Sony VPL-VW285ES 4K Home Theater Projector – This Affordable 4K Changes Everything

Oh boy! Welcome the Sony VPL-VW285ES projector.  To save time, here are the highlights in a nutshell, to start:  $4995 1500 lumens, a motorized 2.1:1 zoom, true 4K resolution,

For the more technically curious:  HDMI is 13.5 Ghz – all that is needed – which falls between the more limiting 10 Ghz, and the full 18 Ghz. HDR content is DCI-P3 in a BT.2020 wrapper. (DCI-P3 is the movie theater standard.) More below.

For 3+ years now, Sony has been the only manufacturer of true 4K projectors under $30,000!  This alone has been a tragedy, for if any group of people can appreciate true 4K – no pixel shifting (although pixel shifting is a good thing) — because, we’re into the “big screen” and maximum immersion into the content we watch, whether a football game, Game of Thrones, or great movies.  Let’s face it, if you are sitting 12 feet away from a 65″ screen, you really can’t tell the difference in sharpness between 1080p and 4K.  But at 8 feet from my 124″ screen, the difference is very real.

So, until now, the least expensive Sony 4K was $7995.  But today Sony rolled out a new true 4K projector, the VPL-VW285ES, at $4995, and hopefully that will convince the DLP and 3LCD crowd, and the other LCoS manufacturer – JVC, that it’s time to also start selling true 4K projectors – and at affordable prices.  (In fairness JVC has one true 4K projector, but as it’s $35,000, I don’t think we can exactly call that “affordable”.

So what’s this new VW285ES have going for it, besides 3 true 4K LCoS panels (they always call theirs SXRD)?

The answer is, pretty much everything the just discontinued VW365ES offers, and then some!

vplvw285es_front_760Let’s start with placement flexibility.  A 2.1:1 motorized zoom lens, and plenty of lens shift.  So placing this projector in your room is going to give you as much range as anything else on the market.  Sadly, missing, though is Lens Memory, which Sony is saving for their higher end models.  (The old VW365ES also lacked Lens Memory.)  The good news, though, is that since all lens functions are motorized, you can still go with a wide screen if desired.  The difference is, instead of having a setting for wide screen and one for HDTV, you’ll have to spend a minute or so each time you change aspect ratios to adjust the zoom and lens shift, if you have that wide screen like I do.  You can live with that, in exchange for $4995!

4K – true, and also fully equipped: The VW285ES supports pretty much everything out there that we need.  Per Sony’s website:

4K HDR 60p 10bit (for HDR10/HLG) compatible so you can enjoy gaming and other high frame rate content in 4K HDR. 

Sony goes on to explain elsewhere, that their is little practical difference between the abilities of 13.5 and 18 Ghz.  Both can do the 60fps at 8, 10, or 12 bit, with sub-sampling to 4:2:0.  But with the 18 Ghz, the sub sampling (the least critical aspect) on 60 fps can be 4:2:2. With 30 fps or less, there are no differences, both can do 4:4:4.  Keep in mind that content is normally 4:2:0.  Not sure where to find higher, but if you do, this Sony will tell that source to send 4:2:0 instead.

Gamers rejoice, there really isn’t anything else you need.  I don’t know how low the input lag is, and won’t until we test, but Sony’s making a real point about gaming with this projector, so figure it’s at least going to be respectable, probably in the 25-50 ms range.  We shall see.

Hey, Sony has 3D!  OK, that’s no surprise, but I’m still not happy that the most of the new 4K UHD DLP projectors aren’t supporting 3D.  Geez!  No, there is no 4K 3D standard, but your 1080p 3D will work just fine.

The 3D emitter is built in, just go buy some 3D glasses – I use lightweight ones from Samsung that are great and were about $15.  With 3D on the wane with LCD TVs, newer glasses might be slightly more than that.

Just as the $4995 price won’t suck a lot of folks bank accounts dry, Sony helps out further, by being particularly efficient. It produces its 1500 lumens with a 225 watt lamp (that’s lower than most), and it claims 6000 hours in eco mode (sorry, no full power spec yet available).

OK you get it.  Here’s my message to the LCD and DLP manufacturers.  It’s time to stop screwing around, and give us true 4K chips.  Want to add pixel shifting to those 4K chips (or panels if you prefer), sure, I like pixel shifting, but its time to get real serious.  We all want the maximum sharpness to go with our HDR contrast, and BT.2020/P3 color space, and a whole lot of us are waiting to buy, until you deliver that at a reasonable price!

Thanks to the folks at Sony!  Good for you.

News and Comments

  • Jon Roberts

    It’s been widely reported that the 285 and 365 do NOT have full 18ghz HDMI ports, but are rather 13.5ghz. This is a huge error on Sony’s part and likewise Art for misinforming. Come on Art – there’s already enough fake news out there!


      Hi Jon, You are correct, and I’m editing the article now. It’s tough working off of sketchy information I get pre-release, at times, but this error was on me this time.
      The good news, at least, (per a discussion with Sony) is that with 13ghz, a lot of the combinations that wouldn’t work with 10 ghz, will work fine with 13.5ghz, apparently. Of course that will probably leave some incompatibility when compared to full 18ghz.
      For now, it seems, best I can tell, that if you want full blown 60fps, HDR, BT.2020 with 4:4:4 (or maybe even 4:2:0, you will need 18ghz. At the moment, that seems to be pretty much a few 4K games. Then there’s the issue of streaming, and HLG, vs HDR10.
      What I don’t know (anyone) for example, is will the 285ES work with the Xbox One S, until the X-box gets around to asking a display what it can handle, and then sending the appropriate best possible. (Same problem we all had to deal with with the Samsung K8500 player.) -art

      • Jon Roberts

        Thanks Art! I always enjoy reading your reviews and appreciate your contribution to this fascinating, albeit sometimes frustrating world or projectors. The new Sony’s are certainly a step forward and I’m actually leaning toward getting one, but it would’ve been a slam dunk if they supported the full 18ghz. I would love to know their reasoning. Oh well, always has to be something. Thanks for confirming and correcting!


          Jon, I just got some technical info from the engineer that runs training on their HT projectors. Their 13.5 Ghz HDMI seems to do everything we really need.

          For example, it can do 60 fps, HDR, etc. with 4:2:0, at 8, 10, or 12 bits.

          By comparison, with 18 Ghz, everything would be the same (60fps, etc., but you could support 4:2:2 (also at 8, 10, or 12) As Sony points out, even if you can get material that’s using 4:2:2, the difference in sub-sampling is negligible at the most. On 60fps, even with 18 Ghz, you can only get 4:4:4 with 8 bit content. And, as Sony has demonstrated to me, you’d much rather have 10 bit, 4:2:0, than 8 bit 4:4:4.

          also with 30fps or less, the 13.5 Ghz can do anything that 18 Ghz can, including HDR, 8,10, or 12 bit, at 4:4:4.

          BTW there’s nothing to prevent the standards folks from coming out with 60fps 4:4:4, 12 bit HDR and telling us we’ll need 24 Ghz HDMI. Standards today keep changing. remember when HDMI couldn’t support Blu-ray 3D (we needed to get HDMI 1.4…) etc.

          Perhaps there is some content on some thing – a gaming machine? that will insist on 4:2:2 on 60fps, and do something stupid, if you don’t have 18ghz, but I’m not aware. The Xbox one S is one such device where they didn’t support everything they should so it creates problems for 10 HDMI (dropping HDR down to 8 bit, or not working at all, but that’s a problem Microsoft should have fixed by now. These are dynamic standards, and there’s no room for poor handshaking options like that X-box or the Samsung K8500. Whatcha think?

          • Jon Roberts

            I think we’re confusing computing speed with data throughput. I think it should be 13.5 Gbps not Ghz shouldn’t it? I know what you mean though, the bottom line is for the vast majority of uses except possibly certain gaming scenarios, it should be fine. I have to wonder what the cost difference is to not go the full 4k bandwidth though – just seems Sony cheapened out on a projector that still isn’t exactly cheap and now can be accused of not being as future proof as one might like. Epson’s 10.2gbps “fiasco” didn’t seem to dampen their sales much but I don’t think Microsoft modified anything with the Xbone to improve compatibility and if there’s an issue with these new Sony’s, Microsoft likely won’t do anything to fix that either. I guess I’ll wait for the early reviews before taking the plunge, but thanks a bunch Art, for the additional info! I’ll stay tuned!!


            I really did that, oops. definitely meant Ghz. Must have gotten it right a couple of times though in my response.

            As to the new Sony, I’m pretty certain you can count on at least being fully compatible with 13.5 Ghz. It wouldn’t make sense to bring out a game machine not fully compatible with every Sony projector under $25K. Microsoft, on the other hand, doesn’t have their own products to be compatible with. Remember it’s a lot of existing 4K LCDTVs that aren’t 18 Ghz, either not just a few projectors. We shall see. As to cheapening, it’s always a numbers game. Look at Epson’s competition around $2500 – Optoma, Acer, Vivitek (if Vivitek ever ships). They all have faster hdmi, but none has better than a 1.6:1 zoom, none has motorized lens features including lens memory (I’m told more than 10% of home theater projector folks now go wide screen, so that’s a “cheapening.” And none has a decent dynamic iris and even with what they have, not one of them has anything but mediocre black levels. The lower the price point, the more compromises, not to mention TI could have given us a true 4K chip. Now at Sony’s higher price points, I would think that the 13.5 ghz is just dandy. Especially considering the only thing that 13.5 ghz can’t do that 18 can, is 60 fps 8/10/12 bit HDR 4:2:2, instead only 4:2:0. Believe me, I’d much rather have, say 4:2:0 at 10 bit color than 4:2:2 or even 4:4:4 at 8 bit… Subsampling is the least important capability. So it’s only an issue if there’s a source that insists on 18 ghz. -art

          • Jon Roberts

            Oops, you did it again. Art, I’m pretty sure it’s Gbps not Ghz.

            The lower bandwidth on the new Sony’s seems to be the number #1 complaint on the forums, whether it’s justified or not. It will be interesting to see how the new JVC’s and their e-shift5 stack up against these Sony’s. Frankly, I don’t see any other competition but let me know if I’m missing something. Epson needs to up their game as the 5040 already seems long in the tooth. I am not partial to any vendor and just want an economically sound 4k solution (which rules out the new Sony laser for me). A true 4k panel would seem to be a huge advantage and I’m certainly willing to pay more for it, but of course it isn’t that simple. So would you say the dynamic iris on the new Sony 385es, among it’s other added features, is worthwhile?

      • Jackie Moore

        If sony’s user manual is correct then a source like the xbox one x that does 60fps at 4:4:4 10bit will be downgraded to 4:2:0 8bit. sony did make a huge mistake by not using 18ghz. I will have to hold out until next year i guess to see if they upgrade this.Please correct me if i am wrong!

  • Jackie Moore

    Can anyone answer yet if the new Xbox one X (scorpio) will their games play on this projector at full capacity? Also does anyone know what video games format are in color wise is it 4:2:0 also like the UHD Blu-rays?

  • Jackie Moore

    Ok xbox one x owners the projector is not fully compatible with only the 13.5ghz hdmi. It needs full 18. after plugging in it will drop down to 8bit color and this is not acceptable. Sony really dropped the ball by not adding the full 18ghz hdmi on this. Had to send my back and wait until next year.

  • Steve

    Thanks for the review Jon! With both the new VW285ES and the former VW365ES models being currently available at the same price, which would you choose?