Although Sony was doubtless chuffed to receive a well-deserved Recommended badge for its VPL-HW15 projector recently, the thought may also have flitted across its mind that the quality the HW15 served up for under two grand might make the brand's £5,000 VPL-VW85 we're looking at today a hard sell.
Especially as last year the VW85's predecessor, the VW80, failed to totally convince us that it was worth its extra cost over the HW15's predecessor, the HW10. Then again, given that the VW85 arrives in our test labs fresh from winning a Best Projector European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) award, maybe Sony has simply decided to respond to last year's criticism and really do a number on its latest step-up SXRD projector.
SXRD, if you're not familiar with it, is Sony's proprietary projection technology, and is, like JVC's D-ILA system, a 'spin-off' of Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) technology. Sony's home-grown SXRD chips offer a couple of claimed advantages over standard LCOS chips. First, they're exceptionally small, allowing for smaller pixel pitch - something that should help produce a brighter, sharper picture devoid of visible picture structure.
Second, since the liquid crystal layer on an SXRD chip is exceptionally thin, it can respond faster to changes in image content, delivering potentially significant benefits when it comes to showing fast motion.
In fact, one of the biggest reasons for the VW85's three grand price hike over the HW15 is its use of one of Sony's High Frame Technology 3SXRD panels. These double the number of images displayed on the screen per second versus the HW15, resulting in, hopefully, even greater reductions in judder and blur.
The VW85 additionally promises to double the 60,000:1 contrast ratio of the HW15; adds an Anamorphic Zoom mode for compatibility with anamorphic lenses; and for better or for worse, introduces some meaty extra video processing power in the form of MotionFlow.
The MotionFlow system has two distinct elements to it: Film Projection and Motion Enhancement. The latter is pretty self explanatory, offering two different levels of frame interpolation for reducing judder. Film Projection remains, so far as I can think, a unique feature for Sony, and involves inserting black frames into the picture to recreate more accurately the slight flickering effect of watching 24fps celluloid whizzing through a cinema projector. Rest assured I'll come back to both these features in the performance section of the review.