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Sony Bravia VPL-VW40 SXRD Home Cinema Projector - Sony Bravia VPL-VW40
Not that the VW40 is entirely without any image processing, of course; in fact it's got both Sony's 24p True Cinema mode for enhanced Blu-ray playback, and Bravia Engine processing with its focus on improving colours, black levels, noise reduction, motion handling and detailing.
Firing up the VW40 with a Blu-ray of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, plus Grand Theft Auto IV from an Xbox 360 piped into it, I managed after a little picture feature tweakage to get the VW40 delivering really very impressive images indeed for its price point.
Probably the most consistent strength of SXRD technology is its sharpness, and that remains undamaged by the journey to under £2,000. The stunning levels of detail that illuminate the Apocalypto transfer from pretty much start to finish are rendered more or less immaculately by the VW40, as it reproduces every leaf of a long shot of the jungle setting, every pore on the actors' skin, and every face in the crowd at the Temple of Sacrifice.
What's more, it produces this outstanding amount of detail without adding any noise to the picture at all, be it grain or dot crawl. Any noise elements in the image - and there are one or two Apocalypto moments where the picture does look fizzy - are there in the source, as confirmed by running the same scenes through our reference JVC-HD100 projector. The VW40 is merely doing its job of showing every last thing in a source, good or bad.
I'm going to stay with this lack of noise a little longer, actually, for it's also worth saying that the SXRD technology adds absolutely no technological artefacts like DLP's rainbow effect (flickering stripes of colour in your peripheral vision) or LCD's ‘screen door' effect. Just be aware, though, that in order to get the very purest signal you should disable over-scanning from the VW40's onscreen menus.
Also very impressive are the VW40's black levels. Driving around GTA IV's Liberty City at night is made effortlessly enjoyable by the natural, greyness-free look of the night sky around you - and by the way some good shadow detailing helps the projector deliver a really good sense of depth in dark picture areas.
Colours are natural in tone too, and superbly rendered in terms of their subtlety of blend and tonal shift.
Given how kinetic Apocalypto is with its endless fighting and chase scenes, it's a relief as well to find the VW40 delivering motion superbly, with hardly any sense of blurring, thanks to SXRD technology's extremely fast response times.
There are a couple of ‘issues' with the VW40 you should be aware of, though. The first is that in order to get really, really satisfying black levels out of it you need to have the brightness of the image really scaled back, with the result that it's probably only a good option to buy if you can use it in a well blacked out room and don't want to drive a screen bigger than, say 150in.
The other point is that I didn't feel its colours were quite as vibrant as those of some of the best DLP models at a similar sort of price point - especially in their ‘out of the box' state (they improved after lots of tweaking of the gamma and RCP settings). But set against that is the Sony's total freedom from DLP's rainbow effect that we mentioned earlier.
The VW40 provides ample proof that Sony's SXRD system really can work well at affordable as well as high prices. A little shortage of brightness perhaps limits its potential audience a touch, but provided you fit the criteria laid out in the last couple of paragraphs of the main review, the VW40 is really quite a cracker.