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What's the best Home Theater projector?

Evan Powell, November 1, 1999
(NOTE: This report originally posted on 11/1/99. Formal review of this projector will be posted shortly. Actual performance of this product may or many not meet original expectations.)

Hardly a day goes by that we don't receive calls and emails asking for help on selecting a home theater projector. In the past we've been happy to point out several units that are the best video performers. However, our answer for right now is WAIT. Don't buy anything until you see the new Sony VPL-VW10HT that is scheduled for shipment next month.

Here's the scoop. The 10HT, on paper, looks like it could be a major leap forward in price/performance in digital home theater projectors. Sony revealed this new product for the first time at the CEDIA convention in September. It is scheduled to ship in December.

Before we go any further, we must say this: we have not tested this product. We cannot recommend it until we have a chance to evaluate it in our labs. Our only advice right now is to wait a few weeks and see it when it hits the market. It may be worth the wait because on paper it's a winner in the spec wars.

Real 16:9 format in the LCD panels

The single most distinguishing feature of the 10HT is its XGA vertical resolution panels in 1366 x 768 pixel format, which is native 16:9. What this means to the consumer is simple: video sources in 1.78:1 widescreen format can be displayed in full widescreen presentation, without top/bottom black bars, and without a compromise of the maximum resolution possible from the LCD panels. There are no other LCD or DLP projectors on the market with a native widescreen format, other than Sony's original experiment with this format, the VPL-W400Q.

Preliminary information on this product includes a claim that, due to an extended exhaust path built into the projector, the fan noise has been reduced to "whisper quiet." If so, this would be a significant step forward for digital projectors intended for home theater use.

On paper, the price/performance of the new Sony is remarkable. For example, compare the published specifications for this unit with one of this year's most popular home theater projectors, the Dream Vision DL500:

 

Sony VPL-VW10HT

Dream Vision DL500

 Resolution

1,366 x 768

800 x 600

Pixels

1,049,088

480,000

Native format

16:9

4:3

Display type

3-panel LCD

1-chip DLP

Light Output

1000 ANSI lumens

600 ANSI lumens

Component Video Inputs

Yes

No

MSRP

$6,990

$6,499

In short, the 10HT offers double the number of pixels on the screen, a much higher resolution 16:9 image, almost double the light output, and progressive component video inputs, for roughly the same price tag as the Dream Vision.

If the 10HT actually delivers a quality picture in operation, it will create a new benchmark for projector price/performance in the Home Theater market.

Once again, we have not tested this product, so we can make no recommendation to buy at this time. We can only say that if we were about to spend $7,000 on a home theater projector, the specs on the VPL-VW10HT are dramatic enough that we'd wait to see it in live operation before making any final decisions.

Sony VPL-VW10HT Specs and Photo
Dream Vision DL500 Specs and Photo