-FH35 also offers lots of flexibility for placing the projector left or right of the center line or above or below the screen.

Sony gives the horizontal lens shift as 32% of the screen width left or right of the center position. It gives the vertical shift as 60% up and 0% down, which, of course, would be reversed with the projector inverted in a ceiling mount.

What this means is that when the lens is in its lowest vertical position, the centerline of the lens will intersect the center of the projected image as measured vertically. From there, the image can only be shifted upward. In a ceiling mount, with the projector inverted, the image can only be shifted down from that point.

In any case, the claimed horizontal shift matches my measurement, and I actually measured a little more than the claim for vertical shift.

Test Results and Connectivity

Bright image. The VPL-FH35 is easily bright enough for a large classroom or conference room or a small auditorium. I measured it with its brightest preset and full wide angle setting (for the largest image size), at 4323 lumens, a respectable 83% of the 5200 lumen rating. The only two other presets each drop the brightness by about 21%, to a nearly identical 3405 and 3414 lumens.

Eco mode drops the brightness by only 24%, to 3277 lumens with the full wide angle setting and brightest preset. It also raises the rated lamp life from 2500 hours to 3500.

The position of the zoom lens also has an impact on lumen output. When set at maximum telephoto, brightness is reduced by 30% from its wide angle position. So if you need maximum light output, avoid the telephoto end of the zoom range.

Brightness uniformity. The projector measured a solid 76% for brightness uniformity and was even better on this score than the number suggests. The brightest and dimmest areas were far enough apart, with the brightness changing so gradually, that the difference was barely noticeable on a solid white screen. Breaking up the screen with text or graphics made it impossible to see.

Good connectivity. The VPL-FH35 offers most of the connectors you might want, even though it has only one analog VGA input for a computer. Other choices include both HDMI and DVI-D ports for digital input from a computer or video source, and S-video and composite video ports. For component video, a set of five BNC connectors lets you connect RGBHV, or the more common YPbPr three-wire signal.

Audio connectors include one stereo miniplug jack paired with the BNC connectors, a second one paired with the DVI-D and VGA connectors, and a set of stereo RCA phono plugs paired with the S-Video and composite video ports. In addition, there's a pass through VGA port, a stereo miniplug jack output, a LAN port for control over a network, and an RS-232 port for a computer or third party controller. Finally, you can connect the remote for wired control through a stereo mini jack.

Limitations

No speakers. Despite the audio inputs, the VPL-FH35 has no on-board speakers. This makes sense, however, given that you'll want an external audio system for the size room the projector is meant for. Because the audio inputs are paired with specific image inputs, you can run the sound through the projector to automatically switch the audio source when you change image sources. You can also use the remote to control volume or mute the sound.

No mouse control or direct reading of files. The VPL-FH35 doesn't have a USB B port, which means there's no way to connect to a computer to control the mouse from the projector's remote. It also lacks a USB A port, which means there's nowhere to plug in a USB memory key to read files directly.

Can't shift image down with projector right side up. The 0% down, 60% up lens shift means that if you want to place the projector on a shelf above and behind the audience, you'll have to mount the projector upside down, or you won't be able to shift the image down to where the screen will probably be. Note too that if you place the projector in back of the audience, you'll defeat the design purpose of putting the connectors in front, since all the connectors and cables will be where the audience can see them.

Conclusion

The combination of high resolution, excellent data image quality, better than par video quality, and a suitable level of brightness makes the Sony VPL-FH35 an attractive choice. The DICOM GSDF simulation makes it of particular interest for medical-related use. Also very much on the plus side are the 1.6x zoom and lens shift, which give significant flexibility in where you can place the projector.

The lamp life counts as another small plus. Although the 2,500 hour lifetime, or even the boost to 3,500 hours in Eco mode, isn't impressively long, it's enough longer than the more typical 2,000 hours to make a difference. At $499 list per lamp, even one fewer lamp used over the life of the projector contributes to a lower total cost of ownership and one less climb up the ladder to replace a lamp.

All told, the Sony VPL-FH35 is an impressive choice, with lots of good points, no serious shortcomings, and not even many minor issues to detract from its strengths. Quite simply, it's a bright projector with a high resolution, a high quality image, and a more than reasonable price. If you need a projector for a large conference room or small auditorium, count it as a strong contender.

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Sony VPL-FH35 projector page.

Comments (2) Post a Comment
alfredo Posted Aug 21, 2012 9:15 PM PST
hi!, which projector can i use to madmapper software,, i want to use in massive partys,, thanks!!!
Shyam pranami Posted Sep 24, 2012 3:15 AM PST
Very good projector i like

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