Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW350ES Home Theater Projector Review

The VPL-VW350ES is the lowest cost true 4K projector to hit the market to date, at $9999 US.  It sports a beautiful picture and 1500 lumens.  Impressive!

It is the least expensive of Sony’s three 4K projectors, and so far, they are the only company offering true 4K.

Sony VPL-VW350ES Overview

The first Sony 4K was $27,999 now, with the VPL-VW350ES we have true 4K officially breaking the $10,000 barrier. OK it’s not exactly affordable to the typical projector buyer (unfortunately), but should be popular among those that find the price acceptable!

In many ways, the VPL-VW350ES is similar to the $15K VPL-VW600ES which we reviewed last year. You can consider it a slightly stripped down version. From a practical standpoint the VW350ES is to the VW600ES in the same way Sony’s HW40ES compares to their HW55ES.

Most importantly though is that the VW350ES produces a really excellent picture, and it can accept 4K content. That 4K content includes high resolution photos, but also movies and other content from forthcoming Blu-ray UHD (4K) players and discs that should first appear in Q3, or Q4 of 2015. Based on previous statements from Sony about their other 4K projectors, they are committed to also supporting the future 4K content from on-air, satellite and cable format. In other words, it will support 4K content from a variety of sources just as today’s 1080p projectors support a variety of 1080p (2K) content sources.

Three images in this picture gallery above, the first is 4K, the second 1080p, and the football game is 1080i.

This Sony projector claims 1500 lumens. It has motorized focus, zoom and lens shift. It supports 3D (1080p only, as there are no standards yet for 4K 3D). Fairly large in size, it’s a good looking projector that’s darkish gray with a coarse to the touch finish.

The VW350ES is essentially the same as the VW300ES launched in the EU several months earlier. The 350ES started shipping last month – January 2015, complete with a special launch price through Feb 28th of $7999. So, if you are reading this shortly after I published this, you only have a couple weeks to take advantage of $2000 in savings.

For you top 5%ers who can afford this projector, and some of us “poorer” folk who are addicted to great home theater – who are willing to put money into a projector like this, (perhaps instead of buying a more expensive car), expect a great picture that will take you well into the next decade.

There are no direct competitors with true 4K resolution, but this Sony will compete directly with a handful of 1080p projectors capable of handling 4K content. I’ll be mentioning those throughout this review, but here’s that very short list, and their strengths, and limitations:

The closest competition – and for the moment, the only serious competition is Epson’s LS10000, a pixel shifting 1080p projector. Like the Sony, the Epson has the needed tech inside to support Blu-ray UHD and the first gen of broadcast 4K. The others are 3 JVC projectors – that also use pixel shifting, and are otherwise 1080p projectors, but they cannot yet be considered serious competition because they lack the newest HDMI and HDCP (copy projection) standards that are required for Blu-ray UHD. Until JVC commits that those existing projectors will be able to work with these 4K formats, it would be hard to rationalize choosing one if future 4K compatibility is what you want.   Those JVCs were introduced a year before this Sony and the Epson. They may well be able to handle the 4K content, but perhaps only with an external processor at extra expense. Or JVC perhaps will wait for their next generation. If you want to be able to play Blu-ray 3D, your only sure bets are this Sony and other 4K Sony projectors, and that Epson. Tied to this review will be a head to head comparison between the VW350ES and the Epson LS10000 to help you decide which is for you.

A quick comment – when I reviewed the 1080p Sony HW40ES and compared to to their step up HW55ES, I said one way of looking at it, since they are extremely similar except the HW40ES lacks a dynamic iris, was to say the HW55ES is for those with a dedicated theater/cave, while the HW40ES is happier in a less perfect, media, living, family, bonus type room with lighter surfaces and not fully darkened. Thus, I said it was HW55ES – true home theater, HW40ES – home entertainment – a term usually reserved for under $1000 projectors (not that the HW40ES doesn’t blow all of those away).

In theory, I should call the VW350ES the most expensive home entertainment projector around, but truth is, its black levels are definitely worthy of a dedicated home theater, even if the VW600ES is better at it, thanks to the addition of a dynamic iris.

VPL-VW350ES Highlights

Time to take a quick look at the Sony VW350ES’s highlights.

  • True 4K
  • 1500 lumens
  • 2.1:1 zoom lens (excellent range)
  • Power lens focus, zoom and lens shift
  • HDMI 2.0 / HDCP 2.2
  • 3D
  • CFI – smooth motion “MotionFlow”
  • Reality Creation (detail/sharpness enhancement)
  • Many preset modes (2D and 3D)
  • 3 year warranty
  • Excellent color, right out of the box