Posted on May 2, 2018 By Art Feierman
Sony VPL-VW385ES True 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Hardware 2: The Control Panel, The Remote Control, The Menus, Bottom Line
Designed to be almost invisible, the control panel is a series of buttons in a horizontal row starting near the front of the projector’s side.
The first small button is power (once for on, twice to power down). Next comes the Input button. Pressing it repeatedly steps it through each active source it sees, which is basically HDMI.
Next is the Menu button, followed by Sony’s micro joy stick, which works extremely well for navigating. Pressing it straight in, acts as Enter.
Last is the Lens button which then allows you to adjust the lens focus, zoom, and shift using the micro-joy stick. It works surprisingly well, if limited to the basic controls needed, no extras for convenience.
There are just two indicator lamps. They will flash in different combinations when indicating any issues.
I like Sony’s projector remotes. They are on the long side (definitely) not very wide, and have good weight and balance. Also, there’s no problem in my theater bouncing a signal off of my 1.3 gain screen for a total range of 30 feet. Of course, having a rear IR sensor on the VW385ES further enhances the remote’s working range.
As I always do, we’ll start at the top, and run through all of the buttons/features.
Top: On the left is the backlight button. Like other Sony remotes, the back light is blue LED. It’s not quite as bright as I’d like, just a little brighter would be better. It’s far better than most backlit Optoma remotes that have blue LED lights – theirs are so bright they are almost blinding in a darkened room. Still, I have to bring the remote close to my face, sometimes to make out what’s on the lit up buttons because I do find it dark, and blue doesn’t help. Light greens and orange backlights seem to work best for me.
Next to it, in the center is the Input button. It’s smart. It only shows you an input if there’s a device attached. It does, however indicate a device even if that device is not turned on. Since I only use HDMI for my testing/evaluation (and this projector relies almost exclusively on HDMI), pressing the Input button brings up a small menu which offers me HDMI 1 and HDMI 2. Pressing the Input button again, advances to the next source. So, if I hit it, and it comes up on HDMI 1, and I press the Input again, it will toggle to HMDI 2. Since I only have those two in use, pressing again returns it to HDMI 1. It takes a couple of seconds (at least) to lock onto an HDMI input when you switch. I prefer discrete inputs for HDMI 1 and 2 on projectors but this solution is pretty convenient.
You guessed it, the Power switch (green) is on the top right. Press once to power up, twice to shut down.
Right below is a section with 3 rows of 3 buttons. These control the 8 preset color modes, and the 9th is for the User mode. Easy enough!
Navigation comes next with a round control for the up / down / left / right arrows. The Enter button is in the center. Around the ring are four curved buttons. The top left one is labeled Focus. Pressing it once brings up a black screen (test pattern) with fine green screen aspect ratio lines. It will say Lens Focus (you can turn off the test pattern in the menu system, in which case you can focus while viewing content). Use the navigation to focus. Next (in the middle) is Zoom, and (lens) Shift is on the right. I personally find focusing much easier with content, not test pattern. Thee is still small text and arrows that show on the screen in the middle which are great for focusing on.
I better mention the bottom of the three buttons on the ring – that’s the Menu button! The one on the upper right side is labeled Reset, which should, at least for a second, terrify you, having it so close to the navigation (pressing it by itself won’t do anything – whew!). It will allow you to reset all the adjustments you made to a mode such as Cinema Film 1, or Bright TV. The good news is it will ask you to confirm before it does anything. You are more likely to use it when adjusting just one thing. For example, if you are in the gamma sub-menu reset would reset your gamma settings back to the factory default. Again, it will ask you to confirm first.
Below the Navigation Ring are nine more buttons 3 x 3. This time the buttons are shortcuts to submenus. The top left of those is Aspect Ratio. All the rest are picture controls. The rest of the top row is MotionFlow (CFI) and 3D, while the second row has Color Space, Color Temp, and Color Correction (CMS). The third row is Gamma Control (which brings up lots of presets), Contrast Enhancer, and Reality Creation (dynamic detail/sharpness enhancement).
Almost done! All that’s left are three rocker switches in a row just above the bottom of the remote. Sharpness, Brightness, and Contrast, with +/- for each. That’s the remote – from top to bottom.
All considered a well balanced remote control that works nicely, with only a couple of very minor things to complain about – mostly, though, the blue backlight is dim and makes it hard to read the buttons.
This is the main Picture menu - the first menu seen when you tap the Menu button. Most of the next 10 slides are closer looks at some of the features found on this menu, and its submenus.
Improved lens, sharper image than any of the 4K UHD DLP projectors (either pixel shifting resolution), although differences are slight. Lens memory, for those serious movie enthusiasts (like me) who prefer to go Cinemascope style widescreen (approximately 2.37:1 – to match the aspect ratio of those movies,) instead of basic HDTV 1.78:1, for virtually no letterboxing when watching the vast majority of movies.
Inputs and connectors are pretty minimalistic, as Sony has stopped providing composite video or S-video (but it can bring in Component Video over HDMI.) There are those usual 2 HDMI inputs. And, as is traditional for Sony, there’s a 12-volt trigger for supporting compatible motorized screens.
And an excellent remote control, although I’m not a fan of the blue backlight, which isn’t near as easy to read as many orange or similar back lights.
In other words, just about everything you could want or need – although an extra HDMI is always a good idea. Optional Wireless networking would be nice to have as well.
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