Sony VW50 1080P SXRD Projector
  • Performance
  • 3.5
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value
$3,499 MSRP Discontinued

Sony made a big splash at the CEDIA trade show in September with the announcement of the Sony VPL-VW50. This is Sony's newest 1080p resolution projector featuring their proprietary SXRD technology. The biggest draw was the price tag--a mere $4,999, which makes it one of the two 1080p projectors to come to market this fall below the $5,000 price point. Reactions to the CEDIA demonstrations were mixed, and we were anxious to get our hands on it to see what it was really capable of. To sum it up in one sentence: the VW50 has outstanding black levels, color saturation and contrast, but the image is softer than we'd like to see from a 1080p resolution projector. Whether this projector is right for you will depend on your willingness to give up some image sharpness for increased black level and contrast. For us, 1080p resolution is all about maximum sharpness and detail, so this is not a trade-off we'd want to settle for. But if deep blacks and maximum color saturation are performance factors you value most, then the VW50 is a projector you will not want to miss.


ANSI lumens: 900

Contrast (full on/off): 15,000:1

Light Engine: 1920x1080, native 16:9, 0.6" three-chip SXRD, with a 200W UHP lamp.

Video Compatibility: 1080p/60/50/24, 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i. NTSC/PAL/SECAM.

Connection Panel: Two HDMI, one 15-pin VGA, one 3-RCA component input, one s-video, one composite, one 12V trigger, one wired remote port.

Lens and Throw Distance: 1.72:1 power zoom/focus lens with vertical powered lens shift. Throws a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 10.1' to 17.5'

Lamp Life: Unpublished.

Warranty: Two years.

General Impressions / Feature Set

Physically speaking, the VW50 is the largest of the new low-cost 1080p projectors we've seen this fall. It weighs 24.5 lbs and has a footprint of 15.6" in width by 18.6" in depth. The top of the stylish case is all white, with a SONY logo in subdued silver. It has a clean, elegant look and despite its size it will appear unobtrusive if ceiling mounted against a white ceiling.

However, with the VW50's combination of long throw distance and somewhat restricted lens shift, ceiling mounting may not be the best option. The unit features a motorized 1.72x zoom lens that makes it capable of throwing a 100" diagonal image from as far back as 17.5 feet (throw distance is always measured from front of the lens to the screen). So in many average sized home viewing rooms, the long zoom range will allow for easy rear-shelf placement.

Meanwhile, the powered vertical lens shift is limited to a range of almost two picture heights. In neutral position the centerline of the lens intersects the center of the projected image. From that point, the projected image can be raised or lowered a total of almost 50% of its height, so that the centerline of the lens at maximum offset will intersect close to the top or bottom of the image. This variance is more than ample for most rear-shelf mounting situations. However, if the unit is ceiling mounted, the lens shift may not provide enough of a downward projection angle to get the image low enough on the wall. In that event, a drop extension tube is the only solution. Tilting the projector and using keystone adjustments to correct the trapezoid is not recommended under any circumstances, as it will force a rescaling of native 1920x1080 video. That is something you absolutely do not want to do on a 1080p projector if you want maximum image definition from 1080p sources.

There is no horizontal lens shift movement, so the projector must be placed on a projection line that is perpendicular to the center of the screen.

The connection panel and controls are on the projector's right-hand side panel, assuming you are behind the projector and facing the screen. This helps in particular with rear-shelf mounting; since the projector is already 18" deep, a shelf that is deeper that the average bookcase is required to mount it. However, you don't need too much additional clearance at the rear for cable connections.

The exhaust vents are on the front corners, and they direct exhaust to the front and away from the light path. This is another feature that makes the projector more "rear-shelf friendly" since there is no heat build-up to the rear of the unit. The VW50's air filter needs to be cleaned every month or so. It is located on the underside of the front casework just below the lens. It is designed in a manner that allows the filter to be removed and reinserted without having to take down the projector from a ceiling mount, and it is particularly easy to access when the projector is on a shelf.

Since this projector has a long zoom lens, its lumen output will depend in part on where you install it. If it is installed as close to the screen as possible so that the zoom is in its widest angle setting, lumen output is maximized for all operating modes. If the projector is moved back so that the zoom lens is set to its longest throw distance, lumen output for all operating modes is reduced by 25%. Ceiling mounting will let you position the projector closer to the screen and allow you to use the brighter end of the zoom lens. Since the VW50 is not one of the brighter home theater projectors on the market, this will be a factor to consider in deciding to ceiling mount vs. rear-shelf mount.

The VW50 uses Sony's SXRD technology, which is their proprietary version of LCoS. There is a separate reflective SXRD chip for each of the three color channels, so there is no spinning color wheel and hence no possibility of encountering color separation artifacts as there is on single-chip DLP projectors.

A widely recognized benefit of LCoS is the virtual elimination of pixel structure, and there is indeed no hint of pixel structure on the VW50. If you stare and the screen from just a few inches away, you can discern the presence of pixels, but they are absolutely invisible from any normal viewing distance.

The VW50 uses a 200W UHP lamp with a replacement cost of approximately $350. Sony does not publish an estimated lamp life. However, since lumen output degrades significantly over the course of a lamp's life, and since the VW50 is not exceptionally bright to begin with, we would anticipate the desire to replace the lamp every 1000 hours if we were to be using this projector in our permanent theater. The reason is that the lamp can be expected to lose at least 25% of its brightness in the first 1000 hours of use. If we are spending $5,000 for the projector to begin with, the incremental expense of $350 every 1000 hours is not an onerous burden to keep it running at or near its peak performance. (This is true of many home theater projectors, not just the VW50). As with the air filter, the lamp housing is designed to allow replacement of the lamp without taking down the projector from a ceiling mount.

The VW50 is an exceedingly quiet projector. Rated at 22dB in high lamp mode, the audible noise that is produced by the projector is very low in pitch. From anything more than a few feet away, you may not even notice that the projector is on.


Overall, when set up to get the best image possible, the VW50 is capable of delivering a dazzling, high contrast picture with extremely deep black levels. Color saturation is outstanding, and color balance is close to ideal. As noted previously, pixelation is non-existent. These performance factors combine to give the picture a rich, natural quality that is easy to enjoy for hours on end.

With the projector's supremely high contrast, one does not need an exceptional amount of lumen output to generate a satisfying picture. That is a good thing, because at video optimized settings most people will opt for, lumen output can drop to lower than average levels. The maximum lumen output we were able to measure on our test unit was 562 ANSI lumens. That was with the projector set to "Dynamic" mode (not ideal color), the lamp on full power, the zoom lens set to its widest angle position, and lens shift set to neutral.

From that starting point, lumen output can be curtailed in any of several ways. As noted previously, using the telephoto end of the zoom range will cut lumen output by 25%. Switching to low lamp mode reduces light output by 35%. Switching from Dynamic to video-optimized Cinema mode reduces light output by 28%. Moving the lens shift from neutral position to maximum offshift up or down reduces light output by 5%. So as you experiment with combinations of these various options, the VW50 will produce anything from a reasonably bright 500+ lumens to well below 200 lumens.

Keep in mind that all of these measurements are with a fresh lamp. The lamp's lumen output will degrade by 50% over its usable life, which is why we expect many users to be replacing the lamp before it reaches the end of its usable life. Most users will probably prefer to use the full power lamp mode since a 35% cut in lumen output is a significant sacrifice on this particular projector. Fan noise is very low even with the lamp on full power, so there is no reason to opt for the low lamp mode to reduce the audible noise.

The bottom line is that the VW50 has an adequate amount of lumen power to deliver a beautiful high contrast picture in a dark theater. With color balance optimized and the lens in its long throw configuration from a back wall, the user should expect to net about 300 ANSI lumens out of the box. We would not go too large with the screen size, ideally keeping it to no more than about 100" diagonal. If you are viewing nothing but bright, high contrast source material, it will light up a 120" screen quite easily. But with a lot of darker standard definition material in the mix, users with larger screen sizes will find themselves wishing the projector was a bit brighter.

Contrast and black levels are two of the VW50's strongest attributes. With either HD or standard def material, black level was deeper than on any of the other new 1080p projectors we are currently evaluating.

The VW50 needed a minimum of color balancing to produce a pleasing image that read near 6500K across the grayscale. With a bit of fine tuning, we neutralized our test unit's slight greenish-yellow cast, and the result was balanced, natural color with excellent saturation. Brilliant color performance is one of the VW50's strongest suits, and we do not see another low-cost 1080p model that will outperform the VW50 in this area.

On-board deinterlacing is quite good, but it is not quite as comprehensive as that of other 1080p models in the same price range. Nevertheless, there is not much to complain about here. There were occasional artifacts in challenging material, but on the whole there is no serious deficiency. Deinterlacing has gotten very much better on digital projectors across the board over the last two years, and it is becoming less of a distinguishing performance factor among the better home theater projectors.

The most noteworthy flaw in the VW50's image quality is that it is softer than the competition. We noticed this in the demos at CEDIA, and were discouraged to find the same problem in our production unit. In our view, the primary rationale for investing premium dollars for 1080p resolution is to get the sharpest picture possible. If you don't care about maximum clarity and detail, one of the new 720p projectors for 1/3 the price will deliver most HD source images with close to the same high resolution quality as the VW50. We do not know the source of the softness in the image--it could be the lens, something inherent in the SXRD chips, something in the video processing, or some combination thereof. But the fact is that other 1080p products in this same price range are able to deliver noticeably sharper images, both with SD and HD material.

That is not to imply that the VW50 looks blurry. It does not. It will deliver a supremely watchable picture that looks clear enough on its own. Its lack of image acuity becomes most apparent when you place it side by side with other 1080p models and feed them pristine 1080p material from HD DVD or Blu-ray. It is only with such a comparative demo that the VW50 owner would ever become aware that his/her projector was not resolving the full detail in the source.

Finally, the VW50 exhibits an average level of image noise, especially with standard definition but to a smaller degree with HD as well. When sitting at 1.5x the screen width or greater this is not a particularly visible artifact. The VW50 does have a noise reduction circuit, but setting it too high will further reduce image sharpness.


The Sony VPL-VW50 is a solid 1080p projector that offers beautiful color saturation, contrast, and black level as its most noteworthy advantages over the competition. However, it basically offers the consumer two trade-off propositions, neither one of which is particularly appealing. The first is that along with the beautiful color saturation and contrast you give up some sharpness and detail that is available from other 1080p models. Accordingly, it is difficult to rate this model on our five star scale--if rated on sharpness alone it would get two stars in performance (remember, our 5-star system rates a projector against others in its same resolution class). But if rated just on black level and color saturation it would get five stars. So we will average the two and call it 3.5 stars. It is up to the buyer to determine which of these are the most important factors in selecting a projector.

The second trade-off relates to ceiling mounting vs. rear shelf deployment. The relatively long throw distance potential and limitation in vertical lens shift argues for a rear shelf mount. However, the lumen output may be curtailed in that set up, and since video-optimized lumen output is not particularly high to begin with, we can see many users going for the ceiling mount in order to get the incremental brightness. This adds cost and complexity to the installation, not to mention the possibility of the projector being suspended in the middle of the room from a drop extension tube. But if you are going to ceiling mount anyway, it is a non-issue.

On a personal note, I feel strongly about the VW50 in two ways. It certainly produces a beautiful picture, and if you have not seen how razor sharp 1080p can really be, you probably will not sense any deficiency in sharpness on this projector. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching it in the theater, although with darker material I found myself fiddling with the adjustments to squeeze a few more lumens out of it. I am quite sure that many owners of the VW50 will be 100% satisfied with it. But since I have seen the competitive 1080p products, I find myself being aware that I am not seeing all the detail that is in the source.

From my perspective, maximum image sharpness is absolutely vital on a 1080p projector. After all, high resolution image detail is really what the user is paying the premiums dollars for. If you are considering a 1080p projector but are willing to compromise on HD image sharpness, then you should be looking at any one of the latest 720p projectors that are selling for one-third the price. They are capable of delivering HD pictures that are very close to matching those of the VW50. On the other hand, if you are not willing to compromise on image sharpness, then check out some of the other new low-cost 1080p projectors coming to market this fall before making a final decision. In the end you might find that the VW50 is plenty sharp enough for you, and its rich blacks and gorgeous color saturation are deciding factors in its favor. As long as you know your options, you will be able to buy with confidence.

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Sony VPL-VW50 projector page.

Comments (41) Post a Comment
borromini Posted Nov 11, 2006 6:30 AM PST
Disapointed about the reported lack of sharpness on this model. The Mitsu sounds like a better 1080p PJ.
kabalah70 Posted Nov 13, 2006 10:35 PM PST
Get with the program Projector Central. You mention nothing about whether it is HDMI 1.3 or not. I mean come on. I know so many people, including myself that are waiting for 1.3.
braggi Posted Nov 16, 2006 9:55 AM PST
"Disapointed about the reported lack of sharpness on this model. The Mitsu sounds like a better 1080p PJ."

don't you beleave it. i am 64 wear glasses to see things sharp. the sony vpl vw50 looks very sharp without glasses.great detail and colors galore. hd dvd's, hd and standard satellite viewing is supurb. when watching dvds i have seen many times their are details on this projector that were never noticeable before. this is a hi-tek projector.
braggi Posted Nov 18, 2006 9:49 AM PST
more 2 cents worth! my experiance with the vpl vw50. the advanced iris seems to make the picture a little soft in mode 1 and mode 2. this may be the reason it looked soft compared to other 1080p projectors. to make the picture as sharp as possible....go to the cinema black pro setting for any picture preset... ( standard, cinema, dynamic, etc) ... click to the manual setting ...then slide the adjuster to "max". then adjust the sharpness,contrast, brightness controls to your liking. i found this procedure will sharpen the picture quality from any source. i don't know why sony didn't explain this in the manual.
chans Posted Nov 27, 2006 6:16 PM PST
"more 2 cents worth! my experiance with the vpl vw50. the advanced iris seems to make the picture a little soft in mode 1 and mode 2. this may be the reason it looked soft compared to other 1080p projectors. to make the picture as sharp as possible....go to the cinema black pro setting for any picture preset... ( standard, cinema, dynamic, etc) ... click to the manual setting ...then slide the adjuster to "max". then adjust the sharpness,contrast, brightness controls to your liking. i found this procedure will sharpen the picture quality from any source. i don't know why sony didn't explain this in the manual."

this is interesting. can Projectorcentral try this and see? i would imagine that it could change the review all together.
nman Posted Dec 4, 2006 5:36 AM PST
I could not pinpoint the image softness issue as indicated in the review.

Did turn on the noice reduction to low to smoothen out low light scenes. Overall the images looked more "cinema" like without any of the harshness expected in a digitized video source.

Had never seen so much details with any other display. This projector seems to get the best out of my faroudja DCDi equipped DVD player.
braggi Posted Dec 12, 2006 10:55 AM PST
most people love the sony vpl vw50. i sure do. it gives plasma a run for the money. then along comes mr. "real opinion" who runs it into the mud. what are you using for a screen a shower curtain, a $2.89 generic hdmi cable. did you have the focus on blur? even the blind guy up the corner said hd dvds and standard dvds look awesome on this projector also hd sat channels. i hope the sony tech takes good care of you.
Atropos Posted Dec 13, 2006 9:51 AM PST
"most people love the sony vpl vw50. i sure do. it gives plasma a run for the money. then along comes mr. "real opinion" who runs it into the mud. what are you using for a screen a shower curtain, a $2.89 generic hdmi cable. did you have the focus on blur? even the blind guy up the corner said hd dvds and standard dvds look awesome on this projector also hd sat channels. i hope the sony tech takes good care of you."

Well, sounds like someone's not happy.

The guys said the projector was soft IN COMPARISON TO OTHER 1080P PROJECTORS. Did you miss that? Have you seen other 1080P projectors? Or are you just angry that they have an opinion?

It's generally accepted that LCoS (or in this case SXRD) is a bit softer than LCD. Get over it.
braggi Posted Dec 15, 2006 4:13 AM PST
with 115 posts you must be a real authority! if you read my review you would not have asked me these questions. point you missed is the right screen and bettercables reference hdmi can overcome any soft looking picture on any type projector. again this combination has showen me a plasma looking picture from any source. pc states give the pj some time before posting a review and start smearing!
braggi Posted Dec 19, 2006 5:13 AM PST
quote from...Shane C. Butler's review's pearl hasen't simply demonstrared that it's the best projector i've ever seen for five grand, it's definitly the best projector i've seen for less than ten grand and maybe more. blacks and contrast on this pj simply can't be trumped by anything currently out there at any price. read it at their website.
sean2112 Posted Dec 31, 2006 9:05 PM PST
Another point that the UltimateAVMag article made was that the Sony can look significantly softer than the competition if its Overscan function is set to "On", which is apparently the default. Can the reviewer comment on which setting the Overscan function was set to during the review?
real opinion Posted Jan 8, 2007 10:09 AM PST
"most people love the sony vpl vw50. i sure do. it gives plasma a run for the money. then along comes mr. "real opinion" who runs it into the mud. what are you using for a screen a shower curtain, a $2.89 generic hdmi cable. did you have the focus on blur? even the blind guy up the corner said hd dvds and standard dvds look awesome on this projector also hd sat channels. i hope the sony tech takes good care of you."

Yes, I bought a $6000 projector and am displaying it on my newly painted wall with RCA cables! No really, for the others that think I am stupid, I am running Monster 400 hdmi cables with a Monster power filter bar and on a $2000 Grandview screen. The Tec came and did agree with me in the softness but he said that there is nothing he could do for me "Sorry". That's it. I guess we all can't be as smart as "braggi". Plasma looking, NO WAY! Still VERY disappointed in Sony.
junior1954 Posted Jan 28, 2007 11:46 AM PST
Hi All

I just bought the Pearl and couldn't be happier with it. I've had a 73" Mitsubishi rear projection 1080i for about 4 years and love it, but the Pearl blows it away. I use a 110" diagonal Stewart Filmscreens Firehawk SST, which was designed in collaboration with Sony specifically for the Pearl and use a Sunfire TGR-3 receiver hooked up with a high quality HDMI cable. With a little "tweaking", the Pearl produced superb black levels, color saturation and accuracy, contrast and sharpness. The picture just looks real, like a window to the world-I forget I'm watching a reproduciton of the actual image and get drawn into the picture, which almost seems 3 dimensional.

In my opinion,for the money, nothing comes close to it, the closest being the Ruby, the Sony VPL-VW100, which costs twice as much (I paid $3200. for the Pearl), has slightly more light output and slightly better color accuracy. The Ruby's lamp also costs three times that of the Pearl (about $250. street for the Pearl's) and both need to be replaced every 1000-1500 hours.

For me, the Pearl represents front projection finally becoming affordable; it has exceeded my expectations.
dukedallas Posted Jan 29, 2007 8:20 PM PST
Incredible projector, I too am using a 110 inch screen. I just purchased it, and I found the post by braggi really helpful with fine tuning the color settings. When you watch HD broadcast it looks almost 3D!!!! Thanks for the help braggi!!!
braggi Posted Jan 31, 2007 5:21 AM PST
Hey thats great! Enjoy guys! .. More info the vpl-vw50 was set up to display 1080p @ 60 frames per second and 24 frames per second. The 24fps is how the movies are shown in theaters! I have the Toshiba A-1 HD player which does 60fps only. The Sony bdp-s1 Blu-ray player displays 60fps and direct 24fps also. Not many projectors can display 24fps but the vpl-vw50 can they are a matched pair Sony thought this all out. Now the Sony Blu-ray player just had a firmware upgrade to 1.50 to enhance various disc's, java,....and NOW older dvds are so sharp they look like HD in the direct 480i/24fps setting. Honest the eye candy is incredible! I like both HD DVD formats because once you are hooked on hi-definition you can't get enough! One thing i recommend to you.... try the Bettercables hdmi or component cables for the absolute sharpist picture it really makes a difference. I just bought three of their 3 meter Hdmi Reference Cables to hook up two HD dvd players and a Dish 411 satellite receiver into their 5 in 1 out hdmi switcher. A 8 meter for the output to the sony vpl vw50. The switcher enhances the digital signal from all it's inputs to your projector & their is no signal loss. Let me know how it's going this projector is exciting!!!!!!
braggi Posted Jan 31, 2007 5:35 AM PST
"Yes, I bought a $6000 projector and am displaying it on my newly painted wall with RCA cables! No really, for the others that think I am stupid, I am running Monster 400 hdmi cables with a Monster power filter bar and on a $2000 Grandview screen. The Tec came and did agree with me in the softness but he said that there is nothing he could do for me "Sorry". That's it. I guess we all can't be as smart as "braggi". Plasma looking, NO WAY! Still VERY disappointed in Sony."

Confucious say...You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink!! You have the best pj. Monster was big in the 70's & 80's new manufacturers have gone way beyond them. Trying to help not to be a wise guy but listen...try risk free 30 day money back if not happy their hdmi cable to what ever length you need remove all Monster products except the audio interconnects. Click on user 2 setting in the settings menu turn off cinema black pro.. set contrast to max... brightness to 62.. color 55...hue 50..color temp middle for close to 6500 degrees kelven. nr -off...dde.. film for dvds prog for sat or level adj..high...gamma off or try 1 or 3....also set rcp- off....color space wide...overscan off wide screen full..lens on. just try it. Honest HD DVDS 1080I ARE AWSOME,HD DISH 1080I AWSOME.
junior1954 Posted Feb 1, 2007 7:42 PM PST
I read one of the posts that talked about how adjusting V Keystone may correct trapezoid, but decreases resolution. I found that by playing with lense shift and manually tilting the projector, I could dial in the picture so that it was perfectly square, eliminating the need to adjust V Keystone (it would be nice if Sony told us that in the instructions). In my opinion, this projector was designed to be ceiling mounted, as the best "tilt" position for me was no tilt at all, but level.
Reidrock Posted Mar 9, 2007 12:17 PM PST
I'm really confused now. The review says "there is no horizontal lens shift movement" but on the Sony site it says it has. Can anyone with the Sony please tell me who is correct. I need to mount it slightly off-centre because of the position of a door so I don't want to order it until I know. If I can mount off-centre can anyone tell me how far. Thanks.
dukedallas Posted Mar 13, 2007 6:20 PM PST
There is no horizontal shift I know of. Only up and down.
junior1954 Posted Mar 22, 2007 11:20 PM PST
Maybe I'm using the wrong terminology-the lense shift moves the picture up and down on the screen. By manually adjusting the projector up and down, you can vary the trapezoid and minimize or eliminate having to use the Keytone adjustment. According to other posts, the closer to zero the Keytone adjustment, the higher the resolution. How far off center your projector can be and still get an acceptable picture is beyond my expertise, but the closer to center the better. Think of shining a flashlight on a wall at an angle-one side of the beam will be brighter and smaller than the other. Side to side adjustments of the projector are totally manual, done by pivoting the projector on its' mount. My projector is mounted on the ceiling and the center of the lense is approx. 18" above the center of the screen; it looks spectacular, so there must be some leeway on a horizontal plane as well. In my opinion, naturally centering a lense on a screen will eliminate the need to electronically compensate for trapezoid and maximize the quality of the picture, regardless of the projector. Some projectors may be able to compensate for off-center mounting electronically better than others, but I couldn't tell you which ones.
braggi Posted Apr 18, 2007 11:00 AM PST

braggi Posted Apr 18, 2007 11:19 AM PST
custom color settings on the pearl. click on color then custon settings 1. set gain RED to 1...BLUE to 2...GREEN to 2..........bias..RED to 1..GREEN to 2...BLUE to 2
D-Man Posted Jun 4, 2007 3:16 AM PST
Just wanted to share some tuning experience I had with PEARL over the past couple weeks. This is an upgrade journey, which has transformed a decent and well performing PEARL into cinema-quality performance, rivalling the best consumer market projection system regardless of price.

Right out of the box, PEARL is an impressive performer. Colours are saturated and vivid. Shades and dark levels are impressive…still a bit short of the CRT performance I am accustomed to. The 2ms refresh of the SXRD looks really great with fast-motion action materials. The PEARL does shows great potentials!

The built-in scaler (DRC2) in PEARL does a reasonably decent job with film-material; however the same cannot be said on is generally quite fuzzy. The internal scaler performance appears to be very sensitive to the video quality of the feed. I would say that the video performance of the PEARL, right out of the box, as impressive, acceptable for most (small sized screen projection) set-up and excellent value…but not quite high-end.

However, for large sized screen, a general sense of lack of sharpness appears. I am projecting on a 138” (1:1.85 aspect ratio) Stewart Ultramatte 150 THX-certified micro-perforated screen. Upon closer inspection (which is further confirmed by the subsequent upgrade exercise), it has indicated that this is neither attributed to the SXRD technology itself, nor the lens quality, but to do with the internal video signal processing and its transmission method deployed. At this point, it is vital for me to quantify that the general “lack of sharpness” occurred when PEARL was feed with video signals via the analogue component-video signal (at 480i/525i) AND when the internal scaler must be engaged to upscale the input signal to 1080p.

In summary, here are the critical upgrades applied: (1) To augment the video processing requirements, I have introduced the PixelMagic Crystalio-II (VPS-3800Pro) scaler. The main improvement here is the Gennum VXP broadcast grade video scaling performance.

(2) To preserve signal integrity and retain absolute control over all the 1920*1080 pixels on the SXRD panel, HDMI connection is used to avoid unnecessary D-to-A and A-to-D conversions (when coupled between the external scaler and PEARL). HDMI transmission is fine using copper conductors up to a few meters, but for any further distances, significant problem arises as the falling/rising edges of the signal is blurred. This is where optical fibre technology comes in. For this application a 100ft PureLink HDC series Fibre Optic HDMI cable is deployed to preserve the utmost signal integrity.

(3) To provide the Crystalio-II with the purist digital video feed, the DVD player has been modified with a PixelMagic SDI BT656ProKit. Comparisons between the SDI and HDMI feed between the DVD player and Crystalio-II has demonstrated the superior quality of the SDI. When SDI is deployed, significant improvement on the dark levels has enabled the deployment of 1.5 gain screen (as opposed to the 1.3 in StudioTek); colour purity and rendition has also been improved vastly.

With upgrade (1) to (3), the PEARL’s video performance is completely transformed. Any attempt to describe the improvements will be futile…as it will not do full justice to the actual projected image seen. Once has to experience this for oneself. Suffice to say, it is the MOST movie like experience, I have ever seen from a consumer video setup. In fact, the performance is so good that it has convinced me that it can finally replace the BARCO projector (with this, I have lived thru the evolution of 7", 8" and 9" CRT, with upgraded NORITAR full optical glass lens) I have been using over the decades.

In retrospect, another interesting point is to evaluate how critical each of the upgrade from (1) to (3) really are, in an attempt to see if the whole exercise can be ecnomized. Further experimentation to remove any item from (1) to (3) shows that all of them are on the critical path. Remove one, and you won’t get the same performance, which has complete swept me off my feet.

If one view the procurement cost of PEARL as purely for its light engine and SXRD panel, it is actually quite a bargain, considering how much the RUBY and Qualia004 are selling for. Technically, having the highest potentials in achieving the ultimate consumer video setup, the SXRD panels are certainly not to be missed, given that they have become so much more affordable over the years to most video fans.
dukedallas Posted Jun 4, 2007 11:07 AM PST
ok exactly how much is this gonna set me back? Sounds like about $3800 to me, kind of steep when I realize i paid $3200 for the vpl-vw50 in the first place. $3800 is a big chunk of cash.
D-Man Posted Jun 5, 2007 4:33 AM PST
Hi DukeDallas,

In regards to sourcing the upgrade components, here are the relevant links to:

The Crystalio-II. Product Info : Online shop:

SDI mod:

Purelink HDC-series Fibre Optics HDMI Product Info: Here is one of the many stores that sells this product :

You will likely to enjoy the upgrade process more if you perform the upgrade progressively, allowing time for yourself to experience the improvement each upgrade delivers.

If you approach your local PixelMagic dealer/showroom for a Crystalio-II demo, then more than likely that they already have a DVD player that has been modified with the SDI output. There is also a high probability that they will have one of the SONY SXRD projectors (Pearl, Ruby or Qualia004) for demo. The only missing item may be the HDC-series Fibre Optics HDMI cable (depending on how serious they really are in video quality). But you will get a general feeling of how good the Pearl (or any SXRD based projector) can be, after having experienced the demo.

Another point worth mentioning, if u decide to go with the Crystalio-II VPS3800Pro and use the internal 200GB HDD with its built-in media player, the result is almost identical to using a DVD player with SDI-mod. So maybe this can be an alternative approach to enjoying great looking video (assuming that most people will have access to PC with networking abilities). The sound from this unit is also excellent, as it utilizes a temperature compensated crystal oscillator and if your are using its analogue output, the Burr-brown Op amps and Analog Devices auto-upsample 24-bit/192kHz DACs.

Final point worth considering is comparing the acquisition cost of a good DLP projector, only just a year or two ago (or even now), such as the Marantz VP12S4, it will easily set you back US$11k. Having experience both, if you ask me now, this same amount would have achieve far more remarkable outcome if it was spent using the SXRD-based upgrade approach...but only if your ultimate objective is to bring "close-to" (because this is limited by the source material unless all of them are HD) movie-theatre video quality into your home theatre :) Another benefit with this combo is that you can now easily see the quality and limitations of the source material.
dukedallas Posted Jun 5, 2007 4:47 AM PST
Hey D-Man...Wow $3800 I was way off looks like over, $5000 for this upgrade, just the wire is $349 for 10ft...sorry man definately out of reach, I spent $350 on professional calibration and my pic looks fabulous, no way can I, or 90% of the people justify $5000 more of an investment...I'd rather save that $5000 for my kids college. If I were independently wealthy I definately would invest in your setup. Soon as the DVDO price comes down I may invest $1000 in that bad boy. Currently I can grab a DVDO VP50 on eBay for $1800. Thanks for all the info though, do you work for any of these compaines whose technologies you are mentioning? The Vpl-vw50 does really rock!!!
D-Man Posted Jun 7, 2007 6:28 AM PST
Hi DukeDallas,

I Agree. The PEARL rock! Even in its plain-vanilla, out-of-the-box form. One big plus with PEARL is that because the SXRD is based on inorganic material it would have an outstanding durability. And unlike DLP, which consists of moving parts, SXRD wouldn't suffer from imminent mechanical failure due to wear-n-tear. So u can keep using PEARL and make incremental upgrades slowly down the line, instead of constantly swapping for a new unit (without making signifant improvements). It is very reassuring to know that the "potential" is there to develop the performance of PEARL (when you so desire to do so), to rival the impact provided from a 4K Commercial Cinema projection system (actually PEARL setup might be slightly better here, considering its 1:15,000 contrast ratio and the distance you'll be viewing the unit. I typically sit 1H-1.5H from screen).

The short answer your question is NO, I don't have any affiliation with any of those companies mentioned. However, I do work in an industry which offers excellent tax incentives for acquiring ALL those mentioned items. This also includes the PEARL unit. It is somewhat unfortunate that in our industry that we have to spend before we can make any savings...does this make sense!?

Regarding the Crystalio unit, I first came across this unit at the BARCO agent. They were using the highly priced Faroudja Line scaler for demo for years. And due to BARCO's quality, they won't settle for anything but the best so I know that whatever they are using must be cutting-edge stuff...until one day, they introduced the Crystalio in their demo setup. With one view of the Crystalio-II picture, I am completely hooked...there is no turning back. The SDI mod which the BARCO agent was using together with the Crystalio unit probably also contributed greatly to its stella performance. It is indeed "Out Of The World"!

With regards to the Optical HDMI. This was an outcome from my relentless research made, out of sheer frustation I had with copper-based HDMI cable. At one stage, I was offered an option to go with a optical fibre DVI cable (another brand). However, this design is not self-powered and does not support HDMI after doing more research into what many Broadcast comapanies uses, I found this manufacturer. Pricing is certainly not cheap because they normally do commercial setup, yet when compared to other more exotic high-end cable, it is actually very reasonable. The reassuring fact is that it is currently best technology money can buy...this is why so many telecommunication and Broadcast companies are relying on their technology.

I trust that you will fully enjoy your investment in the PEARL unit for year to come, because I know I am (and will be). Hopefully as HID and UHP technology matures over time, we get even better and more reliable light sources for our PEARL units. Another interesting technology front is the rapid development of the high-intensity LEDs (Philps LUXEON). It would be interesting to see how soon they can bring out the 1,000lumen LED! Because with this brightness, one can easy build a small (3*3 or 4*4) array to replace the UHP light source, whilst saving on energy and achieving even better colour saturation (not that I am complaining about PEARL's performance) :)

Happy viewing!
chans Posted Jun 7, 2007 4:38 PM PST
D-man, this is good info.

how difficult is it to make the modification to the DVD player?

so what kind of BNC cable did you use between the DVD player and the Crystalio? or does that matter?
D-Man Posted Jun 8, 2007 3:46 AM PST
Chans, if you have decent soldering skills, and have done so to a PCB that is based on surface mount technology (SMT), then the estimated effort will be approx 2 hours all up. It is way more economical to do the SDI-mod yourself :)

Actually the prep-work takes the longest, around 1.5 hrs. This covers preparing the drill out for the BNC plug, stripping and pre-conditioning the leads with TEFLON wrap, regrouping the data wire leads into 2 flat and sequenced groups (taking into consideration how they can best approach the soldering points sideways, with least strain imposed on the soldering joints), have the clock leads rearranged in twisted-wire pair...etc. If u plan the approach really well, it will make the actual soldering job a lot easier. U can probably complete the actual soldering in 30 mins. Do take into consideration the thermal expansion effect after the soldering job is done (esp if u have took some measure to secure the ribbon cable down at certain points) and perform break-in run for a couple of hours (with cover on)...sometimes the solder joints may break loose after the cable has been expanded. Best to be sure.

The SDI-mod PCB has onboard LED and will lit up when +5V power is good and it manages to lock on to the external 27MHz clock signal feed, so this makes diagnostic way easier. And for the data lines, although having access to an oscilloscope will be nice, but this is not really necessary. I simply use a "Logic Probe" which can be easily attached to my multi-meter. The logic probe provides me with a good feedback (via a LED) when it detect a digital signal (rising/falling edge) on the line. U can quickly perform a sanity check on your soldering job via the ribbon cable prior to connecting it to the SDI board. Just use the logic probe on the ribbon cable (the crimped end of the cable toward the plug) as u operate the DVD player.

The main challenge is to find out where exactly to tap into the following signal/feed, on the PCB for your DVD player: 1. 27MHz clock signal / Gnd 2. +5V / Gnd 3. 8-bit raw digital video signal feed

If you use a popular DVD player, more than likely u will find this either from the Crystalio SDI Forum or on the net.

I used the same type of Serial-Digital Video cable the Broadcast company uses - Belden 1694A with Teflon dielectric, double-shield with outer braided shield. It works perfectly. Unfortunately for SDI u just can use any coaxial cable because of the special high-bandwidth requirements...u may get away with digital audio, but not for video. Other than the cable, another critical aspect is on the BNC plug. Do ensure that u get a very best quality BNC plugs (try to find ones which does not require any soldering), as the data bandwidth requirement for SDI is very high. With SDI cable, the most vital aspects are to choose the right cable with proper impedence, low capacitence (ensure the rising/falling edge does not get blurred) and excellent shielding. Just use what the pros use and u won't go wrong.

Good luck with your SDI mod :)
D-Man Posted Jun 8, 2007 6:45 PM PST
A minor correction to make on my previous comments on the SDI cable in use. I actually use a combination of Belden 1694A and 1695A for video signals. Both types are meant for SDI and are rated to 4.5GHz.

The particular one in use currently, which connects DVD player SDI-mod to Crystalio-II is the 1695A.

The differences between the two cables are mainly on the dielectric/jacket materials:

1694A (Dielectric: Gas-injected FHDPE - Foam HighDensity Polyethylene; Outer jacket: PVC; Nominal Attenuation of 3GHz at 100ft is 10.67db)

1695A (Dielectric: FFEP - Foam Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene / Teflon; Outer jacket: Flamarrest; Nominal Attenuation of 3GHz at 100ft is 13.7db)

Although Teflon is a good choice as a dielectric material due to its inertness and low-capacitance, note the slightly higher attenuation on the high-frequency range when comparing to FHDPE.

However, for the particular application in concern, the digital video signal is mainly SDTV (480i/525i), and the cable run length is very short (1m). So I preferred deploying the 1695A instead, as it is slightly stiffer and more resilent than the 1694A, and the cable's inner Teflon core couples better to the non-soldering BNC plugs in use.

For longer runs of video cable, I use the 1694A instead. I use this mainly for analogue video signal, which is progressively becoming a dying breed of application in my setup :P

Either way, both 1694A and 1695A are excellent choices for SDI application.
Victor Posted Jul 10, 2007 7:52 AM PST
I have installed my VW-50 this weekend to substitute my old HS-51 and the increase in the details is amazing. No more black crush, no more chicken wire and the color seems very accurate. I have found the article posted in "" more detailed and more helpfull with this projector. Regarding the softness, as I use a Denon-5910 with the Theranex chip, I have increased the detail control to +3 and have redialed the sharpness on the Sony to 0. My actual concern is about the black level of this projector. I am trying hard to get the same black level I used to get with the HS-51 despite the black crush it used to give me. My room is completely black with no ambient light. So, can anyone using this projector help me achieveing a good start regarding the picture control and color control to achieve a good image? I have left the contrast to 80 but increased the contrast in the 5910 to +1, dynamic iris set to Auto1, Color temp set to Custom1 leaving everything in 0. Anyone is using the Image Director software to obtain a better gamma curve? I need help from someone trying to squeeze everything from this projector.
Henrik Posted Jul 14, 2007 1:44 PM PST
Does anyone know if and when sony will release a follow-up to the vw50 or vw100?
OzHDHT Posted Jul 25, 2007 12:00 AM PST
"Does anyone know if and when sony will release a follow-up to the vw50 or vw100?"

Yes indeed. You should read AVSforums if you want to stay up to date on the new model and pre-release info for new A/V gear especially projectors.

The new Sony models will be the VW60 and VW200 respectively. I am hoping to see them tomorrow at a Sony product expo. I own the VW100, also a VW50 and a current gen 70" rear pro. I've found with pure 1080p video, which is primarly what I view, the VW50 does a better job in some respects then the older, yet dearer VW100. But out of both of those the 70" rear pro is the best PQ. It seems to have superior picture processing not available on either projector which allows definite picture detail enhancement without any negative side effects. My thoughts are that along with HDMI 1.3 and 120Hz display mode, the new projectors will feature similar picture enhancement features to the rear pros. I'm fairly certainly I'll replace the VW-50 with the new 60.
dukedallas Posted Aug 20, 2007 8:04 AM PST
Hey D-Man, do you have any experience with the DVDO VP50?
Rock Posted Nov 11, 2007 10:59 AM PST
I purchased the VPL-VW50 a few months ago. It's a great picture, but the brightness is a bit lacking. Now that the VPL-VW60 is coming out, it appears that they may have made improvements. To accomplish the increased brightness, is it the lamp, processing chipset, optics or all of the above? I'm now wondering, can I increase the brightness of the VW50 with an upgraded lamp replacement?
michael Posted Dec 9, 2008 6:26 AM PST
I have 1600 hours on my vplvw50 lamp.I have a VUtec silverstar screen,I am not that happy with the pic.Any suggestions??????
Lee Posted Dec 28, 2008 3:28 PM PST
Thanks in advance if anyone is able to reply. I have had the projector for about 18 months. Suddenly, the projector has stopped showing the color red ad red. It appears "brownish".

Also, sometimes, the projector will "shut off" within a few minutes of starting to run. This has happenened several times and on few occassions, it will shut off multiple times before finally "staying on" for good.

Any thoughts/feedback? Thanks
Lisa Posted May 23, 2009 1:30 PM PST
The VW50 (is poor) (edited) Its a clone of the HS20 minus the screen door effect and the black level is horrible and way on the muddy side. I have only read lies on this thing! I got one and messed with every adjustment but no matter what I did it was unwatchable. everyone that likes em is saying that to con you so they can sell there unit to you - I should too being after one night I re boxed it up to sale and they are not cheap just junk, Get the Mitsu and save money.
Vedat Posted Sep 7, 2012 2:20 AM PST
Does anybody know that Field Of View (FOV) for Sony vpl-vw50, thanks Vedat
Late to the Party Posted Jul 25, 2020 2:40 PM PST
D Man or anyone. I (in 2020) just got one of these White Pearl mainly for my industrial very dark bedroom. I’m gonna be throwing the projector about 15ft total darkness but what gain level screen do I buy?! What’s best for the Pearl low lumens? Help
Late to the Party Posted Jul 29, 2020 8:25 AM PST
D Man or anyone. I (in 2020) just got one of these White Pearl mainly for my industrial very dark bedroom. I’m gonna be throwing the projector about 15ft total darkness but what gain level screen do I buy?! What’s best for the Pearl low lumens? Help

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