Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VZ1000ES 4K Home Theater Projector – Summary, Pros and Cons

I tend to think of the Sony VPL-VZ1000ES as a much lower cost alternative to Sony’s flagship VW5000ES.  Considering the VW5000ES is the best home theater projector I’ve ever had the chance to review, that’s saying a lot.

Think this way:  First, compared to the “big” Sony, it’s $35,000 less at a mere $24,999! Both are laser projectors using a laser – phosphor design.

Sony VPL-VZ1000ES – simply stated, a rather dazzling performer – with true, full 4K support including DCI, BT2020, HDR…


Next,  while its definitely true that the VZ1000ES isn’t as bright – a mere 2500 lumens (which is still impressively bright), makes it exactly half as bright.  Consider though: Thanks to it being an ultra short throw projector, use of high quality light “rejecting” screens (ALR screens) designed for UST projectors, gives the VZ1000ES a big advantage in situations where ambient light is present in more than very low levels.

Once you get past those major differences- brightness, UST design, and lower price – the two projectors are pretty much the same.  Of course, you get a zoom lens with a lot of range and lots of lens shift on the big brother, but those aren’t features found on UST projectors.

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Both of course handle HDR, BT2020, have DCI resolution (true 4K), 3D and all the trimmings. Both support Hybrid Log-Gamma, a new streaming protocol for 4K, which is likely to take off, and both handle the maximum HDMI bandwidth needed for all established 4K UHD HDMI content (18 Ghz), that allows source material with a maximum bit depth, etc., well beyond what is being served up to us on, for example, current Blu-ray UHD discs.

In a dedicated home theater the Sony will perform beautifully up to its maximum 120″ diagonal.   (Note, with the VZ1000ES being a UST, there’s no practical way to go “widescreen” such as 2.35:1.  The VW5000Es with lens memory, of course, can work with widescreen so there’s no letter boxing on typical Cinemascope aspect ratio movies.

OK, that’s too much technical, let’s talk practical.  And do look at these images, enlarge them.  Remember no matter how good they look on your computer or pad or phone, this Sony will look dramatically better placed in your home.  It’s sort of a case of – if it’s in your budget, what are you waiting for?


I loved the VZ1000ES in my dedicated home theater, even though I’m using a less than perfect screen for a UST.  My 1.3 gain Studiotek does add some roll-off in the corners, but, it’s very slight, not enough that I notice under normal viewing.

The images above:  Six 1080 / 720 images (sports images taken with modest/moderate ambient light) in theater.  That’s followed by six 4K/HDR/BT2020 images from darkened theater.  Last six images are in the living room, all daytime (three on fairly bright day but no sunlight pouring in, two taken at the worst time of day, with sunlight on the floor, and  and one nighttime (with lights full on, directly over the screen and projector).

If I put the Black Diamond UST ALR type screen I used for testing in the living room, in my theater, that would have been an ideal match, so even better.

Watching the new Ghostbusters in 4K with all the trimmings (HDR, BT2020) is downright glorious!  The combination of HDR and BT2020 color space produces colors and a picture that pops like nothing seen on 1080p projectors!

I also watched Hunger Games extensively – both the 4K HDR BT2020 version and the standard 1080p disc.  The differences are truly dazzling.  True, the 4K’ has some mid area dimness, but it’s very slight on the VZ1000ES and the HDR/Contrast control allows you to further tune if you find those mid and lower ranges a little dark for your tastes.

If you’ve seen Hunger Games on a good 1080p projector – say the HW65ES, then on this projector with 4K etc, you won’t want to go back.  Again, that wider color space, and the HDR are game changers when done well, the 4K is a real plus too, but, I find the 4K to be the least obvious of the improvements.

Now I get get my theater at night extremely dark, with only some led indicator lights to deal with, and none facing the screen (or me).  When doing that, I encounter the VPL-VZ1000ES’s one relative weakness – having merely extremely good black level performance.  Of course there’s only one other true 4K projector out there that’s not a Sony, that can do better, and that’s the standard throw $35K JVC. JVC has long ruled on black levels, but often slow to solve other problems (sloppy 3D was a problem for several generations, for example, and their first generation of 4K capable projectors still can’t support Blu-ray UHD…)

The Sony VZ1000ES is an ultra short throw, true 4K projector with HDR, laser light engine and HDR!
The Sony VZ1000ES is a bright ultra short throw, true 4K projector with laser light engine, HDR, BT2020 color and more!

The simple truth is no one projector is going to be the best at everything, but other than black levels, this Sony is definitely trying.  Add just a little ambient light (very little) and most of the differences in black levels will recede to almost nothing.

Now I don’t always want my theater fully dark.  I usually have 4-6 down facing led lights on in the back of the room. This would be typical for sports viewing at night, or watching most general “TV.”  In the daytime, even with my shutters closed I wouldn’t do close watching of movies with dark scenes (when I need to, I just velcro on my black out panels in my windows), but I certainly don’t need to do that, even for most movies.  Again, with more than the slightest ambient light this projector’s black level abilities  (like any projector’s) will be somewhat compromised.

And the VZ1000ES still looks great.  Especially with 4K HDR/BT2020 content.  So the bottom line, is that this Sony projector is pretty awesome in a dedicated theater environment.

But the VZ1000ES was also intended to leave the dedicated theater, and work in more “normal” rooms, the kind that typically don’t have very dark floors, walls and ceiling, but lighter paints, etc.

I am please to report that in a typical “media room” (those would typically have respectable lighting control even in the daytime), The Sony, paired with a UST screen, should be stunning.

What about your typical living room, or family room?  Ditto.  As long as we stick to “typical” and if there are windows, some respectable window shades.  No you don’t have to have blackout shades unless you really do want to create a very dark daytime environment.  The advantage of this projector’s design is that it allows you not to have to do that.

But, there is a point.  Forget the fancy brochures that manufacturers put out  that make it look like a projected image is completely bulletproof in a really bright room.  It won’t be, not with the current tech in UST ALR screens. You’ve seen what I’m talking about in my ridiculously bright living room with sunlight pouring in. If I put even light shades on those glass doors on either side of my screen, the Sony would have been great, but that’s a choice we weren’t willing to do in our view oriented home.

Lower resolution (1080i) from satellite – Victoria Secret Swimsuit show


So keep that living room or other “family” environment to reasonably bright rooms, but with intelligent features such as window shades, and generally good lighting control.  Still my warning is that there are limits to how bright the Sony can handle in a sun drenched room, even if that room is very viable at night, or on darker days.

My other complaint because I can’t really find other things to bitch about, is the merely really good black level performance.

Everything else though, makes me want to own one of these! (OK, everything except the price point, too rich for me.

I highly recommend this projector.  Unless you are a hopeless perfectionist this is a projector that should far exceed your expectations, even if it’s not your first projector!.  Just a reminder, definitely have it calibrated.  Colors are very close to right on, in the best modes, but they can definitely be improved.

Let’s close things out with our usual list of Pros and Cons.

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VPL-VZ1000ES Pros and Cons


  • Beautiful, dynamic, true 4K sharp picture
  • Full 4K support
    • DCI resolution (4096×2160)
    • BT2020 color space
    • HDR
    • Hybrid Log-Gamma for 4K streaming
  • 2500 lumens, brighter than most home theater projectors
  • Ultra short throw design, expands options for a great picture in more normal “family oriented rooms than a dedicated theater
  • Limited zoom and modest lens shift to fine tune installation
  • All lens features are powered
  • Extremely quiet (-24 db)
  • 4 HDMI inputs
  • Can be ceiling mounted or “table top” (front or rear projection)
  • Long life laser light engine (projector should be obsolete before it reaches end of life)
  • Filter only needs to be cleaned once a year (relatively easy access)
  • Built in wired networking
  • Supports image sizes from 80″ to 120″
  • Very nice remote control


  • Relatively large, and heavy (77 lbs.)
  • Warranty (3 years parts and labor) could be better
    • Would have liked to see a longer warranty on the laser engine
  • Very respectable black level performance could be better
  • Having wireless networking could be handy
  • Could be a Smarter device
    • Having inputs for streaming sticks could be handy, but you will almost certainly have other devices to plug them into
  • As a UST projector there are definite limits to placement, but that’s part of the design
  • Cleaning or replacement of filter may be only every year or so, but it should be done

Bottom line:  No question – I could definitely live with this projector!  You almost certainly can too, unless you demand a bigger screen than 120″ diagonal!