DLP and LCD are no longer the only projection fruit. A few weeks ago we found ourselves seriously impressed by JVC's DLA-HD1, a home cinema projector using the company's own Digital Light Amplification technology. And today we're hoping to be just as impressed by Sony's VPL-VW100, which uses the brand's in-house SXRD technology.
By way of an introduction to SXRD (which stands for Silicon X-Tal Reflective Display, in case you're interested!), probably the easiest way to sum it up is as a close relative to JVC's DILA system. Both are based on Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) technology, refining it to make it more appropriate for home cinema as opposed to business presentation use.
In SXRD's case, those refinements shape up like this. First, a combination of new silicon driving circuitry and new silicon wafer processing technology applied to a fresh liquid crystal device design has resulted in a claimed 2.4-fold increase in the pixel density achievable on a single chipset. This in turn produces a 10-fold reduction in the space between pixels, which should result in brighter, sharper pictures free from any signs of pixellation or the ‘wire mesh' effect often seen with most projectors that use liquid crystal technologies.
SXRD's other main innovation concerns black level response, overcoming LCOS's serious problems in this area by employing a unique (and secret!) liquid crystal material in such a way that it's aligned vertically to the cell substrates. What this means in performance terms is that the projector can run with more efficient driving voltages and higher optical properties, so that the contrast range is vastly improved. It's also worth noting that the response time quoted for the SXRD chipset is a mere 2.5 milliseconds, which should mean there are few if any problems with motion blur in the VW100's images.
After this rather techie start, let's now move on to something rather simpler: the VW100's build quality, which is unusually fine. The thing feels built like a tank, but is tastefully dressed in a glossy white body with angles and curves in all the right places. Plus the Sony logo on the top illuminates when the projector is turned on. Cor! If there's a downside it's that its footprint is rather large. But then such largesse is pretty typical once you get over the ‘high end' £5,000 price mark.
The VW100's connections are pretty admirable for the most part, too. DVI and HDMI sockets provide you with digital HD pictures, while you also get the de rigueur component video inputs, a PC port, a 12V trigger output you could use to drive an attached electronic drop-down screen, and even a network jack for system configuration/PC control.