Sony VPL-VW295ES 4K SXRD Projector Review
Sony's predecessor to the VPL-VW295ES reviewed here was a groundbreaking product. The VPL-VW285ES, introduced in fall of 2017 at $4,999, was heralded as the first true native 4K projector costing less than $5,000—"4K under $5K" was the bold marketing cry.
The VPL-VW295ES replaced the VW285 at the same $4,999 price late last year and continues to hold the industry title of least-expensive native 4K projector—this, despite arch-rival and fellow LCoS proponent JVC finally releasing native 4K consumer models of its own this year. It's joined in the company's current line-up by the VPL-VW695ES ($9,999); VPL-VW885ES ($24,999); VPL-VW995ES ($34,999); and the pro-grade VPL-VW5000ES ($60,000). The 885ES and 995ES have laser light engines; the others have lamps.
While $5,000 isn't exactly pocket change for most folks, by definition the VW295 "entry-level" Sony must sacrifice some features and performance over its pricier brethren. So it does, though it can hardly be called stripped down. To begin, it's built on a solid 31-pound chassis and features the same 14-element motorized lens used in the 695ES and 885ES step-up models (all glass, Sony says, except for the aspherical front element—a design choice said to make the projectors lighter and less expensive with virtually no impact on image quality). The VW295 offers up both HDR10 and HLG HDR compatibility with a wide color space spec'd at 127% Rec.709, which equates to 100% DCI-P3. Sony's excellent 4K/2K Reality Creation scaling and detail processing is on board, driven by the company's late-generation 4K processor. There's Motionflow frame interpolation for both 1080p and 4K signals, two 18 Gbps full-bandwidth HDMI ports that play back 4K/60p HDR signals, and an input lag reduction mode for gaming as well.
So, what's missing? Most obvious are the lack of lens memory settings and, more critically for image quality in this lamp-based model, a dynamic iris. The projector is also spec'd at a somewhat modest 1,500 lumens light output, a bit low by today's standards for this price class.
Taking these one by one, lens memories are helpful for those with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio 'Scope-style screen who want to retain a constant image height (CIH) display with 16:9 content without the use of an expensive anamorphic lens attachment and sled. Its omission will deter some users, but probably not many, and the VW295 does have anamorphic picture modes to match a 1.24x or 1.32x lens if needed.
The omission of a dynamic or even manual iris to help shut down light from the lamp would noticeably compromise the ultimate black floor and contrast on dark scenes compared with same-generation Sony models offering this feature (or a control for modulating the laser in those models). It's reasonable that Sony would hold this for its premium projectors, though disappointing not to have it in a $4,999 projector. This absence is somewhat mitigated by inclusion of Sony's latest SXRD LCoS imagers—the same device used in the VW285, which benefits from improvements to the reflective layer at the back of the chip that help to deepen blacks. Sony has also made adjustments to its HDR tone-mapping this year versus the VW285 to preserve more detail in dark areas. I'll have more to say later about the 295ES's blacks and contrast.
The 1,500 lumen brightness rating stands out at a time when many projectors are up in the 2,000 and above lumen range, which becomes more critical for ambient light viewing or with very large screens where you might bump up against the VW285's limits. Sony's other models range from 1,800 lumens up to 2,200 in the VW995ES before jumping to 5,000 lumens in the VW5000ES. I should note that our sample also fell a bit short of its spec in our ANSI lumen measurements. Still, with average-sized screens (say, up to 120 inches) it should offer up good brightness for a dark room theater or moderate ambient light viewing. More to come on that as well.
Sony VPL-VW295ES Features/Advantages
- Full 4096 x 2160-resolution, 0.74-inch native 4K imaging chips
- 3-Chip SXRD LCoS design free from rainbow artifacts
- Equal 1500 lumen white and color brightness rating
- Motorized 14-element, 2.06x zoom lens with powered zoom, lens shift, and focus
- Wide-range +85%, -80% vertical and +/-31% horizontal lens shift
- Two full-bandwidth, 18 Gbps HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 ports
- Wide color gamut rated to 127% Rec.709; 100% DCI-P3 color space
- Compatible with HDR10 and HLG HDR content
- Nine preset picture/color modes
- RGB/CMY color mangement for primaries and secondaries; RGB gain/offset grayscale trims
- Sony Reality Creation processing for detail enhancement and Full HD to 4K scaling
- Motionflow frame interpolation for 4K or 1080p content
- Low-latency game mode (approximately 27 ms with 4K/60)
- Full HD 3D playback (glasses not included)
- Certified for IMAX Enhanced content
- Full size backlit remote with access to key picture adjustments
- 225-watt UHP lamp rated for 6,000 hours life in Low power mode; replacement lamp LMP-H220 costs $365
- 3-year limited warranty
Sony VPL-VW295ES Limitations
- 1,500 lumen brightness may be insufficient for some high-ambient-light applications
- Powered lens has no lens memory settings for CIH setups
- No dynamic iris to improve black level and contrast on dark scenes
|Review Contents:||Introduction, Advantages, Limitations||SDR and HDR Picture Quality||Performance||Setup and Conclusion|
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