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2015 Holiday Guide To The Five Best Home Theater Projectors Over $2500 - Part 2

By Art Feierman
This page of our Holiday Guide features two truly awesome, brand new projectors - one's true 4K, and the other is 4K compatible.  We're reviewing both, shortly, but I did get a close look at both at the recent CEDIA show.

The Amazing 4K Sony VPL-HW665ES

Sony’s VPL-VW665ES is one of their brand new 4K projectors. It started shipping this month (November '15!)  I got a good look at the VW665ES at the CEDIA show, and had the opportunity to enjoy several months of use of it's predecessor, the VW600ES over the last year or so.  Gawd, I hated to have to return it!

The images in this gallery start with a product shot, and a living room image provided by Sony.  The remaining images in this player were taken last year using the older VW600ES, all 1080 resolution. The last two, are from Red October, with one just a close up to show how sharp the projector looks on 1080p content!  The 2nd player shows all 4K content.

Sony is paying me a visit the week after Thanksgiving, and if all goes well, they will be dropping off a VW665ES for my immediate review. meantime I can give you a pretty darn good idea of what to expect:

Color on recent Sony projectors we've reviewed has been almost perfect, right out of the box, making a calibration often unnecessary for best picture.  And what a best picture you'll get with this VW665ES!

These images in the player above were taken showing true 4K content on the projector.  A couple have full frame, then close up shots.  Remember you are looking at 1000 pixel wide images, full resolution was 3840 wide, so this photo, and your display, aren't up to the task of really showing you how sharp this projector is!  That alone should impress.

Even for a pain in the butt, critical, never 100% satisfied reviewer like myself, this class of projector is just a pleasure to watch.  So, if a projector with a price tag around $15,000 isn't beyond your reach, you can be dazzled by 1080p, and when you fire up that first Blu-ray UHD movie, be prepared for some serious level of awesome.

In many ways a pixel shifting lower res projector like the JVC (below) and Epson LS10000 featured on the next page, can look as sharp as this Sony with standard 1080p content.  But, guess what?

The trick is having 4K content, which is coming soon enough!  Although many of us were expecting Blu-ray players in time for this holiday, we'll have to wait a couple more months it seems. There is already a 4K movie download service that's reasonably priced, which I occasionally use.

Like it or not 4K content is coming, and will be the new standard.  When you feed this Sony true 4K it's going to get pretty magical.  The older version had some really good black level performance. (Sony does make two more expensive 4K projectors after all!)  This VW665ES will be even better, with higher native contrast and dynamic iris.  Better yet, it his implementing more and higher end UHD standards, matching movie theater quality, and including HDR for extended dynamic range.  Here check out this comparison of regular vs HDR:

This is a great choice for your dedicated theater or cave, it’s bright calibrated, serving up 1000 lumens, plenty for larger screens.   There’s a few more hundred lumens under the hood, for when you want some lights on, that still deliver a great picture if not quite so accurate.  You’ll wish that any LCDTV you’ve owned had color this good.  In that theatre, you’ll appreciate the excellent black level performance, bringing the darkest scenes to life.

Are you into 3D? No problem.  Want an extremely sharp image?  Sony’s Reality Creation “engine” enhances detail and perceived sharpness.  Skin tones are handled beautifully, as is color in general.  I used to think Sony’s rep was to some degree left over from the pre-HDTV days of Sony’s legendary Trinitron TVs, but the color accuracy and naturalness of this Sony’s picture demonstrates that Sony isn’t resting on its laurels from days gone by.

This same Sony projector does rather nicely in my theater even with a reasonable amount of light coming in from only partially shuttered windows when I’m watching football, or a music video, or Discovery HD.  If you’ve got a good room or a really great room to serve as a theater, you won’t find a projector that can beat its overall performance without spending a serious chunk of extra money.  I wouldn’t call this a family room projector, I think it’s best in a really dark room, but, it does have what it takes to perform well in some of those less than ideal rooms.

So, What’s with 4K? And What is “Pixel Shifting”?

I've mentioned pixel shifting above.

If you are paying attention – online, or at Best Buy, or Costco, you’ve almost certainly noticed that the big thing in LCDTVs  is 4K resolution.

You'll have to strain your brain, to figure out why you need 4K if you are sitting 10 or 12 feet from a 50” LCDTV display, because you probably can’t detect any difference at all between 2K (1080p) and 4K at that distance.  But if you want to sit 7-12 feet from a 120” screen, so you are immersed with a huge image, (like sitting half way back or less, in a good movie theater), you can instantly appreciate how superior 4K is!  And when you add HDR, and some of the other goodies, not only do you get higher res with the VW665ES, but you get a truly superior picture when it comes to color and dynamics!

Sadly, as we enter the 2015 holiday shopping season, the lowest cost true 4K projector sold in the US has a list price of $9,999.  That's the Sony model below the one covered above.

There’s a technology that basically splits the difference.  It’s called pixel shifting.  Only two companies are offering pixel shifting – JVC and Epson, and one of each are featured in this holiday guide.  With pixel shifting you can take the content, upscale to 4K, but since the projector panels are still only 1080p, you address them twice, but shift the second pass by 1/3 or ½ of a pixel.  This gives a smoother more continuous image.  There’s some real benefit there, as our demonstrations in reviews have shown.

A well implemented pixel shifting design will allow a 1080p projector to seem as detailed and sharp (although done so digitally) as a true 4K projector when both are displaying standard 1080p, especially off of a Blu-ray disc.   In fairness, once true 4K content starts becoming readily available (soon!) that's when a true 4K projector will have the advantage.  Still but pixel shifting done right is the way to get the sharpest image today, without the expense of a true 4K projector.

JVC DLA- RS400, aka, DLA-X5000

First all of these three models are the same projector!   They are just sold by different dealer channels.  JVC has been running multiple channels with different model numbers for the same projector, for years. It's  common enough thing.  Oh, there are some major differences between the RS400 and the X5000.  The trim around the lens on the RS400 is gold, and on the X5000, it will be dark silver/gray.  Yep, that's the "massive" difference.

JVC has long been the king when it comes to delivering projectors with superior black level performance.  The DLA-RS400, DLA-X5000 are no exception.  Black levels are awesome, although still not as good as JVC's two more expensive models.  I will be reviewing one of these soon enough, and Ron will be tackling JVC's top of the line model in his own review.

Click Image to Enlarge

This projector is for your dedicated home theater.  Those great blacks are wonderful, but even in a room with only minor ambient light, the difference between great and merely very good black level performance is reduced to almost nothing.

But, in that home theatre or cave, dark scenes are superb.  Understand, even some of the better $1000-$2000 projectors do outstanding color and picture quality on bright scenes – it’s the dark scenes that separate great home theater projectors from good home entertainment projectors!

Sharpness is another key factor.  This JVC uses pixel shifting, as previously explained, to enhance sharpness, and these new JVC's also support almost all of the new 4K UHD standards (it's an evolving standard).  In that regard it rivals the true 4K Sonys, including the ability to support HDR for enhanced dynamic range of the picture - can you say scenes with "more pop" as in "way more pop"?

JVC RS4910 Handling 4K Content

Above, the JVC showing true 4K content, despite not being a true 4K projector.

This new JVC projector also claims to be several hundred lumens brighter than it's predecessor, the RS4910 featured in last year's guide.  That's important, because with HDR expanding dynamic range, extra brightness is needed.  This JVC also supports 3D (1080p).  We'll have to review it to rate it on it's 3D performance.

Ultimately, it’s 2D that the JVC truly excels at, and the lumens are definitely  there for up to 150” diagonal sizes with traditional screens  in a dedicated theatre!  While there are several lower cost home theater projectors that can compete (and in some cases beat) this JVC in some aspects, for hard core movie fans with a proper room, this projector is quite possibly the best projector available under $5000!

We’re all tired of spending $60-$100 for a family of four to go see a movie, have popcorn drinks and candy.  Four IMAX 3D tickets alone are fast approaching $100 total!   Perhaps it’s time to bring it “in-house”.  I saw a family of 6 going to a movie last week.  I was wondering if they had to take out a 2nd mortgage to afford 6 tickets, and what looked like two large popcorns, drinks and some candy.  Obviously they weren't poor folk.  When you think about these costs, a projector, screen, and sound system will pay for itself rather quickly, if you like movies.   BTW, just because you do have a home theatre projector, doesn’t mean you can’t go see some of the movies in the theatre.  I know that in our house we still go out for up to 6 movies a year.  This holiday we're definitely going out to see Star Wars and Mockingjay in IMAX.  (We really like movies) but we will watch 20+ new releases at home as soon as they are available on Blu-ray or movie channels.  We have to wait a bit, but… its worth the savings well more than $1000 a year for our family.  If you can save $1000-$2000 a year, that will pay for...well, I'll let you do the math.

Don't go.  Two more projectors and a screen for your consideration on the next page!

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