Projector Reviews

Sony VW285ES 4K Home Theater Projector – Picture Quality 3

VPL-VW285ES 4K Projector Picture Quality 3: Sharpness, Overall Picture Quality

Why are we all moving – quickly, or slowly to 4K?  For the greater detail and perceived sharpness.  I’ve got a lot of full screen images for your viewing pleasure with also a heavily cropped shot of the same images so you can see more detail, and get a better idea of how sharp this Sony projector is.

What that brings to the party, at least in my humble opinion, is the ability to sit closer to large screens, and be more immersed in the content, When we go to the movie theater, in theory, we get absorbed because the room is dark, and the image on the screen fills most of our view.  It’s easy to forget that we’re sitting in a theater.

With a good 4K projector, pixels are smaller – 1/4 the area of 1080p pixels.  You can sit at exactly half the difference (all other things being equal), with 4K, and have the same relative resolution.  Sit 10 feet from a 100″ diagonal screen with a 1080p projector – you’ll probably be able to make out individual pixels.  AT 4K, that same seating distance and no sign of the pixels.

When I’m watching in my own home theater, I move my captain’s chair about 5 feet closer to my 124″ screen when I’m working with a 4K projector.

Enjoy the image pairs. Note, this is one of the first reviews published on our redesigned site.  At this time, the image player will not expand the images, but that will change in the upcoming weeks so that you will be able to click and enlarge those close-ups.  I also added a few extra 4K images at the end of the player.

There has been an discussions that Sony’s lens could be sharper.  I’ll have to agree, any lens would benefit from being sharper.  Sony concedes they use better optics on the $25,000 and $60,000 4K projectors (but not on their next two more expensive ones).

It still comes down to what the picture looks like.  The panel alignment feature works well (typical of most higher end 3LCD and LCoS projectors that have panel alignment), although single chip DLP projectors are inherently exempt from any misalignment.

The point here, is the Sony looks really sharp.  I can zap up the Image enhancement detail of say an Epson LS10500 (their $8K laser HT projector) to make it seem as sharp, at first glance, but then you start noticing that close ups of faces look hard, and a bit unnatural.  I will say that the BenQ HT9050 – single chip 4K UHD pixel shifter, did look every bit as sharp on 1080p content, but the Sony can still resolve more on 4K. The lower cost 4K UHDs I believe don’t have optics as good as the BenQ.

I’ve placed the heavily cropped photo of the Ender’s Game rendering of the Bigalow inflatable space station here again, so you can click on this one to enlarge and see all the detail:

Ender's game close-up image
VPL-VW285ES close up of rendering. click to enlarge, then click in upper right corner to further enlarge. What you are seeing is a 2000 pixel wide image, so on many screens you still won't be able to view at full resolution

Bottom Line:  This Sony delivers what you expect from a true 4K projector!  And that is an immediately very sharp looking image whether 1080p, or even better on 4K.

Overall Picture Quality

When it comes to the picture, and the desire for 4K capability at a reasonable price, the VW285ES gets it all done.  Consider that just over a year ago, the least expensive true 4K projector was $9999, not $4999, and it was the older, and definitely not as capable, or quite as good, VW365ES.

True, you can find lower cost 4K UHD projectors if you buy into the idea that they are just as good, however, none are a match in terms of that holy grail – of really good to great black level performance, as in, looking really good are very dark scenes.  Hey most projectors whether $799 or $7999, look pretty good on average scenes.  Too bad most movies and much other programming has plenty of dark scenes as well.

So far, those low cost 4K UHD projectors have pretty unimpressive black level performance not even close to this Sony. Even the most expensive and best of those we have looked at (the BenQ at $8995) can’t match this Sony.

Color out of the box, as I said earlier looks really good in almost all the modes, with great skin tones, and the Sony gets slightly better with a proper calibration, but honestly, between the presets, and our calibration notes,

I figure a lot of you won’t bother to calibrate yours.  So far all 3 brands of 4K UHD projectors need to be calibrated a whole lot more than this Sony.

I really didn’t find any serious weaknesses in the picture quality of the Sony.  Sure black levels could be better, but they are good enough, that I could own this projector, even being a black level fanatic.  (although as I said earlier, I’d probably spend more for the VW385ES for that one further improvement.

I have been especially pleased viewing 4K content, which is most important going forward.

But my sports viewing, – great.  And the other night, for the second time, I had a small group in my theater we’re watching (or re-watching) Season 1 of Game of Thrones.

This image from The Great Wall reminds me of GOT, but it is 4K and HDR, BT.2020, so should give you an idea of how stunning GOT will be when it goes 4K, et al.

You can click on this one to enlarge – I’m only sorry I didn’t also shoot a heavily cropped center of it for your consideration:


I have noted in the past that on just the right type of content – I’ve found three scenes over the years, Sony projectors have had a problem with a certain speed of slow panning.  I normally use the beginning of the movie RED, where they pan the neighborhood as the test.  Too much jitter/judder…

This time I viewed that scene with the 4K UHD version of RED, it seemed to be a bit better.  Yet, that is the biggest complaint I can point to, in terms of image noise type issues, and finding just the right panning speed to cause that, is obviously rare.

Bottom line on PQ – If you can live with that rare judder, and knowing that you can have better black levels in a true 4K projector, and you can have a slightly sharper image – with the better optics on their high end 4K models (and probably the $35K JVC), then you have found your projector, if it fits your budget.

Let’s move on.  The next page is mostly numbers – brightness and color temps for the various modes, and a little (of course) commentary about all that.