Sony VPL-VW270ES Review
There's still nothing cheap about native 4K projection...
What is the Sony VPL-VW270ES?The VPL-VW270ES is the latest native 4K SXRD projector from Sony and replaces the VW260ES we reviewed back in 2017. It becomes the new entry-level projector in the range and costs £4999.99 at the time of review in February 2019.
Given the price point, the VW270ES will have to perform to a high level as just being a native 4K projector doesn’t simply justify the price tag. It is a full native 3-chip SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display) projector with a 4096 x 2160 resolution and a claimed output of 1500 lumens in high lamp mode. The SXRD panels have had improvements to the panel's reflective silicon layer that should translate to better black level performance over the outgoing VW260ES model.
Added to this are 4K Motionflow and super-resolution Reality Creation that analyses every element of an image to provide enhanced clarity and resolution without noise. The VW270ES also boasts full HDR10 and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) support with the new Reference mode for 1000 nit material along with TRILUMINOS Wide Colour Gamut support and both HDMI inputs offer 18Gbps support.
So are you better opting for this entry-level native 4K projector or the step up VPL-VW570ES we reviewed recently? And what exactly are the differences between the two? Let’s find out.
Design, Connections and ControlThe chassis for the VPL-VW270ES is exactly the same as the VW570ES in size and look identical to the native 4K projector line-up design that has been used by Sony over quite a number of years now. This means that if you have seen one over the last few years, you will know exactly what the VW270ES looks like. This year the case is slightly higher than in previous years but you will only notice that if one is sitting next to a 2017 model.
Build quality is very good using high-quality materials and is solid. The VPL-VW270ES is available in both black or white finishes and has a textured finish to the top and sides. The chassis measures in at 496 x 205 x 464mm (W x H x D) and weighs approximately 14Kg, which is identical to the VW570ES. There is no motorised lens cover and instead, you are provided with a plastic cover that slips on to the lens front when not in use, which might be a stretch for those who ceiling mount the projector.
The lens is positioned to the centre of the front panel and appears to be the same high-quality unit used in the VW570ES. Around the lens, we have the air intake and a gunmetal coloured fin-style surround. To either side of the front of the chassis is the air intake and exhaust vent, which means that the projector can be placed up against the back wall without covering over the air flow, allowing better positioning for maximum throw. This also allows installers to use a hush box around the projector body to make it silent in specially designed home theatres, where the vast majority of these projectors will end up.
The connections are placed at the left side of the body when looking from the front and under a recessed area that helps with cable management. We get a LAN, two 18Gbps HDMI 2.0b slots that will accept 4K/60p 4:4:4 signals, a 12v trigger and IR in, an RS232C control port and a USB for service use.
The supplied remote control is a slightly reduced feature unit with fewer button selections that the VW570ES. The main differences are the direct access keys for the fully motorised lens, zoom and focus controls, instead, you have to press the pattern key to swap between those features. The remote keeps the backlight, input and power buttons to the top and below these are the nine direct picture mode selections. We then have the directional pad and enter key with Pattern, Reset and Menu spaced around these. The midsection has another nine direct keys for image attributes such as Motionflow, gamma and so on. Finally at the bottom are three rocker keys for sharpness, brightness and contrast.
The remote is well made and sits nicely in the hand, making it easy to use with thumb presses in one hand. It has a solid build quality and fits with the projector's price point.
Sony VW270ES FeaturesThe VPL-VW270ES is a native 4K (4096 x 2160) 3-chip SXRD projector which uses a 225W high-pressure lamp with a claimed 1500 lumens output in high lamp mode, and a lifespan of 6000hrs in low mode. The SXRD chips have seen improvements made to the panel's reflective silicon layer that should mean even better light control giving blacks and shadows more depth and better contrast.
The VW270ES has most of the features found on the higher priced VW570ES but is missing a few features that some users might want to have. First of all, there is no manual or dynamic Iris available so the VW270ES will live or die by its native contrast performance from the lamp. The lens memory has also been removed from the VW270ES so owners of scope ratio screens will need to change manually between 1.85:1 and 2.40:1 films. And if Black Frame Insertion (BFI) is a priority for you when it comes to motion, this has also been removed with the Impulse and Combined features under Motionflow now missing. We are left with Smooth High, Smooth Low and the 24fps friendly True Cinema settings, along with off.
The VPL-VW270ES is also fully compatible with HDR10 and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) high dynamic range content, but it doesn’t support Dolby Vision or HDR10+ and will not be upgraded to support them either. HDR content from a projector looks completely different to that found on TVs, such as LCD and OLED screens, as it is a reflective image technology. This means that image brightness is determined by the lamp power and how well the image chips direct that light at a screen.
Projectors will never be able to reach the required dynamic range and brightness of a flat panel TV, but that doesn’t mean they are not capable of tone mapping the content to suit the native capabilities of the projector. Plus the VW270ES has Sony’s TRILUMINOS technology, which helps to create Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) coverage to meet the DCI-P3 standard used for 4K UHD Blu-rays and other 4K content. It does this without using a colour filter like some competing projectors, which results in a loss of image brightness as you are placing a physical device into the light path. As such, the VW270ES should have WCG without a loss of image brightness.
Out of the Box MeasurementsWe set about trying to find the best settings out of the box that get close to the industry standards. This is important as we want to view our films and TV shows as they are intended to be seen, and since they are mastered to the industry standards, matching those means we can view them as they should be seen. We used our Klein K10-A meter, Murideo Fresco Six-G Pattern Generator and CalMAN Ultimate software to take our measurements. For SDR content we used the Reference picture mode. The VW570ES was very accurate out of the box, so can the VW270ES match it?
Looking at the greyscale (top left) we can see that the tracking is not great with too much red from down low and this also sees a drop of blue by around the same amount which gives us a very obvious yellow tint to the image, making it look too warm. DeltaE errors are also high from around 70% of the scale, which is what we are seeing within the image with onscreen content. Gamma does a reasonable job of trying to track the BT.1886 curve but there is a dip, which means a little more brightness to gamma.
Moving to the Rec.709 saturation tracking (top right) we can see that the inaccuracy of the greyscale and yellow push, has moved our colour saturation points in that direction, which adds to the image inaccuracies. It is interesting that the VW260ES had almost exactly the same issues when it was reviewed a year ago, and at this price point, we would expect better from Sony.
Calibrated MeasurementsThankfully, the VW270ES does have calibration controls available, which means that we should be able to get greyscale and colour tracking better. However, once again Sony hasn’t included a gamma editor within the projector to help with set up.
Looking at the greyscale (top left) we can see that with the two-point controls we were able to fix the issues with the tracking, but it wasn’t perfect in respect to having a nice looking graph. However, the important thing was the yellow tint was removed from the image and DeltaE errors are now well under the visible threshold of 3, with the average being 0.8. Gamma has however not resulted in a perfect curve to the BT.1886 target with a little too much brightness in the gamma at around 80-90 % image brightness, which doesn’t impact too much on what users will actually see within content onscreen.
By correcting the white point for the greyscale and looking at the colour gamut (top right) the push towards yellow was removed with white now tracking correctly and we were able to use the Colour Management System to correct the remaining hue and saturation issues. DeltaE errors were now well under the visible threshold of 3 and colours looked accurate onscreen. It is just a shame that things couldn’t have been a little better out of the box at this price point.
HDR ResultsThe way we view HDR content on a projector like the VW270ES is a completely different experience to that of a TV like LCD or OLED. This is because we are watching a reflective display that cannot produce the required brightness or dynamic range to match a direct display device. You are unable to get the specular highlights bright enough against a deep black when you are not controlling the image at the pixel level, or with a zoned direct backlight. As such, it is possible to view HDR content, but be prepared for the experience to be different and less dynamic.
The VW270ES detects an HDR image and automatically switches automatically to HDR mode (when in HDR auto), but remains in the picture mode you were using for SDR content. If you select HDR10 or Reference from the HDR menu it applies that to SDR as well as HDR images and you want to avoid this. Make sure it is in Auto. We used Cinema Film 1 for our HDR viewing as we had calibrated Reference for SDR viewing.
Looking at the PQ EOTF chart (top left) we can see that the tracking is towards the dark side of the guide and the VW270ES rolls off before hard clipping from 80ire brightness upwards at around 420 nits peak. This is actually very good for a projector and matches the VW570ES for peak brightness, but is not as accurate with the PQ EOTF and the image actually starts to roll off around 80nits, which results in a dim HDR image on screen as there is no real dynamic range being produced by the projector, it will look flat. The lack of a DI or manual iris impacts on the dynamic range performance here.
Looking at the colour gamut coverage (top right) we can also see a very similar result to last year’s VW260ES and the VW570ES with a very decent attempt at the gamut coverage, but if you draw a line from 100% blue to 100% cyan and green you find the maximum reach of the gamut. However, at 75% saturation and below, the VW270ES does an excellent job of trying to be accurate to the points, and this is without a colour filter being used.
We actually measured the VW270ES higher with the peak brightness measurement on a 10% window than the VW570ES at 420nits, but this once again proves that just one measurement doesn’t tell the whole story about what is going one. The VW570ES tracked the curve better and was brighter up to around 150 nits before starting to roll off in its tone map curve. The VW270ES didn’t track as well and started rolling off at around 80 nits in its tone map. So the VW570ES had a better track and map, which gave a more consistent HDR image onscreen in comparison. So once again, peak brightness measurements are a bit of a red herring compared to what is actually going on with the tone mapping and tracking. Colour gamut coverage was measured at BT.2020 XY 63% and UV 69% with P3 XY 88% and UV at 91% of the gamut. Black levels on the VW270ES were measured natively as 0.0229 nits and there is no dynamic iris available.
Sony VPL-VW270ES Picture QualityLike its bigger brother, the Sony VPL-VW270ES is a dedicated home cinema projector that has to be used in a light controlled room to get the absolute best performance. This means using a decent screen material surrounded by black velvet in a room with dark wall and ceiling surfaces and nothing that will reflect light back on to the screen surface. This is not a projector that will work well in a white coloured room with ambient light sources as it is not bright enough to combat those issues and the image will be washed out and lose its black levels. Our review room uses a Screen Excellence 2.38:1 screen with enlightor 4K material within a room with black walls, dark coloured ceiling and nothing reflecting back onto the screen surface. We can completely black out the room to get every last ounce of performance out of high-end home cinema projectors.
The VW270ES shares many of the same components seen on the more expensive VW570ES, such as the same SXRD 4K chips and motorised lens. However, being the step-down model the VW270ES does miss out on some items, such as the dynamic and manual iris and lens memory features. As such, black levels are noticeably lighter on the VW270ES compared to its bigger brother with no way to dial in the iris. The lack of lens memory is only really an issue if you want to use a scope screen. We manually moved between ratios on our scope screen with the VW270ES and this was possible with the motorised lens shift, zoom and focus, but it would be nice to have the automatic feature when you're paying so much money.
As mentioned the black levels on the VW270ES are lighter than the VW570ES and our reference JVC X7900 we had side-by-side. This is noticeable even without a direct side-by-side comparison and is slightly disappointing given the price point. Shadow detail retrieval is also not as good at the lowest end of the scale, given the raised black levels, but overall the mid-tone detail does make up for that when compared to the JVC which, while deep and black, does feel a little compressed with mid-tone greys. Image uniformity was also very good with no colour shifts but we did notice slightly dark corners when displaying a black field image or between handshakes, however, this wasn’t noticeable with actual viewing material.
Out of the box, the VW270ES does a decent job with image accuracy when it comes to greyscale and colour, but there are noticeable errors seen with on-screen material. We noticed a yellow tint to images, especially in the brighter reaches of the image and skin tones also looked a little too rosy. Inter-scene contrast was good but also felt a little washed out in some scenes due to the raised blacks compared to the VW570ES and the gamma tracking being a little too light in the mid-tones and higher with actual viewing material.
Switching to calibrated settings did make a visible improvement with no obvious issues with the greyscale and no colour tints seen. Skin tones also looked more realistic and natural with excellent shadow detail and mid-tones. Blacks are still lighter as there is no way to close down the iris manually, but images are super-sharp thanks to the resolution, excellent upscaling of 1080p material and high-quality lens, which is the same as that used on the VW570ES.
The VW270ES gives an excellent account of itself in the right environment, such as our cinema room, with a large, sharp cinematic image that also benefits from excellent motion with 24fps film material. It offers a clean and crisp sharpness with excellent colour accuracy and a nice cinematic image with SDR content.
Moving to HDR content and the VW270ES does a decent job of tracking the PQ EOTF before it has to roll off from 80 nits up. Obviously, projectors just can’t display HDR images with the same dynamic range and brightness as a flat panel TV, and being a reflective technology this means that peak brightness can only reach around 400 nits, but that is only a small part of the image story. Colour reproduction to the DCI-P3 standard within Rec.2020 (used to master 4K content including UHD Blu-ray) is very good for a projector not using a colour filter, and as such this allows for a brighter image without anything in the light path.
HDR content does look more dynamic than SDR material on the VW270ES with a nice pop and dynamic edge that is more defined and colourful. Fan noise is louder as you need to be in the full lamp mode, but we didn’t find this distracting during movie viewing. Blade Runner 2049 looks sharp, detailed and well defined with excellent brightness and accurate skin tones. Blacks are our only slight disappointment here, but we are being quite critical and testing the VW270ES against one of the best dynamic projectors available. Some highlights are clipped on the VW270ES the same way as the VW570ES treats the image during its tone mapping, but it does retain detail in the rest of the image, creating a nice three-dimensional image that pops from the screen with excellent depth.
- Native 4K panel
- Cheapest Native 4K projector so far
- Excellent colour accuracy in SDR
- Very good colour accuracy with HDR
- Good video processing
- Image sharpness is good
- Decent panel uniformity and convergence
- Very good build quality
- Inaccurate out of the box
- Black levels are not as good as competing models at the price point or the VW570ES
- No manual iris control
- No Dynamic Iris
- No Lens Memory functions
- No motorised lens cover
- Needs to be in high lamp mode for HDR viewing which creates more noise
Sony VPL-VW270ES ReviewOverall, the VW270ES is an entry-level projector, even at its rather expensive price point, as native 4K still costs a lot to manufacture. Sony have done their best to try and get the entry point under the £5K ceiling this year and the cuts made for the most part don’t negatively impact on the image quality, bar one area, the black levels. Some consumers will find this disappointing, especially if you demo it side-by-side with the more expensive VW570ES. Plus, the e-shift JVC X7900 blows it away for black levels and dynamic range for less, but without the native 4K chips. So the choice at the price point is a difficult one.
There is no doubt that the Sony remains well built and screwed together properly. The design hasn’t changed in a long time and the lens and components are high quality and perform well. It misses out on some features like the dynamic and manual iris controls and lens memory functionality, but retains the motorised lens shift, zoom and focus. Corners had to be cut to get it to the desired price point. Black levels are good, but they are not as deep and inky black as the VW570ES and the JVC. This said the brightness on offer is excellent with superb calibrated images for SDR and HDR. Colour accuracy once calibrated is amongst the best out there in projector land and this is one area the Sony gets a leg up on the JVC. Skin tones and primaries have a more natural look that never feels forced or pushed. There is also a lack of noise in the image that is pleasing and allows actual film grain and fine detail to stand out more. Image sharpness is excellent with no signs of obvious issues in uniformity of sharpness across the image, and the same is true of brightness and colour.
HDR performance is also very good with tone mapping that tries to retain image detail in the lower reaches of the brightness scale, while only clipping the highest and least noticeable areas of the highlights, giving us a consistent looking HDR image. It will never compete with a flat panel in terms of peak brightness and specular highlights, but the Sony VW270ES provides a balanced and accurate image that is certainly more dynamic than normal SDR thanks to good PQ EOTF tracking and very good wide colour gamut accuracy.
The entry point to native 4K projection is still high and the VW270ES has to cut corners to come in at the level it does in terms of performance and price point. Those used to JVC e-shift black levels and dynamic range will likely be disappointed by the black levels on offer, which are just not quite at the same level, but the rest of the image stands up incredibly well, with some of the best colour reproduction we have seen following calibration on a projector. It also misses out on some other features seen on the more expensive VW570ES, but if you must have a native 4K projector and your budget is set around the £5000 price point, then we can recommend you get a demonstration of the VPL-VW270ES as it is, at this time, the most cost-effective way into good quality native 4K projection.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £4,999.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels8
2D Picture Quality8
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box7
Picture Quality Calibrated9
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money6
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