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Sony BRAVIA VPL-VW90ES 3D Home Theater Projector

Ease of Use
Intended Use:
Home Theater
Sony VPL-VW90ES Projector Sony VPL-VW90ES
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Street Price: n/a
3D: Full HD 3D
Weight: 26.5 lbs
Aspect Ratio:16:9
Lens:1.51x manual
Lens Shift:H + V
Lamp Life:n/a
Lamp Cost:n/a
Warranty:3 year
Connectors:  S-Video, Composite, Component, VGA In, HDMI (x2), Network, USB, RS232, 12-Volt Trigger
Video Formats:  480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p/60, 1080p/24, 1080p/50, 576i, 576p

Sony has been making high-quality 1080p projectors for years, but the VPL-VW90ES is their first foray into 3D. This SXRD projector (Sony's marketing brand for their implementation of LCOS) features a bright, smooth, film-like image in 2D with contrast to spare. In 3D, the picture is attractive, but image size must be kept small due to brightness limitations. An MSRP of $9,999 puts the VPL-VW90ES in a higher price bracket than many home theater projectors, and while its 2D performance has some advantages over lower-priced models, 3D still has some growing pains.

Applications / Best Uses

The VW90ES is a high performance home theater projector, built for use in a darkened theater environment where its deep black level can be appreciated. It is a large projector finished in glossy black and shaped a bit like a flying saucer--wide, flat, and rounded at the edges. At 26.5 pounds, it can be installed by one person working alone, though ceiling mounting is always easier with a friend in tow.

The projector's lens adjustments are all powered. The 1.6:1 zoom lens allows you to put up a 120" diagonal image from 12' 2" to 18' 5". It also has powered horizontal and vertical lens shift, allowing 2.25 image heights of total vertical range and a bit over 50% of the image width in horizontal movement. The range on these adjustments is wide enough to allow mounting in a variety of situations, from ceiling mounts to rear shelves to a tucked-away installation under a low table. In any installation, but especially rear shelves and table mounts, one must take care to ensure adequate ventilation. Air intake comes from the projector's rear as well as the front panel directly underneath the lens, while exhaust is expelled from the front left and front right panels. Enclosing the projector too tightly can obstruct airflow or force hot exhaust back through the projector's intake vents which can lead to overheating and premature lamp failure.

Let's talk about the image itself for a moment. When viewing 2D content, the VW90ES has a wonderfully bright, high-contrast picture. Highlights are bright and sparkling while black levels are so deep as to be nearly imperceptible. At one point during the review, we mistakenly left the VW90ES running overnight because we could not tell that it was still on, so deep was its black and so quiet was the fan noise. Color, even at defaults, is calibrated well enough for casual use; however, the typical consumer buying a $10,000 projector is probably not interested in "casual use." Calibration was a breeze, and the end result was a projector with nearly-perfect reproduction of every shade of the rainbow. The picture is sharp and clear enough to really show off the details of 1080p HD content.

3D is a different story. All projectors using active shutter glasses lose at least 50% of their overall light output when viewing 3D, but some lose more than others--50% is a minimum figure. The VW90ES goes from having a very bright picture in 2D cinema mode to having a very dim one as soon as 3D is put on screen. Color saturation takes a hit as well, making colors appear dull as opposed to bright and vibrant. To combat this, we did three things: switched to Standard mode, increased color saturation by 10-15 points, and reduced the size of the image. By the time we reached about 60" diagonal, the image seemed bright enough for extended viewing.

This introduces another problem; namely, the projector cannot display both a 120" diagonal and a 60" diagonal image from the same mounting location, since it only has a 1.6:1 lens. If you use the lens' widest angle setting to display your 120" picture, the smallest you can make the image without moving either projector or screen is 80". If you plan to watch a lot of 3D, then, a better plan of action is to install a 100" diagonal screen for 2D viewing and use the lens' wide angle setting, so that the telephoto end of the lens will allow for a smaller 60" diagonal picture. This discards some of the advantage of having a bright 2D Cinema mode, but this might represent the best compromise available.

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Review Contents: Applications Advantages Additional Advantages Limitations
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Comments (6) Post a Comment
Mike Posted May 20, 2011 12:24 PM PST
Can you shoot the Sony VW90ES out with the new Sharp XVZ 17000, and provide the results. Particularly concerning 3D content. Thx.
Theo Posted May 29, 2011 1:56 AM PST
For 60" 3D it's better to use LED TV. Cheaper too...
Sunil Dubey Posted Jun 26, 2011 12:27 PM PST
Plzzzzzzzzzzzzz tell me does it show 2d media also without glass or it only show 3d??? do we have to use goggles always or 2d and 3d mode is switchable...??? Kindley mail me the answer plzzzzzzzzzzzz my id is
nibour Posted Jul 6, 2011 9:55 PM PST
Yes Sunil, VPL-VW90ES can be used for 2D projection. It is in the menu to swtich between 2D & 3D.
Lee Posted Aug 26, 2011 5:39 AM PST
This website is much appreciated. Right now I have the Sony VPL-HS20 in my Home Theatre room which I got in 2004. That was when it was the best though, I assume, it no longer is. I'd really like to get a very good 3D projector yet your appreciated results indicate the brightness falls quite a bit when turned from 2D to 3D. And yet, I see that: "Sony tells us that new 3D glasses will be released in July that increase 3D brightness. We will be anxious to see what effect the new glasses will have on both brightness and cross-talk.

Now that it's nearly September, were you able to see if the 3D glasses increased the brightness? Finally, because I know things improve, when do you think one will be built by Sony that is REALLY good?

Hope to hear from you soon. Can you email me your reply please?

jim Posted Nov 28, 2011 7:09 AM PST
I have the Sony VPLVW90ES in a box and am ready to mount it. (got it new for the same price of the new Epson 6010 I was going to purchase.) I use the projector in my theater exclusively for film. 3D is a low priority for me--a novelty.

My question is: Should I keep the Sony or return it and get the Epson 6010

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