Sony VPL-VW760ES 4K Laser Projector Review
Natively the best projected HDR, yet?
What is the Sony VW760ES?This is Sony’s latest native 4K SXRD home cinema projector, which features a laser light source instead of the traditional bulb. This means that it benefits from instant on/off without the usual warm up and cool down period of normal bulb machines, as well as a consistent light output over the 20,000 hours claimed life of the laser source. A side effect of this stability is that the projector will hold on to calibrated settings for longer than a bulb which changes its light output and wavelength as it ages, so the VW760ES will need fewer calibration checks and updates during its lifetime. Like previous Sony models the native 4K SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display) chips are ported from the professional division, so have a full 4K resolution of 4096 x 2160 but it handles Ultra HD signals (3840 x 2160) with ease and you can zoom to fill the full frame within the menus.
The VW760ES also handles HDR10 (High Dynamic Range) and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) content with claimed DCI-P3 wide colour gamut coverage thanks to the TRILUMINOS technology on-board. Both HDMI inputs are also full fat 18Gbps to accept the very best signals available at this moment in time. Sony’s now familiar 4K Motionflow and super resolution Reality Creation tech also makes an appearance here with fully motorised lens memory functionality for those using scope screens. The projector is also ready for full system control so it can be easily incorporated into a full custom installation. Placement shouldn’t be an issue either with a quiet operating noise, even in higher laser modes, to suit use in dedicated cinema rooms for critical movie viewing. This model is also known as the VPL-VW885ES in the United States and other countries.
So the main questions most readers will want answered relate to value for money and performance results, and if this projector is a giant step up from the bulb-based Sony and JVC models already popular with our readers. Lets answer those questions…
Design, Connections and ControlThere is no doubt that the VLP-VW760ES has an understated look and design which means it should melt away into the background or ceiling and not draw too much attention to itself. Gone are the days of the fancy curved designs and blue speckled gloss finishes seen on high-end machines of the past. These days, even at £15,000, the build quality is solid but the design is functional and cost effective. Functionality is the name of the game here as the laser source does create a lot of heat, which means that much of the projector chassis is used to get airflow into and away from the projector in the most effective manner possible. With the lower tier models this has all been done at the front of the body allowing easy hush box or tight rear wall placement. That is not possible with the VW760 as the air flows from front to back through the unit with the exhaust to the rear, so you will not be able to easily mount the projector up against a rear wall or in a hush box – well not without some help with extracting the heat from the chassis. To the front of the projector is a centrally placed high-quality glass lens. This is mounted in such a way that air can enter the chassis between the body of the box and the lens unit. Sony don’t state exactly how the lens is constructed or how many elements it has, but you can be assured that this is high quality glass and a real step up on the VW360ES and JVC X7900 models which are in the £10K and under price bracket; so you can see where some of the £15K asking price is going.
To either side of the lens are further vents to pull in air and you can also see some of the internal components such as the gap between the vents and lens mounting. The top of the body retains the now familiar Sony curve with a 4K SXRD logo to the rear, and a large Sony logo to the front side. Around the back are the air exhaust vents and to the right side of the chassis (looking from the front) is a set of control buttons. We have a power button, input select, menu, directional joystick and a lens button. These will give you complete control over the projector and the menu system should you lose the remote control. The connections are placed on the left side of the body under and within a recessed area. The power socket is on the rear right side and in a recess.
The VPL-VW760ES is well built and solid with a good use of hard plastics and easy to access connections and controls. It is also minimalist in its appearance with a curved top and not a lot else that you could call design orientated. It measures 560 x 223 x 496 mm (W x H x D) in size and weighs in at around 20KG, most likely thanks to that quality glass in the front.
The connections placed at the left side of the chassis consist of just two video inputs with the rest all helping to control the projector in a home theater system. Both HDMI 2.0 inputs are full fat 18Gbps capable and handle 4:4:4 4K/60P video with HDR10 and HLG signals and of course HDCP 2.2 copy protection. We understand that the VW760ES could support Dolby Vision signals, but as yet there has been no confirmation that is possible or will in fact be made available at anytime in the future, so don’t buy the Sony expecting a future firmware upgrade. Other connections include a LAN port, two 12v triggers, IR in, RS232C and a USB slot (for service use). It’s clear that the VW760ES is designed for the professional installation business for high-end home cinema’s and it has all the control options covered for that use.
The remote control supplied with the VW760ES is the same projector remote which comes with the VW260ES and VW360ES products and that might, at first, seem rather mean for such an expensive projector. However when you factor in that this is a projector that will likely be used with a Crestron or similar control system it makes more sense that it doesn’t come with a remote machined out of a block of aluminium and studded with diamonds. The remote is logically laid out with groups of three or nine keys together with a central directional pad with a direct menu button. The top three are power, light and input, we then have nine picture modes to choose from, then zoom, focus and shift. You then have the central directional controls and under these are nine direct picture attribute controls and to the bottom are sharpness, brightness and contrast rockers. Overall the remote sits neatly in the hand and has a good solid build quality.
It's got a frickin' laser!
VW760ES Specs and FeaturesThe Sony VPL-VW760ES is a 4K projector with a native resolution of 4096 x 2160 and uses SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display) technology. Instead of the traditional UHP lamp it also uses a Z-Phosphor laser light source which the company claims will last 20,000 hours without losing much in the way of brightness, which they also claim is 2000 Lumens. Another advantage of the Laser source is higher quality colours, increased black levels and shadow details along with instant on/off capabilities. This means that warm up and warm down procedures with lamp based projectors are now a thing of the past. As the projector uses three SXRD panels, these do need to be aligned properly and on our review sample there was some blue edges to text and other fine lines when up close to the screen. However at normal viewing distances it wasn’t an issue at all and we found no need to use the pixel adjustment features built-in.
As a native 4K projector Ultra HD resolution material (3840 x 2160) is shown with a slight black border to the top and bottom of the image, but there is a zoom function so you can scale up to the native resolution of the panel. As native resolution material is few and far between we would just zoom up using the lens so the native image fits the screen. It is always better to use the least amount of image processing or scaling as possible. The lens is extremely high quality and images are sharp and detailed without any edges looking soft or any instances of aberration. Sharpness is uniform across the screen and we would expect this given the quality of the glass used. In terms of white field uniformity across the panels, it is also excellent with no colour shift or dark edges visible. With fully motorised lens shift, focus and zoom the VW760 also has lens memories for use with a scope ratio screen where the projector will automatically change from 16:9 material in the centre of the scope screen, to zoom out for 2.40:1 material by shifting the black bars off the screen. There are masks to help with this even further, so Christopher Nolan films with IMAX switching can be viewed at the theatrically correct 2.40:1 ratio on the projector, utilising the full screen image area. We did find that the Sony lens memory interface is harder to use than the similar feature on our reference JVC X7000. On the JVC, once set up, you only need to push one of the memory buttons on the remote to change between ratios without any menu text appearing on screen. However the Sony implementation is more awkward with you needing to enter the menu screens and make three button pushes for it to start the change. Once going it is very cumbersome moving the lens shift, zooming and then getting the correct focus, doing so in small judders and with menu text on the screen. So while we welcome this functionality Sony could so some work to make it more graceful and intuitive to use.
As this is a Sony model we can also expect the now common features, which the company has on almost all their display products. We get the full super resolution Reality Creation tool which is a sophisticated algorithm that uses data gained over many years of analysing video images to apply adaptive sharpening to up the crispness of the image by enhancing the edges of items. Sony claims this adds crispness without adding digital noise, but we have found that turned up too high it also adds ringing and masks genuine image detail. Like Motionflow it will be down to personal preference as to how you use these features. We do like the True Cinema setting in Motionflow, which does improve perceived motion handling but retains the 24 fps look without adding in any soap opera effect (SOE). There are other options including full-on frame interpolation in the smooth mode that does add in SOE and Impulse can also provide interesting results without any obvious artefacts or SOE seen in material. There is also an option to turn Motionflow off. As for colour reproduction this is also a Sony TRILUMINOS display that promises better colour reproduction thanks to the Laser light source and it’s better wavelength and brightness capabilities over a UHP lamp. The VW760ES boasts DCI-P3 wide colour gamut coverage without the use of a filter in the light path and it should produce excellent colour volume. The VW760ES is also fully compliant with HDR10 and HLG High Dynamic Range standards with Sony claiming that the projector will produce detailed and realistic high contrast images that take full effect of the mastered material and produce images that are faithful to the director's intent. We will obviously be testing all of that in this review.
The VPL-VW760ES is also a 3D capable display using RF active shutter technology but sadly Sony did not supply any compatible glasses and the RF specs we did have, no longer hold a charge or work, so for this review we haven’t been able to test the 3D performance. The projector also boasts how quiet it is in the marketing material, which claims to be just 24dB of fan noise. We found that whilst the VW760 is quiet with SDR material the tone and frequency of the fans does change depending on the brightness of the image being projected. In most instances this is not overly distracting and not really audible with sound playing, but with some HDR scenes we did notice the pitch of the noise changing from time to time. Much of this will depend on where you install the projector and how far away it is from the listening position. But in the majority of the time we spent with the Sony in SDR we didn’t really notice the fan noise at all, it only became more obvious with HDR content and we sit fairly close to the projectors in our testing room. This is something to keep in mind when installing the unit.
We found the menu system and user interface of the VW760ES to be extremely intuitive and easy to follow. There are plenty of options available for image tweaking, motion, colour, gamma and so on, with excellent calibration controls to hand and plenty of picture presets, including one User option. Apart from the lens memory functionality we mentioned earlier, everything else is within easy reach in the menu system with many options set (or calibrate) once and forget about them. The most used option will be to switch between SDR and HDR calibrated presets and if you have a scope screen you’ll be in and out a few times to change the memory settings.
The quality of the lens glass makes sure images are pin sharp across the whole screen
Out-of-the-Box SettingsAs always we used our Klein K10-A meter, Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator and CalMAN Ultimate to measure the out of the box presents to find the one most accurate to the industry standards for SDR material, namely D65 white balance and Rec.709 colour gamut coverage. We used the USER picture preset for SDR set up and set the contrast and brightness controls for our viewing room and screen. We switch off all the unnecessary settings like Motionflow, laser dynamic, clear white and so on, and set gamma at 2.4 and colour temperature to custom 2 (same as D65). Laser output was left at 80%, which was the default position, and we selected the Rec.709 colour setting.
As we can see in the greyscale graph (top left) the out of the box tracking is really quite good with red dipping 5% below and blue slightly high as progress up the brightness. DeltaE errors are under 3 for every point bar white, which also means that there is no visible colour tint to images as it stands out of the box. Even full white still remains clean. Gamma is OK but there is a dip from 10ire to 30ire, which means that blacks and shadows are lighter than they would be if gamma was tracking correctly. There is no gamma editor on board the VW760ES so we will not be able to do much with this out of the box. However as it stands Sony have done a very good job with the factory set up getting close to the standards in the graphs and with no visible tint to the eye.
Because white is off slightly at the top end, the colour gamut (top right) saturation points are pulled slightly towards cyan, which just shifts things slightly off from where they should be tracking, but again we doubt any viewers would actually notice these slight errors without a reference monitor to compare, and even then it would be hard. However we should be able to get the chart looking prettier and colours more accurate with some correction to the greyscale and slight tweaks in the Colour Management System (CMS) of the Sony.
Out of the box performance is impressive with DeltaE errors under 3
Calibrated SettingsThe VPL-VW760ES has a good selection of calibration controls which include a two point white balance and full 3D CMS system to enable us to get the projector as accurate as possible to the industry standards for SDR image quality.
As you can see (top left) the greyscale is now tracking even better in the graph and 100% white is also now under DeltaE 3 which is good. The graph may still not look very pretty with straight tracking lines, but we think this is an important point to make. You could have the nicest looking graphs in the world and the image to the eye might not be correct at all. Both need to be taken in to account and out of the box the Sony was hitting a level of performance where we couldn’t see any colour tint or errors in the image at all. Our calibration just makes things a little tidier on the graphs and makes things even more accurate, but whether that is visible to the naked eye is another point entirely. Sadly gamma is still not quite tracking as well as we would like in the lower (darker) area where blacks are slightly lighter than the standard we are aiming for with SDR material.
In terms of the colour gamut (top right) everything is now tracking as it should in respects of colour saturation from 75% and below. There are a few errors in the graph at 100% saturation, but these are yet again not visible and not an issue with the vast majority of viewing material. Luminance of the colours is also spot on but not shown in these graphs. So overall we are really happy with the calibrated settings for SDR viewing on the VW760ES.
Calibrated SDR picture settings are very accurate
HDR ResultsBefore we go through the HDR results we should point out that with projectors there are no standards for how HDR material is shown and each manufacturer will have their own ideas of how to tone map content to look it’s best in their projector. It is also worth pointing out that HDR on a projector is nothing like HDR in an LED LCD or OLED TV with their ability to show specular highlights off at very high nit levels. With a projector it is one projected image and not an emissive or backlight technology where brightness can be focussed to achieve this. However that doesn’t mean that HDR on a projector is impossible to achieve, it is just a different look and feel to the final image quality and the brightness of specular highlights and mixed contrast scenes.
The VW760ES was able to track the PQ EOTF curve (top left) very well and the tone mapping allowed a good degree of brightness with just the brightest highlights being clipped. Shadow detail retrieval was exceptionally good as were the black levels thanks to accurate EOTF tracking. There is a good degree of roll off with brightness as the Sony can only manage 283nits on a 10% window pattern in HDR mode. This gives the VW760ES an on/off result of 11,751:1 in HDR mode compared to 4,371:1 in the calibrated SDR mode.
Colour gamut tracking is also important and the VW760ES doesn’t use a filter in the light path like the JVC does. When looking at the Rec.2020 gamut it only covers or tracks up to 68%, but that number really doesn’t mean much with the actual HDR content we have today, which is all mastered within the DCI-P3 colour gamut. So with that in mind the important fact here is how well the Sony tracks to DCI-P3 within Rec.2020 and in that respect the tracking (top right) is very good indeed. With the exception of slight hue errors in magenta and green not quite making it at 100% the rest of the results (including luminance now shown) is very good indeed and this is done without the help of a filter. Brightness remains very good throughout in HDR mode and colours have excellent volume and fidelity thanks in part to the laser light source. HDR is genuinely impressive on the Sony.
Sony VPL-VW760ES PerformanceThere are two ways we can compare the Sony to other projectors on the market. Below the VPL-VW760ES price point you have the Sony VW360ES and VW260ES along with the JVC X7900 and the Epson 10500, all of which are under the £10K price ceiling. You then have the higher level JVC Z1 laser projector that is more similar to the VW760ES being a semi-professional model designed for high-end home cinema installations and larger screens. So in terms of assessment we have kept both segments of the market in mind and also had a JVC X7000 for side-by-side comparison when required. We covered a few different use cases from Netflix streamed 4K HDR and HD material, to HD and 4K HDR Blu-ray.
Starting with SDR content we looked at Back To The Future in HD streamed from Netflix on a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Player. Even in out of the box settings the Sony offers superb Rec.709 colour tracking and images look accurate and natural throughout. Blacks are also rich and shadow detail is excellent which brings out plenty of depth to the image. However sharpness is probably the greatest trait of the VW760ES with the excellent glass lens making sure images are crisp. Skin tones look fantastic as well and colours have such a natural hue to them that makes the Sony stand out from the JVC we tested it with, which seemed too saturated in comparison. Scaling within the Sony was also first rate with no issues seen on screen at all. Moving to Blu-ray and Star Wars: The Force Awakens is yet another excellent presentation of HD material on the 4K Sony. All the strengths we would expect are here with just the ultimate inky black awards still going to the JVC X7000, but at the cost of just above black detail, which the Sony manages to pull off in spades. The eagle eyes out there will note the gamma results above and that it looked brighter in the darker area of the image, but even taking that in to consideration and upping the gamma, the Sony still has that knack of just extracting more above black detail, where the JVC does slightly crush in comparison. There is a superb balance to the Sony’s image reproduction that is highly satisfying and a good step up on the lower bulb based Sony native models. This is even more noticeable with the projector's HDR10 performance with 4K content.
Again we started with some streamed 4K HDR content from Netflix and the excellent Annihilation, which is an exclusive on the streaming service in the UK. The mix of odd colour palettes and diffracted light makes for some stunning HDR images that look sharp and have superb dynamic range. Again the above black performance of the Sony is exceptionally good thanks to decent tracking of the EOTF and there are no noticeable instances of highlight clipping or blown highlights. There is a real cinematic charm about the images the VW760ES throws on to the screen and which make it such a pleasant viewing experience. Yes, the JVC X7000 has better numbers in the cold harsh world of facts and figures and side by side it still has the better and deeper black levels and strong highlights, which at three times less the money is impressive, but the Sony has by far the better balanced and more nuanced image in comparison. Colours look more natural and less pushed than they do with the JVC. The Sony is brighter as it doesn’t have the colour filter in the light path and the hues and tones of colour have a nicer overall feel and brightness that isn’t clipped. While the JVC has deeper blacks and on first viewing feels superior, the Sony isn’t that far away in absolute viewing terms and as already mentioned, it handles the above black details in a way the JVC appears to clip in comparison. This is quite evident in my new favourite test sequence from Blade Runner 2049.
MORE: What is Wide Colour Gamut (WCG)?
On the 4K Blu-ray we select the interrogation scene that takes place in Niander Wallace’s (Jared Leno) half lit water surrounded platform. This scene has lights hitting the water and as the water moves as do shadows, sometimes deliberately obscuring the faces of Deckard and Wallace in a beautifully realised piece of cinematography by (Oscar winner) Roger Deakins. The yellowy orange light is also superbly nuanced and looks lush from the Sony with no signs of posterisation that could quite easy be an issue with this film. The contrasting shadows work in a way to deliberately hide some of the emotions being displayed by the superb Harrison Ford in probably his best acting role in decades. His face does almost go completely black and in to silhouette now and again, deliberately, and the VW760ES is able to handle this with superb accuracy and finesse. Just as the light starts to hit the outline of the face again, we start to see muscle tone and lines start to create, a recognisable face again, but is it human? The Sony excels in displaying this just above black and shadow detail to help with the intended look of a scene like this. Deakins is well known for some stunning scenes that take place in complete darkness or shadow, such as the hand to hand fight against neon lights in Singapore. As Bond struggles to dispatch Patrice the sniper in the office block in Skyfall, the use of darkness against neon and the silhouettes it creates of the action are a scene I really want to see in HDR. Jumping back to ‘new’ Vegas is also a good test of just how well the Sony handles colour and no sign of any colour gradation stepping or posterisation with such a full scene of the same colour and slight hue shifts within the lighting. Again the Sony produces a lovely cinematic image that has incredible sharpness and detail, yet oozes that projected image texture we love so much.
Overall we made good use of the Sony while it was here for review and watched a number of well known 4K HDR discs with the VW760ES able to handle them all with aplomb. Films ranged from Dunkirk, Mad Max: Fury Road to our old favourite (now in 4K HDR) King Kong. We also watched the entire series of Westworld on 4K HDR disc and again the Sony excelled with the complicated dynamics of how that show was shot and graded. Again a projector will never manage to get anywhere close to the HDR image produced by an OLED or LCD TV, but it is capable of producing a balanced and dynamic image that can look extremely detailed, bright and colourful, with the occasional instance of specular highlighting here and there. We really enjoyed our time with the VW760ES, but does that mean we will be rushing out to buy one?
The Sony VW760ES is simply the best HDR projector we have seen
- Excellent SDR image quality
- Excellent HDR image performance
- Very good black levels and superb shadow detail retrieval
- Good tone mapping with HDR material
- 18Gbps HDMI 2.0 inputs
- Stable light source with instant on/off capabilities
- Good out of the box and superb calibrated performance
- Lens memory functionality
- Fully motorised lens assembly and focus
- Impressive colour fidelity and lens sharpness
- Can be noisy in higher light mode
- Fan pitch frequency can be annoying if sat close
- Gamma editor needs to be built-in for SDR set up
- Still expensive for the technology
Sony VPL-VW760ES 4K Laser Projector ReviewThe Sony VPL-VW760ES is an impressive achievement from the company boasting the only native 4K projector to be driven by a laser source under £15,000. It more than halves the previous price point for such a machine, like the JVC DLA-Z1, and gives custom installers a genuinely impressive display to offer within their home cinema designs. And let’s be clear that this is the market channel within which the Sony VW760 is intended to be sold. There may be a few well-heeled AVForums members who do take the leap with this projector, but the vast majority of sales will be within large residential and professional projects. This makes complete sense given the nature of the pricing and quality on offer. Yes, there are instances where the under £10K projectors do perform slightly better, such as the JVC black levels and dynamic range. But make no mistake that the lens glass, native 4K chips and laser source justify the extra costs of the Sony and that with HDR this is the best projector we have seen, so far.
The performance highlights are the colour purity, calibrated performance and the balanced HDR images the VW760ES manages to produce. Blacks are deep, but it is how the projector comes out of black that impresses us the most along with stunningly sharp images that still manage to look cinematic and accurate. We couldn’t get enough of the Sony’s image quality capabilities and we were genuinely sorry to see it leave after a short testing period. We are asking Sony nicely if they will send it back to us later in the year for more comparison testing against its peers, we’ll see what happens. But whatever does transpire, we were left in no doubt that the VW760ES is a class performer and in it’s correct market position, it will be a massive and popular seller.
So is it projection perfection? Nope. We will never see such an item, be it a TV or projector as we are talking about consumer level displays, even at the price tag of the Sony. It is not without niggles and one of the main for us during our extensive testing was the fan noise, especially with those sublime HDR images. Laser takes a lot of cooling and even in calibrated picture modes as the brightness on screen changes, so does the pitch and speed of the fans which can become noticeable at times. Even when watching loud passages of action within films, you can still make out the noise now and again, which could be distracting. Obviously if you can hush box the unit or get it a good distance from the viewing position it won’t be an issue, but if you sit close, as we do in our testing room, it might be a problem. We would also like to see Sony add in an effective gamma editor for SDR calibration so we can get gamma tracking without the familiar Sony lightness droop in the lower (darker) parts of the image. But after those points we are struggling to really find any major issues why we wouldn’t want to own one, well price is obviously the biggest elephant in this room. But overall we were suitably impressed with the Sony VPL-VW760ES and can’t wait to see how Sony develop the technology to get it down into the main consumer level of the market. If you have deep pockets, it comes highly recommended!
What are my alternatives?
Normally at this point we would pick out two or three similar products to look at as well as this Sony, but in all honesty to get something that has the same technology and quality materials like the lens glass, it really sits within it’s own market segment as things stand. Yes, you can get blacker blacks with the cheaper JVC models, but at the cost of some above black detail and slightly hot colours in comparison thanks to the filter on the X7000/7900, plus the lens is good, but not this good. Plus the cheaper Sony’s do offer native panels and a similar list of technologies, but like the JVC models they are lamp based and the lens quality can’t compete, so you can get similar for less, but not the same or absolutely better. And if you were well-heeled we would probably also steer you away from the JVC DLA-Z1 as it is more than double the price and doesn’t offer anything the Sony can’t do better. So the VPL-VW760ES/VW885ES has its own sector of the market to itself and it will be a very popular model indeed within that segment.
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Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14,999.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels9
2D Picture Quality9
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box8
Picture Quality Calibrated9
Ease Of Use9
Value For Money6
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