What exactly is Sony doing so right? There have been some hardware misses, of course - we shudder whenever we think of its painful DRM-ridden MP3 players - but this projector is a sign of everything that is right with the electronics giant. It's built extremely well, it milks the most out of the parts it has, and it's placed at a price point that makes it reachable for any PC user. That's not bad going.
Smothered with a fashionable lacquered white plastic top, the VPL-EX3 belies Sony's intention to focus it at the educational set by looking rather pretty. The functional casing has its practical advantages too, routing heat neatly through the front of the unit and expelling it right next to the lamp.
This constant flow of air, accompanied, unfortunately, by a rather audible fan, helps to make this one of the cooler projectors we've tested, and gives it a mercifully short cool-down time.
Another reason for its relative coolness may be the lamp, which burns at a maximum of 2,000 lumens, with the option to drop to 1,500 for an extra burst of lamp life. This doesn't make the VPL-EX3 well suited to bright atmospheres, and the picture does wash out somewhat if the sun is shining, but in a dimly lit environment you'll be stunned at what this projector manages to drag out of its puny bulb.
The colours are fantastic: rich, warm and inviting, and clearly brushing either end of the visible spectrum. Response rate is similarly quick, with none of the shearing or blurring we've seen out of early-generation hi-res projectors.
If you're thinking HD, though, you may be better served looking elsewhere. With no HDMI or even DVI inputs, the VPL-EX3 wastes its resolution on bog-standard VGA, although its pair of inputs will be an advantage if you're planning to permanently mount it.
That said, the focused clarity that Sony has managed to pull out of the high quality lenses is nothing short of remarkable, and makes the XGA resolution seem like far more than the sum of its parts. Even without the extreme contrast ratio of the Optoma below, the picture is rich and inviting, and the crispness of the visuals could make this the best £500 you ever spent.