Posted on September 8, 2020 By Phil Jones
Sony VPL-VW915ES 4K Laser Projector Review – Picture Quality: Out-of-the-Box Picture Quality, 4K, Skin Tones, HDTV and Sports
Whether you are watching HD, 4K, or HDR, the VW915ES delivered an outstanding picture quality right out the box. The REFERENCE and USER preset were only a few hundred degrees off my white balance of 6500K. While there was a noticeable improvement to the picture after calibration the difference was not dramatic. Sony home theater projectors, like the VW915ES, are some of the few projectors that I would be satisfied with picture quality whether it was calibrated or not.
Bright Cinema Mode
Bright TV Mode
Cinema Film 1 Mode
Cinema Film 2 Mode
The above screenshots give a rough idea of the color accuracy for each picture mode. However, when viewed in person the skin tone and colors will look much better than what is shown in these photos.
The first are shots of a skin tone test image showing the different preset modes. Also included is a variety of screenshots showing skin tones under different scene lighting.
The REFERENCE and USER modes produced the most accurate skin tones. For extra brightness, you can switch to BRIGHT TV when watching sports or BRIGHT CINEMA when watching movies in a room with ambient light. These picture modes result in oversaturation, but in many situations, it may be worth it to cut through a lot of ambient light.
Above are images of a variety of videos and photos in 4K and HD resolution. 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 VW915ES set to REFERENCE (the most color accurate picture preset mode).
While most Blu-ray UHD content is available in HDR10, a lot of 4K streaming material is still only 4K SDR. The VW915ES had no problems delivering sharp detailed 4K imagery.
With the introduction of the Apple 4K TV, the amount of HDR streaming movie content has increased dramatically. 4K HDR content can deliver expanded color space with better highlight and shadow detail, but even the brightest HDR projectors can struggle to faithfully reproduce HDR.
The new Dynamic Contrast Enhancer feature which does frame by frame HDR tone mapping did a great job balancing the need to deliver respectable full screen brightness while still displaying a good amount highlight detail.
Sometimes brighter highlights are still clipped, but Sony believes this necessary to keep most of the image on screen as close to the director’s intent as possible.
Unlike most HDR compatible projectors, it was rare that I felt a need to make any manual tone mapping adjustments of the VW915ES during HDR viewing. While I left the Dynamic Contrast Enhancer set to LOW during most of my HDR viewing, occasionally there was a need to set it to HIGH when watching dimly mastered HDR material. This could be done quickly with the press of a button on the remote control.
While the VW915ES could only produce about 90% of DCI-P3 color space, I found HDR colors still appeared rich and vibrant. Unlike some competitive home theater projectors, the VW915ES does not use a color filter to extend its color gamut. By using a color filter on a projector, you can achieve full P3 coverage, but you typically sacrifice some brightness.
While we focus a lot on color gamut (Rec709, P3, Rec2020) we also need to be just as concerned with HDR color volume. HDR color volume is a combination of color gamut and color brightness. The colors look more saturated when they are brighter. When viewing HDR on a projector, I personally prefer the extra brightness over the wider color gamut.
The fact is most TV shows and live broadcasts will continue to be produced in HD for several more years so good 4K upscaling will continue to be important. When it comes to 4K upscaling, Sony has over a decade of experience, so as expected the VW915ES does an excellent job.
Whether I was watching 720p sports from ESPN or 1080p Blu-ray content, it looked outstanding. Most 4K movies do not have enough fine detail to make the difference between watching 4K SDR and HD noticeable. 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 VW915ES 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 an absolute benefit when viewing live daytime sports or a TV show in a room with higher ambient light.
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