There is one slightly disappointing aspect to the aforementioned specs, though; in that the VW50’s 15,000:1 contrast ratio is achieved only with the help of a dynamic iris, which regulates the amount of light let out of the lens in order to reproduce deeper black levels during dark scenes. In other words, you’ll only get the maximum contrast performance at the expense of some brightness.
Such dynamic iris systems are, of course, very common where technologies other than DLP are concerned. But it would be remiss of us not to remind you that JVC’s stunning DLA-HD1 projector, using a system similar to SXRD, offers a contrast ratio of 20,000:1 without any dynamic iris. This compares with a contrast ratio of 5,000:1 for the Sony if you leave the dynamic iris option turned off.
The VW50’s SXRD technology is based on the older Liquid Crystal On Silicon (LCOS) projection technology that’s notable for its ability to cram a huge amount of pixels into a very small chipset. So it’s no great surprise to find the VW50 sporting a ‘full HD’ native pixel count of 1,920 x 1,080 just like the VPL-VW100.
Considering how well specified it is, the VW50 is surprisingly straightforward to set up and operate. It goes out of its way, for instance, to adapt to tricky room arrangements thanks to a strikingly flexible x1.8 optical zoom and vertical lens shift system. Plus its onscreen menus are clear and concise and have enough picture setting minutiae to keep even the most obsessive ‘tweaker’ happy.
Having ratcheted expectations sky high so far, for the briefest of moments the VW50 tries to pull the rug from under our feet by making us feel slightly let-down in one crucial picture area: colour. There’s just no hiding the fact that while viewing anything possessing really heavily saturated colours, such as the gloriously OTT Blu-ray transfer of The Phantom of the Opera, or Viva Pinata on the Xbox 360, the VW50’s palette looks a touch washed out versus that of the Xenon-lamped VW100.
However, it really doesn’t take long, reflecting on the huge price gap between the VW50 and the VW100, to accept that the slightly weaker colour saturation is neither surprising nor actually bad versus other projectors in the sub-£3k bracket. Admittedly a few DLP projectors can look richer for around the same money, but then, as we’re about to see, those DLP models struggle to compete with the VW50 in other areas.