Sony VPL-VW295ES 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Special Features

Sony VPL-VW295ES 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Special Features: True 4K Resolution, Reality Creation, HDR and BT.2020/P3, IMAX Support, No Dynamic Iris, A Serious Gaming Projector, 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 Cineplex.  True, the standard for Blu-ray UHD is the lower 3940×2160 (exactly 2X the height and width of 1080p), so a little lower.  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, 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.

Pacific Rim - vibrant
A vibrant image from Pacific Rim – Uprising, projected using calibrated Cinema Film 2 mode for 4K with HDR and P3 color.

 

There have been conversations that Sony uses better optics in their higher end 4K projectors, but that’s limited to their two models using their Arc-F lens.  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 the lower 2716×1528 x 2 resolution (pixel shifter), even a 3LCD projector at half the price can.  Still, 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 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 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.

That’s how it should be.  In reality not even the Sony can produce separate colors, but in my testing, it does better on my image than any of the DLPs…   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 VW995ES and get better optics but this Sony looks very nicely sharp on 4K content, and outstanding, of course on 1080p.

Reality Creation

Reality creation is Sony’s 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’ll crank it up to 50 normally for viewing my football games (hey, they are only 1080i to begin with, they can definitely use some help, and I’m not going to be critical (or even notice)  about minor noise on a football game.

HDR and BT.2020/P3

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.

True, those lower resolution 1080p pixel shifters from Epson and JVC support both the HDR and the wide color space, but not all of the 4K UHD DLP projectors do.  Of the 12 4K UHD DLP projectors to come through here so far, 4 do not support both HDR and P3 color,   No matter, this Sony supports it all.

IMAX Support

This Sony VW295ES is one of three Sony projectors to receive IMAX certification.  To my knowledge there are no others, although perhaps there are some super expensive ones – you know, the six figure 3 chip DLP types.  Still, I believe Sony is the first to have projectors earn this certification.  Did I mention that it isn’t just a visual thing? The certification also includes DTS sound certification for that IMAX content!

No Dynamic Iris

I knew the VW295ES lacked a dynamic iris from the day it was announced.

No matter! True, the black levels definitely could be improved further, such as adding a dynamic iris. But the VW695ES will set you back an extra $5000 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.

As with the older version, I kept expecting to find some of favorite scenes making me really unhappy with the black levels, but they never did.  Sure, there’s room for plenty of improvement, but I’ll count the VPL-VW295ES as a real “ultra-high contrast projector.”

This Sony it doesn’t match the lower cost Epson 5040UB, or the current JVCs in black levels, but I’m picky, and though would prefer better black levels, being a very vocal black level fanatic:  I once again proclaim “I could live with this one.”  I wasn’t expecting to be able to say that last year, or this.  Cool!

A Serious 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.  When you have everything set up, we’re looking at 27ms input lag, which is pretty great for projectors.

Assassin's Creed Origins as projected by the ViewSonic PX706HD Gaming Projector

Watch out, though, the smallest input lag happens when playing 4K games. Because the Sony has to deal with processing and upscaling lower resolution games (i.e. 1080p), the input lag is slightly longer, but still very respectable.

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-VW295ES into a legit gaming projector with an average input lag of just about 40ms.

Here’s how we call input lag times in terms of performance.

55ms +/-: “Acceptable” to all but the most hard core, high speed gamers.

33-40ms:  “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.

27ms – Reasonably great!

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

Count the VW295ES as a very respectable gaming projector.  Now if you (or the friend you are buying the 295ES for), already owns a custom $3K gaming computer and a pricy zero input lag monitor, then you might still find this Sony to be good enough.  But for the rest of us, the Sony should perform brilliantly, even on teams first person shooters like COD, etc., – unless, of course, you are competing in the national championship.

For perspective, this new Sony is even a bit faster than Epson’s current dedicated home theater projectors – HC4010 and 5040UB, etc.  It’s faster than the 4K UHD projectors we’ve had in from Optoma, BenQ and Vivitek.

3D

3D, much like the big screen experience itself, is all about being immersed in the content.

I am most pleased with Sony for continuing to provide 3D support on their newest projectors, and that includes the VPL-VW295ES.  It seems like more 4K UHD DLP projectors have abandoned 3D than are offering it.  I enjoy 3D, often debating which is more fun: Ghostbusters 2016 in 4K or 3D, and the same for several other movies that provide both in the box.

I watched perhaps 4 hours of 3D, including the aforementioned Ghostbusters, but also the 3D versions of a couple of other movies also available in 4K.   3D has never been popular on those tiny LCDTVs, simply because viewing a 65” TV from 12 feet away, just presents an image too small to appreciate the immersion abilities of 3D, thanks to the relatively small amount of your view that the content appears in.  Now try 3D on a 120” screen, from 12 feet.  The picture will occupy almost four times more of your view!

People may not look great wearing 3D glasses like these Sony’s, but 3D does look great on this Sony!

 

Sony’s 3D looks very good. We’re still using active 3D glasses, and there’s a little bit of crosstalk, but overall, no issues big enough to take all the fun out of 3D viewing.  And it certainly is fun!  That’s my 2 cents!  And yes, Avatar is still spectacular in 3D.

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