Sony VPL-VW295ES 4K Video Projector Review Page 2

If all that adjustment sounds ergonomically challenging, it was: I spent hours figuring out which settings did what and how changing them affected other aspects of the setup. But my comments here are primarily to alert pro video calibrators to some ergonomic challenges with the Sony’s controls. You can experiment with our settings, which will appear in the online version of this review, but keep in mind that unit-to-unit variations always exist between samples of any specific display, and they can be particularly significant when you’re dealing with projection lamps.

1118sonypj.rem.jpgHD/SDR Setup and Performance
The VW295 passed all of our HD video tests but will not accept a standard definition 480i source directly—an increasingly common limitation in video displays from all makers. Viewing HD on the calibrated VW295ES was every bit as impressive as my first go-around with the earlier sample. It handled everything I threw at it superbly. The SDR calibration also went quickly using the 2-step white balance controls; I didn’t need to touch the CMS to get outstanding results.

Even before performing a full color calibration, I made a few changes to the default Reference Calibrated Preset to tamp down an out-of-the-box peak brightness of nearly 150 nits (!) in the default High lamp setting. I dropped the lamp setting to Low and adjusted it for an SDR peak white level of roughly 72 nits (21 footlamberts) with the projector positioned roughly 14 feet away from my 96-inch wide Stewart Studiotek 130 screen.

Both color and detail were excellent when viewing a wide range of reference Blu-rays, including Oblivion, Kingdom of Heaven (Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, but only in its full Director’s Cut and if you can accept its rather loose interpretation of history), My Fair Lady, How to Train Your Dragon, and The Mummy (the 1999 serio-comic, Brendan Fraser version, not the recent Tom Cruise bomb). My appreciation of all of these titles is enhanced by their very different but consistently stunning, and stunningly recorded, music scores. But I digress.

The only notable SDR shortcoming with the VW295ES was its decent, but not particularly inspiring, black level. If your most recent 4K viewing experience involved a DLP projector, you’ll be positively impressed. But if you’re moving on from an earlier Sony projector with a dynamic iris, or a JVC model, you won’t be. I found the middling black level to be only a minor distraction, but then my 2.35:1 screen hides black bars on widescreen films. When I briefly viewed using my smaller, 1.85:1, 87-inch wide Elite screen, however, I didn’t find the black bars to be overly distracting.

If 3D is your thing, the VW295ES can do it, but you will see just how dim a projected 3D image can be, particularly in comparison with HDR. The dimness doesn’t do much for color either (I didn’t perform a 3D calibration). Nevertheless, in a landscape with few 3D options, projectors like the VW295ES are the last holdouts for displaying the rapidly shrinking selection of new 3D movies.

Checking image lag on a projector using our 1080p-only Leo Bodnar tester can be dicey, as that device is designed for use on flat panel TVs. For the VW295 I had to turn it around facing the projector. But while I’m not overconfident that the numbers I achieved are absolutely correct, the improvement in Game mode (36ms) compared with the Reference mode (138.3ms) suggests that Game is the best choice for gamers. In both cases, Input Lag Reduction, which is on by default in the Game mode, was turned on.

UHD/HDR Setup and Performance
For HDR viewing, I wasn’t satisfied with any of the calibrated presets (picture modes) in their default settings. But after making extensive adjustments to the VW295ES, its subjective HDR performance left little on the table. While the color measurements I made of the projector were underwhelming, you’d never know it from the visible results. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 has some of the most brilliant color you’re likely to find on an Ultra HD disc, from the vivid gold in the skin and clothing of the “Golden Morons,” to the brilliant hues in the final funeral scene, and everything in between. I’ve viewed this disc on many other high-end displays—both projectors and flat panel LCD and OLED TVs. Yes, colors on the flat-panel sets are technically richer and cover more of the P3 color gamut used for most Ultra HD sources. But short of a side-by-side comparison—which would throw in a myriad of other variables—the Sony projector’s color performance didn’t come up short in any visible way.

Ditto for resolution. Sony includes a Panel Alignment adjustment to fine-tune the convergence of the red, green, and blue colors that comprise the image. But while very minor corrections might have produced a marginally better result, I felt no urge to use this feature. Reproduction of fine details was first-rate with the VW295ES. The Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Braveheart is a gorgeous, true 4K transfer, and the Sony showed more facial pores and freckles here, and with other discs as well, than any self-respecting actor would care to reveal.

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With the VW295ES, luminance from light to medium to dark scenes was also far better balanced after adjustment than it was out of the box. As delivered, the Sony doesn’t follow the PQ Curve (gamma for HDR) well at all—results were consistently darker than the standard. Calibration brought the projector far closer. After setup I never had to make significant changes as I switched from one UHD disc to the next apart from a step or two each way in the Color and Brightness controls (and then only driven by the video perfectionism trolling around in my head).

The best flat-panel sets produce a peak highlight brightness that’s many times the set’s average picture brightness. With the Sony XBR-65Z9F LCD UHDTV that I reviewed in the December/January issue, for example, the difference could be as much as 10:1. Projectors can’t come close to that. With the VW295ES, the ratio was closer to 2:1. While that performance level won’t blow you away, it was still obvious that the Sony was doing its job to provide the visual impact you’d expect from HDR.

As with SDR, the Sony’s main HDR shortcoming was its black level. Getting the best HDR result not only demanded going from the Low lamp setting to High, but also a roughly 50 percent increase in the Brightness control. Both of these adjustments made the projector’s visible and measured black level increase. The Sony’s black level shortcomings could be mainly seen on fades to full black and star fields. Even so, dark but not totally black images, including many scenes from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Skyscraper, still came across effectively.

Conclusion
The makers of 4K projectors that use a DLP imaging chip may claim that their products are true 4K, and from one perspective they’re correct. Those models do put all of the pixels on the screen, but just not at the same time. Thanks to the image retention of the human eye, the ones that we’ve seen offer superb resolution. But the selection of 4K projectors offering true, simultaneous 4K imaging at a consumer-friendly price remains limited. Sony’s new VPL-VW295ES is the least expensive of the lot. And while I wish that Sony had included its well-refined dynamic iris system to improve the projector’s black levels, it’s nonetheless an excellent performer and is highly recommended.

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COMMENTS
jnemesh's picture

1200 lumens? FAIL. It's WAY too dim to light up anything beyond a 92" screen. Even then, it's not going to give you the stunning picture you are looking for. Spend more and go with the $8000 Sony...or go with the new JVC native 4k projectors. This thing isn't worth your time or attention.

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