Sony’s VPL-VW295ES – The Only Native 4K Projector under $5K, Will Rock Your World – And There’s More…

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It is still less than one year since Sony announced their “entry level” but true, native 4K VPL-VW295ES home theater projector! A couple or so months later, when Sony started shipping we reviewed the Sony VPL-VW295ES home theater projector and awarded it a Hot Product Award.  I should also mention that its predecessor, the VPL-VW285ES, was one of the Best In Class Performance winners in last year’s Best Home Theater Projector Report, when comparing all $2500 – $5000 home projectors! The VW295ES shipped months too late to be included last year.

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Projector Reviews Hot Product Award

When launched, the VPL-VW295ES was the only under-$5000 native 4K resolution projector, with the next least expensive native 4K projector being just under $10K. Things can change in a year – in this case, though, not too much. Now, the least expensive native competition (the JVC DLA-NX7) is only $1,000 more!

Simply stated, that still leaves this Sony a class by itself. True, it competes with a number of less expensive lower native resolution projectors that can accept 4K content. Only a couple can come close to matching the feature set of the VPL-VW295ES, and none of those we’ve reviewed to date look as natural on 4K HDR content! And of course, that’s what it’s all about – a clear, sharp, natural-looking image for maximum immersion!

I previously have described the Sony’s picture as elegant!

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As many of you are aware, this VPL-VW295ES is only one of Sony’s extensive lineup of native 4K projectors geared for home. Also learn about Sony’s other new 4K projectors and more.

With the launch of three new models last winter, the VPL-VW295ES is one of Sony’s fifth generation of native 4K resolution projectors. It launched the same time as native 4K competition is almost exclusively 1st gen!  tsk! tsk!

This is another of Art’s custom Advertorials created by Projector Reviews. Art wrote it, of course, with minor feedback from Sony. Our challenge – strip out a lot of the usual manufacturer hype, and focus on the value proposition of this Sony. (and, while we are at it, also introducing the other of Sony’s newest members of their 4K projector line-up) – enjoy!

Sony VPL-VW295ES Home Theater Projector

The VPL-VW295ES may be Sony’s least expensive 4K projector, yet it supports pretty much everything, such as HDR (both the HDR10, and HLG [broadcast] versions). The VPL-VW295ES and all the other Sonys support BT.2020/P3 color space, the same superior color standard used in today’s better digital cineplexes.

You could describe the VPL-VW295ES as an entry-level native 4K projector. That would be true.

Yet, other than being the least expensive 4K Sony, there’s almost nothing “entry-level” about its performance and capabilities.

Sony claims – and delivers – 1,500 lumens! That translates into putting a bright image before your eyes, whether you place it in a dedicated home theater, or pair it with the proper screen and place it in your living room, media room, family room, or spare bedroom. The 2.10:1 lens has motorized zoom, focus and lots of lens shift to offer you world class placement flexibility.

We would be remiss if we didn’t also tell you a little about the rest of Sony’s 4K line-up.

Moving up from the Sony VPL-VW295ES, with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of $9,999, is the new VPL-VW695ES. This projector is superior to, and replaces, the just discontinued VPL-VW685ES – a $14,999 MSRP projector.

Overall, the VW295ES and VW695ES are very similar. Here’s how they differ: The VPL-VW695ES adds additional brightness, and a fast, dynamic iris to dramatically improve “black level performance” on those very dark scenes. Another key addition is their Picture Position lens memories. Both projectors have the same motorized lens system, but if you are a movie fanatic first, and want to go “Cinemascope” type wide screen to match most movies, the VW695ES lets you resize the image appropriately, at the touch of a button. With the lower budget VW295ES you can also go wide screen by adjusting the motorized zoom and lens shift manually in about 30 seconds, using the remote.

The Sony home theater projector line-up also includes four laser projectors: The new VPL-VW995ES, at $34,999, takes Sony’s smaller laser chassis and adds the famous ARC-F lens to ensure the best 4K sharpness from edge to edge. It also adds an advanced iris on top of the laser modulation to enhance contrast and black levels. It has 2,200 lumens and a new Digital Focus Optimizer to provide crisp images into the ARC-F lens.

The other laser projectors include the Sony VPL-VW885ES, one of two similarly priced native 4K laser projectors – the other being the VPL-VZ1000ES, which is very different physically. Yes, it’s the same basic laser-phosphor engine, but the VZ1000ES is an ultra short throw design, so you can put it on a table or credenza right underneath your screen. Pretty cool!

The sixth and last Sony projector to mention, is Sony’s flagship VPL-VW5000ES. With 5,000 lumens, and built to commercial standards, it has no peers anywhere near its price.

Sony, of course, has long been a major manufacturer of Digital Cinema projectors used in the movie theater industry. Much of what they learned there has been integrated into their 4K home projectors.

While Sony offers the most extensive line-up of native 4K projectors by far, here are the numbers for their three most recent. If you wish to learn more about any of these, we have provided links below.

VPL-VW295ESVPL-VW695ESVPL-VW995ES
List Price$4,999$9,999$34,999
Lumens1,5001,8002,200
Dynamic IrisNoYesYes*
ContrastNot Listed350,000:1∞: 1
Motorized Lens FeaturesYesYesYes
Lens MemoryNoYesYes
Native 4K ResolutionYesYesYes
Laser Light EngineNoNoYes

*Sony VPL-VW995ES uses the laser light engine as a dynamic iris.

Understanding 4K

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Forget the hype. There’s native 4K, and there’s all the other 4K wannabes – you’ve heard about them: 4K UHD, 4K e-shift, 4K enhanced, etc. All of those are lower resolution projectors that use pixel shifting technology.

Supporting 4K is obviously important in order to match the latest available content. Doing it really well – putting a truly great image up on the screen – has been Sony’s objective. That’s a key reason why Sony has long pioneered native 4K projectors, shipping their first-generation years (2012) before any of those lower resolution projector manufacturers were even close to supporting 4K content.

This is what native 4K sharpness and detail is all about:

These two images were taken from Valerian, 4K, with P3 color. The first image of the commander is only lightly cropped.

Valarian commander

This second image is simply a close up. Now, if you really want to see how sharp this Sony is, click to enlarge the close-up.

Valerian close-up image

Any questions? This is one reason why native 4K is inherently superior to pixel shifting DLPs and LCD projectors, despite all their claims of being “4K.” All those “4K UHD” projectors 1080p pixel shifters would all have been called 1080p projectors. Ah, the games people play!

In a perfect world of projector sharpness and detail, whether lower resolution or 4K, the goal has long been what is called 1:1 pixel mapping. That is, one pixel for each piece of data. That means the smallest possible pixels relative to the image size, and no overlapping “pixel shifting.” Today, while there are only a handful of native 4K projectors that cost less than a typically loaded mid-sized car, there are many projectors that can accept some types, or even most types of 4K content. It comes down to the quality of what ends up on your screen.

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Although this is a "touched up" image from Sony, the VW295ES's 1500 usable lumens will work in rooms with a reasonable ambient light, if paired with the right screen!

It’s certainly true that those other 4K capable projectors with larger overlapping pixels, can produce a sharp image. We could get technical and explain all the key differences in detail.

Instead, let’s just put it this way:

All else being at least equal, a native 4K resolution projector will simply provide the sharpest most detailed image possible with 4K content and look more natural.

Why? Consider: Some of you who have owned projectors for years, may have started with a standard HD (1280×720 resolution) model, but they also let you watch the higher resolution HD – 1080p (1920×1080). Still, when you upgraded to a 1080p projector, you definitely noticed everything was sharper. Same basic concept! You will just love native 4K! Don’t think for a moment that those under $2,000 4K “wannabes” are any match at all for the native 4K Sony VPL-VW295ES.

It’s not just about projecting the 4K content, it’s about doing it better. Sony, for example, has often been cited for having pretty great color right out of the box, something few competitors can claim.

“As part of our review process, we normally calibrate almost all the over $1,000 home theater projectors we review. The only frequent exception the past few years, has been Sony. After first firing up a new Sony, I am usually sufficiently impressed with the picture quality and color accuracy, in their best preset picture modes, that there’s little need for a calibration. Bottom line: Nothing like starting out with really good color, a great feature set and native, natural looking, 4K sharpness!” – Art Feierman, Editor, ProjectorReviews.com

Sony's Got Game – Gamers Rejoice!

Sony’s newer home theater projectors are all very competent gaming projectors that have reduced input lag to as fast as 27 milliseconds! The only other non-Sony, true 4K projectors selling for under $20,000 have over double the input lag, making them marginal gaming projectors. So, hook up your latest gaming consoles – Sony’s newest PlayStation, Microsoft’s Xbox One, etc. and have a blast!

For hardcore gamers, 27 ms is considered really very good. Great is around 15-18ms. Okay gaming is around 55ms. Put on your headset, gather your team. There’s nothing like 4K gaming at 60fps with HDR, on a large screen – be it 100” diagonal, or 120”. With native 4K resolution, you can go large screen, yet sit pretty close, to be well immersed in the content. Take your gaming to new heights, whether your thing is League of Legends, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, or Madden Football…

Love Your Investment

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Sony's VW295ES tackles a favorite, very dark space scene from Passengers (4K, HDR, P3) - Shot by Projector Reviews

Why merely “watch” your favorite movies, sports and other content? Are you ready for a Next Level viewing experience? You can live the experience in a dedicated home theater, or in a media room, or any convenient family room, living room or bonus room.

Immerse yourself with the large screen, feast your eyes on gorgeous rich colors, with exceptionally sharp and detailed imagery, that Sony’s natural looking native 4K projectors deliver.

We invite you to learn even more:

Read our full review of the VPL-VW295ES

Read our full review the Sony VPL-VW385ES (we will review the VPL-VW695ES, which is the replacement for both the VPL-VW385ES and the VPL-VW675ES)

Check out Sony’s brochure and data sheet for their VPL-VW695ES.

Get more info from Sony, on the VW295ES including locating local dealers.

Just want to learn more about Sony’s full line of native 4K projectors? Visit Sony 4K here.

The last word! I did have the pleasure of having the Sony VPL-VW295ES at my disposal for over two months. I used it mostly in my theater, but also briefly in my living room, paired with a Screen Innovations ALR type screen (for handling ambient light), with most of that living room viewing done after the review published. This Sony can turn your common rooms (living, family, den, bedroom) into an uncommon experience. Don’t just enjoy TV and movies – immerse yourself, and love the experience.  -art

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