Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW695ES Home Theater Projector Review – Performance

Sony VPL-VW695ES Projector Review – Performance: Brightness, Effect of Eco Mode, Effect of Lens Position, Sharpness, Audible Noise


Claiming 1800 lumens! That’s a healthy number, certainly (technically with a typical 100” screen, for 1080p content, or 4K content without HDR, you only need about 450 lumens and about 1000 lumens to fill a 150” diagonal screen in a typical home theater/cave type setup.

Of course 4K – with HDR, demands a good deal more brightness (as does 3D).  Now no projector and not many LED TVs are technically as bright as is ideal for HDR, so we end up with a picture that behaves like something between HDR, and SDR.  That’s fine.

Now let’s see how the VW695ES does, brightness wise.

Sony is a company that usually hits their claims, or at least is very close.  Here’s another case. Now, figure our measurements are accurate only to +/- 3%.

Picture Mode Lumens
Bright Cinema (Zoom-Out) brightest measurement 1791
Bright Cinema (Mid-Zoom) 1703
Cinema Film 1 1504
Cinema Film 2 1556
Reference (Iris Full, Limited, Off) 1439, 1024, 683
TV 1661
Photo 1604
Game 1705
Bright TV 1695
User 1656

At its brightest, the VW695ES measured 1791 lumens out of 1800 claimed. That number came from the Bright Cinema mode. Wait, one mode was 2 lumens brighter – Game mode, but Bright Cinema looks better so let’s go with 1791, which means Sony came up one-half percent under claim. Good enough!

One thing that’s very interesting – virtually all the modes are in a twenty percent brightness range. With most brands, that range is often 40%, with the best modes 40% less bright than the ugliest mode.

One thing that’s very interesting – virtually all the modes are in a twenty percent brightness range.  With most brands, that range is often 40%, with the best modes 40% less bright than the ugliest mode.

ambient light football
Very good color - a touch washed out - ambient light from partially open rear, side window coverings

dark home theater with ambient light
Rear of my small 12×12 theater, lots of ambient light from the partially open blackout drapes. Blinds open. Some sunlight hitting dark side wall.
One side window’s blackout currents also pulled back. Blind fully open.

Consider that this Sony doesn’t have a super bright “ugly  mode.”  Although we didn’t calibrate this Sony, from our experience,  Sony’s Reference is usually the closest mode to matching a calibration (although at least once, calibrating a reference mode even slightly increased brightness).  Even Reference, the least bright mode, measured 1439 (mid-point on zoom, so just about 1500 at full wide-angle. I’d expect calibrating it would generate at least 1450 lumens and possibly to break 1500.

As mentioned earlier in this review, when you want really good color, here’s a projector putting out 1500 – 1800 lumens, which is every bit s bright as many of those low-cost 4K UHD DLP projectors that claim 3000 lumens, when they are in their less bright modes that put out really good color.

That’s enough brightness that the VW695ES can be happy (you too), in a well thought out media room – not as crazy dark as a home theater, but well controlled. Remember, you bought this projector for its great picture – so no point putting it in an environment where it can’t deliver. There are a few photos of football games in the Picture Quality page, and also two shots of the room, so you can see how much ambient light.

Let’s talk 4K without HDR relating to Brightness. 4K without HDR doesn’t need more lumens than 1080p etc Watching Blacklist in 4K on your Netflix feed will prove that you to you. In a perfect world, though, for close to max, best HDR, you really need something around 5000 lumens.

As I’ve stated many times in recent reviews, fortunately, most projectors – and LCD TVs have finally figured out the dynamics of HDR. The improvements from one generation to the next, in handling HDR have been downright spectacular with some companies and their projectors. Sony’s history is more tame, probably because they beat everyone to the market. Sony was shipping native 4K projectors before the earliest pixel shifters appeared, which were pre-HDR (so was Sony – we’re talking pre 4K standards).

But, Sony also started out using tone mapping to provide good HDR, something pretty much everyone does now, so even the earliest Sonys supporting HDR did a pretty good job when most could not.

Effect of Eco Mode on Brightness

The VW695ES loses approximately 28% when switched to its low power mode.

Bright Cinema (full wide angle on lens)
Full Power: 1791 lumens
Eco:            1294 lumens

Still plenty of brightness in Eco mode. You are likely use it for non HDR content on average and smaller screens.

This Sony itself is relatively quiet even at full power, so unlike with many projectors no need to go to Eco just to reduce noise. Eco mode here, is very quiet!, but even full power has an almost soft, relatively whispery sound, no high frequencies, etc.

Pretty Quiet: Count the Sony VPL-VW695ES as a significantly quieter projector than most 4K capable projectors, especially those low cost DLPs and also the Epson UBs which are relatively noisy.

Effect of Lens Zoom on brightness

Setting the lens to “wide-angle,” which means placing the projector as close to the screen as you can, provides the brightest measurements.

Change the 2.06:1 zoom lens to its mid-point, and the brightness only decreases by about 4.6%. That’s an especially small drop for a lens with slightly more than a 2:1 range!

Going to full telephoto – that is, with the projector as far back as it can be placed for your screen – however, yields a much greater drop, that’s still a tiny bit less than 20%. I’ve seen other 2.1 lenses lose as much as 40%.

These good numbers translate to more brightness should you need to place your VW695ES far back, such as on a rear shelf.

Sony VPL-VW695ES Sharpness

Sony improved their optics slightly with the newest models – the x95ES projectors. The VPL-VW695ES looks really sharp. I had just been saying how the BenQ HT9060 was typically sharp for a 4K UHD, and it’s optics seemed very good in terms of clarity.

Without trying to compare clarity, (both have good optics), there’s no question that this Sony looks definitely sharper than the BenQ, and pretty much everything else, in this Photo player with competitive images, note the labels, overlayed text, gauges, the Post-it, and the circuit components on the bottom (white).

Sony’s sharpness is truly impressive. At this point, I’d have to say – the sharpest looking projector I’ve reviewed anywhere near $10,000 – or even $20,000!

Next Up – Summary, Pros and Cons