Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW295ES 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Summary

Sony VPL-VW295ES 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Performance: The Big Picture, The Competition, The Very Bottom Line, Pros, Cons

The Big Picture

Yes, that’s what this Sony is all about – a big, especially beautiful picture.  Even calibrated the VW295ES can easily fill a 150” diagonal screen in a properly dark room, whether watching sports, other HDTV, or 1080p movies.  We’re talking 1200+ calibrated lumens.

Of course, if you are spending something approaching the $4999.99 list price of this lowest priced native 4K projector on the market, then you are obviously also interested in 4K content.

And you might be a gamer!  And gaming is definitely moving to 4K.

Let’s start with 4K.  4K doesn’t need more lumens.  Watching Blacklist in 4K off of Netflix will prove that to you.  But, if the content is 4K with HDR – High Dynamic Range, then the game changes.  Now you want as much brightness as you can find.  In a perfect world, for say a 124” diagonal screen like mine, for watching 4K with HDR, even 5000 lumens would not be over the top.  Fortunately, most projectors, and LCD TVs have figured out the dynamics of HDR.  The improvements from one generation to the next, in handling HDR have been downright spectacular with some companies and their projectors.  Sony’s history is more tame, probably because they beat everyone to the market.  Has started shipping native 4K projectors before the earliest pixel shifters attempted 4K.

The end result, is what counts. While I would appreciate more brightness while filling my screen, the Sony adapts nicely when handling HDR.  With less than maximum lumens (true even of most LCD and LED TVs), the Sony has a EOTF curve (think dynamic gamma) that compensates, you get a little less Dynamic in HDR, and a bit more overall brightness.

That sure works, because watching movies like Passengers, The Fifth Element, Pacific Rim – Uprising (stunning production quality), which have lots of dark and very dark scenes, is a great experience!

Part of that full 4K experience is the expanded color space – P3 is 50% larger than the good old REC709. This Sony did not get all the way, but Eric, our calibrator, advises that all of the primary and secondary colors managed to achieve 90 to 100% of P3, which is great for a lamp based projector although, a couple can get even closer. Still, that’s a major achievement that none of the 4K UHD DLP projectors yet have come close to.  Eric’s been keeping track and over a dozen 4K UHD models not one comes as close (or near as close) to P3 as this Sony projector.  The bottom line:  Better color.  You can see a difference, although that difference isn’t going to be as dramatic as the difference between with and without HDR.

Feature wise, there’s ton of placement flexibility plenty of advanced processing, various dynamic contrast, and detail enhancement controls, there’s also a three year warranty, and I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet, that the Sony – at full lamp power, is a lot quieter than most competitors.

What can’t this Sony VW295ES do?  Well, for one thing, it can’t do as deep blacks as some other native projectors, notably the two least expensive (other than this Sony).  I’m talking on the higher end, the $6999 JVC and the $9999 Sony VW695ES.   But it does pretty well in this regard.  You can fully enjoy it in a dedicated home theater, but this is really a projector that is a perfect fit for good, not great rooms. That is, a living room, a family room, almost any room with respectable lighting control, but not necessary the dark walls, floors and ceilings of a home theater or the proverbial “man cave.”

The Competition

I just mentioned three – two more expensive native 4K’s and the pair of much lower cost pixel shifter from Epson.

I’ve got a really, really dark theater, so I would prefer the VW695ES (I am a black level fanatic), which adds lumens and a dynamic iris and has visibly darker blacks on those really dark scenes.  The JVC I haven’t had a shot at reviewing yet, but it promises to have even better black levels, but, it is 40% more expensive than the VW295ES.  All three – and also the lower cost 3LCD Epson 5040UB/6040UB, have motorized lenses with at least 2.0:1 zoom ratios and lots of lens shift, and are especially good on black levels.  (That Epson is a 4K capable. 1080p pixel shifter not a native 4K projector).

Unlike those others, there’s no lens memory – that is single button ability to change the aspect ratio to work with wide screens, but no matter, it worked great with my wide screen, I would just have to use the remote to resize the image and adjust the lens shift – typically, that has taken me about 30 seconds.  I can live with that, and I’ll bet you can.

What else is out there that’s competition.  Well, there are plenty of the 4K UHD DLPs but only one I’ve seen so far, do I count as being about as capable at handling dark scenes as the Sony, and that’s the Acer VL7860. That DLP has a laser engine, but does sell for a little less than the VW295ES.  Of course it’s 4K UHD, not native 4K.  Those are all still pixel shifters with “giant sized pixels” compared to the Sony and other native 4K projectors.  As to all those Optomas, BenQs, ViewSonics, and others they are all nice projectors, all lower resolution pixel shifters, that can all accept 4K content, but non can do those dark scenes as well, none have the flexibility, etc.  As a group I’d count most of those that are out there today as more home entertainment than home theater. The VPL-VW295ES on the other hand is definitely serious home theater.

The VW295ES is also 3D capable, further separating it from most of the DLPs, and it is a fast gaming projector with 27ms input lag, which is extremely good for a projector. Few do better, and none by a lot.  That 27ms (on 4K games), even with HDR and P3 color is fast enough to please all but the most professional, fanatical gamers.  Most competitors (all technologies) do no better.

The Very Bottom Line

The Sony VPL-VW295ES treats you to a great looking, and of course, very sharp picture.  There are plenty of preset picture modes to choose from and not one looks less than very good.  The Sony barely needs any calibration, so expect to enjoy great looking and accurate color reproduction. Black levels are respectable, so could always be better.  The Sony lacks the dynamic found on its $10K big brother, the VW695ES or on JVC’s $7K lowest cost native 4K.  Yet, I enjoyed even the darkest scenes in my theater, and for those watching in their living rooms or media or family rooms, with the right screen, the differences between this Sony and those others – on dark scenes, becomes minimal.

Some projectors are rough around the edges.  Not this Sony.  It even looks great when not turned on – clean, dark, minimalistic, with one impressive looking lens assembly! It’s about as future proof as any.

We can all want more performance, but this Sony delivers good value, and should serve brilliantly for years to come.

Pros

  • Native 4K 3 panel design
  • 1500 lumens claimed
    • Almost 1400 calibrated lumens for 4K HDR P3
    • Over 1200 calibrated lumens for best 1080 mode
  • Excellent color overall
  • Very naturally sharp – especially on 4K content
    • Does not look over processed, like some
  • Very respectable black levels (despite no dynamic iris)
  • Smoothest CFI around
    • Even a mode I can live with for some movies
  • Quieter than most projectors
    • Few will object even to its noise at full power
  • Great placement flexibility
    • 2.06:1 motorized zoom lens
    • Very generous amounts of vertical and horizontal lens shift
  • Works well with wide screens (ideal for the typical movie)
  • Solid backlit remote control
  • Very good menu system
  • Minimalistic control panel on side is almost invisible
  • Both HDMI inputs are 2.x with HDCP 2.2 and 18 Gps speed
  • 3 year parts and labor warranty

Cons

  • Blacks could be deeper
    • Sony saves their dynamic iris for their more expensive 4K PJs
  • Lacks a wireless networking option
  • Like almost all home projectors – its just not smart, like a smart TV
  • Blacklight on remote could be a touch brighter
  • No lens memory (but the work around is easy)
  • A couple more User savable memories would be a plus
  • Also a fast gamer (only 27ms minimum input lag on 4K content), it is slightly slower on 180p games
  • Missing the usual things found in many home entertainment projectors that might be nice to have, though rarely found on serious home theater projectors:
    • On board media player
    • Miracast, other direct inputs from mobile devices
    • No internet browser
  • No rapid replacement program with the 3 year warranty

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