At it's rather high price point, Sony's VPL-HS60 has several points to prove: is it really better than its cheaper LCD rivals, and is it at least as good as the same-price InFocus IN76?

The HS60 isn't particularly attractive - it's too conservative for that. But it's certainly well built and extremely 'serious' looking. Which bodes well for the quality of its innards.

Connectivity is fair, including an HDMI input, component video inputs, and a PC jack. But a second digital jack wouldn't have gone amiss given that its rival DLP models in this group test manage to include such connectivity.

The HS60's LCD 3-LCD chipset delivers a native resolution of 1280 x 720, while Sony claims its optical arrangement rather remarkably produces a contrast ratio of 10000:1. Bear in mind, though, that you only get anywhere near the 10000:1 figure by using an automatic iris control system that looks for dark scenes and automatically reduces the brightness of the bulb when it spots them. In other words, you can only get the best contrast by sacrificing potentially considerable brightness.

Sony itself admits that without the Auto Iris system on, the projector's contrast plummets from the claimed ratio of 10000:1 to between 1700:1 and 2300:1.

Other tricks found in the projector's menus include further manual iris control functions, black level adjustments, gamma correction, and a Real Colour Processor that lets you adjust colours with exceptional subtlety.

There are a number of aspects of the VPL-HS60's performance that are truly outstanding. Before I even get to its pictures I'm happy to report that it runs so quietly that you can scarcely hear it.

I was also quickly awestruck by the phenomenal sharpness of its picture. In fact, in this respect I'd say it's probably the best projector around at this price. Especially given that this sharpness is delivered alongside completely natural, jaggie-free edges, and without generating scarcely a trace of pixel- or colour-noise.

Black level is good by general LCD model standards, showing much less greyness than previous generations. There's a decent amount of shadow detail in dark areas too, helping pictures enjoy a tangible sense of scale and depth.

However, the HS60 trips up on few points. First and worst, with the picture optimised for contrast, the brightness is reduced so much that the picture looks muted.

Also, during bright scenes we became slightly more aware of the pixel structure of the picture than we did on any of the other projectors in this grouptest, especially when something bright moved across the screen.

For the record, neither the Sony VPL-HS60's colour tone nor its black levels are as impressive as those of the other contenders in this grouptest.

There's certainly nothing actually bad about Sony's VPL-H60. Indeed, it's well built and feature-laden. But in my opinion its performance isn't quite good enough to justify its relatively high cost.