Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW385ES True 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality

Sony VPL-VW385ES True 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality: Out of the Box Picture Quality, Skin Tones, HDTV and Sports

Out of the Box Picture Quality

Let me start by saying that by my take these past two, three years, is that no one puts out as excellent color and as natural a look to the picture, without adjustment, as the best modes on most Sony home theater projectors. The VPL-VW385ES is no exception. For that reason, once again, I haven’t bothered to have this Sony calibrated. Now, mind you, I’m not claiming the Sony is dead on accurate, but it should measure very close. Default brightness and contrast are usually close to on the money, if not right on it.

If anything, the overall color temp of modes like Reference and Cinema Film 1, are pretty close to the targeted D65 – 6500K with R, G, and B all properly balanced. Cinema Film 2, and a number of other modes use D75 – a cooler setting.  They will appear cooler (more blue/less red) but still well balanced to look good. If you are like me, you might prefer cooler than the standard balance for sports viewing. No problem, try TV or Bright TV as well, although I preferred Bright Cinema for most sports in my theater…

I should add that there are a couple of other companies that come to mind for being particularly good right out of the box. I’m thinking Epson and BenQ, but while both are typically also impressive in this regard, they just don’t come across quite as good, which is why we always calibrate their models.

All the images in the player above  where taken with default settings.  The HDTV ones (first two) where taken using Bright Cinema mode, while the others which are 4K HDR, with BT.2020 color space, were taken using Cinema Film 1.

As mentioned earlier, there is always some color variation from lamp to lamp (although slight), and even if “dead on,” the color shifts slightly as you put hours on each lamp. I just don’t think that with that lamp variation, that our calibrations on the lamp in the projector we review might not improve the picture with the lamp in your Sony.

If you aren’t a (near) perfectionist in terms of color, calibrating the VW385ES is something you can probably skip, and be perfectly satisfied.

I should mention that there are many gamma settings to choose from, some providing more pop, some more subdued, some more “on the money” for hitting the officially correct gamma.

Skin Tones

Even considering the losses, and minor color shifting brought about by my Canon 60D (semi-pro) DSLR, your monitor, phone, or laptop – all that compression of the image, you have to admit that most of the modes shown here of one of Victoria Secret’s swimsuit TV special models, that the skin tones vary from really good (more of the Sports type and “Bright TV” modes) to a touch thin on warmth but still good looking, to beautiful (Reference, Cinema Film 1, Bright Cinema).

The sequence of images in the photo player below starts out with one shot of a Victoria Secret model in Cinema Film 1 mode. (That’s the top left mode on the remote).  The images follow the order of the buttons on the remote so Cinema Film 2, then Reference, then the 2nd row… You can see the small text in the lower left showing you what mode.  Not a bad looking mode in the batch. Following the Vic Secret photos, comes some other HDTV, then the usual four Bond images showing how skin tones vary based on lighting, and, the “director’s intent.”  After those, are some 4K HDR photos, followed by four additional images from HDTV.

Since I did not have Eric (the independent ISF certified professional calibrator we normally use) calibrate, I can’t talk specifically about the actual performance numbers – what the color temp is, the gamma curve, etc. Just gaze lovingly at the photos in this section and realize how much better they must look when viewing the VW385ES in your home theater or media room.

In addition to the Victoria Secret images, there are several others, but instead of “relatively poor” HDTV quality, most of the others, including Passengers, are from 4K content off of Blu-Ray UHD.

HDTV and Sports

If I have any complaint about the VW385ES when it comes to sports viewing, it would be a complaint that is true of all but the brightest home entertainment projectors.  This Sony projector has over 1400 usable lumens with fine color, but one could always use more if you want a fair amount of ambient light on in the room. Still, Bright Cinema mode comes with a lot of punch, so cuts through reasonable ambient light for sports, rather well, in a theater or well thought out media room.  If your room is brighter, then be sure to pair this projector with a proper screen for brighter rooms.

For other content, such as sitcoms, Blacklist, Game of Thrones, concerts and more, I mostly went with Bright Cinema, or Cinema Film 1.  (I ultimately lowered the color temp of Cinema Film 2, to match,) but then changed some other settings to make Cinema Film 2 a bit punchier than Cinema Film 1, for dealing with a little more ambient light, but with a bit more natural presentation than Bright Cinema.

In my theater environment (dark surfaces) the Sony did fine, even with my back 8 recessed LED lights on 30% brightness, and the the shutters on the windows half open. As per the photos above.