Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW285ES 4K Home Theater Projector – Special Features

Sony VPL-VW285ES 4K Projector – Special Features: True 4K Resolution, HDR and BT.2020, Reality Creation, No Dynamic Iris, Ready for Gaming, 3D

True 4K Resolution 4096x2160

This really is true 4K. That is, the same resolution defined as 4K for the Digital Cinema projectors at your local Ciluneplex. True, the standard for Blu-ray UHD is the lower 3940×2160 (exactly 2X the height and width of 1080p), so Blu-ray UHD is not so much lower resolution, as the same basic resolution, but a slightly less wide aspect ratio. That means, when watching a blu-ray UHD movie, there will be a little letterboxing on the left and right, nothing to be concerned with. If you do encounter true 4K content in the future, including computer oriented 4K that uses the whole 4096 across, this Sony has that extra width on its 3 SXRD panels to do that 4096 wide without having to compress the data, and lower the overall sharpness.

There have been conversations that Sony uses better optics in their higher end 4K projectors, and this is confirmed. Some say that the lower end models like this one, have optics that are a little soft for 4K content.

I’ll put it this way. Yes the optics can be even better, but the image looks sharp. Oh a really sharp 4K UHD projector like the BenQ HT9050 can seem just as sharp – despite it being lower 2716×1528 x 2 resolution (pixel shifter), the Sony is natively sharper. With all of these projectors you can up the perceived sharpness with various controls, but when push comes to shove, this Sony can do what a pixel shifter cannot: Resolve 4 pixels in a square layout where one is red, one green, one blue, and one white. None of the pixel shifters can do that, due to the massive pixel overlap. Where the green overlaps the red pixel by 50% you get the secondary color yellow. With the Sony, you should see separate green and red – no yellow, and so on!

That’s how it should be. Now we can all argue, that at normal seating distances, you can’t make out individual pixels – good point, but it’s still better to be able to resolve each pixel’s color correctly. So, sure, you can spend $25K on the Sony VW885ES and get better optics but this Sony looks very nicely sharp on 4K content, and outstanding, of course on 1080p.

HDR and BT.2020

Generally HDR and the wide color gamut/space known as BT.2020 (or more practically – DCI-P3 (P3 color space is a little smaller, and more achievable than true BT.2020), is something one would expect on all 4K capable projectors, but that’s not the case.

Oh, those lower resolution 1080p pixel shifters from Epson and JVC support both the HDR and the wide color space, but of the five 4K UHD DLP projectors to come through here: Optoma UHD60/65, BenQ HT8050/HT9050, and Vivitek HK2288, only the Optomas support both. The BenQ HT8050 didn’t support either HDR or BT.2020 – we cancelled that review in favor of the HT9050, which supports BT.2020 but still no HDR. Then there’s the pre-production Vivitek which supported HDR but not the bigger color space. Go figure! No matter, this Sony supports it all!

Reality Creation - Sharpness/Detail Enhancement

Reality creation is Sony’s sharpness/detail enhancement control. Most modes default to a setting of 20 out of 100. You can push that up further gaining a slight amount of perceived sharpness without significant image noise, but by the time you push it up to say 50, the noise is starting to show as well. I like to keep the setting around 20-30, but I will use 40 or even 50 for viewing my football games or other content, where a little hardness (noise) isn’t a problem. (Hey, those football games are only 1080i to begin with – they can definitely use some help. I’m not going to be critical (or even notice) minor noise while watching a football game.

VW285ES doing Ghostbusters scene
4K credits scene from Ghostbusters 2016. Very nicely sharp!

Here’s a close-up of the same image (directly below), click to enlarge further, to observe the detail better. This second image  is actually 2000 pixels wide but won’t display here that large. Still, since it’s only part of the full image, enlarged you can see most the detail that the Sony delivers.  Reality Creation for this photo was at it’s default setting of 20, which I use for most movie viewing.

close up of Ghostbusters image
Excellent sharpness can be seen everywhere in this image, from the white credits, to the post-it, to the switches

No Dynamic Iris

I knew the VW285ES lacked a dynamic iris from the day it was announced.

I’ll discuss black levels in depth in the Picture Quality pages, but I want to just point out here, that best I can recall, from the old VW365ES review (that Sony also lacked a dynamic iris), that this VW285ES has visibly superior black level performance. I confirmed that Sony is using the same LCoS panels in this projector (give or take some minor improvements over time), so I suppose the noticeable improvement comes from elsewhere, perhaps the improvements to the lens, and the light path – or my imagination.

No matter! True, the black levels definitely could be improved further, such as adding a dynamic iris (which along with some other things, the new VW385ES gets). But the VW385ES will set you back an extra $3000 list price.) I watched a lot of movies with lots of dark scenes, including parts of Passengers, Casino Royale (1080p), Ghostbusters, Journey To Space, Ender’s Game, and Batman v Superman.

This Sony kept surprising me. I kept expecting favorite scenes to cry out “black levels NEED help” but they never did. Sure, there’s room for plenty of improvement (Sony has five more expensive 4K projectors from $8K to $60K, all with varying degrees of better black levels), but I’ll count the VPL-VW285ES as a solid “ultra-high contrast projector.”

Perhaps more to the point, it doesn’t match the Epson 5040UB, or the current JVCs in black levels, but I’m picky, and though would prefer better black levels: “I could live with this one.” I wasn’t expecting to be able to claim that. Surprise!

The VW285ES As A Gaming Projector

When looking around the menus, I quickly spotted in the Expert Settings, a feature labeled: Input Lag Reduction. They could have simplified, by just renaming it: “Gamers, turn this On!”

With the Input Lag Reduction turned On, I hooked up my Leo Bodnar Input Lag measuring device, expecting some respectable readings. To my surprise, my first reading was 129ms, which is not good.

Now if that was as good as the Sony VW285ES can do, I would be saying – “Gamers – avoid!” But, I figured that if Sony went to the trouble of having a feature for improving input lag, they would have at least decent results (50-60 ms).

So I looked around. I had the projector in Cinema Film 1 mode, which Eric calibrated as our Brightest mode.

Sony provides a Game mode as one of the eight image presets. So, next I switched to Game Mode. That, in conjunction with the Input Lag Reduction feature turns the Sony VPL-VW285ES into a legit gaming projector with an average input lag of 39.6 ms.

Now that is measuring using a 1080p source. I do not have the ability to confirm or deny whether input lag is the same with 4K sources (My best guess: Little difference).

Here’s how we regularly describe input lag times in terms of gaming speed performance:

Around 50ms or a little bit higher – “acceptable” to all but the most hard core, high speed gamers.  Some will just grudgingly admit that a display is fast enough, but no serious gamer is going to be really happy with 50+ ms.

33-40 ms: Pretty Good. Definitely fine for all but the most aggressive. (that’s just over 1 frame behind on a 30fps game, or 2 frames behind on a 60 fps game. The Sony came in just over that 2 frame delay. Pretty good.  This speed is enough to make most gamers happy, not just OK with the input speed.

Really great is in the 16-20 ms range, and ideal is, of course 0, but it’s been a while (years) since I’ve reviewed a projector with less than 16 ms lag.

Count the VW285ES as a very respectable gaming projector. Now if you (or the friend you are buying the 285ES for), already owns a custom $3K gaming computer and a pricy zero input lag monitor, then this Sony probably isn’t fast enough for them. But for the rest of us, the Sony should perform very respectably, even on team first person shooters like COD, etc., – unless, of course, you are competing in the national championship.

For perspective, this puts the Sony just a smidgeon slower than Epson’s current dedicated home theater projectors – HC4000 and 5040UB, and I think their LS10500 laser projector, etc. It’s a good bit faster than the 4K UHD projectors we’ve had in from Optoma, BenQ and Vivitek.

3D Performance

Thank you Sony for continuing to provide 3D support for your projectors, including the VW285ES. We’ve recently reviewed several 4K UHD DLP projectors, and they all have abandoned 3D. I enjoy 3D, often debating which is more fun Ghostbusters 2016 in 4K or 3D, and the same for a several other movies that provide both in the box.

The VPL-VW285ES has a 3D radio frequency emitter built in.  All you need are 3D glasses.  I used my own Sony 3D glasses (I bought many reviews ago), and was pretty pleased with the 3D performance

I only watched perhaps three hours total worth of 3D, including part of the aforementioned Ghostbusters, but also the 3D version of Passengers, and bits of some other movies . 3D may not be popular on those tiny LCDTVs, But it’s great on the big screen, including this Sony.  Let’s face it, viewing a 65” TV from 12 feet away, just presents an image too small to appreciate the immersion abilities of 3D.   Compare that to “the big screen” experience of perhaps a nice 100, 120″ or 130″ diagonal image.  You get double the immersion – first from sitting relatively close to a really large screen, and then even better thanks to 3D!

Sony’s 3D looks pretty good. We’re still using active 3D glasses, and there’s a minor amount of crosstalk, but overall, no issues big enough to take all the fun out of 3D viewing.