Even worse, though, is the amount of crosstalk noise the picture suffers with. This ran totally counter to our expectations, but there could be no denying how it made watching 3D sources tiring and unnatural. The odd thing is that it didn’t seem to occur in all the obvious places we’re accustomed to seeing it; for instance, the struts of the Golden Gate bridge during that sequence of Monsters Vs Aliens didn’t actually look that ghosty, but other bits, such as the internal edges of the giant robot when shot in profile looked worse than usual.
Overall, though, it’s bad enough to make even full HD 3D Blu-rays look rather soft, and in conjunction with the lack of brightness and punch it means that the JVC X3’s 3D performance is markedly more enjoyable to watch - especially for extended periods of time - than that of the VW90ES.
One good thing about the VW90ES's 3D performance is that it doesn’t cause the projector's cooling fans to become as noisy as those of the JVC X3 when you've got the brightness cranked up to counter the effect of the active shutter glasses. But otherwise it really is a disappointment.
Thankfully, the VW90ES is a much more consistently accomplished 2D performer. In fact, scratch that; it is a really quite sensational 2D performer. For a start, it achieves the richest black level seen to date from SXRD technology. And crucially this remains the case even if you deactivate the projector’s dynamic iris system - an important achievement given the potential brightness and colour stability issues associated with dynamic irises.
Actually, the dynamic iris in the VW90ES isn’t a particularly bad offender in this regard, but we still noticed brightness shifting often enough to prefer to leave the feature turned off.
Colours are also the best Sony has delivered with SXRD, in terms partly of the immense tonal subtlety on offer, but mostly because the tones of its palette look so consistently natural. Some skin tones have tended to look a little green and flat on some past SXRD units, but even with the slightly limited colour management tools available to us, the VW90ES proves that it can deliver a colourscape of real precision as well as eye-catching intensity.
Motion is natural too, even without Motionflow in action, and perhaps most impressive of all, HD sources look mesmerisingly detailed and clear - without a hint of over-sharpness or excess noise. In this respect, in particular, we felt the VW90ES has the edge over JVC’s X3.
However, the X3 still has the edge over the VW90ES in contrast terms - particularly when it comes to those tricky scenes that contain a mixture of dark and light material, where the JVC’s image looks more natural and contains more shadow detailing.
JVC’s DLA-X3 really does represent a significant stumbling block for the VW90ES. For the bottom line is that the X3 produces a better 3D performance than its Sony rival, as well as at least as arresting a 2D performance, while costing the best part of two grand less.
Sure, Sony’s integrated 3D approach is more elegant, and it offers better PC support. And to be absolutely clear about this, it is a quite brilliant 2D performer. But ultimately you know Sony’s in trouble with this one when the first thing we wanted to do after reviewing the VW90ES was to revisit our JVC X3 review and move up its overly harsh 3D mark from a 7 to an 8...