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Home Electronics: Best of the Best Video Equipment: Sony VPHG90U

Joel Brinkley

Even with the myriad display technologies currently capturing our collective attention—DLP, LCOS, plasma, and others—the faithful, time-honored CRT projector remains the king of picture quality, particularly those with nine-inch CRTs, or “guns,” as they are colloquially known. These projectors provide the brightest, sharpest pictures, and are the only consumer devices that can reliably display high-definition television at its full resolution of 1,080 lines by 1,920 pixels.

Fewer than half a dozen companies make these giants, with prices ranging from about $35,000 to almost $80,000. In general, CRTs in this class look superb, yet one worthy of special notice is Sony’s VPHG90U ($38,000). It includes almost every feature offered by other projectors in addition to some the competition doesn’t have. When paired with the Faroudja DVP5000 processor, it is one of the rare products that can display 1,080-line, progressive HDTV, the highest level output from the Faroudja processor.

A projector must be paired with a video processor, which converts the signal so that it can be viewed on a big screen. The Sony G90 comes with its own built-in processor, the company’s Digital Reality Creation circuitry. The DRC works well on a small screen, but it is overwhelmed by a large one.

Front projectors, by nature, must be used in a completely darkened room, because the smallest amount of light washes out the picture. In addition, they must be installed professionally and readjusted every few months.

But if you are willing to tolerate the temperament of CRTs, the Sony G90 will create a theater that will make you smile every time you settle in for a movie. DVD pictures are bright as a torch, colors sparkle, and resolution is razor-sharp. It is as if you are in a movie theater, except that the picture quality is better.

Still, you won’t fully appreciate the capabilities of the G90 projector until you use it to view high-definition television. We are physically unable to see the range of colors on regular television because the NTSC format cannot reproduce them. But hi-def images from the G90 are so vivid that you will feel as though you’re looking out a sparkling clean window.

Almost any high-def product you may purchase today is likely to be outdated by one development or another in the coming years. Even more important, in a few years, HDTVs will come with digital connections for watching cable TV and other copyrighted material. Because the G90 uses boards to add connectors to the back panel (similar to computers), Sony can provide new boards to handle anything that comes along.

Sony also claims that the projector is capable of resolving 2,000 lines by 2,500 pixels. If so, there is no question that it can handle the highest-resolution high-definition programming being contemplated. The king has no intention of abdicating the throne.

Sony, 800.222.7669, www.sel.sony.com

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