Posted on October 10, 2020 By Phil Jones
Sony VPL-VW715ES 4K Laser Projector Review – Picture Quality: Out-of-the-Box Picture Quality, 4K, Skin Tones, HDTV and Sports
Like all Sony home theater projectors, the VW715ES delivered an outstanding picture quality right out-of-the-box. The REFERENCE and USER preset were only a few hundred degrees off my calibrated white balance target of 6500K. While there was a noticeable improvement to the picture after calibration, the difference was not dramatic. Sony home theater projectors, like the VW715ES, are some of the few projectors that I would be satisfied with picture quality whether it was calibrated or not.
It was nice that I was able to review the VPL715ES immediately after the VW915ES. The overall picture quality was very similar since both models utilize the same SXRD panels, X1 video processor, and lens. The VW915ES does produce better blacks and higher dynamic contrast because of its ability to modulate its laser light source.
The above screenshots of a skin tone test image provide a rough idea of the color accuracy for each of the VW715ES picture preset modes. The results were very similar to the VW915ES with the REFERENCE and USER modes producing the most accurate skin tones.
For extra brightness to combat higher ambient light, you can switch to BRIGHT TV or BRIGHT CINEMA. These picture modes are slightly oversaturated with a cooler color temperature, but it may be worth it to cut through a lot of ambient light.
Next are images of videos and photos showing a variety of screenshots depicting skin tones under different scene lighting. Like all our photos, they remain unadjusted for color, so they do not look as good as what the projector produced. All the HD and 4K images were taken with the VW715ES set to REFERENCE (the most color accurate picture preset mode).
Due to its native 4K SXRD panels, the VW715ES had no problem delivering sharp, detailed 4K imagery. Most TV shows and live broadcasts are still produced in HD, so good 4K upscaling continues to be important. Sony has over a decade of experience with 4K upscaling, so the VW915ES does an excellent job as expected.
Whether I was watching 720p sports from ESPN or a 1080p Blu-ray disc, the content looked outstanding. Most 4K movies do not have enough fine detail for a noticeable difference between 4K SDR and HD. You can even fine tune the amount of detail displayed using the REALITY CREATION settings, but I mainly depended on the default settings.
The Sony VW715ES produced 1,990 lumens in its BRIGHT TV mode. While this amount of brightness might be overkill when watching movies in a darkened room, it is a huge advantage when viewing live daytime sports or a TV show in a room with higher ambient light.
4K HDR content can deliver expanded color space with better highlight and shadow detail, but even the brightest HDR projectors can struggle to reproduce HDR faithfully. The new Dynamic Contrast Enhancer feature performed frame-by-frame HDR tone mapping and did a great job balancing the need to deliver respectable full screen brightness while still displaying a good amount highlight detail.
As I mentioned earlier, sometimes brighter highlights are still clipped, but Sony believes this is necessary to keep most of the screen’s image as close to the director’s intent as possible.
Unlike most HDR compatible projectors, I rarely felt a need to make any manual tone mapping adjustments during HDR viewing. I left the Dynamic Contrast Enhancer set to LOW during most of my HDR viewing, and only occasionally changed it to HIGH when watching dimly mastered HDR material. This could be done quickly with the press of a button on the remote control.
The VW715ES, like all Sony 4K Home Theater projectors, also has an “HDR Reference Mode” located under the HDR menu option. When engaged, the VW715ES will faithfully track the luminance of HDR content (no tone mapping) until the projector hard clips, just like an HDR mastering display. This mode works well on content mastered at 1000nits or below, but content mastered above will have a few more clipped highlights.
While the VW715ES could only produce about 90% of DCI-P3 color space, HDR colors still appeared rich and vibrant. Sony home theater projectors, like the VW715ES, does not use a color filter to extend their color gamut. A color filter would increase VW715ES color gamut coverage, but it would reduce the projector’s brightness. The colors look more saturated when they are brighter. When viewing HDR on a projector, I personally prefer the extra brightness over a slightly wider color gamut.
In addition to the VW715ES, Sony also loaned me a VW695ES so I could compare the two models. The improvement over the previous model was obvious when viewing SDR and HDR content.
I set up both projectors side-by-side on a single screen and took several screenshots with both projectors are set to factory defaults. Any settings adjustments were made to both projectors. While the photos below do not capture all the differences, they provide a relative idea of how the projectors match up. The following pictures are screenshots of HD and standard 4K content.
The X1 processor, combined with the new HDR Contrast Enhancer, also improves HDR reproduction on the VW715ES. Most of the HDR side-by-side screenshots were taken with HDR Contrast Enhancer (VW715ES), and Contrast Enhancer (VW695ES) set to LOW or MID. Switching the settings to HIGH does increase on scene brightness at the expense of clipping more bright highlights.
Personally, I believe a few clipped sparks or clouds in the background are worth it for a brighter overall picture with more saturated colors. Most HDR mastering monitors like the Sony BVM-X300 do not tone map and are limited to 1000nits, so the colorist does not even see these super bright highlights during much of the HDR mastering process. Toward the end of the mastering process, they will use a 4000-nit display like Dolby Pulsar to verify their appearance.
Sometimes when doing a mastering trim pass for lower brightness display, the colorist may intentionally clip a couple of highlights to make the overall image more vibrant. If clipped highlights are not the content creators’ focus, I do not think it should be mine either.
I did occasionally adjust the HDR Contrast settings on both projectors when viewing darker content. While the overall HDR scene brightness was similar, the VW715ES delivered deeper blacks, higher contrast, more saturated colors. Above are several HDR comparison shots.
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