Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW695ES Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality 2

Sony VPL-VW695ES Home Theater Projector Review: 4K with HDR and P3, 1080p Movies, HDTV and Sports, Overall Picture Quality

4K with HDR and P3

OK, you already know the basics of sharpness of different types of 4K capable projectors, whether native 4K like this Sony, or 1080p projectors including pixel shifters, that can accept 4K content, like most under $4K pixel shifters, or those pixel shifters that have “half way” resolution – 2716×1528 – half way between 3840×2160, and 1920×1080, typically over $4000 and including DLP’s like the recently mentioned BenQ HT9060.

Here, I’d like to address the HDR performance and P3 color while watching properly equipped 4K content.

Since I didn’t have this Sony calibrated, I can’t tell you exactly how close to being able to produce the full BT.2020 P3 color space.  But, if I look back to the entry level VW295ES review, I see that all the primary and secondary colors achieved 90% – 95% of P3.  That’s really good, although, that BenQ HT9060 achieves 97%.  

Still, I would expect this VPL-VW695ES to outperform the entry-level 295ES, so likely comparable to the BenQ. For trivia, if P3 is your sole concern, the least expensive projector with great P3 numbers is the under $3000 Epson HC5050UB (95%).

Considering most DLP projectors work hard just to do REC709, don’t expect any lower cost DLP’s to even get close to what this Sony (and JVCs, and Epson are capable of. Note that the P3 color space is 50% larger than REC709, so projectors doing 90, 95, 98% of P3 are all virtually identical relative to most HT projectors which are essentially at REC 709 which is a 1/3 smaller color space, aka 67%.

Impressive

Unlike HDR – or for that matter, 4K sharpness and detail, P3 is a harder thing to “notice.” What you get is better color able to reproduce a wider range. As we point out, P3 is the standard for Digital Cinema – aka, commercial movie theater projectors. Any of these projectors producing upward of 90% on all P3 primary and secondary colors should be a match – color-wise – for any picture in your local cinema.

Passengers credit
Darks and brights from the opening of Passengers - 4K/HDR, Kaleidescape. Colors in nebula come out nicely.

I should say, there’s a difference worth enjoying when a projector gets close. On the other hand, when a projector has to say blue that’s 100% of P3, but, Red Green and Cyan are only 70% as is the case with LG’s HU80KA, and some other lower cost, but laser-powered DLPs.

1080p Movies

When reviewing 4K projectors I concentrate primarily on watching 4K content on disc or streaming, rather than lower resolution. Still, I watch parts of a few regulars like Casino Royal, and Hunger Games (in 1080p – I have both).

Let’s talk 1080p movies, and then I’ll remind you that it may be a long time before a lot of the movies we love are available on 4K.

My first look at 1080p content on this Sony was the second movie I viewed on it. My immediate surprise about the better than expected black levels demanded that I drop in Casino Royale, to check out the black level performance on 1080p since the “Bond night train scene” has long been my reference image for black levels. You saw that image and the competition, in our player in the Black Level Performance section.

Not only were the black levels on that scene as good as any I’ve seen, give or take a competing JVC or higher-end Sony, but as you could see in the Skin Tones section, Daniel Craig’s skin tones look right in multiple different lighting scenes.

Bottom Line: Overall, the Sony looked great on 1080p content! True, it wasn’t calibrated, but again, the color balance and skin tones are really good, considering no adjustments at all. And the night scenes, from “Bond” and also Hunger Games were very richly dark!

Now let’s talk 1080p vs 4K from an acquisition of content standpoint.

True you certainly don’t need a 4K projector to watch 1080p movies, but we 4K projector users, will be watching 1080p for quite a long time.

No, that’s not a terrible thing, but hey, if you have a great projector that can do 4K and HDR with great color, then you should want everything to be 4K with HDR and P3 color.

casino royale
From Casino Royale, 1080p, Blu-ray. Colors, and the overall picture looks really good!

The vast majority of movies have yet to be released on 4K UHD Blu-ray disc, and most, as the world moves more and more to streaming, won’t get released to disc.

Of course streaming is the lowest quality content – normally worse than cable/satellite quality due to higher compression, and well below Blu-ray and 4K UHD Blu-ray disc quality.

Besides, many of us have large libraries of 1080p content… I’m only replacing those that hugely benefit from the step up to 4K HDR – if available. Most of those I’ll replace are movies with a lot of CGI, great effects, or just drop dead gorgeous content, but many that I would like to buy 4K disc, aren’t offering it. I don’t need to get a 4K version of, for example, Groundhog Day, or CaddyShack, or Brooklyn, but the difference between, say the 1080p version of Catching Fire, and the 4K version is rather significant on many scenes. And, of course, higher res.

Geez, I can’t get Harry Potter, Star Wars, or even Indiana Jones on 4K disc! And I could list easily 100 other movies that aren’t available on 4K, where I already own the 1080p disc, and would like to own 4K version (until, at least we end up with available 4K streaming with minimal compression, or a lossless movie server system like the Kaleidescape Strato S that I’m using now and reviewing).

HDTV and Sports

So 1800 lumens with really good color is what I would call, just a few years ago, a light canon. But today, in the world of HDR, or 3D – both which want a lot more lumens than 1080 no HDR, is still a very healthy amount. BTW I would guess that if fully calibrated, this projector would still top 1500 lumens. With the move of the biz to Florida, I lost my DirecTV saved library of sports, so no comparisons to older projectors here.

But sports viewing was bright, vivid, and had really good color. I stuck with Cinema Film 1 in my theater for viewing sports, as it’s plenty bright even with modest light coming in from outside. If, however, I was allowing in more ambient light, then I would recommend switching modes to Bright TV, which has more pop, is slightly cooler (which I, and many favor for sports viewing – if not too much cooler). Bright TV cuts through ambient light with greater ease. That’s your go to choice for sports, at least, with max pop to the image.

While the Sony only claims 1800 lumens, consider that when we calibrate a lot of those lower-cost DLP projectors – even the bright room versions, many companies like BenQ, Optoma, and Viewsonic offer a home entertainment version (with a business color wheel) and a more serious, but not as bright home theater version.  In the Viewsonic lineup, for example, the PX747 is home entertainment, claiming 3000 lumens vs 2200 lumens for their “theater” PX727 version).

Well, most of those 3000-lumen DLPs don’t even measure 2000 lumens once calibrated, so much for those “bright room projectors” being a cut above. At their brightest, they are brighter, but they aren’t brighter when putting out a really good color!

Note, of course, most projectors (not Sonys), have an ugly mode (usually called Dynamic or Bright) that will be around 3000 lumens and way too green, but one capable of cutting through even more ambient light. No matter, this Sony is designed for a home theater or cave, or at least a well thought out media room with very good lighting control, so you should never, ever, miss having a brighter “ugly” mode.

1080 resolution content from cable. It will be great when most sports are available in 4K!

Overall Picture Quality

This is about as good as it is going to get, without spending a lot more. One can look to Sony’s higher end models for even better picture quality, and more brightness, and the several far more expensive JVCs or SIM2s, plus, a number of higher end products from commercial manufacturers that do some expensive home theater, like Barco, Christie and Digital Projection.

With calibration, the color accuracy should be near perfect, including getting very close to 100% P3 color. The black level’s excellent, no issues at all with dark shadow detail handling, and, pretty much everything looks great on the screen.

Finally, while there really shouldn’t be visible advantages in quality between the Kaleidescape I’m reviewing (4K movie server, best picture quality available for the home) and a 4K UHD Blu-ray disc, I can say this, as I have about 15 movies on both the Strato S and on 4K disc, that the overall picture always seems really clean with the Strato S. I’m “feeling” that overall the Kaleidescape is improving my picture quality, even if not in anything I can pinpoint. I’m talking slight, but then this is the best projector I’ve used so far watching movies from the Strato S..

In other words, the picture is really looking clean (and really sharp), when viewing high production quality content.

That, people, concludes our Picture Quality sections. Our next page is Performance. On that page, we provide our measurements of brightness. Some other measurements will be missing because we did not calibrate this projector. Also, that means after Performance we jump directly to the Summary page.