Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW385ES True 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Summary 2

Sony VPL-VW385ES True 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Summary 2: Almost Done, The Bottom Line, The Very Last Word, Pros, Cons

Almost Done

Let’s continue with those 4K UHD DLP projectors.  First, most of the lower res ones, for the most part, make no attempt at BT.2020/P3. And some don’t do HDR either. Basically they are primarily focused on their ability to handle 4K content, even if not with all the trimmings.” Still, even these lower resolution projectors are very sharp. They have the advantage over the Epsons (and JVC) and Sony in that they are single chip devices, not R, G, and B colors to align (but instead have color wheels, so some of us are bothered by the Rainbow Effect that color wheels cause).

A 4K HDR, BT.2020/P3 image from Ghostbusters 2016, shows especially vibrant, rich colors, very good black levels and plenty of dark shadow detail.

The BenQs seem to have faster color wheels than the others (I am RBE sensitive, so I couldn’t deal with owning most of those – those with the slower color wheels – most of these companies won’t even publish their color wheel speeds). Still, again, sharper than the Epsons, but not as sharp as the Sony I’m staring at. I’ve put two of each resolution up against the Sony at different times – splitting the image on my screens, but the photos I take just aren’t high enough res for you to judge by yourself, you’ll have to go with my subjective calls. I’d really need a 16K resolution camera and display to make comparing easy, and we’re still fooling around with 4K and 2K! My close ups are helpful, but…

If you are seriously considering the VW385ES (or the VW285ES, or even the Epson 5040UB), the primary difference between these and the DLPs is the black level performance, it’s so no contest that I can’t really consider those 4K UHDs to be real competition. It’s like pro football vs high school football, when it comes to black levels!

So, while the 4K UHD DLPs are fine projectors, I like them far more for sports, and drastically less for serious movie content – and also high production TV and streaming, such as Game of Thrones. Well, I watch a lot of sports, but those black levels are a deal breaker for me, and you too, if you are serious about watching those really dark scenes that are so common in today’s quality content.

That was an exhausting, and perhaps the longest attempted comparison section I’ve done, but hopefully it helps you understand, and “choose wisely!”

The Bottom Line

Naturally, there are better projectors out there! Better (at most things) costs more. Often way more. There are three or four projectors you can consider out there near the price. Myself, while I would give the Epson laser some thought, (if only it had laser dimming to emulate a dynamic iris) and perhaps the JVC, (if it improved on some of its weaknesses – based on thelast I time got to review one). Overall, the VW385ES, I think, is the one I’d go with if I was spending under $10K today!

Sony VPL-VW385ES Lens
Sony’s motorized 2.06:1 Zoom Lens – close and personal – With improved optics.

One conundrum:  I use a Leo Bodner device for measuring input lag for gaming. I’m sort of stumped:  As expected without engaging the menu option to minimize lag, the Sony had an unacceptable 125+ ms input lag.  Not even close to good.  But, when I started turning everything off, my measuring device kept coming back with 0.00 input lag.  I don’t thin, that’s right, but am confused.  Other Sonys seem to clock in in the 30ms range, and I looked around (for once) at another review which also put it in that range.  So, despite my 0 ms lag measurement, I’ll hedge and say “it’s probably in the 30-40ms range.”  That makes it a very respectable gamer.

If your budget is a small fraction of the VW385ES, and you care about those dark scenes, you’ll probably be looking at the Epson 5040UB (or 6040UB), and if you aren’t that concerned, then there’s a whole “ton” of those 4K UHD DLPs to satisfy you until you get that big, promised tax refund expected next year.

We’ll wrap things up with our usual pros and cons, almost all of which have been mentioned in this review on one page or another. The Pros and Cons section exists because we know many of you don’t read every word of my rather lengthy, “in-depth” reviews.

Sony VPL-VW385ES Front Angled

The Very Last Word

To add it all up: My biases as to what makes a great projector tell me this is one fine projector if you want a really sharp projector, with very good black level performance, superb color (short of having a laser light engine), and great skin tones….

Projector Reviews Hot Product Award
This is our top regular award for projectors. Other awards are given out in our reports.

It certainly is currently the top of my short list among under $10K projectors. Of course, I’m always on the look out for the next great projector value. Maybe next year.

Finally, one more time. I think Sony’s upping the lens quality, even if only slightly, and adding a very good Dynamic Iris, makes this Sony a far better projector than the older VW365ES it replaces. And that’s a very, very good thing for those that choose it.

That’s it folks.  A last thought – if you have never owned a projector, or only a sub $1000 one, boy are you in for a major surprise. Your feedback if you choose this Sony, will almost certainly be:  Wow, it looks so much better than I could have expected!”

Pros

  • Color is about as good as it gets “right out of the box” without adjustment
  • Nicely bright with 1400+ measured usable lumens
  • Very good black level performance
  • Excellent at dark shadow detail
  • Runs quieter than most projectors, especially in Low Power mode
  • Very interesting Auto Calibrate feature
  • Fast enough – good input lag makes for very good gaming projector
  • Reality Creation adds perceived sharpness and detail to lower res content
  • Support for HDR10 (Blu-ray UHD, etc.) and HLG (streaming 4K)
  • MotionFlow (CFI) is very good, softest setting should even be acceptable to some movie fanatics, as it is very subtle
  • Excellent placement flexibility – lots of zoom and lens shift
  • 3 year parts and labor warranty
  • More energy efficient than the competition (only a 225 watt lamp, most have 300+)
  • Good remote control
  • Supports BT.2020/P3 color space (best it can, being a lamp based projector)
  • Excellent adjustment for brightness/dimness (Contrast/Gamma control) for 4K HDR
  • Physically impressive when turned off.

Cons

  • Could certainly use more brightness for HDR
  • Backlit remote is blue lit, hard to read (but far better than no backlight)
  • Black levels, while very good, could be better still
  • Could be better at BT.2020/P3 color space, but that really would require a projector with a laser light engine (see Sony’s VW885ES, at “only” $24,999.99
  • Not sure about final input lag, but should be fine for most gamers
  • Larger projector than most