Sony VPL-VW600ES 4K Projector – A First Look

vw600esGreetings everyone, I’ve just spent 3 days with the VW600ES here in my theater!  I’ve already blogged about it extensively, now it’s time to share my first impressions about its performance.  Before I get started, here are some of the basics again.  Price:  $14,999, or $1000 more with Sony’s 4K server, 1700 lumens claimed, 200,000:1 contrast…  I’m still playing with the VW600ES for a few more days before Sony needs it back.  I’ll be adding commentary down around the bottom of this blog, as I think of things to add.This time around, I’m pretty sure I’m looking at the same engineering sample Sony VPL-VW600Es that Sony brought up here a few weeks ago, and let me play with it for about 6 hours.  This time, I’ve already watched at least 6 hours of NFL football, 4 hours of misc HDTV and at least 8 hours of movies on it.   Mind you this time they did not bring me any 4K content, nor 3D glasses, so this First Look blog about the VPL-VW600ES is strictly focused on viewing 2K content in 2D.  I have yet to load in my own still photos (18 megapixel) to view them viamy Sony PS3 and enjoy them projected in true 4K.  I will comment on that after I get around to it, before Sony takes this VW600ES projector back later this week.I have been working with Sony’s Reality Creation, and playing with different modes, including Reference, User, TV Bright TV, Cinema and Bright Cinema, all without any adjustements from the defaults.  Color is less than perfect in the best modes, but rather close.  Bright TV seems to be the brightest, but even pushing out past 124″ diagonal, for my football DirecTV game mix (8 games at once), I had plenty of brightness using TV or better, Bright Cinema, which looked rather natural and still easily handled some modest ambient light intentionally present for my football viewing with friends.I’ve got a few images for you as well.  Including some real close-ups to show you what Reality Creation can do with 2K content, on this true 4K projector.Let’s start with a couple of images from The Hobbit (in 2D).
VPL-VW600ES projector – full frame image from The Hobbit, of Gandalf
First look at Gandalf.Let me start by saying that you will see some mis-convergence of the pixels on the real close-ups, especially from Rivendell.  I made the foolish mistake of taking these images before even looking at the convergence.  After these were shot, I finally got around to using the panel alignment controls.  The final result was far better than you see in these images.  I’ll have even closer looks in the full review.The image here is basically the full frame, but if you click (twice?) you will get a far closer look.  We’re still limited to 1000 pixel wide images, a small fraction – roughly only 1/16th of full resolution of this projector.Now by comparison, here’s a closer look at Gandalf:
A zoomed in look of Gandalf’s face, taken using the Sony VPL-VW600ES 4K Projector
Full frame image of Tolkien’s Rivendell in The Hobbit using VPL-VW600ES Projector
     Now let’s get really serious.   In this case here’s a night scene of distant Rivendell, in The Hobbit.  First is the full frame image (less minor cropping, then a really close up look and one closer still!   You will have to click twice (First time you click brings up a smaller image, then a click on that gives you the largest image)!  Now let’s take a real close look, (and remember, we haven’t yet aligned the pixels:
A closeup projected by the Sony VPL-VW600ES 4K home theater projector
     Finally, you won’t only be watching movies, so here’s a full frame and a close up of last nights Sunday Night Football game.  Wow!  That’s about it for now, other than some details:  First, the movie photos here from The Hobbit were taken with Reality Creation “Resolution” at the modest setting of 15.  That’s basically a low setting of upscaling to provide 4K data to the panels.  Then for the football image, taken with Bright TV mode, we left that set at the apparent default of 50, which has sharper edges and is more detectable.
Sunday Night Football projected using Sony’s VPL-VW600ES Home Theater Projector
   Let’s talk black levels because I know at least some of you are dying to know how good they are.  I haven’t yet put this Sony projector up side by side against the Epson 5020UB I have here for my side by side images.  I considered the Epson to do slightly better blacks overall than the Sony HW50ES, but so close.  Specs notwithstanding, this Sony should best both that Epson (and it’s new replacement) and the HW50ES and it’s replacement, the VPL-HW55ES.  From my viewing it will (using an iris) also easily best the lower cost JVC projectors (not the DLA-X700R and DLA-X900R).  There’s definitely a difference in black levels between this VPL-VW600ES and the VW1000ES reviewed last year.  That Sony, soon becoming the VW1100ES, will still be noticeably better at blacks.  But, the VW600ES is still offering excellent black level performance, bested by perhaps only 4 or 5 projectors available today, of which only the $27999 Sony is also true 4K.OK, folks, you should be impressed by now.  Remember, this isn’t our full review, I’m using default settings for color, brightness, contrast…  Consider all of this “right out of the box” performance.  We’ll calibrate the Sony VPLVW600ES projector when we get a full production one in for review.  We’ll also take a close look at 3D performance, and of course Mike will measure the key modes and do a full calibration.I’m hoping to have one of the first production VW600ES projectors to review, so expect the full review in November, well in time for the holiday shopping!  Thanks! -artUpdate 10/8:  Hi again,  I was emailed about the audible noise levels of the VPL-VW600ES.  Here’s the story.  When the projector arrived it was in High – high altitude mode.  I was warned, and suggested that I switch to default which is Normal mode.   As it was explained to me, this is an early engineering sample, and they were running it at the demo at CEDIA in High, because they were running the projector all day long, the noise would not be an issue in the blacked out “demo room” in their booth, and better safe, than sorry with such a preliminary unit.Since I’ve had it here, it has run continuously in Normal mode for at least three stretches of 8 continuous hours of use with lamp on full power.So, how loud is it?  In Normal mode where almost everyone will be, it’s pretty quiet.  They claim 26 db which we do not attempt to measure.  I can say that it’s far quieter than say the Epson 5020UB that I have here.  In fact the VW600ES may be quieter in Normal mode than the Epson is in Low lamp mode.   The sound of the fan etc., is relatively low pitched.  At one point I had paused the projector and forgot about it for about 15 minutes while writing.  When I finally looked up I also noticed the fan noise.  And I found the fan noise to be only slightly noticeable even with no audio on.  Now I’m an old audiophile, yet I know that some folks are less tolerant of background noise than I am.  I would have no issue at all with this Sony.  Currently I’m sitting with the projector on a table top about 50 inches behind my head.   There might be some quieter projectors out there, but only a very few people will care enough for this Sony projector’s noise levels to have to consider an alternative.  (But, of course there are no native 4K alternatives…)  -art

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