Sony VPL-VW5000ES 4K Projector Review – Summary

Let’s start this page with a simple statement: The VPL-VW5000ES, unquestionably has put up the best, most impressive looking image to grace my 124” diagonal wide screen in my home theater!

I’m talking 4K content with HDR.

No one’s going to tell you that this Sony is the best at everything, it’s not. But the picture on 4K content with HDR, is pretty amazing.

Let’s talk more about 4K content.

Sony VPL VW5000ES Performance with 4K HDR Content

Just about every Blu-ray UHD disc I have found and bought supports BT2020 for a wider color space, and more importantly, supports HDR (High Dynamic Range).

Comments about the images above:  Two worth commenting on.  On the closeup of the Bigalow inflatable space station (blue rendering) note the consistent “color” of the lines, and that there’s even a good texture in the person’s face.  If you look at the same closeup on other reviews (like the Epson UB), often the blue lines have been over processed (to appear 4K sharp) to sometimes be more white, and more inconsistent..

The second last image is a “fake.” It is a “simulation” of the difference between 1080 SDR (standard dynamic range), and what 4K HDR is. It was on one of my 4K Blu-ray UHD movies, among the trailers.   Let’s just say that’s not what the difference looks like. (As mentioned, the lower to mid bright areas would seem a bit darker, in real, and the brightest areas a lot brighter.

Being the brightest home theater projector around, also makes it the most capable when it comes to tackling HDR content, since HDR demands a very bright projector.

Note: The advent of 3D caused most home theater projector makers to at least double their brightness. If anything HDR demands even more than 3D, and I’d say another doubling is in order.   This Sony with 5000 lumens under the hood is better equipped to handle 4K HDR than any other home theater projector on the market.

VPL-VW5000ES on 1080 resolution Content (HDTV and Blu-ray)

What about good old Blu-ray movies, or for that matter, an NFL football game served up at 1080i resolution?

Note in the player above, all the images are 1080 content, unless you see two similar images. When you do, the first is 1080, and the second is 4K HDR content for comparison. At the relatively low resolution of these images you won’t easily see the advantages of 4K content in terms of detail, etc., but you will get a feel for what the wider color space and HDR bring to the party.

Before I answer, buying true 4K projectors – or even those of lower native resolution that support 4K and HDR, is forward thinking. So, when dealing with these projectors, I’m primarily concerned about how they do with the best content. That’s the same reason why I haven’t commented in years on my reviews of 1080p projectors, on how they look with standard DVDs.

Why, because, 1080p projectors all look relatively crappy on standard DVDs, compared to the same content off of Blu-ray disc. Many will argue, that standard Blu-ray is noticeably inferior to 4K with HDR and BT2020 color space… That’s just the way progess works.

If you are springing upward of $50K ($60K list price), because you want a world class picture in your home, you can certainly afford to replace your favorite Blu-Ray movies with Blu-ray UHD ones. (OK, in fairness, it will take few years until there are 1000+ of 4K discs out there.)

So let’s take a moment to talk 1080p movies and HDTV. The Sony does great. It’s primary weakness, however is black level performance. True when you first fire up the VW5000ES on 1080p content and hit a 100 – 130” diagonal screen, on those dark scenes you’ll notice that the blacks aren’t close to black.

But, then, with a little reflection on why – after all, it uses a laser engine, and a dynamic iris, so it should at least be pretty darn good, you realize that you haven’t dimmed the laser, so you are pushing 4500 lumens onto that screen. For 1080p movies, 1000 lumens is plenty, and technically 700 lumens is probably going to put up a brighter image than you’ll see at your local Cineplex.

When I dropped the VPL-VW5000ES way down in brightness (reduced it about 70%), all of a sudden watching those very dark scenes – like Bond, Casino Royale night train scene I photograph in each review – I found impressively good black levels.

For you JVC fans out there, no, this Sony’s black levels won’t rival the JVC X750R/X950R (or their RS equivalents), and therefore also not match the newer X770R/X970R that are about to start shipping. For those of you not familiar, JVC is the king of black level performance, has been for years. These JVC projectors I mentioned are 1080p models with pixel sizes 4X that of this Sony. On 1080p content, they will win on black levels, but in perceived detail and sharpness, even on 1080p, the Sony’s native 4K resolution plus its Reality Creation enhancement for 1080 content will seem sharper and more detailed.

Ok, enough on black levels, but I thought it worth some comments.

VPL-VW5000ES Overall Picture Quality

Color is outstanding, Skin tones were typically beautiful and natural looking. But, the wider color gamut – BT2020 (REC709 is the standard for 1080p), provides colors that seem closer to real life in saturation, and realism.

And along comes HDR – High Dynamic Range, which thanks to being the brightest 4K home theater projector around, just creates an image with more pop to it.

So, sure, the VW5000ES looks pretty great on good old 1080p and 1080i, but fully comes into it’s own with 4K content and HDR!

The Direct Competition

JVC announced their 4K DLA-RS4500 at CEDIA last fall, but here, at the end of January 2017 it should be about ready to ship, per JVC. Compared to the VW5000ES it’s bargain priced – at only $34999. No doubt it will have the better black levels, but the JVC can’t match the power, with 3000 lumens to the Sony’s 5000. With HDR, that should give a real advantage to the Sony. Of course we won’t know for sure until the JVC ships and we can get our hands on one.

Wait, there’s another. A high end home theater company, Wolf, uses JVC light engines including JVC’s D-iLA LCoS panels, in their own versions with some electronic enhancements. I have never had a chance to review one, but I am about to ask for this 4K one.   Wolf is quoting their version with 3200 lumens, but then their list price is $52,000 a good bit more than the JVC. As a high end company, Wolf should be super-duper on support, etc, but I really don’t know. They get a hefty premium.

Best I can tell, neither JVC nor Wolf will be offering lens options, just a “standard” 2.1:1 zoom. (The Sony has a 2.1:1 zoom but there’s also an optional wide angle zoom lens.)

Barco maybe launching true 4K DLP projectors (based on a conversation at CEDIA last fall), but they are physical monsters, best I can tell, at least as large as the VW5000ES. Th’s because TI doesn’t make a “consumer” true 4K chip, Barco would be forced to use full sized cinema projector chips! If this comes to pass I believe they will make the Sony look inexpensive, but could be interesting.

Everything else is “Faux-K” either far less expensive (up to $10K) 1080p pixel shifters, or the first gen of 4K UHD DLP based pixel shifters, which still have pixel sizes twice the size of 4K.

The Bottom Line

So, for now, no question, the VW5000ES rules. It’s bigger, badder, quieter (being liquid cooled), has great color, laser light engine, overall great performance, and a, by far, best in class 5000 lumens for tackling HDR content.

It was a sad day when I had to surrender Sony’s VPL-VW5000ES back to Sony, after almost two full months of viewing. I’ll finish by repeating how I started this summary, by stating that The VW5000ES produced the most amazing imagery to ever grace my dedicated home theater, with it’s 2.35:1 “wide screen”, for viewing a nicely large 124” diagonal image.

Awesome! And that folks is why the VPL-VW5000ES earned our 2016 Best Projector of the Year award. (Even though this didn’t get published until Jan 2017.)

Really want one? This Sony still costs about the same as a “well equipped (but not “loaded”) Lexus SUV, and gets better mileage (well, after all, it is all electric).  -art

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