Posted on September 6, 2017 By Art Feierman
I love getting my hands on serious – and pricey – home theater projectors like Sony’s brand new, laser light engine based VPL-VW885ES. With this launch, Sony now has a second projector at the $25,000 price point. Of course, it is a true 4K, supports High Dynamic Range – both the HDR10 standard that everyone doing HDR supports, but also HLG – Hybrid Log-Gamma, a second newer HDR standard, this one for 4K streaming – more on that later. This projector is loaded with features. It really performed beautifully in its brief visit here.
Sony delivered to us, in mid-August, a pre-production VPL-VW885ES 4K laser projector. They wanted one reviewer to have a close look at the projector in order to be able to have a review published simultaneously with Sony’s official announcement of the VW885ES. No problem, I agreed to the NDA (non-disclosure agreement), promising not to leak info about the Sony projector prior to September 6th – start of the CEDIA show. This particular Sony, I believe, will be at the show, either in Sony’s booth or in a shoot-out with some other projectors.
Background on this review: Most significantly, in terms of doing a projector review, Sony was giving me exactly 10 days with the projector – and that included two weekends. It arrived on a Friday, and Sony drove up from San Diego to retrieve it, Monday, a week later. With the short timeframe, it wasn’t practical to have it calibrated, nor did I consider that important:
That’s because I figure anyone buying a $24,995 list price projector will have it properly calibrated, so none of the future owners of this projector would need our calibration settings, even if we did them and published them. And, more important to my ability to review it, as a rule, Sony projectors need very little adjusting in general. No company sends us projectors closer to being “on the money” picture-wise, than Sony, although some are closer than others.
At least a couple of times we’ve had Sony 4K projectors come in for review that looked so good we didn’t bother to calibrate them, knowing that any errors were slight, some times so slight that they would measure better than some other projectors do post calibration. This Sony is like some of those other Sonys. Not perfect, but close enough for a good review.
For viewing, I relied primarily on Reference mode for movies, but Cinema Film 1 when I wanted a bit more punch. For sports and other viewing, I stuck mostly to Bright Cinema, although if you like your sports “cooler” – more blue – Bright TV has even more punch.
Within the review, most of the non-HDTV images are either Reference or Cinema Film 1. The HDTV images are a mix of Cinema Film 1, and Bright Cinema. I didn’t adjust any of the modes at all. Please remember that these images can’t possibly do justice to what is projected on the screen. That’s due to picture quality loss thanks to the display you are viewing this review on, the use of more than 100:1 compression in making the images internet friendly, losses caused by my Canon DSLR camera, and, of course, general image processing. We did not adjust the colors, brightness, contrast, or other settings, after the images were captured. If they appear too saturated or undersaturated on your display, adjust so they look right.
We’re looking at a medium-largish projector with a laser light engine. Price-point-wise, one might consider the VPL-VW885ES to be the long awaited replacement for the aging (but still selling well, I’m told) VW1100ES, even though the 1100ES (reviewed some years ago) doesn’t support HDR. In many ways, this is the logical replacement, but I’ve been told that it doesn’t share the highest quality level optics that the 1100ES and the $60,000 VW5000ES use. Still having HDR, BT.2020, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), basically all the “fancy new 4K stuff.”
Oh, it should be noted that the VW885ES supports 3D, something most of those new low-cost 4K UHD DLP projectors do not.
The first two images in the player above are of 4K HDR content. The last two are HDTV at 1080i resolution
Because of the limited time with the projector, (and a lot of other stuff going on here at the same time – other reviews and our annual Best Home Theater Projectors report), this is going to be a short review. No detailed measurements, (in addition to no calibration). Mostly, I’ll walk you through the features, and my take on the picture quality and overall performance.
As noted, the Sony VPL-VW885ES is a true 4K projector. One can debate whether 3840 pixels wide is 4K, vs 4096, (I count both as 4K), but in this case, there wouldn’t be any debate as this Sony projector is the 4096 x 2160 pixels – with no pixel overlap, basically the same as your favorite 4K movie theater projector. Don’t be confused by the 4K UHD standard, which I personally think should just be the UHD standard, and not mention 4K, for reasons I cover on the next page. Suffice it to say here that the native resolution of this Sony is higher than every other projector on the market, at or below its $25K price, except for Sony’s own VW365ES, VW675ES and VZ1000ES.
Enough, I’ve expounded on this in my Faux-K vs 4K article and blog. It is enough to say that projectors don’t come any higher resolution than this one, not even commercial cinema projectors.
Let’s take a quick look at the VW885ES highlight features, then I’ll get into some of them in more detail on the Special Features page. From there, we’ll tour the Hardware, and discuss Picture Quality, including a number of comparison images vs other Sony 4K projectors as well as some of the “faux-K” projectors – those that are not true 4K but work with 4K content (including HDR, and BT.2020/P3).
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