As we mentioned all three new models, the VPL-XW5000ES ($6000 SRP), the VPL-VW6000ES ($12,000 SRP), and the VPL-VW7000ES utilize Sony’s high-quality, reliable Z-Phosphor laser light source which ensures up to 20,000 hours of uninterrupted operation, with no lamp replacement and virtually zero maintenance. If you used an XW-Series projector for 8 hours a day, five days a week, the laser light engine would last about a decade.
In the past, high-end manufacturers like Sony and JVC continued to choose bulbs for their projectors that retailed for under $10,000 due to the quality of light they produce. While bulbs can produce a great-looking image, their limited lifespan can be an expensive hassle.
I have had a Sony lamp-based SXRD projector in my media room for years, but I found myself utilizing my flat panel more than my projector. Since I was always worrying about lamp hours, content had to be “Bulb worthy” so I used the projector primarily for movie nights and special events like the Super Bowl.
Projectors Reviews has always loved Sony projectors and have given awards to multiple models over the years. However, in the past, if you wanted the benefit of a laser light source, you had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get it. The laser light sources like Sony’s Z-Phosphor system are not only getting better and better but also more affordable. Now the Z-Phosphor laser light source is available on the XW5000ES which retails for less than $6,000.
NEW NATIVE 4K UHD SXRD PANELS
All Sony's projectors utilize SXRD panels which is Sony's version of LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon). This three-chip 4K SXRD imaging system is very similar to what has been utilized in Sony 4K cinema projectors that are found in the best movie theaters in the world.
Previously all Sony 4K Home Theater projectors used 0.74" SXRD panels with the same native cinematic 4K resolution (4096x2160) and 17:9 aspect ratio as a movie theater projector. However, most consumer 4K content is produced in 4K UHD which is 3840x2160 with an aspect ratio of 16:9. This means that nearly 7% of the older SXRD panel’s resolution was not utilized when viewing 4K UHD material on a 16:9 screen.
When using a 16:9 screen the extra pixels found on the 0.74" SXRD panels were just zoomed off the screen. Not only were you not using all the pixels on screen you were not using all the projector’s brightness.
The XW Series features newly developed 0.61" Native 4K UHD (3840x2160) SXRD panels. Unlike some competitors' 2K pixel shifting projectors, the new native 4K UHD SXRD panels found in the XW-Series can faithfully reproduce all 8.3 million pixels found in the 4K UHD (3840x2160) SDR and HDR content you watch every day.
Since all 8.3 million pixels along with all the laser light source’s output are utilized on a 16X9 screen, there is wasted resolution or brightness. While they are still Sony's proprietary version of LCoS technology which delivers high contrast ratio and deep blacks, they are more compact.
While developing the 10,000 lumens GTZ-380 they learned some lessons trying to maximize that unit's brightness while still delivering deep blacks. That information was used not only to develop the new 0.61-inch SXRD panels but also to redesign the projector’s internal optics.
The new SXRD panel offers higher light and a flatter reflective surface which improves the XW-Series brightness and native contrast. While the new SXRD panels offer very high native contrast, the XW-Series projectors’ dynamic contrast is nearly infinite due to their ability to precisely modulate their laser light sources.
Sony also made improvements to the technology used to drive the new SXRD panels which results in more precise grayscale gradation and finer color reproduction.
The new Wide Dynamic Range Optics uses Sony’s latest Z-Phosphor laser diodes along with a new light source cooling system. In addition, the newly developed optical system has higher reflectance along with more uniform polarization. The end result is a more compact design that offers better light control while maximizing the potential of the laser light source.
Smaller, denser SXRD panels reduce the size of the optical block and lenses, resulting in compact projectors which can deliver the performance of larger models. This is one of the main reasons why the XW-Series projectors are the lightest and most compact native 4K projectors in their class. For example, when compared to the VPL-VW915ES, the new XW7000ES is 20% smaller and about 30% lighter while delivering 1200 lumens more brightness.
The higher brightness and native contrast combined with a wide color gamut make HDR content really pop on an XW-Series projector. We had the ability to review the XW7000ES and its HDR performance was noticeably better than the award-winning VPL-VW1025ES which retailed for $12,000 more.
NEW LENS ASSEMBLIES
As we mentioned. the smaller 0.61-inch SXRD imager is one of the reasons why the chassis of the new XW-Series are more compact than the 0.74-inch SXRD models they are replacing. Reducing the size of the SXRD panels reduces the size of the optical black and lens.
Since the SXRD is completely new, it is the perfect time to redesign the lens assemblies to optimize their performance. If the imager is smaller, you can deliver the same quality optics from a smaller lens. For example, camera images are available in multiple sizes, like full-frame, APC, and micro 4/3rd. A bigger imager requires bigger lens assembly and longer flange distances.
There are two different lens assemblies offered in the XW-Series. All the internal components of both lens systems are still all glass. However, on the entry-level XW5000ES projectors, the outermost lens is made of a resin material but it can still deliver a sharp image.
While many projector enthusiasts are under the impression that plastic lenses are inferior to glass lenses if designed/manufactured properly, you can achieve great optics with plastic. Think about high prescription glasses which all utilize plastic lenses which are thinner, lighter, more rugged, and offer better optical quality than glass lenses used in your grandfather’s eyeglasses years ago.
Essentially, the lens components used in the XW5000ES that are not made of glass are designed to give you higher than typical performance at a lower than typical price point.
So, the smaller three SXRD imaging system reduces the size of the lenses which results in a more compact chassis while still delivering a crisp sharp 4K UHD image. For example, the XW5000ES is nearly 30% smaller and 35% lighter than the VW915ES while delivering the same amount of brightness.
The XW6000ES or XW7000ES projector includes an upgraded lens called the ACF (Advanced Crisp Focus). This lens utilizes the same spherical front lens, multi-group, multiple-element all-glass type design as the award-winning ARC-F lens.
This ARC-F lens assembly commanded a high premium and adding it literally doubled the price of the VW1025ES ($40,000 SRP) compared to the VW915ES ($20,000 SRP). However, the difference in sharpness was dramatic. It is like looking through an open window. When viewed through the unit’s ARC-F lens, things just seem clearer – richer, more real.
Sony claims that the new ACF lens available in some XW-Series projectors offers the same optical quality as the ARC-F lens found in the previous VW1025ES. However, the new projectors are brighter, more compact, and significantly less. For example, you can get the same quality optics in the XW Series projectors starting with the XW6000ES which retails for just $12,000.
The new motorized ACF lens used in the XW7000ES and XW6000ES has a 2.14x zoom range while the standard manual lens used in the XW5000ES has a zoom range of 1.6:1. All XW-Series projectors offer a large amount of horizontal and vertical lens shift which really simplifies installation especially when you are trying to replace an older unit that was previously fixed mounted.