Movie Theater Video for the Masses

Sony VPL-HS3: Objective Tests With Factory Settings

Test patterns

We might as well come right out and say it: We didn't get the kind of results we expected. The different levels of white were hard to distinguish, except when the contrast ratio was low. That means that you can only get decent blacks when the whites are overly bright and uniform. Colors were a bit pale, but if you push them a little you can get better results. The levels of gray weren't always distinct, and a few dominant colors appeared, especially blues. And we absolutely had to increase the sharpness setting to get vertical lines that were correctly separated. The overall definition seemed a little below the competition to us and the image quickly became too computer-like if we increased the sharpness too much. However, in terms of geometry, the circles were perfectly round in 16/9 and 4/3 aspect ratios.

Sony VPL-HS3: Subjective Tests

Optimizations before subjective tests

Contrast: 85
Light: 52
Colors: 57
Tint: 50
Sharpness: 73
Black level: High
Color temperatures: Medium
Cinema Black Pro: On

Subjective Tests

Our first impressions when we ran the test patterns were confirmed when we watched the movie excerpts. For example, the shot when the trap door to the sewers is opened in Blade II showed a slight lack of contrast and difficulty in rendering the different shades of gray. Also, some sparkling was visible here and there depending on camera movement. Activating the video noise reduction wasn't very effective, though it did improve the overall rendering very slightly. The colors in Nemo, vivid as they are, were not as rich as with the other video projectors we tested. The lack of contrast gave the impression that there was a veil over the screen. The backgrounds weren't stable and details lacked definition. The screen-door effect was always visible, regardless of the excerpt we were screening. That means you'll have to forget about displaying an image bigger than 79" (2 meters) unless you sit 16 1/2 ft. (five meters) from the screen.

Even though the initial results weren't very promising, we gave Minority Report a trial, even though we know it's a hard movie to screen. The results were unequivocal - it was the worst performance we saw of all the projectors we tested. We were unable to get an image with degrees of contrast. It was all or nothing, whether with brightness, black depth, or level of detail. Wide shots didn't show enough detail to clearly identify what we were seeing on the screen.

The Sony VPLHS3 is the only projector we tested for this article that has an HDMI input for displaying High Definition images in 720P and 1080i. So we connected it via HDMI to the Samsung HD945 DVD player. Set up that way, the VPLHS3 delivered an image in which the screen-door effect was much less visible. We were able to watch a 98" (2.5-meter) (image at a distance of 13 ft. (four meters) with no problem. Wide shots were much more stable and the sparkling that was visible with an S-Video connection disappeared totally. On the other hand, the contrast ratio was still weaker than the competition, and white-black balance was still difficult to achieve.

You should think of buying a VPLHS3 only if you have or plan to buy a DVD player with an HDMI output. That will give you access to the 480p, 576p, 720p and 1080i formats that significantly improve definition and image stability.