Posted on December 18, 2015 By Art Feierman
Sony’s new VPL-VW665ES true 4K Projector is a substantial improvement over its predecessor.
No, the VW665ES isn’t a revolutionary new home theater projector. Let me qualify that: Perhaps you could count all Sony 4K home theater projectors as revolutionary, since they are the only game in town. Compared to 1080p, 4K is “the revolution.” It’s what we large screen folks have yearned for, and deserve, and NEED!
The Sony VPL-VW665ES is a “next gen” projector based on the older VW600ES. The key differences are huge: First, black level performance has been taken up a notch. When I reviewed the older model, if I had a complaint it was really good black levels. Certainly respectable, but not dramatically better than the best $2500-$4000 1080p projectors. This new Sony’s black level performance on dark scenes is definitely a step up, and that changes the value proposition significantly. The other significant area of change is simply supporting more of the advanced performance capabilities specified by 4K Blu-ray UHD. The standards weren’t set when the original 600 hit the market. This includes at minimum, support for 4:2:0 color depth, and support for HDR. In other words, better picture quality with a lot more dynamic range and color depth. That’s major. Sweet!
OK, that gives you a “taste” of what’s to follow. Let me just say that I have been more impressed with the VW665ES in the first couple dozen hours of viewing, than I ever was with its predecessor (which was pretty impressive.)
So, let’s get started with an overview, and a list of highlights. From there we’ll get into the goodies.
Positioning the VPL-VW665ES: There are true 4K projectors, standard 1080p projectors, and 4K projector wanna-be’s (1080p projectors that will input 4K content, but rely on pixel shifting, lacking true 4K resolution.
The VPL-VW665ES, if within your financial reach (we’re talking $14,999 list price – about as much as a decently equipped Toyota Corolla) is the best value in a future proof solution I can think of.
The images in the player above are all taken using the VPL-665ES. The first six images displayed were taken of 4K content on my 4K Media player. Settings are default, either Reference mode (least processing) or Bright TV which I used for all the HDTV shots (although Bright Cinema – a touch different – with a visibly different gamma, is similar good). Other than cropping, the only concession in taking these images has been reducing the color saturation slightly. I’ve pointed that out in many reviews as my Canon 60D dSLR, though pro-quality, always seems to create slightly oversaturated images with this type of shooting. I prefer to adjust the projector’s saturation, than the coarser camera saturation controls.
I rarely shoot projectors in action that we haven’t first calibrated, only low cost ones (under $1000), or this one. Oh, I’ll include a picture or two, uncalibrated, in many reviews, for the Out of the Box section, but this is a rare projector that can produce gorgeous results without any adjustment of its controls.
Sure, you could spend $25K or $60K on Sony’s two even more expensive 4K projectors, but how necessary is it? The VW665ES is, first of all, more advanced in terms of supporting all the available 4K formats, than the older VW1100ES which is almost twice the price. The flagship VW5000ES is the pinnacle of home projectors (or it will be when it ships in Q1 of 2016), but at $60K, it’s not exactly competition. (Can’t wait to review it though!).
Sony also has launched a new VW365, replacing the VW350ES. That VW365 shows great promise, it’s not quite as bright as this guy, but there will be a substantial black level performance difference (no dynamic iris), making the VW365ES more of an ultimate home entertainment projector. That is, not as much built for a dedicated theater, rather built for less ideal family rooms, media rooms, living rooms, etc.
Thus, the VPL-VW665ES has to be the ultimate under $25,000 projector for that special theater/cave of yours! And the maximum viewing experience.
The VW665ES is dripping in features. The motorized zoom lens has exceptional placement range, and there’s a ton of vertical and horizontal lens shift, so placing it in your room should not be a challenge. It has plenty of inputs and controls. And of course, it offers all the menus, etc. to do a professional calibration.
Speaking of which, the VW665ES is so close to dead on, right out of the box, (as several recent Sony projectors have been), that I did my viewing, and all my photo taking using default settings. I had Mike measure the projector, but it was close enough that the variation from dead on, is really what you would expect from normal lamp variation and lamp changes over time. BTW, that’s a new feature we’ll discuss – the Sony’s Auto-Calibration. very cool
We’ll talk about other competition elsewhere in this review. Some of that will be more comments comparing to the other Sony projectors, but also how the VW665ES stacks up against the top pixel shifting 1080p projectors – we’re talking the JVCs and Epson entries.
OK, time for a short list of key features – some already mentioned or in the small specs area above.
We’ll explore a number of these features/benefits in the Special Features pages that follow. Some of these are very special, others are simply important and expected:
vw5000es $39995？no it’s $60,000!
Hi Jacky, You are correct, my bad. Sometimes the memory fails me. I have the pricing right in my various announcement blogs and reports from CEDIA, but blew it here. I will correct it. thanks for the heads up! -art
This projector can support HDR but it cannot display HDR because it has a bit depth of only 8 bits. The horizontal and vertical color resolution are each 1/2 of the full RGB resolution. again this is not an HDR projector 4 2 0 at 8bits is not very good
Hi mlang, I’ve decided to forward your point to Ron, my most technical reviewer, and to Sony. At the CES show in Las Vegas I saw a full demonstration of the 665ES vs JVC both doing HDR. (it was no contest, the Sony looked dramatically better, but whether the JVC can do 10 bit in HDR and the Sony perhaps only 8, I don’t know. Of course we’re all used to only getting 8 bit despite just about every projector made in the last 7-8 years being able to handle 1080p at 10 or 12 bit.
An interesting question might be – which is the more desirable image – HDR at 8 bit, or no HDR at 10 bit. From what I’ve seen in various demos, I’ll take the HDR with only 8 bit, every time – all else being equal. -art
I think the jury is out but most display engineers would say that increasing the bit depth will give you a bigger bang for the buck. These engineers are working with flat panel displays.
One mistake people make is that they think you do not get an advantage over higher resolution if you cannot see the pixels. This is does not take into account the vernier resolution of the eye which is 5 times more sensitive to resolution than the ability of the eye to distinguish and separate two points of light. the eye is very sensitive to edge smear. I think increasing the resolution gives a dramatic improvement which is obvious to anyone walking around a Best buy store.
i am agnostic on the subject with regard to projectors and I think it will take one more year, with more source material to determine which improvement resolution or dynamic range will give the greatest improvement in image quality to the viewer
You may be right, but I’m talking to two such engineers, one at Sony.
Certainly having the greater bit depth is better, but, from a practical standpoint someone will have to convince the media folks – to actually give us 10 or 12 bit content, for it to matter whether a LCDTV or projector supports it.
As pointed out (and I’ve just been looking at a depth chart provided by Sony), it confirms that the VW665ES will do HDR and 10 bit at 4K up to 30fps. -art
I am guessing that you have changed your mind after reading your latest HDR review. Most reviews, and we have to realize that we are at the very beginning of this technological implementation will claim that HDR has a bigger impact than increasing the resolution to 4k. I was very interested in your comments about how much brighter HDR has to be. You were using 1500 lumens on a 124 inch diagonal screen and thought you needed more power, which surprised me. With a 1.3 gain screen and assuming you watched the movie at 2:35 to 1 that is around 50 ft lamberts which is 3 times the brightness you would see in a typical movie theater. The recommended brightness for led displays is 1000 nits which is 300 ft lamberts and half of that for oled but these displays are meant to be seen in a normal lighted rooms .
Hi mlang, OK, as to 4K vs HDR, the more important one is…both… 1080p just isn’t detailed and clear enough to sit close enough to my 124” to say have the same experience (relative size of image) sitting 1/3 back in a typical good movie theater.
Here are some other thoughts re HDR. First, I won’t argue your math. But, with HDR, one is looking for greater dynamic range. With that, I assume that if white is the same brightness – HDR on or off, then the midpoint – value, say 128, is going to be a lot darker, because the presumption is that the display device has greater dynamic range. Those mid brightness objects will be darker. Now, overall, that probably also calls (for at the same white levels) crushing blacks, or at least packing the lower end with less range than the brighter range. (Please remember, I’m not an engineer.)
But I had another thought. I spent almost my entire first week with the Samsung UHD player and the Sony 665ES and JVC RS400 watching only two movies: The Martian, and Ender’s game. Both are jam packed with lots of dark scenes, or at least lots of scenes with very little “white.”
That is, my viewing experience was with what could only be described as movies that overall were much darker seeming than most. Instead of bright blue skies, all the martian scenes were dark orange reds. It may well be when I put on something more traditional in cinemaphotography, than I won’t feel that HDR was all that dark. I did, however, already revise my take on whether it was comparable to 3D. I’ve since concluded that 3D is still dimmer seeming than HDR. Let’s say that at least with these movies, I’d be fine with 50-100% more brightness rather than 200% more. Still on the Martian, I always felt that I could use more brightness at the full 124” size. -art
Right but the projector only supports 4K/60Hz @ 4:2:0 Chroma Subsampling (8-Bit). Resolution exists in two forms: chroma (color) and luma (light). Our eyes are more sensitive to the luma resolution than chroma resolution. 4:2:0 means that the RGB resolution would be effectively 2048×1080 while the luma resolution would be 4096×2160. As for 10-Bit vs 8-Bit that instead refers to the maximum amount of colors that can be produced. This isn’t a problem for 4K Blu-Ray since all Blu-Ray content is nearly always 4:2:0 and only 24FPS. The projector does additionally support 4:4:4 (8-Bit) @30Hz and 4:2:2 (10-Bit/12-Bit) @30Hz.
For some reason even the newer projectors from Sony don’t seem to support the 18Gbps maximum bandwidth available with HDMI 2.0a, so I wouldn’t exactly call them “future-proof”. Only the highest-end VW5000ES does support 4K/60Hz 4:4:4 (8-Bit) and 4K/60Hz 4:2:2 (10-Bit/12-Bit).
Hi Aenews, Just a couple of thoughts. First, a correction, the older VW665ES does not support the 18ghz, but the newer VW675ES is the same as the pricy VW5000ES. “4K/60 4:4:4 (8-Bit) and 4K/60 4:2:2 (10-Bit/12-Bit”
I was just having a conversation with one of Sony’s engineers on the VW5000ES and other VW’s. He basically agrees with me, that other than pain in the butt players making trouble (Samsung. because they upscale, even from Blu-ray UHD 4:2:0, to 12 bit 4:4:4, which provides no useful visible advantage, the18ghz, really isn’t needed. And that from the folks who do make true 4K projectors that support the max on the 675 and 5000ES. it should be pointed out that, for example, for 60hz, that’s only expected to be used by broadcast – basically broadcast sports. But broadcast (whether satellite, cable, streaming) isn’t likely to go beyond 4:2:0, because they would cut the number of available channels in half, and we all know how valuable that bandwidth is to all of those distribution methods.
After all, consider how valuable that bandwidth is, we still have ESPN broadcasting at 720p even if that’s delivered at 1080i. And that’s more than a dozen years since they started broadcasting HD.
Also he agrees, that if a signal from your source is potentially 18ghz, this is still a smart system. It will see what the display can handle, and adjust, so a theoretical signal such as 24fps 12 bit 4:4:4 would be delivered at 24fps 12 bit 4:2:2 which only needs the 8.91 Ghz… The engineer points out that no one’s going to see the difference, he says commercially the extra data does help with things like green screen keying, but not normal viewing.
At this point in time, unless you are doing commercial work, there really seems to be no practical benefit to having the 18Ghz capability. Nice to have, sure, could someone take advantage of it in the future (where it makes a difference), sure, is it likely in the next 4-5 years, I seriously doubt it. Being able to receive it, is one thing, producing a better picture, is far more dependent on other things.
So, I’d say JVC’s got a better spec bandwidth spec, allowing for higher sub-sampling, than the 365ES, or say the Epson 5040UB, but not one that anyone can promise, will ever provide real benefit, (except, with say the Samsung player, because it currently is the only UHD projector that forces 4:4:4, and for no good reason. I’m just uncorking my Philps today (and I’m getting an Oppo when they get around to shipping. When I have all three, I’ll likely address all this in a more organized fashion, in a blog post, perhaps along with Ron, since he’s the engineer on our team. -art
Hi, Looks like I got that wrong. Ron, my other reviewer went though the manuals, etc., and called me on it. It is still 10Ghz. In this case, as I had mentioned, it was a Sony guy that told me it was the same as the VW5000ES. I gave him a hard time when he stopped by to visit last week, for the mis-information, which, btw he thought was one of the improvements between the 665 and 675, but he was wrong. Nice to know I’m not the only one who getws things wrong from time to time (misery loves company). -art
PS. The more people I talk to, the more I am convinced that there is little practical benefit to the 18 Ghz speed, with the current standards being used out there. Sure, 18 would support 12 bit 4:4:4, but the highest quality source out there that’s not production/professional, is Blu-ray UHD which can support better, but no content being offered is higher than 4:2:0, for which 10 Ghz is more than enough. That doesn’t mean someday there won’t be content that demands the higher bandwidth, of course. But then I think of Blu-ray and its promise of 10 bit color which it supports, etc. Still waiting after a decade for 10 bit color on a blu-ray movie. Hey, I’m still waiting for ESPN to upgrade to 1080 resolution on some channels. -art
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