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Sony VPL-CW125

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Sony's VPL-CW125 projector is intended to serve in both office and classroom environments taking data in a range of forms for effective delivery to any audience. Sony is a name we all know and they are proven providers of a range of home entertainment products and office audio-visual tools.

Test procedure
Projectors are placed at a distance of three metres from a test screen and zoomed to a screen size of 100 inches where possible. (We calculate expected brightness at 100-inches if this size is not achievable.) Brightness is measured around the screen in order to determine average brightness and variance.

We also use a chequerboard pattern to measure the contrast ratio of black to white regions. Ambient light is subtracted from all brightness measurements before calculations and comparisons are made.

DisplayMate software is used to assist in assessing colour quality and sharpness of static images. We also consider the performance of the machine with video output. Fast action and animated films are used to assess: refresh times, skin tones, solid and graded colours and borders.

We assess the useability of the device including menu use and options, set-up, and connectivity options. Fan noise is also considered.

Design and features
Encased in silver and charcoal, the CW125 is a sophisticated looking machine which would suit any office. The machine is capable of being desk or ceiling mounting, but ceiling mounting requires an optional mounting bracket. The dual fans are mounted on one side of the machine opposite the port array.

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The rear panel is featureless and readily removed via three screws to reveal the lamp. The lamp is held in place with an additional three screws. Air filter replacement is very simple -- the hatch clips in and out. Construction appears to be sturdy and parts components are logically arranged.

The wide-screen format (16:9) supports resolutions up to 1,366 x 800 pixels which provides a great picture, and there is digital TV support up to 1080/60i. You can quickly switch between wide-screen and other formats with the dedicated key on the remote.

There are two VGA inputs with independent audio jacks and a third VGA port and audio jack set is available for output to an auxiliary monitor. In addition to this there is S-video and Composite video inputs along with an additional audio jack. There is also the option of connection via a network adaptor.

Up to five projectors can be linked to the one computer source with the aid of additional software -- very handy when presenting in multiple rooms simultaneously. A small (1W) speaker is also present.

3LCD technology is sometimes thought of as inferior to the rival DLP technology. In truth, both have their pros and cons. 3LCD doesn't rely on moving parts which to my mind gives it a definite advantage over DLP. DLP can be prone to slow screen refreshing as a result of the moving parts, but is also responsible for more reliable blacks.

The lamp brightness can be bumped up from 2500 lumens (standard mode) to 3000 lumens in bright mode -- note that the fan noise does become noticeable in this case. In standard mode we measured an average brightness of 717 lux with a variance of 8.3 percent (2.3 metre screen at 3 metres from projector).

The remote control has full number pad for entry of locking codes and there are shortcut keys for various menu items including: aspect ratio, keystone correction, input selection and freeze frame. The menu is easy enough to navigate; the set-up manual is relatively brief, with the main documentation being supplied on disk.

Verdict
The Sony provided a bright picture with good colour; the contrast ratio was acceptable for a 3LCD projector (30:1 under test conditions) and provided adequate black quality during use. We did notice opposing green and magenta shadowing of images due to imperfect alignment of light streams, but this was not apparent at normal viewing distances. Screen refresh rate was good in fast action sequences, and skin tones and sharp edges were well rendered during movie viewing.

The fan's silence during standard operation was a pleasure. We were impressed by the great range of input options and the general ease of use. The high resolution and sharpness made for great still image viewing.

Sony has a standard warranty period of 12 months, but extended warranties up to five years are available. The Web site is not overly user-friendly, for example we could not find a service centre for this product. There is an online queries page, but we would have appreciated a simple FAQ.

Costing AU$4,895, this is not the cheapest projector around, but it is packed with features and provides great picture quality. Running costs are about 27c to 39c per hour based on an expected lamp life of 2000-3000 hours.

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