Sony VPL-VW95ES 3D SXRD Projector Page 2

One of the strongest performance points for the Sony is its motion resolution. Using a series of motion patterns from a test disc I obtained overseas showed just how good the VPL-VPL95ES is in this regard. The motion-induced contouring I’ve seen from some of the JVC projectors doesn’t manifest with the Sony, and overall resolution is improved compared with the JVC designs. Sony also includes its Motion Flow system, which interpolates to create new frames to smooth motion and improve overall resolution. I was excited to try Sony’s implementation, as I’d heard it was a bit more subtle than most and didn’t result in the soap opera look so common with most motion-based processing I’ve seen before. Unfortunately, even in the lowest mode, I didn’t care for the smooth panning the Motion Flow system created. While it worked fine with video-based material like sports, it still made films look too unnatural for me.

2D Performance
For this review, I viewed the VPL-VW95ES on my reference Stewart Studiotek 130 120-inch (diagonal), 16 x 9 screen (gain 1.3). All Blu-ray images were fed from an Oppo Digital BDP-95, and some DirecTV was also used.

Right off the bat, I was impressed by how easy it was to get an incredible playback experience from the projector. Most of the settings were right where they need to be out of the box, and after I chose the right presets, it delivered an image I normally wouldn’t expect until after a detailed calibration is performed. I was also impressed to find that Sony had located the 3D emitter for its glasses inside the body of the projector, near the lens. This eliminated the need to run a standalone emitter for 3D playback. It’s a nice touch I hope to see other companies implement on their 3D designs.

The VPL-VW95ES breezed through our video benchmark testing and earned top marks for both high and standard definition video testing. The projector showed no signs of clipping in the video signal, and the full 1920 x 1080 pixels were present. The Sony couldn’t keep up with some of the most difficult deinterlacing tests I had available, but it handled any common cadence with aplomb. If you use a variety of foreign video material that uses odd frame rates and cadences, you may want to consider using an outboard video processor or a Blu-ray/DVD player that handles the deinterlacing for you.

Since I have a rather large screen, I swapped between high and low lamp mode frequently, depending on the material viewed with the iris in Auto 1. High lamp mode delivered a peak of 18.3 foot-lamberts on my screen. Low lamp mode delivered about 12 ft-L, which is typically where I like my peak white level for normal viewing. I went through a wide variety of Blu-ray content during my time with the VPL-VW95ES. The highlight had to be the magnificent Blu-ray of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. To say the visuals of this film are second to none would be an understatement. It was shot with a mix of Super 35 and 70mm cameras, and the Sony delivered it with some of the most spectacular, breathtaking, and exceptionally film-like HD images I’ve ever seen. The color rendition was outstanding and the depth afforded by the VPL-VW95ES, even on this 2D release, was incredible. This was an image that was easy to get lost in.

I went through my normal staple of test discs. I like to use the Blu-ray release of The International to test out fine detail, gamma, and shadow detail. I was really impressed by just how seamlessly the dynamic iris worked with the VPL-VW95ES. There is a great scene in this film that normally wreaks havoc on dynamic iris systems. The Sony showed no signs of struggle at all. For shadow detail and black levels, I thought I would try the Sony’s hand at a recent reference transfer, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. This is an extremely dark film filled with amazing depth and detail. Sony’s contrast performance seemed up to the task, though, with decent black level performance and exceptional shadow detail. Although I mentioned we measured a lower contrast ratio than expected from the Sony, test patterns aside, the contrast performance was in line with most projectors I’ve seen short of the high mark set by the upper line of JVCs. It really wasn’t until I tried out some real contrast torture tests like Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem that I started noticing the Sony lose ground in black levels compared with the best I’ve seen. Here, levels near the black floor showed the red cast I mentioned earlier. While that improved shadow detail slightly, it gave an impression of a raised black floor and not as much fine detail.

Animation was also a treat. Since the VPL-VW95ES uses a dynamic iris system, it tends to be a bit brighter than projectors with the same contrast performance that don’t. While I wasn’t a big fan of the overall story and execution of Pixar’s Cars 2, it does provide jaw-dropping imagery. The movie has a tremendous mix of dark and bright locales with dizzying color saturation and detail. The Sony delivered the images with aplomb.

3D Performance
Sony touted improvements in its 3D implementation this time around, but I never had the chance to use the previous VPL-VW90ES, so I am not sure how this one stacks up in comparison. My comments on the 3D side would be in comparison with my last 3D projector, the JVC DLA-X3 (which was recently replaced by the DLA-X30).

One of the biggest pluses for this year’s release is the inclusion of a pair of Sony’s 3D glasses. I’m used to having to fork over more money for an emitter and glasses, but Sony has included these this time around, making your jump into 3D that much easier. For 3D playback, I looked at a wide assortment of 3D material, including Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Avatar, The Lion King, and Cars 2. The most immediate benefit I saw from the VPL-VW95ES was the brightness level. Compared with my previous JVC DLA-X3, the Sony delivered a much brighter image with more visual punch. The glasses worked without a hitch, and the 3D menus give you options so you can change the amount of time the shutters are open (allowing for brightness control) and for crosstalk. The out-of-the-box settings were ideal, and I rarely if ever saw any ghosting during my viewing time. I’m not a big fan of 3D playback—I just don’t find it that involving—but the Sony did a tremendous job with the material I looked at. When I reviewed the JVC X3, I noticed a fair amount of ghosting with Universal’s Despicable Me. While I still saw a faint amount of ghosting with this title, it was a tremendous improvement over the JVC. Unlike the JVC, Sony also allows you to use its Motion Flow settings during 3D playback. This provided smoother visuals with more definition, but it also came with the price of that soap opera look I despise.

While I was a bit disappointed with the focus and contrast performance of the VPL-VW95ES, that’s me: Most of my nitpicks come from being a bit of a videophile snob and probably won’t even be noticed by all but the pickiest viewer. To put it in better perspective, I found the VPL-VW95ES a solid value. The out-of-box calibration is second to none, and Sony’s outstanding dynamic iris implementation and built-in 3D emitter make this one of the best projector experiences I’ve had right out of the box. Once again, Sony delivers a home theater experience that is easier than ever to enjoy—and now at a price that is even easier to afford.


Ducksoup_SD's picture

Several class action suits were raised against Sony for their SXRD projection televisions from the mid-2000's. As someone who is now on their 4th optical engine (under warranty, and turned down a 5th as part of one of the suits), I can attest that Sony was challenged by this new technology.

In their release documents, did Sony address the color shift problems of the SXRD chips (turning pink or green) over time? Did they address the contamination of the optical path with particles?

I hope the answer is yes, but Home Theater never alluded to any of those documents. If they didn't address the issues that raised lawsuits in the past, why would Home Theater give a glowing review to something that has a much higher failure rate than a more conventional technology?

I purchased my SXRD set, in part, because of Home Theater's glowing review. The technology was brand new then, so it was a bit of a gamble -- and it didn't pay off. Now that there is a history of the SXRD technology weaknesses, Home Theater should have mentioned any of Sony's attempts to improve SXRD. Without even referencing the challenges that Sony previously had, the review is, at best, uniformed, and at worst, a shill for Sony. I'm hoping it is merely uniformed...

Kris Deering's picture
Hello Ducksoup, The problem you're referring to is in relation to the Sony SXRD rear-projection televisions. This problem has never manifested with SXRD projectors that I'm aware of and I've never read anything to the contrary. I imagine this has to do with the light engine used in the RPTV configuration since it never was an issue with the projection designs.
Ducksoup_SD's picture

Sorry for the delay, but a family emergency has kept me from this...

I was hoping that someone in the press, i.e. Home Theater, wouldn't wait for problems to develop before reporting them to the public. I was hoping that someone in the press would ask Sony,"The SXRD technology was less than perfect in your rear-projection TVs, as demonstrated by the multiple class-action suits. How have you improved the technology to eliminate those problems in this family of projectors?" If it's truly "never manifested with SXRD projectors", then ask, "What is different on the projectors that eliminates the chip color changing issue that was documented in the projection TVs?"

I'm surprised that Sony didn't address that issue in their product release documents. After all, why would anyone purchase a projector that uses the same projection chips that turn green or pink in the TVs -- after several months of use, not just a few hours of a review process -- if it wasn't fixed? I would have expected Sony to be proactive and happily tell how they've now learned from the old chips and improved everything about SXRD.

Maybe most readers are too young to remember that Ford sold the Pinto with a known defect because they figured it was cheaper to settle the lawsuits that would occur than to recall the car. Has Sony decided to go this way to help recoup their SXRD investment? Just keep pumping SXRD units out until they maximize the return, regardless of their customers hard-earned $$$?

Those are the things that I'd hoped to see in Home Theater, or, maybe have HT anonymously send over a file to Consumer Reports so they could follow up on this. I guess that's just too much to hope for when you're talking about a big potential advertiser and a small mag.

Dr. Smoke's picture

smell a rat.
I have a HW10 SXRD projector and it is phenomenal.
We use it for everything from skylanders to movies to NASCAR.
The color is better than I have seen in any other projector.
I am no expert but beleive it is to do with the SXRD. It's the reds that really show.
Either way can't beleive I am taking the time to post on here but I bet you will not find one Sony projector owner that would tell you he will not buy another Sony.
I have had 3 people upgrade to this machine after seeing mine.
The only complaint if any is we have been through 4 bulbs in 3 years but we put a lot of hours on it.
Ther will be a Sony 4k SXRD projector in my future once the ps4 comes out.
Hope they come down in price by then because I am officially pot committed and would not consider any other brand after how good this machine is.