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9/10

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Sony Bravia VPL-VW40 SXRD Home Cinema Projector

In case you hadn't noticed, the home cinema projection market is no longer just about a straight face-off between DLP and LCD technologies. There's also JVC's rather impressive D-ILA technology to consider, as well as the similar SXRD system from Sony.

Typically, though, neither D-ILA nor SXRD technologies have been able to compete with their LCD/DLP rivals at the lower priced end of the market. Until now, at least, for sat politely on our projector stand is Sony's brand new VPL-VW40, an SXRD projector yours for the decidedly unprincely sum of £1,905. That's over five grand cheaper than the previous SXRD model we looked at, the VPL-VW200; which is all well and good, of course, so long as the inevitable compromises Sony has had to make to the VW40 in order to secure such an extreme price drop don't prove unbearable.
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The VW40 is not quite as glamorous to look at as its premium brother, it has to be said. Its ‘icy white' finish is less eye-catching than the VW200's sparkly blue. But the projector still employs the same unusual but attractive diamond shape, the finish is still high gloss, and the unit's footprint is quite a bit smaller, making it a much easier fit for the average living room.

Connectivity, meanwhile, is respectable enough. Two HDMIs lead the way, with support from a D-SUB (VGA) PC input, a component video input, S-Video and composite video inputs, and a 12V trigger jack for kick-starting a motorised screen.

One of the chief benefits of SXRD technology is that it manages to cram huge amounts of pixels into a very small space. So it's no surprise to find the VW40 sporting a full HD resolution from three SXRD panels. What's more, with the help of Sony's Advanced Iris 2 feature, which reduces the light let through the lens during dark scenes to improve black levels, the VW40 can deliver an impressive claimed contrast ratio of 15,000:1.

As always we have to remind you that dynamic iris systems like that used by the VW40 do lead to reduced brightness in the image overall during dark scenes, and can lead to brightness ‘jumping' if the iris system isn't fast or ‘gentle' enough in its operations. But we've certainly seen plenty of cases where dynamic irises work very well, so we're not intending to prejudge anything about the one on the VW40.

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