Light output. Rated at 1500 lumens, the VW350ES should be dimmer than the VW600ES. But despite the lower-wattage lamp, the VW350ES is brighter than its predecessor in every comparable image mode. Cinema Film 1 mode measured 1354 lumens with the lamp at full power and the lens at its widest angle setting, 20 lumens brighter than Sony's previous 4K projector. Reference mode shows an even larger difference, clocking in at 1370 lumens. Reference mode is our preferred mode for film, as it has the best grayscale and gamut of all the projector's image modes. Videophiles will still want to make a few tweaks, but folks who want a fantastic image out of the box will be more than satisfied with Reference.
The projector's other image modes are: TV (1413 lumens), Photo (1205 lumens), Game (1384 lumens), Bright Cinema (1428 lumens), and Bright TV (1413 lumens). Game mode, despite its name, does not reduce input lag by itself. To do that, you need to toggle Input Lag Reduction, available from any image mode. So if you'd rather play games in Reference, go ahead.
Contrast. Because it lacks an iris, the VW350's on/off contrast suffers in comparison to the VW600. Unfortunately, the lack of an iris makes the projector's high light output more difficult to control, and that makes it harder to use the VW350 on smaller screens. One may question the use of a 4K projector on a small screen, and it's a valid point, but it's a limitation nonetheless.
On the other hand, the VW350ES does just fine with contrast in any given scene, creating a realness and sense of depth that's hard to argue with. This is aided by a near-perfect 2.2 gamma in Reference mode which ensures shadow detail is never lost and highlights are distinct, not blown out. The only time the projector's contrast comes up short in any way is in very dark scenes, because black level, while respectable, isn't as deep as some of its competitors.
The "easy" solution to both of these problems is to use a neutral density filter, which will both cut light output and deepen black levels. The hard part is that unlike camera lenses, projector lenses aren't built to take filters. You'll need to rig up some kind of mounting system on your own.
Color. Most projectors these days can manage an accurate grayscale. Many can also manage a decent approximation of the Rec.709 color gamut. Very few can do both straight out of the box. The VW350ES can.
Our test sample's Reference mode was a touch too warm, measuring about 5900K across the grayscale, but it was a remarkably flat and even 5900K. By pushing the projector's color temperature control from D65 to D75, we ended up with this perfect 6500K grayscale:
As for gamut, our test unit measured quite close to the Rec. 709 standard, and every color had a delta-E value less than 3 except green, which was over 3 but less than 4. That's a very technical way of saying that there's room for improvement, especially if you're the kind of person who enjoys display calibration, but you can also use the projector without changing a thing and get accurate, true-to-life color out of it.
The good news for the fine-tuning folks is that the VW350 has all of the controls necessary to perfect grayscale and gamut, and those controls are both responsive and easy to use.
Detail and clarity. Not to belabor the point, but the VW350ES is a 4K projector. Sharpness, resolution, and clarity of detail are its defining characteristics. The VW350 is supremely detailed and a real joy to watch, especially when you feed it reference-quality source material.
Input lag. In its regular image modes, the VW350ES measured 120 milliseconds of input lag - just over 7 frames at 60 fps. New to this projector is a feature called Input Lag Reduction which turns off all of the image processing features and brings input lag down to 32 milliseconds (2 frames).