In keeping with recent trends at the high end of the home theater projector market, Sony has announced three new native 4K SXRD laser models and fully eliminated lamps from its line-up.
The new VPL-XW7000ES ($27,999), VPL-XW6000ES ($11,999), and VPL-XW5000ES ($5,999) replace four existing models in the prior line-up. Models being phased out include the VPL-VW1025ES ($39,999) and VPL-VW915ES ($19,999)—both laser projectors—and the VPL-VW715ES ($9,999) and VPL-VW325ES ($5,499) lamp projectors. The VPL-HW65ES ($2,999), Sony's long running 1080p SXRD entry, is also being eliminated. Above the new projectors remain the VPL-VW5000ES ($60,000) and the flagship VPL-GTZ380 reviewed last summer ($80,000).
The revised line-up is therefore all native 4K with laser, and the new models are being offered at prices that will compete more effectively with recent introductions from LCoS rival JVC, whose native 4K laser projectors start at $11,000 with the DLA-NZ7/RS2100, and Epson, which now offers the LS12000 and LS11000 4K 3LCD laser projectors at $5,000 and $4,000, respectively.
The new laser projectors are all considerably brighter as well, with 2,000 ANSI lumens for the XW5000 (up from 1,500 lumens for the 325ES), 2,500 lumens for the XW6000 (up from 1,800 lumens for the VW715), and 3,200 lumens for the X7000 (up from 2,000 lumens for the VW915). This is also in tune with the tendency toward higher lumen output, even in traditional dark-room theater projectors, to better accommodate HDR or viewing in moderate ambient light.
In common to all the new Sony models is the X1 Ultimate for Projector processor, which was previously reserved only for the top-of-the-line GTZ380. For these step-down models, the processor upgrade is said to allow carryover of the enhanced object-based HDR and object-based database upscaling first promoted in the 380, though some prior models had slightly less precise executions of those technologies. Specifically, the processor enables features that include Dual-Database Processing for object-based noise reduction and upscaling; Object-based HDR Remaster which is said to improve HDR contrast through object recognition; Digital Contrast Optimizer which focuses on deepening blacks in dark areas of the image; and Dynamic HDR Enhancer, which uses a combination of pixel-level processing, laser modulation, and possibly a dynamic iris (depending on the model) to enhance HDR rendering. Digital Focus Optimizer, also carried in from prior models, improves edge and corner focus by anticipating the modest optical distortions inherent in any lens.
Similar to all three models is a trio of smaller, 0.61-inch LCoS-based native SXRD panels, replacing the 0.74-inch chips used in the prior line-up. The new panel is of essentially the same design but stops at 4K UHD resolution (3840x2160) rather than DCI resolution (4096x2160). The change has no real bearing on viewing of home cinema content, but it does contribute to a smaller light engine and significantly reduced chassis size. The XW7000 and XW6000 are 20% smaller than the former VPL-VW915, while the XW5000 is 30% smaller. The XW5000 comes in around 29 pounds, a couple of pounds lighter than the VW325, while the two step-up models come in under 31 pounds, nearly 14 pounds less than the VW915.
Further contributing to the size reduction in the entry-model XW5000 is a new, fully manual 1.6x zoom lens (1.38-2.21:1 throw ratio), which replaces the motorized lens in the earlier VPL-VW325ES. Lens shift is spec'd at ±71% vertical and ±25% horizontal. The VPL-XW7000ES and VPL-XW6000ES both feature a version of Sony's premium ARC-F (All Range Crisp Focus) lens, marketed here as ACF (Advanced Crisp Focus). Fully motorized, it features a 70mm aspheric front lens for better center-to-edge focus, a floating focus system that moves two lens groups to optimize focus, and extra-low dispersion glass to avoid color deviations across the full zoom range. That lens offers a 2.1x zoom (1.85-2.84:1 throw ratio) and ±85% vertical/±36% horizontal shift. This migration into the step-down models brings the availability of Sony's best lens down from $40K in the VW1025 to $12K in the XW6000.
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All three projectors utilize the same blue laser+phosphor light engine with a 20,000-hour lifespan, and new Wide Dynamic Range optics that allow them to achieve 95% DCI-P3 color gamut. They are compatible with both HDR10 and HLG. There is no support for HDR10+ dynamic tone mapping with compatible content, which does appear on the new JVC and Epson models. But Imax Enhanced content is supported in the Sonys, and more critically for some viewers, so is Full HD 3D playback in the XW7000 and XW6000. The XW5000, unfortunately, does not support 3D, which is a lost opportunity considering the lack of 3D support in the Epson laser models. For installers, Control4, Crestron, Savant and AMX control systems are supported, as are the OvrC and Domotz remote monitoring servcies.
Gamers may be disappointed to hear that the two HDMI ports in the new projectors are version HDMI 2.0b with HDCP 2.3, so they will not support 4K/120Hz gaming from the latest consoles (which requires HDMI 2.1 with at least 32 Gbps bandwidth). However, the projectors offer a Input Lag Reduction mode that is spec'd to deliver the same 27 milliseconds input lag with 4K/60 Hz signals that was offered in the prior models, along with new capabilities to accept 1080/120 signals with lag as low as 16 ms. Neither VRR, ALLM or G-Sync are supported. Other connections include a 3.5mm 12V trigger, RS-232C, 3.5mm IR input, and RJ45 LAN port for control; a 3D sync output (XW7000 and XW6000 only); and a USB-A for firmware and service.
Both the VPL-XW5000ES and VPL-XW6000ES will be available in either a black or white chassis, while the VPL-XW7000ES will available in black only. Sony has not yet issued release dates.