Sony VPL-VW95ES Projector Review
The Sony VPL-VW95ES Home Theater projector, replaces last year's VW90ES, and is Sony's top of the line, and 2nd generation 3D capable, 1080p projector. I state it that way, because Sony is also launching the VPL-VW1000ES - a $25,000 4K home theater projector. But, that's a story for another time.
We are pleased to have been working with the VPL-VW95ES for a couple of weeks, and consider it a real improvement (for a significantly lower price) compared to last year's entry.
December 2011 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL-VW95ES Projector Overview
Both the performance and the price make the Sony VPL-VW95ES projector a premium product. Last year we liked the VW95ES's predecessor, but had a few issues and reservations. That older Sony was one of the very first home 1080p projectors that was 3D capable. The VW95ES is definitely improved, in a number of ways. Sony's second generation 2D/3D projector simply has much better performance than the 90ES, so let's start with some of the differences, between the VPL-VW95ES and the VPL-VW90ES.
VPL-VW95ES Brightness: We really appreciate the boost in brightness in this year's Sony VPL-VW95ES. It really makes 3D a better experience, and of course, provides the option of handling larger screens in 2D than the less bright 90ES could deal with. Mostly, though, we see the brightness increase, as taking Sony from a "you can play with 3D" projector, this year's projector that's bright enough to really get into 3D content on a regular basis.
As with previous VW series home theater projectors, the Sony VPL-VW95ES projector relies on a dynamic iris to produce some very nice "ultra high contrast" type blacks. As has been the case for the last few years, Sony does a really nice job, but it's one area where the Sony has been playing catch-up for a few years, to JVC and Epson. Not so the VPL-VW95ES. Black level performance has improved - noticeably!
The Sony VPL-VW95ES comes with a pretty impressive feature set. The lens has good range and is fully motorized as is the lens shift. All that and more will be discussed in either in the Special Features section below, or on the Tour page.
While not as expensive as the VPL-VW90 Last year ($9995), even with a street price around $7000, this Sony VW95ES is out of reach, price wise, of a lot of our readers, but then, there are roughly 120,000 homesi in the US alone, that will purchase a home projector this year. That inclues a low cost home entertainment projectors (and even all-in-one systems), entry leve home theater projectors, mid-priced home theater projectors ($2000-$3500) and yet, that probably still leaves a few thousand people/households out there buying premium projectors, with some really rich folk spending up to $100,000 for their projector.
For those familiar with last year's VW90ES, the VW95ES is not only a much better value, it is a significantly improved projector.
This Sony has been especially enjoyable to watch. It's been my primary projector now, for almost two weeks. It's very well behaved. I am noticing that I am not really noticing the projector. And that's exactly how it should be. That's a great starting point.
Sony VPL-VW95ES Projector Highlights
- A signficant, and important increase in brightness, and performance compared to last year's VW90ES
- Much brighter than average in "best mode"
- Excellent post calibration color,
- "Out of the box" color could be better, but pretty good. (There are almost an infinite choice of modes, gammas, color temps. Enough to please the most hard core "tweaker")
- Ultra high contrast projector
- Zoom lens (1.6:1) offers good placement flexibility
- Adjustable vertical and horizontal lens shift
- Sony's dynamic iris is nicely smooth, or can be run manually
- MotionFlow for smooth motion (CFI)
- Good looking black finish (deep blue speckles too)
- Supports an anamorphic lens, with or without sled.
Specs for Sony VPL-VW95ES
Original MSRP: $9999 MAP (or new MSRP): $6999
Technology: LCoS (SXRD) 3 panels
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: 1000 lumens claimed, 796 lumens highest we measured (at full wide angle, 751, at our normal mid-point on the zoom)
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.6:1
Lens shift: Vertical and horizontal
Lamp life: Sony does not provide info, we assume 2000 hours at full power
Weight: 24.25 lbs. (11 Kg)
Warranty: 3 Years Parts and Labor
View full specifications: Sony VPL-VW95ES home theater projector.
Sony VPL-VW95ES Special Features
Smooth, and deep, it delivers excellent blacks, but that will be discussed in the image quality page.
The iris of the VPL-VW95ES offers fixed (Manual) or variable (Dynamic) operation. Note: It seems when you engage the iris manually, it starts already closed down about 10%. This is concluded from the fact that with the Iris in Off, or either of the Dynamic modes, the brightness is about 70 lumens more than with it in manual, and at maximum. For smaller screens, the manual iris will allow you to give up 50% of total brightness, in its most closed setting. This would be a good option if you are using the Sony projector with a smaller screen.
VPL-VW95ES 3D Abilities
The VW95ES uses active shutter glasses, for 3D. The glasses with this year's Sony seem reasonably comfortable, and lack the bad reflection that I reported for those wearing last year's Sony's glasses over my own.
The 3D performance on the VW95ES has been rather glorious, especially compared to last year's VW90ES. The big boost in brightness is huge. Only part of that improvement shows up, I believe, in our measurements. I suspect that glasses and other processing improvements have added further to the brightness.
Earlier this year, I wasn't really happy with 3D brightness on any of the LCoS projectors tested. This time, though, I'm pretty pleased. Sure, you can give me even more lumens for 3D, but I'm not complaining when watching at a 100" diagonal size. Please remember, too, the last four home projectors I've reviewed are all brighter, (and all 3D capable) so I'm a bit spoiled. I can't really recommend you go with anything resembling a large screen (over 110" diagonal) without going with an especially bright screen material (and also going with the trade-offs that come with those very high gain screens.)
Overall color in 3D is pretty good. Everything seems to come out a touch punchy, but then we didn't attempt t oreally calibrate specifically for a 3D mode, which can be done. I watched the Sony side by side with the Epson 5010 (the Epson was a lot brighter in 3D, but the Sony dominated everything else, from sharpness to blacks), and with the SIM2 Nero 2 projector (our next review), a single chip DLP with a $20K price! I'll discuss later.
Let's talk 3D active glasses:
For 3D, of course, the Sony VW95ES uses active glasses which means if you have a lot of friends, more money for glasses. Sony's glasses are USB rechargeable. You might want to consider 3rd party glasses for your extra pairs, you can probably save money, buy a universal pair that will work on your friends projector if they bought a different brand (or LCDTV)
I've found that Sony's "Official" PS3 Playstation glasses sell for about $49 to $69, are readily available, and work. They support the multiple glasses brightness modes, etc. Note, that they are a touch lighter than Sony's glasses for the projector, and I'd give the standard glasses (for the projector) the edge in comfort, at least for those of us who wear regular glasses. The "projector" glasses look nicer, but if you need a whole bunch for the kids...
2D to Simulated 3D on the VPL-VW95ES
Once again, I have to say "so what?" Conversion, as with all the 2D-3D I've seen on the projectors to come through here, is flawed. Oh, it definitely looks like 3D, until sometimes small objects seem closer than other objects that are supposed to be closer. I think kids might go for it. Still as an every day glasses wearer, I just can't rationalize putting on 3D glasses - watching a less bright image, all for the sake of "simulated 3D", yet I gladly don them for great 3D content.
I have watched this Sony, and also other projectors with 2D-3D conversion, doing the same content, first in 3D, then in simulated 3D from the 2D version, and then 2D. I've got to stick with real 3D content, and leave 2D in 2D. (Note, I'm not talking about 2D to 3D conversion of games, such as nvidia offers. At this time, I'm not aware of any higher end projectors that are nvidia certified to that, regardless.
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
Last year I also felt the Sony was a little "heavy" on 3D artifacts - be they ghosting, crossover, and other terms many of us are still sorting out. This year the VW95ES seems to be "smoother". Don't worry, there's still plenty of 3D artifacts to go around with all projectors, at least how 3D affects me. The trick is getting rid of the most annoying. Sony's got much better 3D this year. Kudos! Unfortunately, I still can't claim to know enough to bea good judge of what's the cleanest 3D. It seems, like the "rainbow effect" some 3D aspects are more noticeable by some people than others. Let's just say, I've been enjoying the VPL-VW95ES projector in 3D.
Sony VPL-VW95ES Gamma Modes
Sony again offers 10 different preset gamma modes (#11 is "off" (default). Last year Mike took a closer look at the Gamma modes of the VW90ES. The rest of this paragraph is from that projector. It should give you a good idea about the 95ES, but we did not check for real changes: Per Mike's measurements, the gamma mode closest to the target of 2.2 is gamma 4, which averaged 2.23 gamma. Four is a great mode for movies, though purists who remember CRT home theater projectors might be happier with a higher gamma. There is some correlation between the gamma numbers (2,3,8,9, etc.) and their performance, but it seems almost like two groupings, gammas 1-5, and 6-10. I hadn't asked Mike to take a close look to determine what Sony's doing, so he just comes back with the best recommendation, in this case: Gamma 4. The higher gammas generally aren't as "linear." Mike reported last year.
That is to say, one of those non-linear gammas might just alter the lower end - the darker areas, not the brighter ones, whereas 1-5 are linear. One of the higher ones, for example might have an average gamma of 2.1, but average 2.2, everywhere except for between 10 and 20 IRE, where it might be only 1.8 (that would lighten dark shadow detail).
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.
Sony SXRD panels - (LCoS)
A sort of short history of LCoS panels in projectors: It is true, that the largest percentage of home theater projectors use either DLP or 3LCD technology. Sony uses Liquid Crystal on Silicon, a reflective panel, as opposed to the translucent typical LCD panels. Sony calls their LCoS implementation SXRD. In the under $10,000 price range, JVC and Sony are the primary manufacturers of LCoS home theater projectors. Canon also manufactures their own but doesn't offer home projectors. LG recently has rolled out several projectors using Sony's LCoS panels.
There are always trade-offs, but in the past, JVC has managed better native blacks - no dynamic iris, than the Sony. Previous Sony's for the most part fell well short of the JVC's even with a Sony dynamic iris. I don't know if it's new panels in the 95ES or some other reason, but Sony's blacks are better than ever.
Image below - Leeloo, from The Fifth Element
Individual SXRD panel adjustment
Once again, Sony provides alignment capabilities. The digital shifting is done across the whole screen, or can be done zone by zone. The bottom line, this Sony goes about as far as anyone in allowing adjustment for the usual slight misalignment of the panels. The end result is maximizing sharpness, although once adjusted, the result is only slightly improved, not dramatic. (Any improvement, is a good thing - by definition.) In a perfect world it would be great to actually get perfect alignment out of the panels, and not rely on digital correction. Still, Leeloo looks awfully sharp in the image above, and that's after lots of processing.