Average user rating
- Produces extremely bright and crisp images
- Broad array of input signals (including HDMI)
- Flexible installation
- Fully networkable
- Pricey for small businesses
- Lamp is expensive to replace
- Lacks native 16:9 support
- No auto keystone
- Cables exit at side
Sony's VPL-FE40 is a large projector measuring 53.2cm wide by 14.5cm high by 35.2cm deep and weighing 9.8kg. It's an installation-type unit that's designed to sit confidently in a modern boardroom, projecting a typical range of business applications. That's not to say the VPL-FE40 isn't up to the job of running video, for example; however, its design, features and price are aimed squarely at large organisations.
Featuring a new design and improved LCD panel reliability, the VPL-FE40 can project images of up to 4,000 ANSI lumens, making it usable in a wide range of lighting conditions. It also delivers exceptionally clear images thanks to its native SXGA+ (1,400x1,050) resolution, while its built-in network capability enables images from a PC on the same network to be projected. An HDMI interface provides support for uncompressed high-definition video and 8-channel audio.
The VPL-FE40 uses three 0.79in. inorganic high-temperature polysilicon (HTPS) LCD panels. The LCDs also incorporate Sony's BrightEra technology, which uses an inorganic alignment layer to produce a stronger bonding of molecules. This makes the panels more resistant to damage from ultraviolet rays, increasing their reliability.
A 1F inversion panel drive doubles the panel's drive speed to produce images without line flicker. The projector also uses 12-bit gamma correction circuitry to deliver uniform image colour and brightness across the entire screen-viewing surface. For applications where more than a standard lens is needed, the VPL-FE40L (£3,100) and VPL-FX40L (£2,100) are available. These models are not equipped with a lens, but three optional lenses are available that allow them to meet a range of needs — from long-throw projection in large auditoriums to short-throw rear projection in museums or training facilities.
As businesses become more dispersed, the VPL-FE40 helps to extend the horizons of presentations by enabling broadcasts to be conducted over IP networks. Up to five projectors can be networked, with the image from a single PC projected on each. This is a useful feature in large venues or when images need to be projected to various locations. Also, thanks to a built-in ID function, multiple projectors can be set up and operated independently from a single Remote Commander unit.
Installation is easy due to a centred lens and power zoom, focus, and shift functions. The projector can be ceiling-, floor- or rear-screen-mounted, and two units of the same model can be stacked for applications requiring twice the light output.
Maintenance is straightforward, as various functions can be performed over the LAN via a web browser. For example, the system can be set up to send automatic email reports to designated recipients for scheduled maintenance, including projected lamp life and error reports. The lamp is accessible from the side of the unit and the filter from the front, so replacement and cleaning does not require the projector to be disconnected.
A single cable to the HDMI interface allows you to enjoy high-quality video and audio. HDMI also provides automatic format adjustment, enabling devices to display content in the most effective format. An impressive range of other inputs are also supported, including component and composite video, S-Video (Y/C), and two analogue D-Sub signals. There are even five BNC connectors, along with 10/100Base-TX Ethernet, stereo and mono audio inputs, and an RS-232C port for remote control. Strangely there's no DVI input. A regular monitor output (15-pin D-Sub) port lets you simultaneously view the same image on a monitor that's being projected. There's a built-in 1.8W speaker (stereo) too, but you'll want to connect an external sound system for the best results.
Supported video signals include RGB/component (50/60Hz), progressive component (50/60Hz) and DTV (480/60i, 575/50i, 480/60p, 575/50p, 720/60p, 720/50p, 1080/60i, 1080/50i, 1080/60p, 1080/50p). Colour systems supported are also comprehensive: NTSC, PAL, SECAM, NTSC4.43, PAL-M, PAL-N, PAL60. The 4:3 native aspect ratio is a little disappointing — we'd have preferred a 16.9 ratio given the large array of video inputs signals. In terms of screen coverage the VPL-FE40 is capable of producing images of between 40in. and 600in. (measured across the diagonal).
Built for a variety of applications, including education and business, the VPL-FE40 is an ideal projector for showcasing presentations, video and images in medium- to large-sized meeting rooms and auditoriums. The 3-LCD engine delivers excellent colour fidelity, while video is accurate and smooth. The versatility of this projector also makes it ideal for a number of digital signage installations, while the excellent networking functionality makes the VPL-FE40 extremely versatile and customisable to virtually any application environment. The variety of mounting options and image sizes are further testament to the VPL-FE40's capabilities.
The only downside is the cost, both to purchase (£3,785) and run (a replacement lamp costs just over £600), which will limit the VPL-FE40 to large organisations with big budgets. Also, the generally sleek design is marred somewhat by having all of the cables exit from one side.