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Review: Sony VPL-VW1100ES 4K Projector - Summary

Posted on November 22, 2014 by Art Feierman
VPL-VW1100ES 4K PROJECTOR SUMMARY Page 1:  Picture Quality, The 4K Future

VPL-VW1100ES Picture Quality

Take your pick folks.  The images above - starting after the Hot Product award graphic, include seven 4K source images, followed by a number of HDTV images - 1080i resolution, and then starting with the night scene with boats, standard 1080p coming off of Blu-ray disc.

The thing these images all have in common, is that they all really look great.  OK, the 4K content is sharper, but color - and overall picture is essentially outstanding on all of these photos.  You can't, of course, fully appreciate it on your computer, (or phone, or tablet), but understand that even the darkest scenes look great thanks to really excellent black level performance.

Sony's dynamic iris is very, very smooth, but not not a "fast" iris.  As mentioned earlier, if Sony offered a choice of different speeds, (as some manufacturers like Epson have done) would be a plus, but the not very occasional noticing of the iris action (it's smooth, never jerky/annoying), shouldn't be enough to dampen anyone's enthusiasm.  Reference mode may look great, right out of the box, but after calibration it's even closer to dead on.

Other enhancements are all very well done.  Reality Creation let's you "sharpen" and "enhance details."  There's lots of settings adjustments to get maximize performance.   I find 20 to usually be fine, and do take sports up to about 50.  CFI - smooth motion - Sony's MotionFlow has an excellent Low setting.  Sports fans might like High.  I would almost never engage a CFI on movies, but if I was going to, the Sony's low setting adds minimal "soap opera" or "live digital video" effect.

Just watch this Sony.  That's all you need to do, to want one.  I've come up with a mathematical formula to describe the overall Picture:  Gorgeous + Stunning = Awesome! OK, I'm getting silly, but then, this Sony is giving me the best picture I've seen yet, having reviewed 150+ home theater projectors in the last 8 years

Translation:  I'm going to hate giving this projector back to Sony.

The 4K Future

We are entering the 4K world big time in 2015.  As we all "know," content in king, and 4K content is coming our way in 2015.  OK, true, Sony's fast growing 4K service has perhaps 100+ movies already, but the game changes when Blu-ray UHD hits the streets, and the first Blu-ray UHD players should be in stores in Q3 2015, expected well in advance of next year's holiday season.

That solves the delivery system issues for 4K content.  I don't follow the HDTV side of 4K, so I can't predict if, and when, networks, HBO, Showtime, and ESPN decide to grace us with 4K content, but it's coming, the question is when.  Sony's service has the most 4K content out there today.  One encouraging thing is that at the major trade shows, 4K production and hardware is exactly what's dominating trade shows like NAB - the National Association of Broadcasters.  Do we really need the nightly news in 4K?  Certainly less so than HBO in 4K, but sooner or later, everything, or most everything will be 4K.


Here in the US, we're in someways backward.  At CES almost a year ago, Japanese NHK, Japan's public broadcasting company was showing 8K content on a huge screen, and was telling the world that they'll be broadcasting in 8K - not 4K, by 2020.  Folks that's not that far away - six years.  We've had HDTV for more than a dozen years.

So, sooner, or later, we'll have a lot of 4K content.  It's the natural evolution of things.  For all we know, in another decade we'll by buying smart displays that fill entire walls.

So, is this Sony projector ready for this future world?  After all, the Sony is a big bucks investment today.

There are a couple of issues.  Primarily the current VW1100ES, like the VW1000ES before it, and Sony's lower cost VW600ES, do not support the maximum color depths that Blu-ray UHD supports.  But today's hardware is getting smarter, and tends to be firmware upgradeable.  No one knows more about extending the life and enhancing the capabilities of a product more than Sony, who's PS3 has been around forever it seems, yet has been upgraded so much that things like 3D, and 4K displaying of photos were way beyond its capabilities when launched with HDMI 1.2.

That indicates two things that I think are likely will happen, but can't confirm because Sony isn't confirming.  First, I expect that somehow, Sony will be able to expand the color depth.  I've spoken with Epson about their LS10000 which accepts 4K content, and they have the same situation, and they indicate that most likely they will be able to increase their color depth.  It might take another iteration of HDMI 2.x, that's all beyond me, but I'm very hopeful that if the content comes with 10, or 12 bit color in 4K, even with 3D, that the Sony will rise to the occasion.  If I'm right, congratulate me, if that never happens, sorry - bad guess.

The other issue is even more interesting.  OK, we all know I don't get excited about watching content on tiny TVs, like 42 and 50 inch. But I read what the HDTV reviewers have to say.  Some have put forth this thought:  You don't need a 4K set, just use fancy processing (such as Reality Creation) to make 1080p sharper. Some have said that there isn't enough difference in picture quality.  I don't buy into that, but then at 100" its easy to see the differences.  So, their argument moves next to buy a 4K set, and upscale content, and it's virtually indistinguishable from 4K content on a 4K set.

Here's the thing, let's assume that's true.  What's to stop Sony, and everyone building 4K sets and projectors, when 4K content is readily available, from processing it at 8K, just as some people with 1080p LCDTV's are processing at 4K.  In other words, down the road, today's 4K displays can enhance 4K content, the same way 1080p is now getting enhanced (Reality Creation, Super-Resolution, etc.).

It would seem likely therefore that there's a very long and positive life for the 4K Sony projector.   BTW its likely that when the time comes, if the Sony can't do all of that, there will be outboard devices you can use with it.  Just as we buy today fancy Blu-ray players and outboard processors.

Bottom line:  If the bucks are there, this Sony projector should have a long life.  It's not today, fully compatible with all the 4K standards that will exist in a year or two (starting with HDTV where we don't have standards yet), but I wouldn't lose sleep.  Way back with Sony launched their VW1000ES (essentially the same as the VW1100ES they were clear that they would support future 4K standards when there weren't any at all.  That the Sony has HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 I think is a good demonstration of their commitment.  And that's my two cents!

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