As many here know I have now had three different projectors in the past three weeks. Is the third time the charm? If you have read my reviews in the past you probably are aware that I usually cut to the chase or let the cat out of the bag early. Why stop now? The Sony VPL VW85 is without a doubt the best projector I have had to date. I got that "next level" feeling from the first minute I turned it on. I started with a Blu ray title and when the FBI warning screen came up (pic below) I knew something looked special. I also included a pic of the Terminator 3 title screen below. My words in this review will not do the VW85 justice. Neither will my screen shots. The letters looked so clear and "outstanding" (like floating in the air) I found myself excited anticipating what the green preview screens would look like. How sick is that? Simply put it is all in the resolution. So what else does the VW85 have to offer?
The Remote...I usually discuss it later but it deserves a shout out now. It lights up blue which is very easy to read with the black letters on the command buttons. If you are like me and always wanted direct input selection (on the Sony pjs) there is good news and bad news. The bad news, it still does not exist. The good, when you hit input on the screen appears a list of the input options which you can select by scrolling up and down. It actually works nicely. You do get direct access to Gamma, Black Level, Advanced Iris, Color Space, Color Temp, Film Projection and my favorite (for sports) Motion Enhancer (120Hz). You also get RCP (Real Color Processing) , Wide (Aspect Ratio selections) and an ADJ PIC command. The ADJ PIC is nice because it gives quick access to all the commands in a smaller box in the corner of your screen. Let's not forget the Cinema 1, 2, 3, Standard, Dynamic and User picture modes. At the bottom of the remote there is Sharpness, Brightness and Contrast selections. Perfectly put in the center is the directional pad, Menu and Lens options. And if you own a Sony Blu ray player you can control it using this remote! How slick is that? The VW85's remote feels good in your hand and all the buttons are placed in ideal locations.
Features and Adjustments... The VW85 is not in need when it comes to these. You name it, its got it! I was thrilled to see that it has one of my favorites from the VW200. Blanking really does come in handy if you are like me and want it perfect. Being able to block out the edges of the image will allow for perfect image placement. And like the 200 is allows very little (like 1/2 inch) incremental steps. The JVC models I just reviewed only allowed 2.5% and 5% options which were to much for my needs. The VW85 has 11 different Gamma settings (including Off) you will be able to "tweak" to your liking. I was really happy to see that each Gamma option has the ability to select black and white level sliders. More on white later. There is also color space settings, Sony's Real Color Processing (their light version of a Color Management System) and of course Panel Alignment (allows the adjustment of gaps in the color of characters or the picture).
Motionflow and Film Projection... This would not be a complete review if I didn't bring these two features up. Sony's 120Hz/Motionflow is actually called Motion Enhancer. I love it for sports and this is the absolute best version to date. That includes the JVCs and Pannys (to name a few) which I have recently viewed. Sony's DFI (Dark Frame Insertion) is called Film Projection. Yes, it still makes the picture pretty dark and I only recommend Mode 3. I really like the extra "kick" it provides to the image. Football has never looked better (I recorded a couple games to test out) and I am planning my traditional football pics post for this Sunday. I included a couple below to wet your appetite.
Picture Modes... Cinema 3 out of the box seemed the most accurate. Though Cinema 1 was right there with it. They are close to the THX mode I just viewed on the JVC 950. I actually liked Cinema 1 (Gamma 6, Color Temp Middle and Color Space Normal) better. Cinema 2 is for digital content. I have not seen this accurate of color (out of the box) since my VW200. If anyone is worried about the color, don't be! Standard (with Gamma 6, Color Temp Middle and Color Space Wide 1) was a great "medium" for watching programs like Dexter and Supernatural. There is also a User Mode which allows for your own settings. Dynamic is the "sweet spot" for football. The VW85 is worth it alone for sports. Using Motion Enhancer (on High) with DFI (Mode 3) seemed to be the perfect fit. This pure eye candy recipe consisted of using Gamma 9, Color Temp High and Color Space Wide 3. Let's not forget the DVDO DUO video processor sending in 1080p/60 at PC level. Wow! The colors on the uniforms and the helmets were jaw dropping. The green grass looked very detailed (even during a play). The amount of clarity with image depth never failed to amaze me. The VW85 offers the best yet for sports hands down!
Cinema Black Pro... Sony has the Lamp Control (High or Low) and the Advanced Iris options here. Speaking of Iris I have to say in Auto 1 (on Recommended) I saw absolutely no pumping. Blacks looked very deep, solid and consistent. Whites were so real and bright it made it seem as though we were looking out a window. I was told Sony did some work with its UHP lamp and its light path on the VW70. They have been working on improving colors and white level using a UHP lamp. Since then they have really made some advancements on the 85 because it is as close to the Xenon lamp in my VW200 as I have seen. Sony calls it an Ultra-Bright 200 W UHP lamp. I will say the brightness reminded me of the JVC 550. If I were drawing comparisons (which I am) I would say it has the 950's nice contrast, accurate color and deep blacks but maintains the 550's brightness. The 85 stands out because of its brilliant whites, deep blacks and tremendous depth of image.
The Looks... I think the VW85 looks like a smaller version of the 200 with its blue specs on its black body. Sony calls it Midnight Sky Black! And of course they're shaped very similar. I think it is a looker (nice silver trim around the lens) but I do miss the lighted Sony logo on the 200. Still though, it is much smaller in size and lets off a lot less heat! It should also be noted the that the 85 is very quiet and with the sound at a minimum level I can't even tell it is on. The motorized lens cover is not nearly as loud and alarming as the JVCs. Not that it is a deal breaker either way. On its side there is a small compartment (hidden nicely) that opens slowly by pushing a little button next to it. Inside it contains menu and set up buttons just in case you lose your remote. Being hidden like that adds to the classy look!
Compalints... A couple. I HATE that "Do not look into the lens" warning sticker on the side of Sony projectors. They are always a pain to remove. Thanks the makers of Goo Gone! Also the Image Director CD which allows for even more Gamma Control via a laptop is not compatible with Vista 64 bit. Can Sony at least offer a version for us Vista suckers?
Viewing... So how is the VW85 at displaying motion? An absolute dream when compared to some of its competition. Slow pans were what they should look like. The resolution stayed perfect and the image stayed sharp and judder free. And that is even without Motion Enhancer and DFI on. I am also including a pic or two of the Toy Story 3 Trailer with Hamm (the pig) driving across the screen. Notice he looks fine unlike the JVC 550/950 (and previous JVC pjs). Of course some are not as sensitive to MBDP (Motion Blurs During Panning) and since it doesn't happen to often it is not a deal breaker by any means. Sony's Bravia scaling capability is very good. There is also noise reduction options (pic below). I plan to still use my DVDO DUO (since I am hooked on it) but even without I would be fine.
Set Up... Very easy... I like being able to hit the Lens command and then having the options for Focus, Zoom and Shift at pretty much the same time. Makes life easier! Took only a few minutes (with some slight blanking) to get it centered perfectly in my screen.
Blu ray... Wow, what else can I say? No matter what you watch it will look good. For example, Transformers 2 looked very good. Especially the tanned Megan Fox! So did Coraline. The amount of detail is incredible. Especially during the close ups. Check out the notepad pic! The Dark Knight's opening front panning scene was flawless (as shown in the pic below). Snow White has never looked better! T3 scared the you know what out of me! The VW85 has a very sharp picture and with its 120,000:1 Contrast (with the Adv. Iris 1 engaged) you can see it all with Blu ray. The LG BD390 streaming Netflix and Vudu looked terrific as well.
DirecTV... Excellent! The best I have seen it to date. Our TV shows are to lifelike. Seriously. We like Supernatural and Dexter and they tend to always have a lot of night scenes which the VW85 handled perfectly. Shadow details are very good and leave nothing to be desired. The HD movies looked nearly as good as Blu ray. In a blind test it would be hard to tell the difference. The Simpsons (pics below) looked fantastic. So did National Treasure 2 (pics below). And of course the two football pics below are with my settings above. They look phenomenal!
Video Games... Madden 10 looked incredible. I plan to include some screen shots of that soon. Other games looked terrific as well. It's amazing the amount of detail you can see in a well made game using an excellent projector.
What's next? If anything I have learned (this October) that we are truly at a pinnacle with 1080p. The only real chance at a night and day difference is with 4K projectors. Even then it will be quite the task to completely trump the latest gen of 1080p projectors. Any of these projectors I have reviewed will make anyone happy. I have tested my fair share of projectors over the past two years and I always find myself going back to my true love, the VW200. Not this time. The VW85's resolution won me over. That combined with everything else. This projector is a "tweaker's" dream! This is the first component that deserves to say "FULL HD 1080" on it. Blu ray titles look beyond it. DirecTV looks like Blu ray. Sony describes the VW85 as a true home cinema projector. I also would say it is a true home sports projector. With the VW85 there is absolutely no need to go to the movies or the game. It brings both to you!
I'd like to thank Craig Shumer of THEATERMAX for helping me get the VPL VW85 so quickly (like he did with the VW200). Who says you can't catch lightning in a bottle twice?
I'd also like to personally thank everyone for reading my reviews. I appreciate your support. I have now done four reviews in the past few weeks so I plan to take a little break. I will of course be around to participate in any discussion in the threads and as always just a PM away.
Oh and I almost forgot to thank my dog Rocco (pic below) who stayed near me during my entire view sessions...
Carada Masquerade Masking System
Vutec 120.5" Silverstar
DVDO Iscan Duo Video Processor
Pioneer 09FD Blu ray player
LG BD390 Blu ray player
Onkyo TX-NR1007 Receiver
B&K 200.7 AMP
DirecTV HR21 Pro
Harmony 1100 Remote