Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW995ES Projector Review – Picture Quality 2

Sony VPL-VW995ES Projector Review – Picture Quality:  HDTV and Sports, Non-HDR Movies, Dark Shadow Detail, Overall Picture Quality

HDTV and Sports

I’m talking mostly 1080i sports, from football to the Olympics, to golf, to hockey.  The VW995ES simply looks “naturally sharp”.  For my sports I have pushed the Reality Creation setting from default 20 (what I use for movies) to 40 and even 50 (it goes up to 100), but 50 is about as high as you would want, before it can start looking a bit over-sharpened).

For sports viewing I recommend the Low setting on Sony’s frame interpolation (Motion Flow).  I’m not big on CFI except for sports. Some of you may like having a bit more?  I normally leave the CFI setting on True Cinema, which will take 60fps movies on “TV”  that have been upscaled to 60fps from their original 24fps, and convert them back to 24fps, for that movie “look and feel.”

I did find Cinema Film 1 (which was my “go to mode” for most things, has more pop and “wow” factor (only slightly). Reference was my other primary mode– a touch more natural – less “enhancement” features in use.

Bright Cinema 1 has more punch, but since I did all of my watching in my theater, I didn’t really need the extra “dynamics” of which there is plenty in Cinema Film 1.  Still with Cinema Film 1 I can definitely accept a bit more ambient light, and still have a dynamic image.

Note the rich bright reds and other colors that can be a challenge for other projectors. Reds, yellows, etc. all  seem to be “on the money” or as close as we could hope for without a proper calibration.

Bottom line on general HDTV and sports. Sports look fantastic.  Standard HDTV viewing, which included some sitcoms, pieces of a movie or two, and regular 1080i Blacklist and an assortment of other HDTV programming, including Discovery HD.  Basically, everything looked at least as good as on any other projector to grace my home theater. That’s a pretty good recommendation, right there!

Non-HDR Movies

There’s nothing technically, nor especially exciting, about good old 1080p movies compared to 4K with HDR, yet the VW995ES perhaps looks even better (relatively) on 1080p, than on 4K, in that, no doubt thanks to the superb optics, 1080p looks sharper, clearer than I’m used to.  Sadly, I still have a relatively small 4K / HDR library of discs.  The studios are very slow in terms of producing 4K/HDR discs on older movies, no doubt thanks to the growing popularity of streaming.

Now, I’m more of a 4K Blu-ray UHD disc player, than a streamer, but I do stream some shows on Netflix, etc., including a couple in 4K (but no HDR).

The movie images in this player are 1080p, including The Hunger Games which I sometimes have shot images from my 4K disc as well. Also present are 1080p Casino Royale images from Blu-ray disc.

While I did view my usual Blacklist pilot in 4K – on Netflix – I never got back to shoot my usual 3-4 photos from it.  No matter, impressive, both in brightness and sharpness.  Since it isn’t HDR, the overall brightness is similar to any other 1080 content which normally means no HDR, even though we’re starting to see some 1080p projectors claiming HDR capabilities.

Dark Shadow Detail

About as flawless as I’ve seen.  I’ve stared at length at my favorite very dark scenes – the Bond night train scene from Casino Royale, Katniss and Rue sleeping in The Hunger Games, and the dam scene from Mockingjay Part 1.  Overexposing these images I find as much detail as any other projector we’ve reviewed. If there’s more detail, in those images I haven’t found a way to see it on any projector.

No issues here.

And I’ll add this: While I rarely mention in reviews, we’re seeing near whites getting clipped a bit (sometimes significantly) on many 4K UHD DLP projectors, so that very, very close to white is coming through as white – losing the highlight detail. This Sony appears to exhibit no loss of that near white detail.  Now to accomplish that on non HDR content with the VW995ES, I found  lowering Contrast from Maximum (100), to 92-93.  If I left it at max or a bit higher number, there is some slight crushing of near whites.

Really bright clouds and other almost white surfaces always manage to show subtle details (on the 995ES) that just end up flat white on many other projectors.

The Sony (with that minor adjustment), is excellent handling near whites, which is to say it handles them as well as the VW995ES handles the near black details!

Overall Picture Quality

Sharp, clear, reasonably bright. Some reasonably accurate color without a color calibration.

Some very impressive black levels too.  I’m assuming the top of the line JVC can beat it, but when putting about 1700 lumens on the screen on bright scenes, very dark scenes are very nicely dark, significantly below the Epson 5040UB I use as a general reference.  I more than certainly can live with these black levels.

Reference mode
Reference mode: Passengers 4K/HDR. Overall slightly brighter, less contrasty than Cinema Film 1
Cinema Film 1 on Passengers image
Cinema Film 1: Passengers 4K/HDR. Higher Contrast Enhancer setting among others, compared to Reference mode

I really have nothing but praise, which is not surprising considering it is the 2ndmost expensive home theater projector I’ve reviewed, and the other was an even more expensive, but older Sony.  Sadly, the VW995ES was boxed up today being returned.  I miss it already.

Still the overall experience was greater than I anticipated.  I was first dazzled by the clarity.  I simply was not anticipating such a visible difference to the picture that isn’t the usual color accuracy, or black levels, or brightness, or sharpness differences!  True, the VPL-VW995ES is pretty bright (1700+ calibrated lumens), very sharp, but there is just something special about the picture, which, after all the other technology is considered, I do believe comes down to that ARC-F lens, plus, being a native 4K projector sure doesn’t hurt.

No matter the specific reasons, the bottom line, is that  – you get  to be wowed by a killer picture and viewing experience, for about the cost of a entry level BMW or Telsa Model 3.  As I like to say, you’ll spend more time watching this projector, than driving (at least most people will), and on top of that, you should be enjoying almost every minute you watch your projector.  When you are driving that fancy car, though, you are mostly, likely to be dealing with traffic and other unpleasantness (such as a 50 minute commute)…

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