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Review: Sony VPL-VW1100ES Projector - Special Features

Posted on November 22, 2014 by Art Feierman

VPL-VW1100ES PROJECTOR - SPECIAL FEATURES: 4K Resolution, Reality Creation, 4K Video Server and 4K Download Service, Future Proof?

Native 4K Resolution

The VPL-VW1100ES uses three true 4K panels, of LCoS type (liquid crystal on silicon).  Sony designs and makes their own LCoS panels (or chips).  At this time, Sony is the only game in town.  So far I do not believe Texas Instruments has released any 4K chips below the level of cinema projector (physically large chips that require huge projectors).  And when it comes to 3LCD manufacturers, nothing from Epson, the largest panel manufacturer, nor Sony, nor the smaller players.

While Epson and JVC are combining pixel shifting with 4K processing to enhance the performance of 1080p panels, it's just not the same thing!

Fancy processing and pixel shifting can produce an image that comes fairly close to seeming as sharp as this 4K projector when handling 1080p content, but not quite.  But with true 4K content, the difference is very real, and folks, very "next gen."

1080p gave us reasonable sharpness at a reasonable difference but hardly "razor sharp," not even sitting 12-15 feet back from a 100" screen.  With true 4K, sitting 8-10 feet away provides a significantly sharper experience and immersion.

It also changes the game in terms of planning your room in of where to place seating.  It gives you a bigger theater feel with the same sized, or even smaller screen, because of the closer seating resulting in being more immersed in the content.

Most of us will have to wait another year, or three for far more affordable true 4K projectors, but for those with car like budgets, here you go - real 4K.

Now we know there are projectors being offered using pixel shifting - Epson has one model, and JVC 3.  Of those two brands  that can also accept 4K content, and using pixel shifting to improve the results of 1080p panels, Epson (LS10000), like Sony,  offers support for both standards.  By comparison, the three JVC models (up to $11,999) are not fully compatible.

It would seem that to take full advantage of true 4K Blu-ray content, JVC owners may be in trouble.  We shall see, but if you are serious about being able to display true 4K content, even if the projector is only 1080p native, I'd certainly recommend asking hard questions, and get a commitment from JVC or your dealer that they will assure you that their current models will be properly compatible.


Reality Creation

I've played with, and discussed Sony's Reality creation in five Sony projectors before this one.  Reality Creation is Sony's name for their algorithms for taking an image, processing it, and having the result seem sharper and more detailed.  In the case of the VPL-VW1100ES you can use Reality Creation as you do on Sony's lower cost HW series projectors - to upscale 1080p and other non-4K content to 4K, and project it.  Reality Creation offers a number of controls so the owner has a lot of say on "how much is enough."

But with the VPL-VW1100ES (and the lower cost VW600ES - also true 4K), you can also use Reality Creation to enhance true 4K content, much as their 1080p projectors enhance 1080p content (2K).

Some have said, with this type of image processing, 1080p starts getting close to 4K (well, sort of), so why do we need a true 4K projector.  I would answer that by saying with a 4K projector it can do to true 4K content, the same thing, so you still have a one magnitude improvement.  There's nothing to stop Sony from having Reality Creation on the VW1100ES upscale to 8K, and then "mix down" to 4K, in the same way that their HW55ES upscales to 4K, and back down to 1080p.  Got it?  That Epson has just offered owners of their UB projectors a similar type of firmware upgrade that owners can easily perform, should "encourage" other manufacturers like Sony to do the same.   Hey, Sony understands - there probably hasn't been a more upgraded piece of electronics in the last decade than the Sony PS3 game console/Blue-ray player.

Check out the assorted images showing Reality Creation at different levels.

Reality Creation off (0)

Without processing, this is what this 1080p image from Skyfall looks like

Reality Creation 20

20 is the default setting It adds a modest, but visible amount of sharpening and detail enhancement

Reality Creation 50

50 out of a max of 100. 50 significantly further sharpens the image, and is about as high as I like, depending on the content.

Reality Creation 0

Another sample

Reality Creation 20

You can see the difference in the letters and numbers on the Scrabble coffee mug

Sony 4K Video Server and 4K Download Service (Optional)

Sony is way ahead of everyone in "projector space" when it comes to 4K.  As was the case a decade ago when HD was being established, a key question for early adopters relates to the availability of appropriate hi res content.  It even took a few years for the battle of Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD to play out with Blu-ray obviously winning.

So, how much true 4K content is there is obviously on the mind of anyone spending a lot of money for true 4K projection.   Sony has been pushing hard for a Blu-ray UHD (4K) standard, and we now expect to see true Blu-ray UHD players, and content shipping Q3 of 2015, which is good news.  Meantime what can you play now?

Sony has a solution.  When I had the VW600ES here six months or so ago, I was able to download a few dozen movies, plus other content, in true 4K from Sony's 4K download service.   Sony's been expanding the list of movies in 4K, ever since.  I don't have firm numbers but a search of the internet found articles indicating Sony already has something approaching 200 titles available although not all are movies.  Mind you, I would expect better quality (less compression) from Blu-ray UHD when it arrives, than from "online" be it a download service, or an HDTV UHD whenever that happens.  That would be similar to current standards - Blu-ray disc compresses far less than HDTV.  Nevermind that, though, what I'm viewing off of the service looks pretty great! Actually awesome, since it's 4K.

When the VW1100ES started shipping, it was $28,999 with the old, more limited server.  Sony dropped the bundle, and dropped the projector by $1000.  With the FMP-X10 being $699, that's a $300 savings.

Sony's new 4K server/player, the FMP-X10 is different than the round one that came with an Xperia android tablet to control it.  The FMP-X10 that arrived here a few days after the projector, is square, and has a simple remote control, no tablet needed.  This newer server supports the new standards - HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2.  Both are required for Blu-ray UHD.

You can download content from the 4K service as well as the 2K service, in theory you can download Netflix and other channels.  You can also load content to the player via network or USB.  I only worked with content I downloaded from the 4K Service.


Thoughts About 4K Content

With the HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 standards finally rolled out, manufacturers now know what they need to play properly in terms of supporting 4K.  Blu-ray UHD and eventually broadcast UHD will test compatibility.  There are basic issues of compatibility, but beyond that, finer points, such as color depth.  Products today that support HDMI 2.0 and HDCP (that's copy protection) 2.2 typically do not support maximum color depth and bandwidth.  We're used to watching with a maximum of 16.7 million colors, as we have for a decade, but Blu-ray has been supporting billions of colors, but there's little content taking advantage of it.  Still, if future content is better in ways like that, it would be nice to have gear that takes full, not partial advantage.

Of the two brands we've reviewed that can accept 4K content and use pixel shifting to improve the results of 1080p panels, Epson's (LS10000), like Sony offers support for both HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2.  By comparison, JVC's models (up to $11,999) are not fully compatible at this time.  Note that JVC didn't replace any models this fall, so it's that their models are over a year old which explains why they don't currently have support for versions that didn't exist when they were released.

It would seem that to take full advantage of true 4K Blu-ray content, JVC owners likely will  need some form of upgrade.  We shall see, but if you are shopping today, asking some hard questions about compatibility isn't a bad idea.   At worst case, I would think an outboard processor should offer a workable solution.

Another future proofing item relates to color depth.  Seems no one right now is supporting the maximum depth of the new Blu-ray UHD.  I'll let Ron explain that in his more technical blogs, you can start with this blog regarding 4K UHD.  It touches on bit depth and  chroma sub-sampling schemes such as 4:2:2, 4:4:4

I expect that Sony and Epson, may be able to do a firmware upgrades when the time comes.  Both companies understand the importance of supporting evolving new standards, and both have demonstrated their commitment in the past.  Seems like that will also get addressed over the next year.  I'm always heartened when it comes to this type future compatibility, by thinking about Sony's PS/3 game console/Blu-ray player.  When it started shipping it was only HDMI 1.2.  Yet Sony has been firmware upgrading these players for something like seven years. Without that they wouldn't have been able to do 3D, among other limitations, and yet my original PS3 now even supports inputting 4K res photos, which it can feed and display on the VW1100ES in true 4K!

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