Posted on October 27, 2017 By Art Feierman
Nice projector! I mean really nice! First of all, this is the least expensive true 4K projector on the market today. In fact the only real competition – in true 4K projectors, are other, more expensive Sonys. That said, there are competitors and we’ll discuss some of them in further down the page.
This is a 1500 lumen projector, and one that produces slightly more than that, even post-calibration. In fact, the Cinema Film 2 mode Eric calibrated specifically for 4K HDR/BT.2020 content, measured 1608 lumens – at mid-zoom!
The projector’s lens functions are all motorized, making using it with a wide screen (Cinemascope types – i.e. 2.35:1), very practical, but not quite as easy as those with Lens Memory – which is simply allowing you to save different settings, and being able to toggle back and forth between aspect ratios at the touch of a button.
Sorry, but with this Sony you’ll need to adjust the zoom and lens shift with the remote, each time you change. – but that will probably only set you back 15-30 seconds. Not bad, I know, I switched back and forth dozens of times while playing with the VW285ES. I definitely count that as a workable solution. Having a manual zoom lens pretty much removes the practicality of having a wide, movie shaped screen.
BTW that zoom lens is 2.06:1 about as much range as you can find in a home theater projector, and there’s a massive amount of lens shift as well. Give the Sony an A+ for placement flexibility.
This is an 3 chip (panel) LCoS technology projector. And it has a panel alignment system that’s simple to use, takes only 10 minutes or so to do what should be a one time panel alignment.
There are a pair of HDMIs and a pair of 12 volt screen triggers and a couple of other connectors – the Sony is sparse, but those two HDMI’s are what counts. Both are HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 – the current standard, and needed for most commercial 4K content.
That brings us to compatibility – of course the VW285Es works just dandy with 1080p content, but really excels when you feed it 4K, say a typical Blu-ray UHD movie with HDR (high dynamic range) and BT.2020 color space for richer, more intense colors.
In addition, it supports HLG – Hybrid Log-Gamma (who named that?), for streaming 4K. HLG is pretty new, we did not test its compatibility with 4K streaming content.
Well that covers most important things found inside this review – except, of course, picture quality.
Well, I droned on about picture quality for 3 full pages, and “tons” of images. In summary:
Rich accurate colors, with any resolution, but, of course better (and sharper) with 4K HDR/BT.2020 content – this VW285ES thrives on that stuff. Don’t forget you’ll probably want to raise up the Contrast/HDR control up to 70 or 80 if you find any scenes to be a little dim for your tastes when viewing HDR. (I personally settled on 75 after much playing around). But, it’s all about what works for you, not me.
Sony VW285ES - does this scene great!
BenQ HT9050 - looks good, but lacking HDR, it gives you a less dynamic look, and on this scene, that's a big difference. Very sharp - sharpest of the 4K UHD DLPs.
Sony VW885ES - not the step up, this is their $25K laser - richer, deeper blacks, etc. The VW385ES should split the difference on black levels, more resemble the 285ES on color richness
The UHD65 does well on this scene as it has both HDR and BT.2020 (P3), but not near as well on very dark scenes, where the black level weakness becomes apparent. But it is very sharp looking
Epson's 5040UB - also looks great on this scene, but not as sharp as the 4K UHDs or Sony, without using heavier processing. Still, it is competitive, if not truly equal.
As I see it the most logical, but not necessarily equal competition consists of these 4K capable projectors:
That’s basically everything above and below, but few are even remotely, real competition.
To winnow the field, let’s start with 4K UHD DLP projectors that have` color wheels with a clear slice. That takes out several from the real competition, so say goodbye to the Acer, the Optoma UHD60, and the Vivitek HK2288. (We may see a HK2299 for more money with a better color wheel.)
Black level performance is next, and trickier. Gone is the Epson HC4000, similar in almost all ways to their 5040UB but inferior black level performance.
For those who want at least respectable “ultra high contrast” blacks, (and I’m not talking spec claims), that pretty much tosses out the remaining Optoma, and probably the HK2299 if it makes it to the US.
Mind you, I’m not saying that there aren’t some good, or even great, values among those, but they just can’t compete in a meaningful way with the Sony projector. All of the ones I just scrubbed were under $2500.
Let’s say you are serious about not only accepting 4K, but 4K with HDR, and BT.2020 color space (or as close as they get – P3). Sorry BenQ, the HT8050 doesn’t support either and the HT9050 only supports the wider color space, no HDR. (Still it does an impressive picture, but, alas…no HDR.)
Movie fan? Want to go wide screen – no letter boxing on most movies? That normally requires either a projector with Lens Memory (for one button operation), or at least motorized zoom, lens shift (and should have motorized focus too) to do it manually in well less than a minute – as is the case of this Sony. Or the other way is to have an anamorphic lens with sled (add at least $2500 but likely a big chunk more to your bill). The BenQ’s can do the anamorphic lens, Not one of the 4k UHD projectors meets this test without an anamorphic setup (old school).
Need excellent placement flexibility basically in the same ball park as the VW285ES, including lots of lens shift, the BenQs are pretty good, But it is the Epsons and the JVCs that are very similar to this Sony.
Of course if you want only true 4K, then the field is only the two Sonys.
Next, the Sony has a sharpness advantage over the Epsons, and JVCs, but a slighter one over the 4K UHD DLPs. Any though can look about comparable on 1080p content, it takes 4K to make difference. Even there, heavy processing can make any of the Epsons seem at least as sharp, or even sharper, than the Sony, but there is a price of a slight, but noticeable hardness to those projectors when they push their limits, since their pixel size is so much larger.
Note- Pixel size: The relative area of a 1080P pixel is four times that of a true 4K pixel. 4K UHD projectors are right in the middle, Half the size of the 1080P’s and still twice the size of this Sony’s pixels.
What about HLG – for 4K streaming? That takes out the remaining Epsons, at least for now. The Epsons are end user firmware upgradable so I suspect that will be in the plans, but I have no indication from Epson, despite my mentioning that they should add the capability. that such a firmware upgrade may be coming. Unless you are an avid streamer, this probably isn’t important to you, but a few years down the road…?
That’s pretty much the story. Except to order the projectors with good black level performance for you. Hands down winner there is the JVC HD520 followed by their 420. After that, the more expensive Sony, with the Epson Laser – LS10500 perhaps a touch better than the VW285ES and the Epson 5040UB more different than better or worse. If the scenes have more than a little in very bright areas, that will give the Sony the advantage (but you will also care a bit less if there’s a decent amount of bright areas. On very dark scenes, the Epson has a modest advantage, based on my extensive comparison of the two. “Similar but different!”
Consider most of these are very respectable values at their varying price points, so look at this from the stand point of what you are willing to spend on your next projector. If $2500 or so is your budget.Go get that Epson 5040UB or perhaps one of the low cost 4K UHDs (I definitely liked the Optoma but for black levels, so favor the Epson, and I use lens memory – I’m a wide screen owner).
If you are a major league black level fanatic, and must have the best, JVC. You can spend more or less on a JVC 1080p pixel shifter than this Sony true 4K, but, I’ll say that If I can live with the Sony, probably 95+% of you can too.
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