- Flexible positioning with horizontal and vertical keystone correction
- Memory Stick reader and playback functions
- quiet operation.
- inaccessible vertical keystone adjustment
- not very bright.
Although there's a wide choice of projectors aimed at people who give presentations, the number of products designed with the home cinema market in mind is surprisingly small. Sony has moved into this gap with the Cineza VPL-HS1, an LCD projector that wants to become a feature of your sitting room rather than your company's boardroom.
The only real difference between this and a typical data projector is branding, but the Cineza does bring some home-oriented features to the fore. The first of these addresses the problem of positioning: the stand has a ball joint that allows it to be pivoted in practically any direction -- 20 degrees left or right, 10 degrees up or down and 2 degrees of yaw -- so you can position the Cineza in a wider variety of positions than a typical model. This may be convenient for home environments, but it can introduce serious picture distortion if an acute projection angle is chosen -- placing the projector to the side of the audience, for example. To compensate for this, digital keystone correction in both axes is provided, allowing you to manually adjust the shape of the projection so it still appears regular, albeit at the expense of image definition. Horizontal adjustments for side projections are easily made with the dedicated buttons on the control panel, but vertical adjustments require a certain amount of rummaging through the menu system.
The projector itself is LCD-based, rather than using the increasingly popular DLP technology, with an individual panel dedicated to each primary colour. There are 480,000 pixels per LCD, giving the projector a native image resolution of 800 by 600, which is more than sufficient for the video signals it's designed to support. There are composite and S-video connectors at the rear, as well as a proprietary connector for the supplied five-metre composite video lead. You'll need an optional VGA cable if you want to connect up a computer to the Cineza.
Image quality is very good overall, and a variety of brightness, contrast, hue and sharpness controls are provided. At 700 ANSI Lumens the Cineza isn't an especially bright projector (1,000 Lumens and higher is now common), but it will provide a maximum image width of over three metres, assuming you have a room that can accommodate a throw of six metres.
Another problem that makes most data projectors unsuitable for consumer use is noise. The Cineza is housed in a large chassis, allowing for more effective airflow over the internal components. The two large extractor fans at the front are designed to run quietly, and although you can hear the projector while it's operating, it's quiet enough to be unobtrusive during film or game playback. Those who don't have a sound system handy will be pleased to hear that the 2 x 2W integrated speakers are more effective at providing audio than the single 1W units often found in business-oriented projectors, although they're no substitute for a dedicated Dolby Surround system.
If you also happen to own a Sony digital still camera or camcorder that captures JPG stills to Memory Stick (or a card adapter for transferring files from your PC to Memory Stick), the Cineza's integrated Memory Stick reader will let you project them in a slideshow. You can choose the images to be displayed, or simply run through them all with a predetermined pause and wipes that smooth the transition from one slide to the next.
For what is, in effect, an SVGA data/video projector with an average level of brightness, the Cineza VPL-HS1 is expensive. However, its design and feature set make it very well suited to its role in the home. If you want to bring the big screen into your front room, then this product will do it better than most.