Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW995ES Home Theater Projector Review – Summary

Sony VW995ES 4K Projector Review – Summary: The Big Picture, Competition, The Bottom Line, Pros, Cons

VW995ES: The Big Picture (Overview)

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.

The Great Wall - great color
A dazzling image from The Great Wall - sparks in foreground, stained glass in the background: Great olor handling!!!

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.

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.

The Competition

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.

The Bottom Line!

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!

Pros

  • True 4K projector with HDR, BT.2020/P3 color
    • Supports HDR10 (the primary HDR standard)
    • Supports the new(er) HLG – Hybrid Log-Gamma – designed for 4K streaming, broadcast
    • HDR Contrast adjustment (EOTF) does the best job of handling HDR I’ve seen
    • Resolution is 4096×2160, even higher than the usual 2X 1080p which is 3840×2160, and the same as commercial Cinema projectors
  • Glorious picture quality – even “right out of the box” multiple modes sport excellent color accuracy
    • Maintains color over time, thanks to Auto Calibration, laser engine.
  • 20,000 hour laser light engine, loses brightness over years, not months
  • Just short of its 2200 lumen claim with extremely good color
  • Extremely sharp image
  • Imax Enhanced!  Whether because of that, or in general, the IMAX Enhanced South Pacific 4K Blu-ray disc put the most spectacular picture I have ever seen, on my screen!  WOW!
  • Exceptionally CLEAR image!
  • Superb black levels
  • Excellent placement flexibility with motorized lens features, including:
    • 2.06:1 zoom lens
    • Lots of lens shift (vertical and horizontal)
    • Lens Memory to support owning a wide screen
    • It will even support “old school” anamorphic lenses
  • A very good remote control, well laid out
  • MotionFlow – CFI – aka Smooth motion works with 4K content
    • previous Sony’s only supported CFI on 1080p and lower
  • Improved 4K gradations for smoother image reproduction
  • HDMI inputs are full 18 Ghz – This Sony supports basically all the 4K protocols
    • Including 4K HDR, 60fps at 10 bit (for HDR, HLG) (great for gamers)
  • Low input lag (27 ms claimed on 4K with HDR content) that’s enough to please the vast majority of serious gamers
  • Best overall picture I’ve seen yet, in a home theater projector

Cons

  • Pricey!  $34,999.99 is not exactly “entry level”
    • On the other hand, if you compare the time you will spend watching this projector, to the time you spend in traffic in your luxury automobile:  This Sony in your theater will provide far more enjoyment
  • Remote could have brighter back light
  • Remote could have HDMI-Link to control other devices, or allow other devices remotes to control this Sony.  – Still many (most) owners of this Sony will likely have a full control system, with tablets, etc.
  • Not the best black levels (but close, very close)
  • 2000 very usable lumens is great, but hey, 3000 lumens would be better, especially for HDR and 3D
  • Lacks MHL on either HDMI input
    • At this price point, a typical system will have better alternatives for streaming, than plugging a Roku stick into the back. (BTW, The 4K Roku isn’t a stick).  If you plan to stream, it will likely be through your AV receiver or 4K Blu-ray UHD player…
  • Sony could provide a separate longer warranty on the laser engine than the standard 3 years

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