Light output. The Sony VW600ES is a bright projector that's perfect for a big screen. In its brightest calibrated theater mode, we measured 1325 lumens on our test unit. This mode (Cinema Film 1, high lamp power, wide lens angle) also produces accurate, highly saturated color and a while balance that is within 100 degrees Kelvin of the desired 6500K across the grayscale.
Cinema Film 2 is similar to CF1, but it uses the Dynamic Limited setting for the automatic iris with a Brightness of 70 to reduce maximum light output to 860 lumens. If you switch the iris to Dynamic Full or increase Brightness to 100, CF2 and CF1 become identical.
Reference mode, at 1227 lumens, is designed to reproduce the Rec. 709 color standard exactly, and it does an excellent job. It does not have the same levels of color saturation as CF1 and CF2 modes, nor does it have the same extreme contrast, so it tends to appear flatter than the two aforementioned image modes. But it is quite accurate, and just about perfect if you are looking for a reference mode.
TV mode, at 1116 lumens, has a bluish tint that brings color temperature to around 7200K. This tint is not unpleasant when watching television and other video content, but it is also not difficult to calibrate TV back to 6500K if you want to.
Game mode, at 1350 lumens, is slightly brighter than Cinema Film 1, but not enough for the difference to be meaningful. Game mode is very bright, has a blue tint, is comparatively lower in contrast, and does not offer any benefits to input lag (some Game modes in other projectors and televisions automatically activate faster processing, but that is not the case here).
Bright Cinema, despite its name, is not actually brighter than Cinema Film 1. Instead, at 1239 lumens, it offers a picture with more open mid-tones and less dramatic gamma, as does its counterpart Bright TV at 1269 lumens.
In any of these image modes, Low lamp mode reduces light output by 28%. Since the VW600ES produces over 1,000 lumens in all of its image modes save CF2, Low lamp can help to reduce light output for smaller screens.
All of our measurements were conducted with the VW600's zoom lens at its maximum wide angle setting, where it passes the most light through to the screen. However, in real-world use, most people end up using at least some portion of the zoom lens and incurring some light loss. The VW600's lens loses up to 30% of its light output as it travels from wide angle to telephoto zoom, and the loss is approximately linear across the lens' zoom range. In other words, if you use the mid-point of the projector's zoom, you will lose about 15% of the maximum potential light output. This is due to the optical properties of zoom lenses in general and is not unique to the VW600.
Contrast. The VW600ES has some of the best contrast performance we have seen on any home theater projector to date. The projector has a black level that is unparalleled. This is due in no small part to the projector's fantastic iris system, which smoothly and silently adjusts to any change in light level without causing any distraction to the viewer.
Dynamic range is set such that there is no clipping of highlight or shadow detail and mid-tones are preserved perfectly while giving the image the sort of three-dimensional pop that is usually reserved for actual 3D.
The VW600ES has several features that alter contrast and dynamic range. The first of these, Contrast Enhance, raises the cut-off point for black. This is actually not desirable most of the time, because the VW600ES is more than capable of rendering deep shadow detail. The second, Smooth Gradation, improves the projector's handling of gradients and eliminates any instances of color banding. We prefer to leave this control on Low or Medium, as the Off setting does show some color banding on a standard gray ramp pattern.
Color. The VW600's color performance is superb, even straight out of the box, with a color gamut that closely matches the Rec. 709 standard and good saturation that is not overpowered. White balance is very near the 6500K ideal even before adjustment, and some gentle fine-tuning brings the projector exactly in line with the published standards. Your installer will likely calibrate the projector for you, but even before calibration it is a treat to watch.
The VW600ES has a feature labeled "Clear White" which pushes the color temperature of 100% white towards blue. This has the effect of making white appear "whiter," but it is less accurate, so we left it disabled.
Sharpness and Clarity. The key selling point of the projector, its 4K resolution, gives it a level of detail clarity that 1080p projectors cannot match. This is evident in all types of content, from standard definition DVD up through Blu-ray and native 4K material.
Input lag. The VW600's beautiful picture requires some hefty image processing, and that processing does have a downside. The VW600ES measured 120 milliseconds of input lag in all image modes, or a touch over seven frames of a 60 fps signal. This makes it too slow for gaming, at least when non-native sources are used. This 120ms lag was not affected by MotionFlow, Reality Creation, or any of the VW600's other optional processing circuits.