With its £2,300 VPL-VW40, Sony hopes to bring its highly-rated SXRD projector tech (a derivation of LCoS) to the mid-market.

The VW40 certainly shows no immediate signs of cost-cutting; it boasts essentially the same 'stretched diamond' chassis with centrally-positioned lens as other SXRD models.

Top projector spec

Connectivity is up to scratch too, with twin HDMI 1.3 inputs, a PC port, RS-232 jack and a 12V trigger output for controlling a screen.

However, the claimed 15,000:1 contrast ratio is less than half that of Sony's VW60 SXRD model, and is only achievable via a dynamic iris system that reduces brightness during dark scenes.

Setup is made easy thanks to a host of tools, including vertical image shifting, keystone correction, and zoom and focus via the remote.

Smooth pictures

The VW40's pictures are great, but there are caveats.

Fine detail levels outperform the price tag, as evidenced by the showboating levels of skin, clothing and background textures in Sweeney Todd (Blu-ray).

HD pictures are almost noiseless, with no sign of any technology-inspired problems along the lines of DLP's rainbow effect. What's more, Sony's Bravia Engine processor upscales standarddefi nition sources with aplomb.

Underwhelming pictures

The near-constant darkness of Sweeney Todd eventually shows the VW40 capable of likeable black levels.

Why 'eventually'? Because it takes considerable tinkering with the 'out-of-the-box' iris, contrast, lamp and brightness settings to remove a grey pall that hangs over dark areas.

In fact, I had to knock back the image's brightness so much to make black levels convincing that images were robbed of sparkle and almost unwatchable should ambient light stray into the viewing room. Colours, too, are a tad washed out.

Whether you go for Sony's VPL-VW40 is, then, largely a matter of taste: is the extreme detailing and lack of technology-related artefacts more appealing to you than the richer colours and more rewarding brightness/contrast combinations available elsewhere? Audition and decide.