Sony VPL-VW1000ES Projector Review
Let's just start this review off with some big statements: This is the first true 4K projector I've reviewed, and it's "only" $24,999! I have reviewed a few $20K+ projectors, and so far, this is simply the best picture I've seen/reviewed. It is 4K, which is technically four times the resolution of 1080p, as it has twice as many pixels across, and twice as many top to bottom. The VPL-VW1000ESt is also 3D capable (and comes with 3D glasses- ready to go).
I'm just dazzled by this projector. I thought it was outstanding when I first saw it at CEDIA '11. The VPL-VW1000ES projector (pre-production) had some issues back then, but the overall potential was obvious. At the CES show in January, it was even better. The minor image defects were nicely cleaned up, and I was really blown away. Now I've had a chance to work with the Sony VW1000ES for about a month. Bottom line: I want one. I can't really afford one, but my theater is crying out for one.
Even at its $25K - out of the range of the vast majority of us - price, it can justify that price against any of the other premium priced projectors, and it can certainly justify its price relative to far less expensive projectors including those JVC's that "claim" 4K, but really aren't true 4K.
June 2, 2012 - Art Feierman
I am pleased to announce that I have found this year's "Holy Grail" of a Home Theater projector. Congratulations to Sony, as the VPL-VW1000ES is awarded our 2012 Outstanding Product of the Year. We say "product" as this award doesn't always go to a projector, but, this year it is a projector, so perhaps you could think of this award as reading 2012 Outstanding Projector of the Year. Either way, the projector's pretty awesome.
Enough praise for now, let's look at the "why". Time to delve into this Sony projector and all its features, benefits, and capabilities. This projector not only looks great, but is rather laden with features. That is quite often not the case with some high end projectors which are very focused on performance, but not so much on some of the niceties.
Sony VPL-VW1000ES Projector Overview
The VPL-VW1000Es is a physically pretty large projector (and weighs in at over 40 pounds. You'll almost certainly mount this projector. Atferall, this baby is built for a home theater, and will blend in nicely.
You don't need anything this good in a room not laid out well for viewing. Oh it has enough lumens to function in some less than ideal rooms, as it is brighter than most home theater projectors on the market, but that really isn't what the Sony VPL-VW1000ES is about. It is about a truly stunning picture, and its 4K resolution, which makes even 2K content look better, whether or not you let the projector upscale the content to 4K. OK, true 4K content is sort of MIA, but it is coming. And Sony is just announcing that we will all be able to use our Sony PS3 players to show 4K photos that we take with our better point and shoot cameras. (Technically this Sony's 4K is 8.8 megapixels).
A few of the images throughout this review are standard 2K content. We used the 2K to 4K upscaling for most of our viewing, and in many of the images shown here. We have only a few, true 4K content, and will clearly advise you what is really 4K content.
VPL-VW1000ES Brightness: Not much to complain about here. Calibrated this projector musters about 1200 lumens. In 2D that's a ton of brightness in a decent home theater environment (lighting control, mostly dark surfaces). With that many calibrated lumens you can easily fill a 150" screen, if that's your need. Remember, calibrated, it only takes about 400 lumens or so to meet the movie theater basic brightness standard 12 ft-lamberts for a 100" diagonal screen. The Sony actually has one mode, that measures only 330 lumens, (Cinema2) but interestingly, Cinema 2 doesn't look near as good as Reference mode, which calibrates beautifully and produces those roughly 1200 lumens! Mike has some comments about this strange case of a projector actually being at its brightest when calibrated. (See the Performance and Calibration pages).
It really is only 3D where lumens are a bit thin. True, this Sony projector has more calibrated lumens for 3D than any of those lower cost JVCs can muster (or Sony's less expensive models), even in their least pretty/ or accurate brightest modes. Of good quality projectors doing 3D, only that Panasonic and a few Epson's can do 3D substantially brighter, and even then, only by about 60%, brighter in their brightest - least accurate - modes. Those Epsons and Panasonics though, calibrated are all under 650 lumens. In fact, I don't believe, until this Sony, any 3D capable projector we've reviewed has been able to do more than 900 lumens calibrated, and only a very few do more than 650! Remember, we consider 500 lumens average, for a calibrated home theater.
This is an overview page, and I hadn't intended to spend so much time in brightness this early. Let's consider some of the other goodies, many discussed in detail in the Special Features section.
Most of the features are "standard" on higher quality home theater projectors. They include: CFI -basically smooth motion - Sony MotionFlow, for sports and other applications where you like it.
Above, from Hugo (2D)
Dynamic iris for excellent black level performance (and manual, and hybrid iris modes as well.
The lens offers 2.1:1 zoom, that's as long as it gets, offering exceptional placement flexibility, and of course, there's a good deal of both vertical and horizontal lens shift.
Reality Creation - I'll call that a dynamic sharpening feature. This rates a real wow, thanks to the 4K resolution of the VPL-VW1000ES projector.
There is also automatic panel alignment which we're seeing in more and more 3 panel/chip projectors, for improved pixel alignment.
And there's lens memory, or rather, automatic resizing, for those of us with "Cinemascope" shaped screens (ie. 2.35:1 or 2.40:1).
Below we'll discuss a number of these items, and others on later pages in this review of the Sony VPL-VW1000ES projector.
Sony VPL-VW1000ES Projector Highlights
- True 4K resolution, 3D capable projector
- Supports 4K, and will support new 4K standards as they emerge (ie. Blu-ray)
- Much brighter than average in "best mode"
- Excellent post calibration color
- Support for DCI color space (see below)
- Ultra high contrast projector
- Zoom lens (1.6:1) offers good placement flexibility
- Adjustable vertical and horizontal lens shift
- Sony's dynamic iris is very smooth, or can be run manually
- MotionFlow for smooth motion (CFI)
- Dark gray matte finish (coarse) with the front a shiney black.
- Supports an anamorphic lens, and has a form of "lens memory" for those wanting widescreen without using an anamorphic lens
Specs for Sony VPL-VW1000ES
Original MSRP: $24,999 MSRP):
Technology: LCoS (SXRD) 3 panels
Native Resolution: 4K !!! 4096x2160 (4 times 1080p)
Brightness: 2000 lumens claimed - measured: 1176
Zoom Lens ratio: 2.1:1
Lens shift: 80% Vertical and 31% horizontal
Lamp life: Estimated 2000-3000 hours depending on mode
Weight: 44.7 lbs. (20 Kg)
Warranty: 3 Years Parts and Labor
View full specifications: Sony VPL-VW1000ES home theater projector.
Sony VPL-VW1000ES Special Features
True 4K Resolution
This Sony is not offering some fancy electronic or physical manipulation using typical "2K" panels (basically 1080p), and claiming 4K. On the contrary, Sony's flagship home cinema projector sports three genuine 4K LCoS (SXRD) panels, for true 4K resolution of 4096x2160, a tad higher than 4 times today's 1080p resolution (1920x1080). That "extra" above 4x, is thanks to a wider panel.
The benefit of the higher resolution panels is immediately noticeable on 2K content. Sony offers Reality Creation for adjustable 2K to 4K upscaling! It's not night and day, that is, it's not as strking as viewing true 4K content, but it is definitely a real difference compared to standard 2K. There are times when the difference is dramatic.
Even more important in the long run than upscaling, is that the Sony VPL-VW1000ES runs true 4K content.
Now you just need to find some. Tthat's not that hard, if you start thinking digital cameras, rather than commercial movies or HDTV. You will be able to see your favorite photos at a higher resolution and greater clarity than any computer screen, even noticeably higher resolution than the latest iPad!
Wait, let's talk about this Sony doing real 4K content. Sony shipped me an HP server with some 4K content on it, including the Spiderman 3 trailer, and a series of 4K images. But, the real piece d' resistance was a segment shot by Stephen Low (who did Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D, and Legends of Flight - two spectacular 3D videos). This segment is a Rocky Mountain train ride, fully done in 4K. The level of detail, clarity, realness, simply left the usual 2K content in the dust. I can't wait for 4K content! After all, we're the "big screen" folks, we need 4K more than those poor, hapless souls handicapped with only 37" LCDTVs for seeing the digital world.
Below: Photo of 4K content projected with the VW1000ES
4K Still Photos: Here June 2012
If you have a digital camera capable of 9 megapixels and a Sony PS3 (most of us at least have the PS3, and plenty of us with never cameras have 9+ megapixels), and you can play your photos through the PS3 using the new PlayMemories 4K app from the PlayStation network. That app is scheduled for release mid-June 2012 (about two weeks from this writing).
Sadly, I don't have any quick solution for true 4K movies or sports, however, a couple of 4K upscaling Blu-ray players are already out there! And that raises an important topic - when will we have 4K movie content? We'll get to that further down the page.
2K to 4K Upscaling: Sony VPL-VW1000ES Reality Creation engine
That's it - Reality Creation is the name for the upscaling. Since there's no "HDTV" nor movies available yet in 4K, you will get the "highest resolution" moving images by letting the Sony upscale all the content from 2K (officially 1080p).
In the long run, we'll see where its best to upscale - at the blu-ray player level, or at the projector. My money, in this case, is on the projector. First of all, I cannot imagine they would put an inferior upscaling engine in their flagship projector - a true cinema quality projector, than in an inexpensive Blu-ray player.
Turning Reality Creation on, immediately changes the already sharp image. But, depending on settings and content, mostly does this without any really apparent flaws. The effect is that the picture starts looking razor sharp. It does not have the type of effects found with dynamic sharpening solutions. This is more clarity, with less artifacts, but a diffent thing. Upscaling, is playing with hire resolution, not using contrast and other techniques to make things look sharper.
Not a great choice of images, but, below click and compare the larger versions of this image. The top one is without upscaling, the lower one, with it on. Look at Scarlett's face and blouse, Gweneth's belt.
Using Reality Creation: Easy - turn it on. There are two adjustable controls, sharpness, and noise reduction. I did play with the sharpness in ranges from 0 to about 40 (less than half the range). I did not play with, nor determine the value of the specific noise reduction adjustment available with the Reality Creation controls.
"Future-Proofing" the Sony VPL-VW1000ES
I queried Sony product / marketing folks about 4K content. Sony's attitude made clear to me, is that they plan to keep this projector reasonably future-proof. No electronics product is future-proof for too long, especially with todays rapid changes, but Sony seems committed to making sure that they can keep the VW1000ES compatible with the most important 4K types of content expected to come out in the next few years. I believe that Blu-ray 4K is defined, or at least that's my take from this quote from cnet.com earlier this year:
"Looking to the future, Sony is reportedly keen to have the forthcoming "Spider-Man" reboot become one of the first 4K Blu-ray movies, and is apparently in talks with the Blu-ray Disc Association to finalize the specification."
So figure we will have a Blu-ray 4K standard, and perhaps the downloading world will have its own, and then, don't forget HDTV, although I'm pretty sure satellite and cable companies would rather not - they don't want to NEED 4x the bandwidth, and the TV studios don't want to buy new cameras, et al. Still 4K is here, the first 4K (or Quad-HD) LCDTVs are announced and should be shipping.
Having any serious quantity of content other than stills, may be a year or 3 off, but then this is a $25K projector, and I figure most folks buying this one are planning to hang on to it for some time - well into a time where 4K content is common.
The bottom line is wow! This folks, is real 4K, just waiting for more content. It is not to be confused with some fancy engineering that claims 4K, but can't actually produce 4K of distinct data. Now that I'm spoiled I've seen enough 4K content, and 2K content at 4K, I can't wait until I can afford one.
The iris action on this Sony is excellent. It is rarely going to be noticed unless you are specfically looking for its operation signs. The iris, combined with other abilities allows Sony to claim 1,000,000:1 contrast. I've only ever seen that claim one other time, on that "legendary" Epson "R" series Pro Cinema 61000 (using reflective panels), that has been shown at several shows, but has yet to make it to market. Back when I saw the 61000 it had by far the best blacks ever, from a projector using an iris. This Sony seems right up there, and with more apparent dynamic range.
VPL-VW1000ES 3D Abilities
I am rather happy with the Sony for 3D. Sure, some more lumens would be better, but the 3D is rather clean. Even in the High setting for the glasses, it was rather good. Certainly the best I've seen from an LCoS projector or 3LCD projector. Single chip DLP's are different, when it comes to 3D artifacts. I haven't had a good one of those in here in a while. I think just about everyone will find the 3D to be at least satisfactory.
3D active glasses:
I find them a bit tight for my extra large head, but Sony tells me they are adjustable. I'll have to see if there's a way to make them a little looser around my head. I wear glasses and the Sony's fit nicely over them. The world obviously needs 3D glasses that are adjustable, and defiitely also in kid's sizes. All considered, even with my super-sized head, not bad, but there are some a bit more comfortable. If I owned this VW1000ES I'd have to look for even more comfortable 3rd party compatible glasses, or figure out how to further adjust these. Hmm. I think this may be my single biggest complaint about the Sony VPL-VW1000ES projector. Well, the biggest except for the $25K price. The thing is, I "complain" about the price because I can't afford one. From a price performance standpoint, this Sony is probably a real bargain, compared to the direct competition, including the SIM2 3D2 projector, or the Runco LS10d (lacks 3D).
2D to Simulated 3D on the VPL-VW1000ES
Even with the VW1000ES I remain uninspired with 2D to 3D conversion. Just not good enough to be worth the glasses and the drop in brightness. If you buy this or any projector with 3D, try it, make your own decision. It's nice to have the choice.
Editor's note: Remember, beyond a point, it's personal taste. I rarely would watch a movie with CFI on, yet many folks don't mind at all. Perhaps it's the secret "purist" in me. Now that I think about it, it's probably that same "purist" that makes me such a big fan of well done 3D content. After all, other than movies, TV, books and computer displays, the rest of the world is in 3D. Go outside, and see for yourself! -art
Sony VPL-VW1000ES Gamma Modes
Sony again offers 10 different preset gamma modes. In addition to the variety labeled the usual 1.8, 2.2, 2.4... there are four Custom gammas. Mike reports that the closest to the "ideal" 2.2 gamma is actually the 2.4 which measures in at 2.29 just a tad dark in the mid-ranges. Alternately 2.2 setting is a touch light. Mike prefers the 2.4. I say, check it out, whichever works for you is just fine. 2.4 will give you that touch more pop, while 2.2 will just seem a tad brighter due to the mid-range.
CFI - Sony MotionFlow
Sony does a very nice job with their creative frame interpolation. The low setting is pretty free of the soap opera - "live digital video" affect on film movies, but there is still enough that shows on some scenes that purists will skip CFI on movies, and save for sports, and some other existing digital content. A very good CFI regardless of price.
Lens Memory Functions
Thanks to lens memory - with five settings, and auto setup option, you can choose to have a wide screen screen, without having an anamorphic lens. I have a 2.35:1 screen, and set up the projector to support filling it, as well as doing HDTV. I also have a 100" screen behind my motorized scren, which is exactly a 100" 16:9 screen, so I also had a setup for that one. It works, even if the auto feature didn't always get it right.
Image below - Leeloo, from The Fifth Element
Individual SXRD panel adjustment
Once again, Sony provides exceptional pixel/panel alignment capabilities. Adjustments can be done automatically, or manually (over 100 zones, I believe), in increments of about 1/10th of a pixel. Now remember, this is a 4K projector, so that's a lot finer than 1/10th on a 2K projector. I used the auto feature and find that the projector's alignment remains excellent in all parts of the screen. Not perfect, nor would we expect that, but overall, nice and tight with minimal color fringing.