Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW350ES Home Theater Projector – Special Features 2

Sony VPL-VW350ES PROJECTOR:  SPECIAL FEATURES PAGE 2:  3D, Black Levels as Relates to an Iris, Gaming and Input Lag, Power Lens but no Lens Memory

3D

This Sony has 3D capabilities.  And it’s RF, unlike some of the older, but still current Sony’s which still use IR tech.  The VW1100ES – built on the VW1000ES is one of those.  When I reviewed the VW1100ES, I used a 3rd party compatible RF emitter, because I find RF works better.

Nice to have an RF emitter built in.  Sony’s 3D is pretty good.  DLP projectors basically have no crosstalk, being the fastest.  3LCD and LCoS aren’t that quick.  Still, it comes down to some degree, to how well it’s implemented. I find the Sony more than acceptable, though not exceptional.  I think the Epson LS10000 is cleaner, but JVC – who also uses LCoS panels, has more issue than the Sony – or the Epson.

I love 3D, but realize one has to compromise.  I can’t think of any high quality projectors that can produce a bright enough image fully calibrated that it allows reasonably bright 3D viewing on a 120” screen.  Thus, I’m used to using the brightest available 3D modes, rather than the best.  When doing that, color isn’t as accurate, and can be off more than just a little.  Still the beauty of 3D is the immersion.  And when you watch heavily color processed movies like Avatar and Hugo, overall color isn’t remotely natural even if the projector is properly calibrated.

Bottom line on 3D – Definitely pretty good!  I mean it works for me.  Would I like a few more lumens, and a bit more accurate color – sure.  Do I get blown away watching Avatar, any of the Marvel/Disney movies (The Avengers, Thor, Iron Man 3…) or Hugo, Alice, How to Train Your Dragon in 3D, or the latest Spiderman? – Absolutely!

Black Levels As Related to This Sony's Lack of an Iris

While the other more expensive Sony 4K projectors have a triple use iris, the VPL-VW350ES, as their “entry level” 4K projector, (and also their HW40ES, which is their entry level 1080p home theater projector) have no iris at all. I better start by explaining what I call a triple iris.

  1. A dynamic iris is found on most home theater projectors. It rapidly closes down and opens back up to different degrees depending on the content. The idea is to make up for a shortfall in native contrast. In days gone by, and on most sub $2000 projectors, on a dark scene blacks appear medium dark gray, not black. Not good. With a dynamic iris, blacks don’t change on a bright scene, but on dark scenes, the entire image gets darker, so to the eye, those black objects now appear close to black, rather than medium dark gray. That’s a major improvement. An example of not dark enough blacks is what you see in today’s movie theaters on the trailers – but there it’s because they have too much ambient light when running trailers.
  2. Thus without a dynamic iris, this Sony VW350ES doesn’t do as well as their more expensive VW600ES – on dark scenes.
  3. Manual iris: The Sony VPL-VW350ES also lacks one of these. In general, a manual iris lets you turn down the overall brightness. It’s consistent, not scene specific. As I was recently reminded by one of our readers (thanks RT), you would use it if a projector is too bright for your environment. That might be due to having a smaller screen – say 100” diagonal down to 82” with a 1500 lumen projector in a dark room.  Consider, that with no iris, the rather bright VW350ES when running a new lamp, may seem too bright to people with those smaller screens, even if running in eco-mode.
  4. Dynamic plus Manual: Those Sony’s with irises support three modes. For the combination mode, you can set a maximum brightness – that is, not allow the iris to open all the way, if the projector is too bright. Let’s say you limit it to only let in 75% of the light on bright scenes. You can still have it dynamicly dim as normal, for the best effect on  darker scenes, giving you the best (flexibility) of both worlds.

The Sony VPL-VW350ES (sadly) lacks any iris functions.  Thus the black level performance does not match the more expensive VW600ES.

At the end of the day, though, it’s the picture that counts. In the Picture Quality section I discuss the black level performance of this Sony, and even how it compares to the closest competition.

VPL-VW350ES as Game Projector - Input Lag

Unlike previous Sony projectors, the VW350ES has a menu feature called Input Lag Reduction. (At least, I don’t remember seeing it on others.)

Most LCoS projectors (like this Sony) tend to have a fair amount of input lag, making them relatively poor candidates for folks who take their gaming seriously, especially those playing team gaming, including 1st person shooters (World Of WarCraft, Call Of Duty…), and to a lesser extent, sports games, and auto racing.

Testing the projector’s input lag speed, I used my standard method, with a timer being photographed on both the projected image and on a MacBook Pro laptop.  In general we consider input lag of around 50 ms to be just acceptable to many hard core gamers.  Down around 33ms is better.  In a perfect world 0 ms lag time is what we’d all want, but around 16-17ms should be close enough to satisfy almost all of the most hard core gamers. (That’s 1 frame behind on 60fps content).

I tried a couple of different modes, and played with a lot of different features on and off.  What I learned was, you must turn on the Input Lag Reduction feature to get gaming performance!  It is found in the Expert Settings sub-menu on the Picture menu.  Without engaging it, lag times are often over 100ms.

But once you throw the switch everything changes.  Input Lag Reduction works.  Motion flow (CFI), disappears from the menus, but other things are also happening apparently.  Lag times drop into a range of 16-17ms to 33-34ms.   I tried turning on/off, contrast enhancement, gamma, and other controls, but none seemed to have a repeatable effect on lag times, but may be responsible for the less than consistent times.

That makes this a respectable gaming projector.  Oh, there are faster DLP projectors out there, but there’s obviously nothing with 4K capability.  (No I did try measuring lag with 4K content – that’s way ahead of the curve).

Suffice to know that if you like gaming and want to put a 4K projector in your media room or theater, this baby is up to it.  Gamers – grab your controllers!

Power Lens Feature But No Lens Memory

It really is a shame that Sony has power zoom, focus and lens shift, but didn’t deliver lens memory.  No doubt that the lens memory feature  (basically one button to to adjust zoom and lens shift to have the maximum image fit for different aspect ratios), was left out to help justify the price difference between the VW350ES and the VW600ES – which is a whopping $5000 difference in official price.

But don’t despair.  As mentioned, you can still own a wide screen such as a 2.35:1 like mine.  It’s just that when you want to switch from one aspect ratio to the other, you have to enter the lens control feature, and use the remote or projector’s control panel to resize and re-align the image to fit your screen best as possible.  Simply pressing a button, (Lens Memory) to switch aspect ratios to best fill your screen would be nice – it would be a lot quicker, because the lens control button brings up a test pattern, which doesn’t always allow you to adjust it one time and get it right as different content use slightly different widescreen ratios.

Bottom line:  A non-issue if you have a 16:9 scren (1.78:1), but if you have a wide screen (ie 2.35:1, etc.) changing aspect ratios is a small nuisance but only minute or two of your time each time you switch back and forth.