Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW695ES Home Theater Projector Review – Summary

Sony VW695ES 4K Projector Review – Summary: The Big Picture, Competition, The Bottom Line, Pros, Cons

VW695ES: The Big Picture (Overview)

The VW695ES is one serious home theater projector.  True, at it’s $9999.99 list price, it has some serious competition as well, but it is a standout performer.  First of all, while many folks will have their Sony VW695ES calibrated when installed, others will not spend the extra.  You almost certainly won’t find another projector that has better, more accurate color, right out of the box, than this Sony.

That’s a good thing, because, unlike almost all other projectors we review over $1000, we haven’t calibrated most Sonys because of their efforts to get it right. For the rest, we calibrate other brands projectors, and then publish all our settings so you folks can try and use them.  I rarely order up a Sony calibration because, I figure normal lamp variation in color output varies slightly, probably about as much as any inaccuracy in Sony’s default settings, so that even if we did calibrate the projector, because the lamp in your VW695ES will be slightly different, our settings might not be an improvement.

Certainly, I’m rather pleased with this Sony’s skin tones, without any color adjustments at all!

Add to that some really impresive black level performance (more below in Competition).  And things are really starting to look good.  Next…

Sharpness: I just got done comparing the BenQ HT9060 ($8999) to the VW695ES.  I had just finished reviewing the BenQ, and being impressed by its sharpness compared to lower cost 4K UHD DLP projectors. Now comes this Sony which is easily visibly sharper than the BenQ.

Sony projector image 4K/HDR
4K/HDR from Journey To the South Pacific. Vibrant! Sharp!

 

I can make any number of good non-native 4K projectors look about as sharp as this Sony, perhaps fool you to think them sharper at first glance.  The reality is that serious over sharpening can make a display appear extremely sharp, but at the expense of detail, and, often, adding hardness to the image, lines and objects that take on white or near white edges, etc.

Now if you aren’t worried about some minor artifacts, then you can up the perceived detail and sharpness of the VW695ES using Reality Creation settings.  At 50 (out of 100) things do look sharper, but also less natural. 40 (or less) is my limit, except for sports where 50 is my max recommendation. 20 is the “safe” number.  You’ll probably like 40 though for sports!

The clarity of the Sony is also very good, but not a match for Sony’s $40K and up Home Theater projectors that use their special ARC-F lens (which probably costs about what this projector does?)

sharpness close-up
Close-up of center of previous image. Excellent sharpness. Click to enlarge!

Performance:  The VPL-VW695ES essentially achieved it’s 1800 lumens claimed, give or take a lumen or two.  Better still, it’s technically best mode – Reference, managed about 1400 lumens!  But even the brightest modes all looked very good. I like Cinema Film one if there’s a little ambient light.  Cinema Film 2, however is probably the best compromise in the dyamic look between Cinema Film 1, and Reference.  Bright Cinema and Bright TV rock if you have too much other light in the room,

The Sony is also one of the quieter projectors to pass through here in the last year or two, so audible noise is also not an issue.

More Features:  This Sony has a “ton” of vertical and horizontal lens shift to complement it’s motorized 2.06:1 zoom. The end result, great placement flexibility – about as good as you can hope for without having a projector that can use mulitple lenses.   (Note the more you use of one type of shift, the less available for the other), i.e. if you use the full 80% vertical you won’t have any horizontal shift available.

80% means that you can place the projector (measured from the center of the lens) anywhere from about 40 inches above the top of the screen, to 40 inches below the bottom!  That’s assuming using no horizontal shift.

Gamers welcome: The Input lag of the VW695ES, I’m told, is low (27 ms, per Sony) on 4K / HDR games.  I’ve measured the input lag with 1080p content, at 37ms, but the Sony should be faster with 4K content, so that makes sense.   I figure this Sony VW69ES projector is one dazzingly impressive gamer!

No speakers of course. Please get yourself a great audio system to match the Sony’s picture quality.

Enough – of course more details on the previous pages.  All in the images in the player immediately below are 4K content, from disc or Kaleidescape.

I even like the remote control, one we’ve used in several previous Sony reviews.  The backlight could be a touch brighter, but that’s about my only complaint.  (Wait, I also would have liked to see HDMI-Link support so that this backlit remote can control some of my Blu-ray and Blu-ray UHD players who’s remotes lack backlighting).

The menu system is well organized (it hasn’t changed much in years).  We have included a number of menu shots on the Hardware page, with most of those being specific to Sony’s higher end, 4K laser home theater projectors like this one.  In addition we have assembled a page that goes through almost all of the other Sony menus found on Sony’s whole line of 4K HT projectors.

This Sony VW695ES is one of the very first projectors to be IMAX Enhanced.  OK, we’re all familiar with IMAX and the great images they put up in those IMAX theaters.

With IMAX 4K Blu-ray disc content, you pretty much have your own IMAX theater!  Wow! is the operative term.  Simply stated, I find the IMAX enhanced 4K UHD discs like Journey to the South Pacific to offer stunning colors, stunning everything, mostly.   I now have several IMAX enhanced discs IMAX. Can you say breathtaking? I can.

IMAX fish photo
Nothing fishy about the picture quality of the VW695ES! IIMAX Enhanced 4K/HDR from Journey to the South Pacific

The Competition

Is there serious competition?

Yes.  The most obvious are the competing JVC and BenQ models. There’s not much out there around $10K, or for that matter in this performance range.  Some of the high end commercial brands that don’t play in the lower consumer space, like Barco and Christie, have projectors priced about here – but we haven’t gotten to review any. I believe those will mostly be 4K UHD DLPs, costing at least as much as this Sony, and with less capabilities.  We’ve just recently been able to get Christie review units, and have reviewed two, but both are not home models.

From a day to day practical standpoint, the true 4K competition right now is JVC’s competing 1900 lumen DLA-NX7 – click for our review – also sold aas the RS2000 (different cosmetics), which is $1000 less, at $8999.  Phil got to review the NX7, so I didn’t have a chance for side by sides etc.  Based on my previous reviews of other JVCs, and chatting with Phil, I believe that the JVC will best the Sony at black level performance. That’s always been JVC’s premier strength.

This Sony is really good at blacks, but expect the JVC to be visibly better.  I would suspect that the Sony, though, is more in line with JVC’s less expensive NX5, in this regard, which isn’t far behind.  From comparing notes, the Sony has better color out of the box. As to sharpness, again no side by side, but my money is on the Sony, if by only slightly.  I am really impressed with the 695’s sharpness!

The BenQ HT9060 – a 4K UHD, DLP, can’t match the VW695ES’s sharpness nor it’s black level performance, and it lacks motorized lens features including lens memory. If you want to go wide-screen, you’ld need an anaamorphic lens and sled, making it more money than the Sony.  On 4K HDR content, the BenQ didn’t really allow calibration, so the Sony’s out of the box color with HDR content easily beat the BenQ’s best HDR color.

Historically, I have found that Sonys, to me, tend to have the most natural look/feel to their piicture, basiically not looking over the top.

So, what other Sony’s VPL-VW695ES competition should be considered?  Ultimately OLED TVs, including Sony’s own. At this time, however, Anything OLED that approaches 100″ has a stratosphic price – six figures.   When 110″ rollable 4K OLEDs get down to around $10K (they don’t exist yet at any price), then igh quality projectors like this Sony will likely have met their match, but that is likely at least 7-10 years out.

Because “size matters” tremendously when it comes to being immersed in the content – so that you can “suspend disbelief,” I don’t see a real threat to this native 4K Sony VW695ES projector, as a “best solution.” for quite some time.  I’ll mention that I now own a 77″ OLED, and it’s great.  But, this week it gets mounted in my new living room.

And, next week, I’ll use it the OLED in the daytime with sunlight pouring in, but later, or with shades down I’ll switch to the Optoma P1 UST projector (my next review) and a 120″ motorized ALR screen designed for UST projectors.  The VideoStorm screen (I’ll write about it in the near future) that I’m using is almost 2.5 times the size.  Yes Size Does Matter!

As I’ve long said, great black levels (the OLEDs are the best) are important, but once you have really good black levels (this Sony VW695ES really does), other things become more important – you know — things like size!

The Bottom Line!

This Sony VPL-VW695ES is definitely “no muss – no fuss.”  Take it out of the box, plug it in, point it at your screen (you will of course have a proper screen to go with a serious projector like this one), feed it some 4K content and hunker down for some stunning viewing.  Yes there are better pictures out there, but not by magnitudes, and usually at multiple times the VW695ES’s price. There are few competitors near the price.

I am particulary impressed with the sharpness and clarity, overall picture quality is, as expected, great.

My biggest complaint is the lack of a rapid replacement program for the projector’s 3 year warranty. And, of course I wish it’s black levels were as good as the JVC’s or better, an OLED, but considering the rest of the package, “fair enough.”  There are always trade-offs.

One last thing, with the solid overall brightness with good color, the VW695ES is not only an excellent dedicated home theater/cave projector, it’s perfectly at home in good media rooms and other rooms with good lighting control.  But, of course, you’ll want a very dark room, for the most dazzling picture.  Enjoy!

Pros

  • True 4K projector with HDR, BT.2020/P3 color
    • Supports HDR10 (the primary HDR standard)
    • Supports the new(er) HLG – Hybrid Log-Gamma – designed for 4K streaming, broadcast
    • HDR Contrast adjustment (EOTF) does the best job of handling HDR I’ve seen
    • Resolution is 4096×2160, even higher than the usual 2X 1080p which is 3840×2160, and the same as commercial Cinema projectors
  • Excellent picture quality – even “right out of the box” multiple modes sport excellent color accuracy
  • Achieved it’s claimed 1800 lumens
  • Extremely sharp image
  • Imax Enhanced
  • Really good black level performance
  • Excellent placement flexibility with motorized lens features, including:
    • 2.06:1 zoom lens
    • Lots of lens shift (vertical and horizontal)
    • Lens Memory to support owning a wide screen
  • A very good remote control, well laid out
  • MotionFlow – CFI – aka Smooth motion works with 4K content
    • previous Sony’s only supported CFI on 1080p and lower
  • Improved 4K gradations for smoother image reproduction
  • HDMI inputs are full 18 Ghz – This Sony supports basically all the 4K protocols
    • Including 4K HDR, 60fps at 10 bit (for HDR, HLG) (great for gamers)
  • Low input lag (27 ms claimed on 4K with HDR content) that’s enough to please the vast majority of serious gamers 37ms measured @ 1080p
  • Solid – no obvious weaknesses.  A projector just about everyone can live with – happily!

Cons

  • $1000 more than the JVC and BenQ competition
  • Adding some modern TV “smarts” would be great
  • Remote could have brighter back light (perhaps change to orange backlight?)
  • Remote lacks HDMI-Link to control other devices, or allow other devices remotes to control this Sony.
  • Not the best black levels near the price
  • 1800 very usable lumens is great, but hey, 3000 lumens would be better, especially for HDR and 3D
  • Lacks MHL on either HDMI input
    • For streaming devices, etc.  But owners of projectors like this one will have an AV receiver, etc, to handle streaming, etc.
  • Sony could provide a 1, 2, or 3 year rapid replacement program.  Most of the competition offers at least one year of that.