Having and using the VPL-VW995ES – Sony’s brand new $34,999.99 2200 lumen laser driven, SXRD (LCoS), home theater projector has been a distraction in terms of my finishing the other reviews. Only this VW995ES and Sony’s older (and even more expensive) VW5000ES, use Sony’s ARC-F lens system, After watching the Sony, and switching back to one of the other projectors here, one immediately recognizes some dramatic differences.
This ARC-F lens is a significant upgrade in optical quality compared to the otherwise very good lenses used on Sony’s other, less expensive native 4K projectors. Without getting too far ahead of myself in this review, let’s say that in this case, the lens not only brings extra sharpness to a native 4K design, but, offers additional clarity. The best way I can describe it, is that when comparing to other projectors, it is as if someone lifted a thin veil from in front of a scene. With the Sony, things just seem clearer – richer, more real. That folks, is the sign of excellent optics. I witnessed similar some years ago reviewing two JVCs – otherwise identical but for the quality of the lens. That time too, the difference was definitely visible, if not as obvious.
This VPL-VW995ES is a little less than half as bright as the Sony VW5000ES which has been on the market for about 3 years. The much bigger, heavier, more massive VW5000ES still has some advantages (including 5000 lumens) over the VW995ES, but the newer Sony also has a number of improvements we will touch on, that the older Sony does not!
Here's a quick look at the rest of the Sony native 4K projector line-up for those of you a bit less financially endowed, who like me, would love this projector, but just can’t afford one: On the lower end of the Sony line, is our recently reviewed VPL-VW295ES – Sony’s entry level 4K projector (with true 4096x2160 native resolution (no need for pixel shifting on Sony projectors)!
Moving up from the $4999.99 VW295ES is the similar VW695ES at $9999.99. This replaces the older VW685ES which sold for an extra $5000! The 695ES has lens memory, a dynamic iris, better black levels than the VW295ES, and some additional improvements.
From there, it’s big jump in price to Sony’s two $24,999.99 laser projectors – the traditional throw VW885ES (both remain in the line-up), with 2000 lumens, and the ultra short throw VZ1000ES with 2500 lumens. We can proudly claim that at this time, we have reviewed six of seven of Sony’s current projectors (including 5 native 4K projectors). The exception is the new VW695ES already mentioned above (we previously reviewed the older VW665ES). We expect to be reviewing the VW695ES too, in the near future. Most likely I’d be reviewing the VW695ES right now, but I simply couldn’t pass on the chance to bring in this VW995ES when it became available. (I am so happy I did get a shot at this projector.)
We did not calibrate the VW995ES. Two reasons really. The first is that, typical for Sony’s 4K projectors, the right out of the box color is excellent. I would venture that several of these modes produce accurate color – uncalibrated, that is close to what a good projector produces only post calibration.
The other reason is more practical. If you are thinking of buying this projector, you don’t need our calibration settings. Your installing dealer will no doubt calibrate the Sony projector and your other components as a standard part of the sale.
Expect stunning picture quality whether watching 4K content, or anything else. One surprise was enjoying my football – the usual 1080i resolution coming to me over satellite (DIRECTV). If comparing to native 4K content, you can spot fairly easily that these sporting events are not 4K. But, when I view them without comparison, they appear unusually sharp for “low res.” Even the Hisense Laser TV I just reviewed, which, if anything can be a little over the top when it comes to sharpening and detail enhancement, doesn’t come across as being as sharp. I trust some of the quality separation is directly attributable to the ARC-F lens – that extra clarity. In other words, not so much that it looks sharper, rather it looks clearer and that comes across as seeming to be sharper than 1080i content normally looks.
Let’s run through the VPL-VW995ES’ Highlights, and then we’ll dive into some explanations of some of the Special features found on this Sony, before doing our usual look at the Hardware capabilities, the picture quality and performance.