Best in Class – Value $3500 – $8000: Sony VPL-VW365ES

The Sony VPL-VW365ES is coming up on one year of age, but it’s a better value today than before, since list price has dropped to $7995 (from $9995) – not a bad price drop in less than one year. It’s hard to think of a $8K projector as “entry level,” but that’s exactly what this Sony is: The VW365ES is an entry level, true 4K projector with real 4096×2160 resolution, no pixel shifting needed to put over 8 million pixels on your screen.

Sony VPL-VW365ES Front
The Sony VPL-VW365ES is a true 4K projector that just dropped its price from $9995 to $7995 – a great value!

With smaller pixels than any projector on the market under Sony’s own VW675ES (at $15K), it is just going to be the natively sharpest projector around.

Sure you can take lesser projectors, crank up the sharpness and other controls to make them seem as sharp, but much of what you are looking at in those cases is image noise – edge sharpening, and “over” processing, so those others may at first, seem as sharp, but under closer inspection their images seem unnaturally hard. You might notice thin colored lines on those others become more white, rather than their intended color – always a good sign of heavy sharpening/contrast boosting.

 

Sony VPL-VW365ES Overview

Once you get past that, what we have here is a 1500 lumen, true 4K projector with motorized zoom, focus and lens shift – but, no Lens Memory. Sadly, that was probably a marketing decision, to “differentiate the more expensive models that all have Lens Memory to that you can easily choose to own a wide screen for bigger movie viewing.  Still, when I had it here, I found it took me well less than 1 minute on my remote control to adjust zoom and lens shift to go back and forth between HDTV shaped, and the wider Cinemascope shaped images.

Missing from the VW365ES is a dynamic iris. That’s another significant differentiator, as it translates into the VW365ES not having great black levels. The native contrast is very good, but to be competitive, a dynamic iris these days, should almost be mandatory.

That’s why I consider it more of a media room projector than one for the dedicated home theater. After all, it has good brightness – it’s calibrated brightness isn’t all that far below full rated power, with 1361 lumens counted by my calibrator.

That is, a good deal more than the Epson Laser that took top honors in this class (by modest subjective amounts). This true 4K “entry level” projector had to take on a JVC with awesome black level performance, but one that is a 1080p pixel shifter, so definitely unable to equal the Sony’s sharpness. By comparison, the Epson LS10500 is basically the same price, also is a pixel shifting 1080p projector, and also has great black levels if not quite as good as the JVC.

But, it’s a laser projector, which brings additional benefits to the party. Sony can appreciate it as they have currently four, 4K laser projectors in their lineup. This Sony, and the JVC are lamp-based.

When we reviewed the VW365ES, in the earlier days of HDR and BT.2020 color space, it performed very well, and easily.

By comparison, we struggled with the first Epson HDR/BT.2020 projector we tried to calibrate – the HC5040UB, although we had better luck with the top winner in this category, Epson’s flagship LS10500, which, as mentioned, has a laser light engine. That gives it a real advantage in trying to do the entire BT.2020 color space. The Epson competition got very close to the subset we call P3, better than this projector (but not as good as the recent $25K Sony laser we reviewed).

No matter. If you aren’t placing your projector in a dedicated theater or cave, or can live with good, but not great black level performance, the VW365ES is your “entry” priced ticket into full, true 4K, with HDR and BT.2020.

Other than that, a three-year warranty, and some excellent color out of the box. I really feel safe in saying that many Sony’s are about as color accurate (or close) out of the box, as some other good projectors are – after calibration.

The Bottom Line

I’m a black level fanatic, I love those rich, very dark scenes, that are only possible with great black levels.  Otherwise, the award order might be very different.

Whether you’re using the VW365ES in a living room, media room, or dedicated home theater, paired with the right screen – this is one fine projector.

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