Sony VPL-VW95ES Projector - Physical Tour
12/10/2011 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL-VW95ES Projector - Appearance
The new Sony VPL-VW95ES projector is physically identical to last year's VW95ES and the VW85 before it. Like the older projectors, the VPL-95ES is a larger home theater projector, It is finished in an almost black shiny finish on the top, while most other surfaces are a flat black. A dark blue speckling runs through the black piano finish. the If you are ceiling mounting, of course, the projector is inverted, with the piano finish facing down, where it is nicely attractive with lights on. The finish itself has a dark blue speckle to it, so, it's not quite mere black. When the case gets hit with some light, it makes for a classy finish.
Once gain, Sony's manual zoom lens, with its 1.6:1 zoom ratio, is recessed.
This VPL-VW95ES projector, unlike the much lower cost Sony VPL-HW30ES, has a motorized lens system that controls zoom, focus and lens shift.
The control panel of the projector, rather small, and all the inputs, are located on the side of the projector (left side if facing the front of the Sony projector). The control panel hides behind a spring loaded door when you don't need it.
Venting is primarily on the front sides, with the warm air exiting from the left front (again, if looking from the front).
Sony VPL-VW95ES Control Panel
The VW95 control panel has all the basics. There are two indicator lamps. The four arrow keys are in a round configuration with the center area carved into two semi-circular buttons. One is the Menu button, and the other; Enter. The left arrow key lets you toggle through the HDMI and computer sources, while the right arrow key lets you choose from your various video sources.
Simple, effective, and I like the split buttons in the center, so I'll add elegant to the description of the control panel.
Sony VPL-VW95ES projector's connector panel is located on the left side (if looking from the front). Facing that side, from back of the projector to the front, you'll find the power receptacle, two HDMI 1.4a inputs, and a standard HD15 connector for the usual analog computer input (it can alternately be used as a second component video input). Next, comes the S-video (DIN connector), and composite video (RCA jack). Then comes the standard component video input (3 color coded RCA jacks).
Then comes something first seen on last year's 90ES, a 3D sync input. That's followed by an IR In (to hardwire the remote), a 12 volt trigger (for screen or anamorphic sled), and finally an RS-232 serial port (strangely labeled "remote") for command and control by a room control system, or a computer, if so desired.
Sony VPL-VW95ES Menus
Although Sony seems to add a new feature or two with each generation, the menus have been fundamentally the same.
Because the menu stucture hasn't changed since the first of the series, the VW50, way back in 2006, we often borrow from older reviews. It's time for a fresh start, so for the VW95ES review, we have all new menu photos and descriptions. Here goes.
As you can see from the picture menu above, all the main menu icons are on the left of the menu. That first one, is Picture.
The next menus relate to Picture, and modes and color. Let's start with the lower level menu for calibrating the grayscale, as shown in this Custom 3 menu.
In the picture menu, the first choice are your picture modes. Sony provides five standard modes and a User for you. The five standard ones are Dynamic, Standard, and Cinema 1, 2, and 3. Please note, Cinema 2 is the preset with the best starting color.
Next, is Reset, and I mention it only because I don't like seeing a Reset button in the middle of a bunch of controls, even if it makes you verify. Below that, Cinema Black Pro, which has an important sub-menu. From it, you can select any of 4 iris modes - two diynamic, a manual adjustment, or Off.
Also important to a lot of folks - the other item on that sub-menu is lamp brightness. High or Low (Sony takes a pass on calling it "eco-mode" as so many do). MotionFlow is next on the Picture menu, and it has two items on its sub-menu, the more important of the two, being Motion Enhancer, which is the name for Sony's Creative Frame Interpolation ("smooth motion"), which is great for sports, but does cause serious change to a 24 fps movie - you get that live digital video, or "soap opera" look. On the low setting it's not too bad (I watched part of the movie Red, with it on low, and it was ok, but the film feel is long gone).
Then come your basic Contrast, Brightness, Color and Hue controls. Color Temp comes next and it offers up four basic and multiple Custom color temp settings. The standard ones are High Middle, Low 1, and Low 2.
Lastly, there are Sharpness, and the important Expert Setting sub-menu. That sub-menu takes you to your noise reduction controls (labeled just MPEG NR), which target mosquito noise and block noise. I played briefly with the 4 mosquito noise settings. You can see the reduction in the noise levels fairly easily from off to max (3). That expert menu also has the Gamma with 10 gamma settings and off. Interestingly, six of the gamma settings can be edited with Sony's software. 7-10 cannot. Those higher ones are all goal oriented, for example, gamma 7 and 8 are simply desribed as more contrasty. 9 is supposed to simulate film, so I presume a gamma up around 2.5 overall. And so on! Each gamma does come with an adjust for both white and black levels.
For those who like experimenting, and lots of controls to play with, this VPL-VW95ES should keep you most amused!
The next main menu is labeled Advanced Picture and contains just one item: RCP - Real Color Processing. That folks is your color management system for adjusting each of the primary and secondary colors. Note that we do not normally calibrate the individual colors for our reviews.
Screen Menu is next, and it deals with aspect ratios, called Wide Mode. It offers a choice of Normal, Full, Wide Zoom, Zoom, and Anamorphic Zoom. The other setting on the Screen menu is Overscan. The Sony offers only Overscan off and on options, and no masking alternative which I prefer (as it maintains 1:1 pixel mapping).
The Setup menu's next with the Lamp reset control, all your standard setup stuff like menu position and language, Standby modes...
The Function Menu is an interesting one with a 3D settings item (offers auto select between 2D and 3D, or manual). HDMI settings and input search are also there.
The Installation menu is about projector positioning, the 12 volt trigger, setting the IR for the remote, and aligning Sony's LCoS panels. Finally, of course, there's an Information menu. These last two, are not shown, nor is the Screen menu.
OK, that's a good selection to give you a proper feel. Missing are many more menus, including the Gamma menu. Note that with Image Director software, and your computer, you can further customize the gamma controls.
Let's look at 3D menus: Yes, the Picture Mode menu in 3D looks exactly like the 2D version, except for the addition of (3D). All modes are useable for 3D.
There is a 3D menu for settings, which gives you control over glasses brightness, and the depth adjust control (very interesting, but I mostly avoided it).
Here's what one of those adjustment controls looks like.
In the first image the depth is at default. Since the menu floats at the front of the projected image, there's no visible depth separation when photographing the 3D image. But, change the setting to -1, and everything doubles up, as you can see below, and as the menu shifts a bit in terms of depth. To a large degree it's hard to see what's really happening without a good image to use for reference.
What appears as drastic changes in the menu, result in mostly barely detectable changes in depth.
Sony VPL-VW95ES Remote Control
This remote for the 95ES is almost the same one they switched to last year. In fact it is the same but for the addition of two more buttons. I like this remote. It's a big one, very long. The backlight is a deep LED blue, with reasonably good visibility of the letters on the buttons.
Since this remote is essentially the same except for the addition of two new buttons, most of this content is borrowed from our Sony review of last year.:
This layout is now, perhaps my all time favorite remote control, at least of all the remotes I've worked with while reviewing home theater projectors. Keep in mind that I spend a lot of time using remotes, as I try out different settings. As a result, my usage is a lot different than the typical owner, but I still think everyone should find this to be an excellent remote control.
Image to the right, is last year's remote for the VW90ES. The new one has 2 additional buttons. We will replace this image shortly.
I also note, this is one large remote - measuring a full 10 inches in length. Also of note, a few of the keys do glow dimly, so with some difficulty, you can find it in a fully darkened room. That may sound minor, but, I got so frustrated over the last year plus, with my remotes for my two Sony PS3s, when trying to locate them when the lights are off, that I finally put a couple of day-glow stickers on both of them.
Let's start at the top, and work our way down...
Top right is a green power switch. It uses the standard protocol of Press once to power up, Press twice, to power down. Next to it, is the Input button allowing you to toggle through the different sources. To its left, is the Light button, that turns on the blue LED lights that illuminate the buttons..
The next two rows are for the six Picture modes: Cinema, Standard, and Dynamic, pluse User 1, 2, and 3.
Because this Sony remote can control other Sony Bravia devices such as Blu-ray players and camcorders, you will next find a full set of playback controls, such as play, fast forward, next/previous chapter, pause, etc.
Also included in that section are the Sync Menu and Options buttons, to define and select those other Bravia devices. Different options are available depending on the devices. This whole control section only works when the compatible Bravia devices are hooked up via HDMI 1 or HDMI 2.
Next comes the main navigation section. It consists of the usual four arrow keys (in a round configuration), with a center Enter button.
Surrounding the navigation area are three buttons in a larger circle. The one to the upper left brings up the Lens functions (focus, zoom, lens shift). The bottom one is the Menu button to launch the menus, and the top right one is the Reset button. Personally, I find large Reset buttons located near navigation to be scary. Nothing worse than, "oops" I just reset everything." Still there is a confirm function, but, pay attention!
Below the navigation area are nine buttons that provide direct access to some of the more frequently selected controls: Gamma, Black Level settings, Advanced Iris, Color Space, Color Temp, 3D, Motion Enhancer (CFI), Wide Mode which lets you toggle through different aspect ratios, RCP which is Sony's color management system, and lets you individually tune each primary and secondary color.
Note; We do not work with the RCP as part of our own "basic" grayscale calibration of the VW95ES. Most likely, if you hire a good professional calibrator, they will adjust the individual colors, as well as the grayscale balance.
That leaves just six more buttons - actually 3 pairs of direct controls. They are Sharpness, Brightness, and Contrast.
Again, an excellent remote. It is logically laid out, the buttons have a good feel. It fits well in your hand (mine is pretty average sized), and has excellent range.
Sony VPL-VW95ES Lens Throw
The VW95ES projector's motorized 1.6:1 zoom lens offers a reasonable amount of placement range. Per the user manual, if you have a 100 inch diagonal 16:9 screen, the lens allows the projector to be placed as close as 10 feet 1 inch, or as far back as 16 feet 4 inches. That said, the Sony is not going to rear shelf mount in a lot of people's rooms, due to the relatively shallow maximum distance, compared to most other projectors with 1.5:1 to 2.1:1 zooms. The 95ES can not be placed as far back as most projectors that are rear shelf mountable (has lens shift). Most of the non-DLP competition can be placed as far back as 19 - 21 feet, for the same sized screen.
The bottom line, therefore, is while you can, of course, ceiling mount the VPL-90ES projector, many will not be able to place the Sony on a rear shelf, unless they are using an unusually large screen for a that room size. Let me restate that - you aren't likely to be able to rear shelf mount unless your room depth is fairly shallow.
VW95 Lens Shift
The Sony VPL-95ES has vertical and horizontal lens shift. Both functions are motorized, and controlled from the remote, via the lens button.
For a 100" screen, the center of the lens can be placed as high as approximately 7.5 inches above the top of your screen surface Actually Sony quotes in their manual, a maximum of 31 - 7/8 inches above the center of the screen, which is about 49.5 inches high, so top of the screen is about 24.3 inches above the center of the screen.
VPL-VW95ES Anamorphic Lens, Lens Memory
The VPL-VW95ES, of course, supports using an anamorphic lens. A motorized sled for the lens can be controlled by the Sony's 12 volt trigger. This allows you to go with a true Cinemascope shaped screen (such as 2.35:1).
For those selling your soul just to afford a VW95ES, without the budget for the lens, or lens and sled, please note that a 2.35:1 (anamorphic) screen is still very doable, if that's your preference, and if it works out for your room placement.
The Sony VPL-VW95ES offers a full Lens Memory setup. This will allow you to go with that 2.35:1 (or 2.40:1) "Cinemascope" width screen. With Lens Memory, once it's set up, when you want to watch a widescreen movie, then simply at the touch of a button, the image will zoom out (larger image) to fill the entire width of your 2.35:1 screen. At the same time, (the Sony has digital image shift and motorized lens shift), the image will adjust to be properly filling the screen vertically with just the information from the movie, with the letterboxing overshooting the screen. With the Sony's great black level performance, you are only likely to really notice the letterboxing if your front wall around your screen is white or near white, and you're watching a very dark scene.
Alternately, when it's time to watch some "standard" 16:9 content - including HDTV, and most animation films, the lens will return to the the setting for watching in a 16:9 aspect ratio, keeping the whole vertical image within the screen height (constant screen height), which results in the letterboxing on the screen, to the left and right of the 16:9 image.
If movies are your primary reason for owning a projector, then for most, it does make sense to have the largest screen size when viewing movies. With the standard 16:9 screen, though, movies - due to their letterboxing, are a smaller area, than HDTV.
With the VPL-VW95ES, you have two ways to go "widescreen" - either use the lens memory, or go with a full anamorphic lens solution.