Posted on January 21, 2019 By Art Feierman
Sony VW995ES 4K Projector Review – Summary: The Big Picture, Competition, The Bottom Line, Pros, Cons
The VW995ES excels at just about everything picture wise, and for that matter, feature wise as well. Its best modes are very close to calibrated color, without any adjustment at all (something extremely uncommon), assuring viewers of great color, and theoretically, even more perfect color with a professional calibration.
Add to that excellent black level performance. Consider that, only the top of the line JVCs might rival or beat this Sony, but it’s likely that nothing else even comes close. There is also an even more expensive 4K projector from Wolf which OEMs the JVC and further enhances it.
Sharpness is (I keep repeating myself) very natural looking. The default 20 setting in Reality Creation (detail enhancement feature), provides great sharpness, and virtually no artifacts that would be visible under normal viewing (easier to spot artifacts when pausing the content).
I can make any number of good non-native 4K projectors look sharper than this Sony, at first glance, but the reality is that serious over sharpening can make a display look extremely sharp, but at the expense of detail, and, often, 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 VPL-VW995ES 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.
I doubt very much you can find a non-native 4K projector that, on 4K HDR content (or other 4K content, for that matter), that can look as sharp as this Sony without showing a lot more artifacts. That folks is the advantage of using pixels that are 1/2 to 1/4th the size of those in all those non-native, but “4K Capable” projectors we review.
But this projector is even more about clarity, than sharpness. It comes with excellent optics, that provide an image that just looks clearer than other projectors – not necessarily sharper, just more real, more there, more looking through a window, than looking at a display. Outstanding.
Let’s talk features for a moment. The VW995ES is bright, capable of calibrated color right around 2000 lumens. (2049 lumens was the most we measured), but, the color is such (so close to on the money), that I wouldn’t expect any significant change in brightness caused by a proper calibration.
And, you get Lens Memory, so go out and get that wide screen to enjoy the largest possible image when watching typical widescreen (Cinemascope type) movies! 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.
Speaking of Lens Memory and placement, since I haven’t put this into the Hardware page yet, and hope not to forget, here is the lens throw info. Remember, in addition to the awesome, standard ARC-F motorized zoom lens with its 2.06:1 ratio, there’s also a second lens which is a short throw zoom.
For the standard zoom lens: If you have a 100″ diagonal 16:9 screen, the front of the projector can be as close as 9 foot 3 inches, or as far back as 20 feet, one inch. As to the wide angle short throw, I didn’t learn the price (not inexpensive I’ll bet). Still, should you need a short throw zoom, with that lens installed you can place the projector (same 100″ screen) as close as 5 feet 11 inches, or as far back as 7 feet 6 inches.
And this Sony has a “ton” of vertical and horizontal lens shift as well. 80% vertical, 31% horizontal. (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 VW995ES is low (27 ms, per Sony) on 4K / HDR games, but is probably a touch longer on 1080p, since 4K is the Sony’s native mode. Count this Sony VW99ES projector as one of the most expensive and amazing gaming displays available today. Nice.
No speakers of course. Please get yourself a great audio system to match the Sony’s picture quality. This Sony relies almost completely on a pair of HDMI inputs (2.1), USB inputs, and the hard wired networking.
4K UHD from Ghostbusters 2016. Full screen image - Check out close-up of building and sign next.
Close-up of previous image, look to sign other objects for sharpness
Pacific Rim (2nd movie). Great CGI and color
Our favorite false color image of Saturn from 4K HDR Journey To Space
A close-up of the previous image, click to enlarge for more detail
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.
There is competition. The question is, is there serious competition?
The short answer, is not a whole lot of serious competition. There may be some high end Barcos, or Digital Projections, or Wolf projectors that can compete – with most costing a good bit more, if you can find the ones with native 4K resolution.
From a day to day practical standpoint, the true 4K competition right now is JVC’s competing 3000 lumen flagship, which is pretty similarly priced. I’m still hoping that one day, JVC will ship me one for review, but no luck in well over a year in trying to obtain one.
I don’t have the pricing on the Wolf equivalent to the top of the line JVC, but it’s probably a good bit more money.
That JVC should have great black levels. After JVC though, nothing out there, to my knowledge, will come close in terms of black levels, certainly not the vast majority of 4K UHD DLP projectors out there (and far, far, less expensive). Of all the 4K UHD projectors I’ve seen to date (15+), only one has even had pretty good black levels (the Acer laser – VL7860), but it still won’t come close to this Sony.
This Sony VW995ES 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.
Welcome to your own IMAX theater! Wow is the operative term. Simply stated, so far I have obtained one IMAX enhanced 4K UHD disc: Journey to the South Pacific. Stunning colors. (Sadly the older Journey to Space that I like to photograph, is not IMAX Enhanced.) I have two more IMAX Enhanced discs on order. I can’t wait.
Historically, I have found that Sonys, to me, tend to have the most natural color (not talking sharpness, rather color). Their excellent “right out of the box” color likely makes it simple to have dead on the money calibrated color.
I can’t think of any projector, whether Epson, JVC, Optoma, etc. that can match the color this VW995ES projector puts on the screen. OK, that’s a big statement, but a true one.
So, what should Sony’s VPL-VW995ES fear from the competition? That’s easy, almost nothing. The exception. This VW995ES may meet its challenge when we can buy a 110″ or 125″ OLED display.
That’s fine with me, but don’t expect to be able to buy OLED TVs in those sizes, for under $100K, for a couple, no, more likely, a few more years.
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 projector, as a “best solution.” for quite some time.
VW995ES - Reference mode - Deep blacks, brighter mid-range, than Cinema Film 1 (next image).
Sony VW995ES - Cinema Film 1. Has more pop/wow factor (slightly) than previous image. Again, deep blacks.
Sony VW295ES - Their entry level native 4K. No dynamic iris, also no laser engine as a second dynamic iris. The good black levels are no match for the VW995ES.
BenQ HT9050 - an expensive ($9K) 4K UHD DLP with a LED solid state light engine
Epson 5040UB (top) - lowest cost projector with great "ultra high contrast" black level performance. Below, the Acer VL7860 laser projector (4K UHD), not as good on blacks (but brighter image too).
Two lower cost 4K UHD projectors - the UHD60 (top) with clear slice on color wheel, vs HT2550 (no clear slice but uses the lower resolution 4K UHD DLP chip.
Missing for the JVC RS440 is the previous space ship image. But I have this image on both the VPL-VW995ES (this image) and the JVC (next image). Very close on blacks, not on sharpness.
This is the same image as the previous (Passengers 4K HDR), this time the JVC RS440 (1080p pixel shifter). The higher end JVCs have slightly better black levels. The Sony and JVC are very similar here. (Sony sharper, of course)
I’ll keep this really short (a first for me):
This Sony has a great picture. I have yet to review better, overall, even if the Sony VW5000ES (with 5000 lumens and a $60K price tag) is brighter. I suspect the top of the line JVC might have better black levels – likely – but at the same time, historically review after review I have preferred Sony’s color handling, and also their overall image processing whether relating to sharpness, 3D, CFI, etc. (As I always repeat – there are always trade-offs – don’t expect any one projector to be best at everything – no matter how expensive.)
Myself, only two “real” complaints after watching well over 100 hours of content:
Black levels could be a little better, and the projector could be brighter. On the other hand, I’ve basically said that about every projector I’ve reviewed, with the exception of the VW5000ES which I may not have asked for more brightness.
True, I haven’t shelled out yet for my own native 4K projector, but, if I had, and felt I could afford the VW995ES, I”m convinced I could live happily ever after. (Well, at least until native 8K projectors appear and we go to filling entire walls, ie. 8 feet tall images 15 feet wide or larger).
I can’t wait (8K). Meantime, my goal is to figure out how to get Sony to send me another VW995ES for a few months. Sadly, that’s unlikely. At least Ive got plenty of 4K capable projectors to review, even if none can measure up to the Sony VPL-VW995ES, which to date (and 200+ reviews I’ve done) is the best picture I’ve seen. End of conversation: If you can afford it, go for it!
© 2019 Projector Reviews (V0625)