Projector Reviews

Winner: Best in Class 4K Capable Projector: Sony VPL-VW350ES

The Sony VPL-VW350ES wins this award this year, despite being the least of Sony’s three true 4K projectors.  Or rather it shares the award.

The Sony VPL-VW350ES, I like to say, is the most expensive home entertainment projector around.  Mostly we call low cost projectors (under $1500) with less than great performance “home entertainment.”  One of the things low cost projectors often lack are really good black levels that make really dark scenes “pop.”

Well, as Sony’s “entry level” true 4K projector, that describes the biggest difference between it and the two more expensive 4K Sonys.  Black level performance is comparable to some of the better $2000 – $3500 projectors but not even as good as the best of those.  At everything else, it’s excellent.

So, if you have the bucks an want a true 4K projector to avoid obsolescence for the next perhaps decade, but aren’t a hard core home theater fanatic demanding more perfection, this is your ticket.

As the saying goes:  It’s the price!   While $9999 is hardly inexpensive, it is the lowest cost true 4K projector available today.  (Also, recognizing that the top of the line Sony VPL-VW1100ES is superior, we gave it its own special award.)

The Sony VPL-VW350ES: Why It Won

Sony’s VPL-VW350ES is true 4K.  Unless you go looking for projectors at least 5 times the price, all the 4K projectors out there are Sonys.  Although the older, more expensive VW600ES has better black levels as it’s main advantage, the VPL-VW350ES was determined to be the better value.  If you’ve got the extra $5,000 sure, go for it, but you get something very close in the VW350ES.  Take the $5K and use it for a great vacation!

Of the images above, the first 5, that’s two images and their close-ups, and the star/nebula image are 4K content, the rest are  1080.

4K is what every home theater person should want, at least those wanting projectors.  4K is pretty much a waste watching a 50” LCDTV from 15 feet back, but 4K let’s you watch, and appreciate  a 125 inch image 6-10 feet back.   We’re talking big time immersion, but  without the softness of only having 1080p.

The short version of why the VPL-VW350ES has one this award, is that it is the most affordable.  If what you want is a step up in black level performance, that would be the VW600ES, but the only Sony with really, truly excellent black levels is the $25K+ VPL-VW1100ES.

So, by my take, as nice as that VW600ES is, and it is better at blacks, the hard core connoisseur, would want the VW1100ES.  The VW600’s black level performance is still only that of one of the better $2000 – $3500 1080p projectors.

All considered, though, the black levels are respectable.  OK, I’ve called the VPL-VW350ES the most expensive “home entertainment” projector around, because of the black levels.

That makes this projector, technically better is the family room/bonus room/living room, than the fully darkened home theater.  Still, when I think of the customers, I suspect that most buyers of this VW350ES want an excellent picture, but are probably less fanatical than the person trying to scrape up $2500 for the very best projector at that price point.  For some folks the better blacks won’t matter, but the 4K will be appreciated.

Let’s talk 3D for a moment.  Being the newest Sony, this projector has an RF 3D emitter built in, instead of IR.  Excellent!  3D just isn’t up to 2D in quality, but it is fun.  For that reason, while we comment on it a good bit in the full reviews, I don’t consider 3D quality as a significant factor in the deciding on the awards process.

 

The VW350ES pumps out about 1500 lumens with fabulous color.  That gives you enough to handle that 120″ screen even with some controlled ambient light.  As I said, more media room than theater, but it will love being in a theater.

While watching the VW350 extensively, black levels were my only serious complaint, but then, I’m the black level fanatic.

It’s a great projector to enjoy, and folks it’s real 4K.  This, unlike all but 3 other projectors we’ve reviewed, should remain fully viable in a 4K world 3, 4, 5, and more years.  Spend $5K or $10K on a projector today that cannot handle the new 4K standards, and many of you will be looking to upgrade within 2 years.

And that makes the VW350ES a real value.

Mind you, this Sony projector tied for the Best In Class award with the Epson LS10000.  That Epson is far less expensive, and at least as bright, and it’s got far better black levels.

But the Epson is a 1080p projector (with a long lifelaser light engine!)  It is the only one so far that will support the new 4K Blu-ray UHD standard, so it too can have a long, long life in your home, but ultimately it costs less because it’s not true 4K.

The two are very different, and best I can figure, there are plenty of folks, for whom this Sony is the better choice, and plenty that would favor the Epson.  Thus, a tie!  In other words – it’s your call.