Posted on September 8, 2020 By Phil Jones
As with previous generations, Sony gave Projector Reviews the opportunity to be one of the first sites to review their brand new, laser light engine based VPL-VW915ES. This unit is the successor to the VW885ES which was highly rated for its outstanding picture quality.
The VW915ES supports both the HDR10 standard as well as HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma). I was excited to review the VW915ES when I learned it was one of three new 4K SXRD projector models that offer frame by frame HDR tone mapping. I have long believed that dynamic tone mapping is absolutely necessary to extract the maximum image quality from HDR10 content. I can confess that the VW915ES produced the best looking HDR picture I have ever seen on my screen in my room.
Sony was the first company to introduce a 4K projector and they still have the widest product selection. Like all Sony 4K HDR home theater projectors, the VW915ES utilizes three SXRD panels to deliver true 4K resolution (4096 x 2160).
The VW915ES retails for $19,999.99 making it the least expensive Sony 4K SXRD projector equipped with a laser light source. Sony claims the VW915ES can produce 2,000 lumens of brightness and the unit’s laser light source has a rated life of 20,000 hours.
The biggest upgrade to the VW915ES is the unit’s video processing is now powered by a version of Sony’s powerful X1 processor that has been optimized specially for projector applications. This processor is what gives the projector the ability to do frame by frame HDR tone mapping.
A new feature called Dynamic HDR Enhancer powered by the X1 processor combines frame by frame HDR tone mapping with a dynamic iris and precisely modulated laser light source to deliver a massive improvement in HDR reproduction.
In mid-August, Sony sent me a pre-production unit so we could publish a detailed review right after Sony’s official announcement of the VW915ES. I agreed to the NDA (non-disclosure agreement), promising not to leak any info about the Sony projector prior to September 8th which would have coincided with the start of 2020 CEDIA. Normally, CEDIA attendees would have the opportunity to view the unit in person either in Sony’s booth or in a room off the show floor in a shoot-out with some competitive projectors. It is too bad that many people with not get the opportunity to experience the VW915ES outstanding picture quality firsthand.
Sony has a total of seven 4K HDR Home Theater projectors in their lineup starting with the VW295ES ($5,000) and $80,000 (minus lens) GTZ380 at the top of the heap. The VW915ES ($19,999.99 SRP) is the least expensive unit equipped with a laser light source.
For customers with smaller budgets, Sony also just introduced the VW715ES ($9,999.99 SRP) which is the lamp-based replacement for the VW695ES. While it does not utilize a laser light source, it does utilize the same X1 processor it includes the new HDR Contrast Enhancer feature which makes a noticeable improvement to its HDR performance compared to the older VW695ES.
While the VW915 delivers an even better 4K picture than the previous model, its retail price of $19,000 is several thousand dollars less than the price of the VW885ES at its introduction in 2017.
Below is a brief summary of the Sony 4K SXRD Laser projector lineup.
The VW915ES has a rated brightness of 2000 lumens which might not seem like a lot but, unlike most home theater projectors, this projector will still deliver most of its brightness even after it is calibrated. Many projectors with much higher brightness ratings can barely deliver half of their rated lumens once they are properly calibrated.
As with all Sony home theater projectors, the VW915ES uses 3 SXRD panels which is Sony’s version of LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon). Sony and JVC, the two dominant home theater brands between $5000 and $30,000 both rely on LCoS panels because they can deliver more native contrast than standard LCD panels or DLP chips used in consumer displays
Combining the VW915ES laser light source with a dynamic iris results in great dynamic contrast and further improves the black level.
The VW915ES is packed with custom integration features for maximum system flexibility and reliability. For example, its Picture Position Memories makes using the VW915ES with a 21:9 screen or an anamorphic lens a breeze.
While many people buying a $20,000 projector will have it properly calibrated, like most Sony projectors, we have reviewed the out of the box picture quality was outstanding. In fact, in the past, we have reviewed Sony 4K projectors that looked so good that we didn’t even bother to have them calibrated, knowing that any errors probably so slight, that after the calibration the difference in picture quality would be difficult to discern.
The VW915ES delivered the best image quality I have ever seen in my room. It took about only a few hours of watching 4K (with/without HDR) to determine that the VW915ES projector deserves one of our Hot Product Awards.
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