Images above: first four are HDTV, the next four are 1080p from Blu-ray disc, and the final four are 4K HDTV.
The VPL-VW365ES was the least expensive true 4K projector on the market when I started reviewing it, and it's still the lowest cost true 4K projector as I publish this a couple months later.
So technically, one could think of it as the current "entry level" true 4K projector, but its picture is far, far beyond entry level. The projectors strengths include a beautiful natural looking image once calibrated, one with excellent dark shadow detail, and a healthy amount of brightness. Black level performance, which is just barely what I call "ultra high contrast" is the relative weakness, but Sony offers a cure for that with the VW675ES for an extra five grand, for which you get a some enhancements but primarily first is the addition of a dynamic iris.
There are other extras on the higher end Sonys, for example, Lens Memory. Although this Sony offers motorized zoom, focus, and lens shift, there is no quick, easy to use Lens Memory for those (like me) with wide screens (Cinemascope shape such as 2.35:1).
Since we're talking about such things, placement flexibility is excellent. A 2.06:1 zoom allows plenty of front to back placement range, and of course lens shift handles the rest of the flexibility.
This projector has just about 1350 calibrated lumens measured at mid-point on the zoom lens, after calibrating Reference mode. Or if you need every lumen, and you are placed at the minimum distance, you'll find 1500 lumens, but just barely, while Bright Cinema mode the most desirable when dealing with some ambient light, comes in at 1302 lumens, after some calibration, and
That is plenty of lumens overall, for a nice 120 or even a 140 inch diagonal screen with say 1.1 to 1.3 gain. At least until you start working with 4K HDR. I'd recommend 92 - 120" size, but you can, of course go larger. I fill a 124" 2.35:1 for my HDR movie viewing, but I do wish I had more brightness especially in the low to mid brightness areas of a picture. You'll also be a little weak on brightness with 3D though on a large screen, as would be the case with any projector with similar brightness. Very bright for 1080 2D, on the dim side for 3D and 4K HDR on the same large 120+ screen. But then that's pretty much what the competition serves up, as they are all similar in brightness.
The Sony has a very nice, well balanced remote control. Menus are nicely laid out, and essentially the same as other Sonys we’ve reviewed. A three year warranty is excellent although there’s no replacement or loaner program.
This Sony may not be as well endowed as Sony's more expensive projectors - and it has a lot less inputs), but the VPL-VW365ES puts a great picture up on your screen, 1080 or 4K. You won't be thinking about the projector you'll be immersed in the content.
That’s pretty much the big picture.
It's pretty easy to define what makes the serious direct competition. It's a small group of projectors from Sony itself, JVC and Epson. There are a few single chip 1080p DLP projectors for those that don't care about 4K, but most folks spending around $10,000, should at least want some 4K compatibility.
First three images above from VW365ES, then 1 each, VW665ES, JVC RS600U, and Epson LS10000.
The most obvious competitor lists for exactly $5000 more. We're talking about the Sony VPL-VW675ES, which is simply a step up. It adds a dynamic iris/manual iris capability for superior black levels. You'll also get lens memory, for more convenience, if you are a wide screen user. You also get support for Hybrid Log-Gamma, the name for a possible future standard for streaming. I'm not sure about whether there's an optics difference, but let's put it this way, if you have the great, fully darkenable room, and really are a serious enthusiast, you will want the black levels, so go for the step up VW675ES if it won't bust your budget.
Next are a pair of JVC 1080p pixel shifters, at $7000 and $10000. The two are identical except for quality control, and a longer warranty on the $10K one. They offer exceptional black levels, easily better than the Sony, and support for most 4K HDR options but not as many as the VW365ES, but, the JVCs still are lower resolution, the pixel shifting helps with detail, as does image processing, but the Sony looks and is more detailed.
Finally at $7999 is Epson's new LS10500 (just announced) it's the same as it's predecessor (the LS10000 that we reviewed) except for adding the support for HDR. Epson's support isn't as complete as even JVC's let alone Sonys. It does support HDR at 24fps beyond what's on Blu-ray UHD, but doesn't support 60fps HDR. (That may not be an issue, in the future, as I believe a 60fps source should recognize the lack of capability and serve up 24fps, but I'm not certain, yet.)
The Epson is also a 1080p pixel shifter. It has much better black levels than the Sony, but not quite up to the JVC's (but still really good). Where it comes through is in it's image processing for detail and sharpness. I find it much better than JVCs, and really can look exceptionally sharp, except on the tiniest of details that only true 4K can resolve. So, it offers a "compromise" in a sense between the JVC strengths and the Sonys.
Six months from now we'll see the first DLP pixel shifters with half the resolution of this Sony, but twice the resolution of 1080p pixel shifters. Still, all but the Sonys for now are "faux-K" rather than true 4K.
The Bottom Line:
Sony's VPL-VW365ES makes a really great media room projector. It's exactly right for that. It's got some muscle, enough to be great when paired with the right screen in a good to very good, room. Because it's black levels aren't great (Sony saves that for the more expensive VW675ES), it's not at it's very best in a fully darkened great home theater. But don't get me wrong, for most folks, it's nothing less than gorgeous. It's for us hard core enthusiasts questing perfection, that things get a bit more "complicated"
With that one performance aspect aside, everything else is pretty great, starting with the excellent color and natural skin tones, with natural sharpness. 4K content using BT2020 color gamut and HDR provides a a very different experience that you just don't get with "good ole'" 1080. Welcome to the future of big screen enjoyment.