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Review: Sony VPL-VW1100ES 4K Projector - Picture Quality 3

Posted on November 22, 2014 by Art Feierman
VPL-VW1100ES 4K PROJECTOR PICTURE QUALITY Page 3:  Black Levels, Dark Shadow Detail, Overall Picture Quality.

VPL-VW1100ES Black Level Performance

Our images above start off with the Bond night train scene from Casino Royale.  The first image is the VPL-VW1100ES, followed by Sony's lower cost VW600ES 4K projector who's black levels are definitely no match, but otherwise pretty good.  Then comes the JVC RS4910 which is exceptional at blacks, and that's followed by the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB/Pro Cinema 6030UB image.  The Epson is about 1/10th the price of this Sony, and is the best at black level performance in the lower price ranges.

Ultimately, consider the VW1100ES to have truly awesome black levels.  Those 1080p JVC's are a little better, but I can't think of anything else that is, at any price.

Two things to note about the Sony.  First is that it's about the only projector who's iris algorithm is sensitive enough that it is affected by the white pause icon of my PS3.  Since that lightens the whole scene, I made an exception and took this train image using a Panasonic Blu-ray player that does not show a pause icon when paused.

As a result of that sensitivity, you are a bit more likely to notice some "pumping" of the iris on things like movie credits white text on black.  The other aspect is the speed of the iris.

Here is where I find some fault with this Sony.  Sony offers up no choice in terms of the "speed" of the algorithm.  By comparison, Epson projectors offer a "regular" and High Speed" iris action.  I personally prefer high speed if offered, for almost all viewing if it is well done.

It would be great if Sony added in the future, a second, faster iris action.  I don't consider this to be a big issue, but I'm particularly into black levels and the noticeability of iris action.  Perhaps I'm just being over the top, but if Sony had a faster, but still smooth option, I'd be using it.

Bottom line on black levels - excellent at the least.  Yes there's better, and only from JVC, but this Sony is close enough that I certainly don't care?  If this Sony was the same price as the top of the line JVC (1080p) with its 4K upscaling pixel shifting, I would take the Sony in a heartbeat - true 4K, and only slightly less awesome black levels easily trumps 1080p with slightly more awesome black levels.  That's my bottom line!

In addition to the train image consider a few samples of the intentionally overexposed sleeping scene from The Hunger Games, and a few generally dark images that show off the advantages of great blacks.

Dark Shadow Detail

No issues when it comes to revealing the darkest - near black - shadow detail.  As expected the Sony performs beautifully, losing almost nothing. Start with the image sets above in the black level section.  Look at the shrubs behind the tracks in the lower left, and for very fine, very dim detail in the large dark area in the forest above that and to the left.  On the sleep scene, look for small very dark detail in the larger dark area in the lower center left, but really you can pick out dark detail anywhere in that image to compare to the other projectors.  This gallery has additional dark images (but not converted to grayscale, like train and sleep), for your consideration.

Bottom line on dark shadow detail.  It's pretty much all there.  Of course on the darkest of scenes, thanks to extremely dark blacks the very dark grays just up from that are also much darker than on lesser projectors.  None the less the detail is still there. VW1100ES dark shadow detail:  Excellent!

Sony VPL-VW1100ES Overall Picture Quality

Overall Picture Quality?  It's the best I've seen.  I've seen brighter 3 chip DLP's which have some advantages, but cost at least twice the price, and they are still only 1080p.

I've seen JVC's costing far less that are capable of blacker blacks, but they too, are no match overall, thanks to their lower resolution, but also several other factors.

I think Sony can improve the iris action, which is great for some things, but sometimes a faster iris can be unnoticeable when a slower one is.  Still, the iris as is, is a very good one.  Just not as perfect as it could be.

And then there's the Sony VPL-VW600ES for $13,000 less.  Nice picture, but there's a big, significant difference between their black levels, with the VW600ES having black levels more in line with the best (at black levels) 1080p projectors under $4500.  When it comes to some of these very dark scenes, that's where the VW1100ES will be obviously superior to the VW600ES which is still a serious ultra high contrast projector.

1080 content on the Sony looks great.  It appears both sharper, and more natural than the fanciest pixel shifting 1080p projectors, although the difference is not dramatic in terms of comparing sharpness.  Those pixel shifters though, definitely to get a look that while it seems almost as sharp/detailed as this Sony, they do lose some naturalness to the image, resulting in a "harder" looking image.

Then there's true 4K.  I've been able to view Both a pixel shifting JVC and the Epson LS10000, their pixel shifting (and laser light source), extensively with 4K content.

Nice try - while they might get close to the Sony on 1080p, there's clearly a significant difference when viewing true 4K content.    The Epson seems to sharpen/detail enhance better than the JVC, but still not a match for this Sony.

Add to all of that a projector who's color is gorgeous, and one that has lots of lumens, even calibrated.  The bottom line is a "razor sharp" projector with awesome color and a bright image.  Once you get past the price tag..."what's not to like."

This Sony has the best picture ever to grace my home theater, and that covers a lot of projectors, including occasional but equally pricy projectors from Runco and SIM2.

I'll take this one.  Sadly, Sony will want it back.

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