Sony VPL-VW885ES 4K Laser Projector Review – Summary

Sony VPL-VW885ES 4K Laser Projector Review – Summary: The Big Picture, The Bottom Line, Pros, Cons

This is one pretty awesome projector.  I’ve reviewed a number of 1080p pixel shifters, and 4K UHD pixel shifters that can handle 4K content, including HDR and BT.2020, but like the two less expensive true 4K Sonys, none come close.

Sony VPL-VW885ES FrontAt $24,995 this is not for the faint of wallet.  Hey, it’s the cost of a basic Toyota Camry, but ya know what, it can last you far longer, and believe, me, the Sony VPL-VW885ES is a far better home theater projector than the Toyota Camry is a car.

This Sony is loaded with features, but it is the picture that justifies the dollar signs.  It is, simply stated, the second best projector to grace my home theater.  It’s UST twin, (more below), can be considered its equal, but they are different in terms of where each one works best.

The Big Picture - VPL-VW885ES

First of all, I got to review this projector under NDA, ahead of the formal announcement of the VW885ES at CEDIA.  The review has been pretty much finished 10 days before the show, but I had to hold publication.

Hot Product Award graphic
This is our top regular award for projectors. In addition we offer additional awards in our special reports.

Had I not, I can assure you it would have tied Sony’s VPL-VZ1000ES for our 2017 Best In Class – $8000 and up home theater projectors, for top honors – Best Performance.

All the images above are 4K HDR, BT.2020, except the last five which are 1080i off of HDTV.

Since I already recently published that that annual report, the VZ1000ES, the VW885ES’s ultra short throw “evil twin” got to own the award, without sharing.

The two are near identical in performance, but for the uniqueness of the VZ’s ultra short throw design.  That makes the VZ the better choice in bright room situations, but in most cases, I will be recommending the VW885ES if you have a dedicated theater or cave.

This is a bright projector – just beating its 2500 lumen claim and calibrated, (which we didn’t get to do, it likely will still top 2000 lumens, which means that it’s going to do better on HDR content, just by virtue of brightness, than almost anything else on the market but it’s $60K big brother, the 5000 lumen VW5000ES – that one also has slightly better optics, btw.

Picture Quality:  

Stunning comes to mind, especially when the content is 4K with HDR and BT.2020 color.  This is as good as I’ve seen, except for the $60K Sony. Enough said!

Sharpness

True 4K, with  really good, if not Sony’s best optics.  It’s also sharper than any projector through here except the VW5000ES, and call it a tie, with the VZ1000ES, except the edge to edge, or center to edge sharpness is a bit better, (as UST projectors have a harder time maintaining perfect focus across the entire image.

Value Proposition

Of course you can buy a projector that can handle 4K content, for as little as $2000 today, with several around $2500.  Oh, those certainly are not true 4K nor do they have many of the features found on this Sony, you know, like a laser light engine, auto calibration so your color doesn’t change over time, or even as much brightness calibrated.

And you can buy a Camry for a lot less than a Maserati or a Lamborghini.  Folks this projector is in the exotic car class, not the run of the mill passenger car class. You have to be prepared to pay “a little more” for pure performance.

The Bottom Line on Sony's VPL-VW885ES Laser Projector

Basically, even for someone as jaded as I am, getting to play with most projectors under $50,000 this is a keeper.  I could have wished for slightly better black levels, but they are pretty excellent.

I would have liked to see wireless and a smart projector overall, for easy firmware updates, perhaps a browser, etc, but that’s really the whole, home theater projector industry, that simply hasn’t tried to catch up to most new LCDTVs and game machines.

VPL-VW885ES_4K_passengers_spaceship
Sony’s VW885ES is at its very best handling dark scenes in 4K HDR with BT.2020 expanded color space (richer more intense colors)

 

But when I finally stop complaining, this is a projector, if I could really afford it, that I would buy.  I’ve been holding out a while now for a true 4K with the performance I want, that  I can afford.  Here’s the first half solved, now if only the “afford” part would work itself out.

More to the point, to me this is a signifiant step up from Sony’s VW675ES (at $15K).  The step up in black level performance is a real part of that, but overall, for me, it’s the whole package that works. Sony has dotted all the i’s and crossed all their t’s.

Perhaps Sony will let me take a shot at a full production version when they ship in a month or two (November, I believe – so order yours now – think Tesla).  And when they give me that shot, I’ll hope they forget about it for 6 months or more.  That would be nice.

The biggest problem I see with just having reviewed this Sony, is that it’s going to be a real drag reviewing a $1995 4K UHD projector next.  Oh well, I’ll just have to toughen up.

Pros

  • True 4K projector with HDR, BT.2020
    • Supports both HDR10 (the primary standard)
    • Supports the new(er) HLG – Hybrid Log-Gamma – designed for 4K streaming
    • HDR Contrast adjustment is the best control over HDR I’ve seen so far
    • Resolution is 4096×2160, even higher than the usual 2X 1080p which is 3840×2160, and the same as commercial Cinema projectors
  • Glorious picture quality – even out of the box some fairly excellent color accuracy
    • Maintains color over time, thanks to Auto Calibration!
  • 20,000 hour laser light engine, loses brightness over years, not months
  • Slightly exceeded it’s 2000 lumen claim –  a good amount for tackling HDR
    • Always a surprise when a pre-production unit beats claim!
  • Extremely sharp image
  • Superb black levels, from our reviewing third only behind
    • Sony’s own flagship VW5000ES
    • Assorted JVC 1080p pixel shifters (we haven’t tested their $35K true 4K yet)
  • Excellent placement flexibility with motorized lens features, including:
    • 2.1:1 zoom lens
    • lots of lens shift (vertical and horizontal)
    • Lens Memory to support owning a wide screen
    • It will even support “old school” anamorphic lenses
  • A very good remote control, well laid out
  • MotionFlow – CFI – aka Smooth motion works with 4K content
    • previous Sony’s only supported CFI on 1080p and lower
  • Improved 4K gradations for smoother image reproduction
  • HDMI inputs are full 18 Ghz – This Sony supports basically all the 4K protocols
    • Including 4K HDR, 60fps at 10 bit (for HDR, HLG)
  • It’s pretty close to being  as good as HT gets

Cons

  • Well, it would be nice if I could afford one, $25K is a bit steep for most of us
  • Not the best black levels (but close)
  • Lacks MHL on either HDMI input
    • At this price point, a typical system will have better alternatives for streaming, than plugging a Roku stick into the back. (Hey, the 4K Roku isn’t a stick, I have one feeding this Sony through my AV receiver
  • Sony could provide a separate longer warranty on the laser engine than the standard 3 years

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