Pros: 720p HDMI input, well balanced colors w/ minimal tweaking
Cons: Horrible Black levels, non-native 720p output, impossible to get pixel-perfect, no fix for overscan
The VPL-HS20 is a 768p projector that takes a 720p input signal natively. As hard as I try, I can not get the thing to take a 1:1 pixel mapping from my PC attached via HDMI or DVI. There is always around 5% cut off from each side of the image with no way to correct the overscan. There are only a few modes, and most are not useful at all. Some archaic PC input color modes are included for the DVI input.
The VPL-HS20 can take a sony memorystick and display the photos stored on it directly. in 2013, hardly anything uses memorystick anymore so this is mostly a useless function. It is actually even annoying when the projector turns on and decides to start in MemoryStick mode instead of the previously chosen input.
There are 2 light modes on the VPL-HS20, standard and dynamic. Standard works well in a light controlled environment, and dynamic can create a tolerable image with ambient light. In dynamic the colors get blow out of proportion and it is impossible to dial them back into sync.
The automatic Zoom and Focus are nice additions when initially setting up the projector. Filling the entire screen and getting the focus correct was easy using the remote. The Keystone correction is difficult to use, and I could never get it dialed in 100% correctly.
There is no user available color management system to tweak the colors.
The menus are very basic, and easy to understand. Since there very few features to configure, it is easy to navigate.
Selecting inputs is pretty antiquated. There is no way to directly access a desired input. Instead of pressing HDMI or DVI or something like that, you must cycle through each input till you get to your desired one. This totally kills automated activities on my harmony remote.
I am projecting on a wall painted with eggshell white cabinet and trim paint from Sherwin Williams with a black frame around it. With the lower resolution of the Sony, this does not cause any issues.
The color balance on this projector is pretty amazing given its age. Using the colored cellophane strips along w/ the DVE calibration disk, it was very easy using the basic controls to get the color almost spot on. Skin tones are fantastic, all other colors blend well together. Since the projector is not all that bright, it requires the light in the room to be well controlled. In the best circumstances, the colors really pop, but add in any ambient light and the image fades fast.
Even though the projector is 768p and only accepts a 720p signal, 1080p blurays look pretty sharp. There is an easily noticeable difference between bluray and dvd
On the flip side, the black levels on the VPL-HS20 are terrible. In a totally black room, if I hold my hand in front on the projector to create a shadow on the screen, the brightness of "black" from the projector look more like 20% grey. This limits the VPL-HS20's ability to handle dark scenes. The end of Zero Dark Thirty was almost unwatchable due to the lack of contrast.