Cheap Dave's Home Theater

Review: Sony Cineza VPL-HS10

Here is my review of my current projector. Amazing picture at an amazing price!! The Cheap Dave dream.

Here is my review of my current projector. Amazing picture at an amazing price!! The Cheap Dave dream.

I spent of lot of time researching projectors as I was building this home theater. I had a lot of time to plan as we built this house from the ground up. To see how that was done check out my wife's excellent blog "Expiration Dates".

So I had about 2 years to think about it. My previous projector was a Sharp VGA projector (600x480) which was state of the art when I bought it for $4,200 about 8 years ago. Now not only was it old and large (35 pounds) but the bulb was also burner out. So I could replace it for about $350 or buy a new one.

There were really two things I wanted in my new projector, higher resolution and power zoom. The Sharp had power zoom but currently that feature isn't found on many projectors and when you do find it you can expect to pay $3,000 or more. I was excited that the resolution on the proctors has improved greatly and mainly I had to choose between 800x600 or 1280 x 720. So I watched closely to see it the price point for the 1280 x 720 projectors were coming down. I had time to wait and since the projectors were getting cheaper that worked to my advantage.

So after a whole lot of research I ended up making my decision almost on impulse. We were shopping at a brand new outlet mall and I went to the Sony store. They had one and only one VPL-HS10. It was in a display case with a price of $1200. So Cheap Dave was interested for sure. When I looked up the specs on the internet on my Treo phone and saw that the resolution was 1366 x 768 and it had power zoom I couldn't get it in my car fast enough.

Unfortunately my theater room wasn't ready. I did take it out of the box and turn it on to make sure it worked and then I packed it back up and sadly put it into storage.

When the theater room was a little more finished I anxiously opened up my hidden treasure and fired it up. After living with a 600 x 480 projector for several years I could immediately see the difference that the higher resolution made. With my old projector you could see the pixels very easily. In fact it took a few minutes of watching a movie for you to get used to them and then you could ignore them.

With the Sony this was not an issue. In fact I was thrilled to zoom the picture all the way out and throw a huge picture on the wall and do my pixel test. I slowly walk forward into the room until the pixels become obvious. With this projector you can walk up very close to the screen before the pixels are really noticeable. So at my 12 foot seating distance it is really a non-issue. So I am not in a big hurry to go to the next level.

The reason I wanted power zoom is my plan is to use the zoom feature to compensate for very widescreen aspect ratios on some movies. The widest that you will commonly see is 2.35:1 (The Incredibles, Lord of the Rings) so to zoom out from a 16:9 or 1.77:1 aspect ratio you will need about 33% zoom. The Sony only has about 25%. So it can almost completely eliminate the black bars at the top and bottom but not quite. I plan to make the projector shelf slide back about a foot to totally fill my screen vertically. Then I plan to have curtains that adjust the width, just like at the movie theater.

With the projector zoomed all the way out in my room it throws a picture that is about 12 feet wide. That is huge and I am sure I am violating the room of thumb for seating distance versus size, but the projector can more than handle it. The picture is plenty bright even that large. It helps that my room is very dark.

I mounted the projector in a separate room so sound is not an issue. It does produce some fan noise but it is much quieter than my old projector.

If you research LCD vs. DLP projectors you will hear a lot about contrast ratio. I think it is getting to a point of pure spec-manship. The manufacturers are pushing the technology to improve the number on contrast ratio but it has gotten to the point of being ridiculous. I will say that the Sony has enough contrast to produce good colors and deep rich blacks. So that is all I want.

There is something very satisfying about having a picture that completely fills the screen. The Sony is bright enough, throws a clear image with great color and has several modes for almost any input. At $1,200 I couldn't pass it up.