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Sony VPL-VW1000ES 4K 3D SXRD Projector Review

Sony launches a native 4K projector but is the market ready?

Home AV Review

174

Highly Recommended
Sony VPL-VW1000ES 4K 3D SXRD Projector Review
SRP: £17,000.00

Introduction

Sony have something of a history of being ahead of the curve when it comes to launching products that incorporate new technology. As an example, the Qualia 004 was a 1080p projector that was available long before we had any high definition content to watch on it. Now we have Sony's flagship 3D projector the VPL-VW1000ES, which is the world's first native 4K projector aimed exclusively at the consumer market.

There have been 4K projectors before but they cost more than most people's homes so it's hard to class them as a consumer product and despite what JVC's marketing department would have us believe, their new line of projectors do not have native 4K panels. We will cover in detail the specifications of the VW1000 later in this review but it's hard not to be impressed by the innovations involved, nor can you doubt the technological achievement of delivering a 4K projector at anything approaching a realistic price. That's not to say the VW1000 is cheap of course, as with any bleeding edge technology it comes with a bleeding hefty price tag of £17,000.

So before we go any further, let's address the elephant in the room. Even though the VW1000 can accept a native 4K signal there is no actual 4K content to watch on it. Yes you can download some 4K footage from YouTube and ironically JVC launched a 4K camcorder at CES but, primarily, the only 4K content you will be able to project with your new VW1000 are still photographs. Let's be honest, if you've just spent £17,000 on a 4K projector you don't want to look at your holiday snaps, you want to watch movies and that is not going to happen any time soon.

When the Qualia 004 was launched back in 2004 we all knew that HD-DVD and Blu-ray were coming and whilst we might not have relished the prospect of a format war, it did mean we would definitely have high definition content to watch on our shiny new toys. As things stand, there is no new 4K delivery system on the horizon, there are no 4K working groups and there aren't even any agreed consumer 4K standards. And that's just on the technology side, God knows what kind of copy protection the studios are going to demand. What all this means is that the current absence of a viable 4K delivery system renders the VW1000's 4K capability moot. Therefore the VW1000 will, for the time being, be using 1080p as its primary video source and thus it must be judged on the merits of its scaling and processing.

However, despite our concerns over the validity of launching a 4K projector at such an early stage in the format's development, we were still genuinely excited to get the VW1000 in for review. No one can deny the remarkable achievement of actually being able to deliver a consumer 4K projector and almost no other reviewers have had the privilege of spending a week living with the VW1000; so we appreciate Sony accommodating us. We would also like to thank Tak Nakane from Sony, who drove all the way to Bath with a PC in the boot of his car, so that we could actually watch some 4K material - which gives you an idea of how limited the content is. OK that's enough of a preamble, let's get down to business.

Design and Features

The design of the VW1000 combines contrasting materials with what Sony refer to as the “cool” and the “functional” in order to create a projector that is both attractive to look at and still practical. To achieve this, the design uses a combination of textures, juxtaposing a glossy piano black facia and rear grill with a rough finished matt black top and sides. The use of matt black is supposed to cancel out any light reflections, which does make you wonder why Sony made the front facia out of glossy black plastic, since this is the part facing the screen. However we didn’t experience any problems with reflections when actually using the VW1000, although the rough finish on the top and sides of the chassis did make dusting a bit tricky. At the top left of the front facia there are two lights, one of which indicates whether the projector is on or off and one which indicates if there is a problem with the lamp or the lens cover.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES

The lens itself dominates the front of the VW1000 and the reason the projector has such a large lens is to accommodate the native 4K panel because the higher the resolution, the bigger and better the glass needs to be. The lens has a throw ratio of between 1.27:1 and 2.73:1, coupled with a 2.1x motorised zoom and a motorised focus control. There are also motorised lens shift controls that provide 80% vertical and 31% horizontal lens shift, which will make installation relatively straight forward. The lens itself is protected by a motorised cover that opens when the projector is turned on but it can be opened manually if necessary.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES

The VW1000 uses a 330W Ultra High Pressure (UHP) lamp and the projector has a rated brightness of 2,000 lumens. There is a panel at the top rear of the chassis which provides access to the lamp, should it need to be replaced. Around the lens there is what appears to be a decorative grill but it actually contains ventilation holes for the cooling system. There are further air intake vents on the front underside of the projector and this air is used to cool the lamp before being expelled out of the large exhaust grill at the rear. Thanks to this configuration, the VW1000 is surprisingly quiet for such a bright projector and only measured 22dB when in Low lamp mode.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES

It isn't only the lens on the VW1000 that is large, in fact the whole projector has a pretty sizeable footprint, measuring 52 x 20 x 64 cm and weighing 20kg. The only projector we've seen that can compare to the VW1000 in terms of dimensions is Sim2's MICO 50 which is equally as large, so bear that in mind if you're considering a ceiling mount. There is a basic control panel on the front lefthand side of the chassis which provides an on/off switch, an input button, a menu button, directional keys with an enter button and a lens control. At the right rear of the chassis, there is a three pin AC IN socket for the detachable power cable and an optional cover to hide the power socket when ceiling mounted.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES

Since the rear of the VW1000 is dominated by the exhaust grill, the connections are located along the recessed area at the bottom lefthand side of the chassis. The range of connections are fairly standard for a projector aimed at the installation market and include two HDMI 1.4a inputs, a component video input using RCA connectors and a VGA input. There is a connector for an optional external 3D sync emitter, as well as an RS232 serial port for system control and two 12V triggers for use with a motorised screen or anamorphic lens. Finally there is LAN port for displaying the control window of the projector with a web browser.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES

The remote control provided with the VW1000 is the same basic design we have seen on the VW models for a while now, but with slightly revised button positions and a couple of new functions. The remote control is well built, comfortable to hold, has a backlight and is sensibly laid out. At the top there are buttons for directly accessing all the pre-calibrated picture modes and below these are the lens adjustment controls. In the middle there are the directional controls, the enter button, the menu button, the reset button and the position button which controls the lens memory feature. Below these are buttons that provide direct access to certain image controls such as 3D, aspect, colour temperature, colour space, gamma correction and the reality creation feature. At the bottom of the remote there are controls for sharpness brightness and contrast.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES

The VW1000 has a built-in infrared 3D emitter just to the left of the lens, although you can't see it, and it comes with two pairs of active shutter glasses (TDG-PJ1). We really liked the glasses included with the VW1000 and they are a major improvement on previous efforts from Sony. First of all they have large lenses which afford a wide field of view when wearing them - very handy when you're looking at a big screen. They also fit comfortably over regular glasses and the width of the frames and the sides make them very effective at blocking out any stray ambient light. The lenses themselves aren't overly tinted and we didn't experience any problems with loss of sync or flicker; they also seemed more tolerant to tilting your head. There is an on button and a small LED indicator on the top right of the frames and a micro-USB connector hidden under a cover on the righthand side of the glasses. The VW1000 comes with a small charger that you plug into the mains and connect to the glasses via the micro-USB connector to recharge them.

Menus and Setup

Setting up the VW1000 was relatively easy, once we'd worked out that the new 4K SXRD panel has a ratio of 17:9 rather than the usual 16:9 and Sony have rather thoughtfully included a test screen that shows all the different screen ratios to help you with setup. Using this test pattern, you just point the projector at the screen and then use the focus, zoom and shift controls to adjust the lens until the image fills your particular screen. There are adjustable feet at the front for levelling the projector on a stand and there are screw threads for using a standard ceiling mount, just don't forget to invert the image. As with the VW95ES, the VW1000 includes Sony's new lens memory feature, which they refer to as Picture Position. This is a very useful feature for owners of 2.35:1 screens, as it allows you to change between different aspect ratios without using an expensive anamorphic lens. You can save up to five different combinations of lens setting and the VW1000 will smoothly move from one ratio to another when it is selected.

As with the JVC DLA-X70 and X90, there is a feature that allows you to adjust the Panel Alignment of red and blue with respect to green on a screen wide basis or on a zone by zone basis, with a total of 153 cross points. The level of flexibility offered by this feature is impressive and the granularity of the controls was incredibly fine. In actual fact the panels on our review sample were perfectly aligned but that might not always be the case, so it is good to know that you have the option to correct any misalignment. Thankfully, one control you won't find on the VW1000 is a keystone adjustment, so for once we don't have to warn readers not to use it.

The menu system on the VW1000 is concise, clearly laid out and easy to navigate; if rather monochromatic in appearance. There are six menu screens - Picture, Screen, Setup, Function, Installation and Information. The Picture menu provides a number of calibrated presets that can also be accessed directly from the remote control. These presets include Cinema Film 1 and 2, Digital Cinema, Reference, TV, Photo, Game, Bright Cinema and Bright TV. At least some of them involve the use of an additional filter which you can hear moving in and out of place as you change preset. You can select different presets per an input and per a signal type, which offers a high degree of flexibility and allows you to fine tune the settings depending on what you are watching (576i, 1080p/24, 4K etc.). The Picture menu also includes all the usual image controls such as Contrast, Brightness, Colour and Hue and again, Contrast and Brightness can be accessed directly from the remote control.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES
Sony VPL-VW1000ES

Also in the Picture menu there is the control for the Reality Creation feature (more on this later), as well as the Cinema Black Pro. This is Sony's name for their dynamic iris feature and there is a choice of Auto Full, Auto Limited, Manual and Off. If you selected Manual, which we did, you can then adjust how open the iris is to suit your environment and the age of the lamp. Since we were testing in a completely dark home cinema and the lamp was new, we used the minimum setting. Also in this sub-menu is the Lamp Control where you can select High or Low and once again we chose Low, which is less bright, quieter and uses less energy. The projector will automatically go into High Lamp mode when projecting a 3D image. Next there is the Motionflow sub-menu, where you can set the Motion Enhancer frame interpolation feature, which we obviously turned off. However we left the Film Projection mode on, which inserts a black frame rather than any interpolation and thus doesn't result in any unnatural smoothness. There is also 24P True Cinema, which is optimised for correctly displaying film motion with 24p content. Then there was the Sharpness control which can also be accessed directly from the remote control and which we left at the default setting of 10 because any higher added unwanted ringing and any lower resulted in a softening of the image.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES
Sony VPL-VW1000ES

Within the Picture menu, there are two further controls, one for the Colour Temperature and one for the Expert settings. The Colour Temperature control is an improvement on previous Sony projectors because it lists the correct colour temperature standards, including D65 which is the industry standard for the majority of consumer content. There are six Custom colour temperature settings which allow access to a two point white balance control for calibration. The Custom 3 setting uses D65 as its starting point, so it can also be used in lieu of the actual D65 setting if you wish. The white balance control allows the user to adjust the amounts of red, green and blue at two specific points in order to calibrate the greyscale exactly at D65.

The Expert sub-menu provides additional controls for correctly setting up the VW1000 as well as a number of less useful features. There were controls for Noise Reduction, MPEG Noise Reduction, Smooth Gradation, Black Level Adjustment, Colour Correction, Clear White and x.v.Colour - all of which we left off. There was a control for selecting the Film Mode, there is a choice of Auto 1, Auto 2 or Off.

We found that Auto 2 produced the best results in the video processing tests. There is also a control for selecting the Gamma Correction which unlike previous Sony projectors, gives options from 1.8 to 2.6, as well as four other curves and an off setting. For a projector in a completely black room, we would recommend a gamma of 2.4. There is a CD-ROM included with the VW1000 which contains a piece of software called ImageDirector3 which allows you to fine tune the gamma with a PC if necessary. Finally there is a control for selecting the Colour Space with six choices including DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) and BT.709 which is the industry standard for most consumer content. Surprisingly for a projector at this price point, there is no Colour Management System (CMS) on the VW1000.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES
Sony VPL-VW1000ES

The next menu is Screen where you will find the controls for the previously mentioned Picture Position, which can also be accessed directly from the remote control. There is also a control for the Aspect Ratio, with options such as 1.85:1, 2.35:1 and various stretched modes for use with an anamorphic lens. There is a control to turn Overscan on or off - always leave it off - and a control for Adjusting the Signal.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES
Sony VPL-VW1000ES

The next menu is Setup which includes settings for Status (on-screen display), Language, Menu Position, Cooling Setting (depending on altitude), Standby Mode (Standard or Low power consumption), Power Saving (goes into standby mode if no signal is received for 10 minutes) and Lamp Setting (for when you replace the lamp).

Sony VPL-VW1000ES
Sony VPL-VW1000ES

The Function menu includes the 3D Settings which include selecting whether to project in 2D or 3D, which 3D format (Side-by-Side, Over-Under or Simulated 3D), 3D Brightness, 3D Depth Adjust and Simulated 3D Effect. Other controls include the HDMI Setting, HDMI Dynamic Range, Auto Input Search, Test Pattern and Background.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES
Sony VPL-VW1000ES

The next menu is Installation which includes settings for Image Flip (for rear projection or a ceiling mount), Lens Control, Anamorphic Lens (a choice of 1.24x or 1.32x), Trigger Select (switches the output function of the two 12V triggers), IR Receiver (selects the remote control receivers on the front and rear of the projector), Blanking (allows the user to adjusted the displayed region in four directions) and Network Setting (for use when accessing the projector from a computer or using the ImageDirector3 software). The final control within Installation is the previously mentioned Panel Alignment feature. The final menu is Information which shows the Model Name, Serial No., fH (Horizontal Frequency), fV (Vertical Frequency), Memory No., Signal Type and Lamp Timer.

4K Technology

Before we discuss the actual picture quality of the VW1000, let’s take a look at the technology inside it. Obviously the VW1000’s major innovation is the use of Sony’s new 4K SXRD panel which has evolved out of their experience in making professional 4K projectors for cinemas. This new panel has a native resolution of 4096 horizontal pixels by 2160 vertical pixels, resulting in an image composed of over 8.8 million pixels. By comparison, a high definition panel has a native resolution of 1920 horizontal pixels by 1080 vertical pixels, resulting in an image composed of 2.1 million pixels. So the new 4K SXRD panel has a native resolution that is over four times higher than high definition.

The resolution of Sony’s 4K SXRD panel matches that of the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) specifications used in cinemas, as opposed to the QuadHD resolution used by some other manufacturers such as Toshiba. Quad HD is, as the name suggests, exactly four times the resolution of high definition and uses a 16:9 (1.78:1) panel with a native resolution of 3840 horizontal pixels by 2160 vertical pixels. In contrast, Sony’s SXRD 4K panel follows the standard used in cinemas and has a ratio of 17:9 (1.88:1), which means that 1.78:1 content appears window boxed. Depending on the type of screen you have, there are options to zoom out 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 content to take advantage of the wider ratio of the 4K SXRD panel.

According to Sony, the new panel has a 12-bit digital driver which is one of the reason why they couldn’t include their RCP colour management system. The new panel also includes a new flattening process that is supposed to improve the black reproduction. In addition the new panel is claimed to have a better cooling performance and improved brightness uniformity. To take full advantage of the higher resolution panel Sony have completely redesigned the optical system in the VW1000. The ARC-F lens is designed to have a higher resolving capability by combining greater precision and quality to deliver a more detailed picture across the entire projected image. The optical system also uses ‘floating focus’ to reduce distortion at the corners and extra low dispersion glass to avoid colour deviation.

The use of a higher wattage UHP lamp and the new optical system means that in addition to using the same specification panel as DCI, the VW1000 can also reproduce the full 12-bit DCI colour space. The VW1000 can also display the DCI standards for colour temperature and gamma, so theoretically it can project the same DCI image as a commercial cinema. Whilst it is impressive that the VW1000 can deliver full 4K resolution using the 12-bit DCI colour space, the lack of any consumer content that actually uses these standards means this capability is somewhat redundant. The VW1000 can also accept just about any resolution you’d care to throw at it, from 480i to 4K - both the QuadHD standard (3840 x 2160/24p/25p/30p) and the DCI standard (4096 x 2160/24p).

So if you want to watch 4K content, where can you get it from? Well there is 4K content available on YouTube but to watch it you will need a suitably spec’d PC and one hell of a broadband connection. For their 4K demonstrations, Sony are using high powered PCs with nVideo Quadro 4000 graphics cards that can deliver 4096 x 2160/24p 4:2:2 over HDMI 1.4a. You could also create your own 4K content if you buy one of JVC’s new 4K camcorders. However, the easiest way to create 4K content is to take or download still photos at that resolution. To help consumers do this, Sony have recently released a firmware update for the PS3 PlayMemories feature called the 4K Edition. Anyone who buys the VW1000 is given a unique code to activate the feature on their PS3 and they can then use this feature to view 4K photos. Due to the limitations of the PS3‘s HDMI 1.3 output, the 4K photo is sent as 12 sections that are then reassembled by the projector. Alternatively you can also view 4K photos via HDD or BD on Sony’s new BDP-S709 Blu-ray player, which thanks to its HDMI 1.4a output can send the 4K photos as a single file.

As you have probably realised, 4K video content is fairly hard to come by so for the most part the VW1000 is going to be upscaling 1080p content. To address this issue, Sony have developed the Reality Creation image engine for upscaling standard definition content and high definition content in both 2D and 3D up to the VW1000’s native 4K resolution. The Reality Creation engine is a proprietary scaling and processing algorithm developed by Sony, that has been optimised for use with the VW1000. The algorithm is designed to not only scale but also to use pixel mapping and an image database to analyse the signal and improve the clarity of the upscaled image.

Out-of-the-Box Measurements

The VW1000 menu settings have had something of a upgrade in comparison to previous generations and whilst there still might be an excessively large amount of choice, at least Sony have given the correct names to some of them. So now under Colour Temperature we can see which setting is meant to approximate D65 and which Gamma is meant to represent a curve of 2.2. There were still an awful lot of Calibrated Presets on the VW1000 and most had rather generic names and slightly misleading explanations in the manual of what they actually did. However one of the presets was called Reference which according to the manual delivered 'the original image without any adjustment' - that'll be the one for us then.

In this preset the VW1000 was already set to a Colour Temperature of D65, a Colour Space of BT.709 and a Gamma of 2.2 which looked promising. Ordinarily we would choose a Gamma of 2.4 for our pitch black home cinema but after running some measurements we found that the 2.2 setting was actually measuring close to 2.4, so we left it at that setting. Things got even better as we realised that in the Reference preset the Noise Filtering was off, the Advanced Iris was off, the Motion Enhancer was off, the Smooth Gradation was off, the Black Level Adjustment was off and the Clear White was off. It would seem that the Reference preset actually does do what the manual claims it does and leaves the image largely unmolested. All that left us to do was adjust the Contrast and Brightness settings and just check that the Sharpness default setting of 10 was effectively zero in terms of doing nothing adverse to the picture, which it was.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES

Once we were happy that everything was set up correctly we measured the greyscale performance and generally the results were very good. The RGB Balance was largely tracking in a straight line but blue was under the target by about 5-10% across the whole range and red was over the target by about 5% between 60 and 100 IRE. This resulted in DeltaEs (errors) of between 5 and 7 between 60 and 100 IRE, which manifested as some slight discolouration on a stair step greyscale pattern. The Gamma Point was tracking our target of 2.4 reasonably closely and so was the Gamma Luminance. Overall this was a very good performance for an out-of-the-box setting and since the VW1000 includes a two point white balance control, we would expect to improve this performance still further.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES

The triangle on the CIE Chart represents the colour space Rec.709 which is the standard that all high definition content is mastered to. As a result, all the colours used in high definition broadcasts and on Blu-rays are within that triangle. The VW1000 can replicate the DCI colour space which is much wider than Rec.709 but since the content we currently watch is only mastered in Rec.709, using the wider colour space would result in over saturated colours. Looking at the results of our measurements, the colour performance of the VW1000 was actually very good, especially with the most crucial element of colour - luminance. Our eyes are most sensitive to errors in luminance, so it is important that this is accurate and as you can see most of the colours were spot on with the exception of blue which was lacking a bit in brightness. However since blue is the smallest part of the visible spectrum, it is easier for us to tolerate errors in this colour. There was some slight over saturation in the colours of red and green and as result, in the secondary colours of magenta and yellow and there are also some sizeable errors in the hue of green and especially red. However, in general the colour accuracy was very good with the overall errors all measuring less than five and most less than three. Calibrating the greyscale will improve the colour accuracy slightly but without a Colour Management System (CMS) we probably won't be able to get the colour performance as accurate as we would like.

Calibrated Measurements

For these tests we chose the Colour Temperature setting of Custom 3 which gave us access to the two point white balance control and according to the manual uses D65 as its starting point. Apart from that there wasn't much else we could do except hope that calibrating the greyscale improved the colour accuracy still further.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES

As you can see from the graph, the two point white balance control was very effective and we were able to calibrate the greyscale to a reference level of accuracy. Now all three colours were tracking the target of 100 and the DeltaEs were all less than one, resulting in no discolouration on a stair step greyscale pattern and a smooth transition from black to white. The Gamma Point was still tracking close to our target of 2.4 and the Gamma Luminance was also spot on, so there was no need to resort to the ImageDirector3 software which can be used to adjust the gamma if necessary.

Sony VPL-VW1000ES

By calibrating the greyscale accurately we did see an improvement in the colour accuracy, especially in the secondary colours, all of which had overall errors of less than two. There were also slight improvements in the primary colours, with the lack of brightness in blue being offset by some over saturation in the colour of blue and a slight reduction in the errors in the hue of red and green. As a result the overall errors of the primaries were all less than five and in the case of green, just less than three, which is considered the point at which these errors are imperceptible to the human eye. Certainly with real world content the colours looked excellent and you only really noticed slight errors when you compared the VW1000 to a completely calibrated image. However the generally good accuracy of the colours does not excuse Sony for failing to include a CMS on a projector at this price point. Sony's explanation is that their existing CMS or, as they call it, Real Colour Processing (RCP) doesn't work with the new digital image engine on the VW1000 and so they are currently developing a software based CMS similar to Sim2's Live Colour Calibration software. This might well be the case but for now the lack of a CMS on the VW1000 has to be considered a major failing on a flagship projector.

Video Processing

As we mentioned at the start of this review, in the absence of any 4K content the VW1000 will be judged primarily on the quality of its video processing and we're happy to report that it acquitted itself admirably in this regard. Ordinarily when we test a projector we're looking to see if it is capable of deinterlacing and scaling standard definition content effectively, whilst delivering 1080p content without resorting to any unnecessary processing. The VW1000 is currently unique in that it is scaling everything up to the native 4K resolution of its panel and so we are prepared to accept a certain degree of processing, as long as it is beneficial to the overall image and doesn't cause noticeable artefacts.

We started by putting a high resolution multiburst pattern up on the VW1000 to see if there were any obvious scaling artefacts and at a normal viewing distance the VW1000 passed with flying colours. The pattern looked exactly as it should and it was only when we got very close to the screen that we could see tiny scaling artefacts between the highest resolution lines. When we turned the Reality Creation function on, the test pattern appeared slightly more defined and whilst this is clearly due to some form of sharpening algorithm, the results were effective and didn't appear to introduce any further artefacts. When we turned it off the high resolution lines appeared slightly soft by comparison and this is probably the only example of where the sophisticated use of such techniques actually paid dividends.

After that we moved on to our more general tests and given the overall quality of the video processing in Sony's other products, it came as no surprise to discover that the VW1000’s performance in these tests was very impressive indeed. In fact whilst the lower resolution of standard definition was evident, we had to remind ourselves that the VW1000 was scaling it up to a resolution of 4K on our nine foot wide screen. The VW1000 tackles standard definition through a two-stage scaling process - first it deinterlaces and scales 480i/576i up to 1080p and then it scales 1080p up to 4K. Using the HQV benchmark test DVDs the projector was able to fully reproduce the SMPTE 133 tests for both PAL and NTSC, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. With the video deinterlacing tests the results were also excellent, the VW1000 reproduced the rotating line without producing any jaggies except very slightly at the most extreme angles. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance remained superb with all three moving lines being reproduced correctly and only very slight jaggies on the bottom line.

The projector also had no problems in resolving all the fine brickwork in the detail tests on both the PAL and NTSC discs. The VW1000's performance was equally impressive with the film detail test, correctly locking on to the image resulting in no aliasing in the speedway seats behind the race car. In the cadence tests the projector continued to perform flawlessly, correctly detecting the 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format as well as the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. The projector also had no problems displaying mixed film material with scrolling video text and was able to reproduce the text without any shredding or blurring, although we found Auto2 was the most effective setting for this.

The VW1000 also performed superbly in all the tests on the Spears & Munsil Blu-ray using high definition content. With the 1080i tests, the VW1000 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests and showed excellent scaling and filtering performance as well as good resolution enhancement. With 1080i material the projector had no difficulties in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems. The Spears & Munsil disc offers you a choice of the same race car footage as on the HQV DVDS, only this time at 1080i and 1080p/24, or a moving wedge shape composed of lines. The moving wedge shape is a torture test for any projector but the VW1000 handled it surprisingly well, although the were obvious scaling artefacts within the lines of the wedge shape. However on the less contrived race car footage, the VW1000 really impressed with no aliasing in the speedway seats. Once again, when we used the Reality Creation function, the seats became more defined without any obvious artefacts, suggesting that it is genuinely adding value.

The VW1000 handled all the other tests on the Spears & Munsil disc just as well, including showing all the peaks for the luma channels of the three primary colours and white, which was excellent. It also had no trouble showing detail all the way up to peak white, as well as only showing detail down to video level 17 which represents reference black. This means that the VW1000 was showing detail down to 17 but not below it which means it is correctly reproducing black whilst maintaining appropriate shadow detail.

2D - Picture Performance

Despite the paucity of 4K video content we were at least able to experience a 4K demo in our reference home cinema, thanks to the efforts of Tak Nakane from Sony. He drove up with one of their high powered 4K PCs in the boot of his car and we were able to watch various 4K clips on the VW1000. Obviously we have no real point of reference at the moment but needless to say these 4K clips looked absolutely spectacular, with a level of detail that needs to be seen to be believed. When we went right up to the screen, we still couldn't really see the pixel structure, even on our nine foot wide 2.35:1 screen. Aside from the breathtaking detail, the 4K images were also bright and precisely defined, with rich colours and solid blacks. There was some judder on movement in certain scenes but this was clearly a limitation of the PC rather than an issue with the projector itself. Whilst there might not be a viable 4K delivery system available at the moment, we felt privileged to see a glimpse of the future and the future looked damn good!

Sony VPL-VW1000ES

However, this review isn't about what you might one day see on the VW1000, it's about what you can see right now and that means upscaling 1080p content to 4K resolution. Here at least we do have a point of reference in the shape of JVC's DLA-X70. Whilst the X70 uses a 1080p panel and cannot accept a 4K input, JVC's e-shift device does mean that its projected image has a higher pixel count than that of high definition. This device takes the image from the 1080p panel and physically 'shifts' it half a pixel diagonally and then combines the two images through a processing algorithm.

This means that both projectors are taking a 1080p input and creating a new image composed of a higher number of pixels. In the case of the VW1000 it is by traditionally scaling the input up to the native 4K resolution of the panel and in the case of the JVC, through the use of the e-shift device. Whilst their respective approaches might be different, the result is that at a normal viewing distance, their perceived resolution should be comparable. We set both projectors in our reference home cinema and used their cross hair test patterns to match the two images perfectly. We calibrated the colour temperature on both projectors to D65 and in the case of the JVC we also calibrated the colour space to Rec.709 (remember there is no CMS on the VW1000). We then fed them the exact same signal using the dual HDMI outputs from an Oppo BDP-93 and identical HDMI cables. This allowed us to instantly flip back and forth between the two images using a piece of black card.

First we checked the upscaling performance of the VW1000 by watching familiar pieces of 1080p footage. In previous demonstrations of the VW1000 we had felt that the picture had a slightly 'digital' feel, that blacks were crushed, shadow detail was absent and the image lacked dynamic range. This was certainly not the case with the VW1000 that was now in our reference home cinema. The images we were seeing were very bright but not at the expense of black levels or shadow detail and there was an impressive dynamic range.

Sony has made advances in their native black levels recently and this was evident on the VW1000. The Reality Creation engine was doing a superb job of scaling and processing the 1080p signal, delivering well defined images that squeezed every last drop of detail out of the high definition Blu-rays we were watching. Despite our best efforts we couldn't see any scaling artefacts and nor did the images appear 'digital' in nature, retaining their grain and a lovely film-like quality. We also found the motion handling was far better than we expected, based on our previous experience of SXRD projectors. There was far less smearing on camera pans than we were used to and the motion handling had a far more DLP look to it. The colours also looked good, if a touch over saturated and overall we found ourselves really enjoying the images that the VW1000 produced. In fact the projector's brightness and resolution brought out the best in our nine foot wide 2.35:1 screen.

The fact that the VW1000 looked great was good news but frankly it should be impressive for £17,000. The question was, how did it compare to the JVC DLA-X70? Well obviously if you went right up to the screen you could clearly see that the VW1000 had a much higher resolution but at any normal viewing distance, there was no visible difference in resolution between the two projectors. Both were capable of delivering detailed and artefact free upscaled images when fed a 1080p signal. Motion handling has never been a strong point of the LCoS technology that Sony's SXRD and JVC's D-ILA use, but both projectors performed very well in this area.

There was none of the smearing we would expect to see and motion had a judder free and nicely film-like quality. In direct comparisons, the X70 clearly had better blacks but given its a JVC that should come as no surprise and thanks to the built-in CMS, the X70's colour space was obviously more accurate. However the VW1000's higher lumens meant its images were brighter and had slightly more punch to them. The VW1000 was also noticeably quieter, which considering how bright it could be was surprising. Aside from 4K, the two projectors also have a near identical set of features, including lens memory and detailed panel alignment. In overall terms of image performance there was very little to separate the two projectors and we would be happy to have either projector in our home cinema. There is however one major difference between the two projectors, the JVC DLA-X70 is £10,000 cheaper.

Video Review

3D - Picture Performance

Aside from a brief demo in Tokyo, that was marred by excessive frame interpolation, we had yet to really experience the full capabilities of the VW1000 in 3D. In the past, Sony's three dimensional track record has been a bit hit and miss, with their first 3D projector - the VW90ES - scoring a big miss. Since then Sony have upped their game, with the HW30ES and most recently the VW95ES, both delivering a much improved 3D performance. In fact in a direct comparison with the DLA-X70, the VLP-VW95ES offered a 3D performance that was the equal of the similarly priced JVC. So nothing could have prepared us for what the VW1000 had to offer in terms of 3D performance - it was, quite simply, staggering.

With the exception of Sim2's £30,000 C3X Lumis 3D projector, this is hands down the best 3D we have seen to date. Thanks in part to its 2,000 lumens lamp, the VW1000 was able to deliver wonderfully bright 3D images that really gave the added dimensionality impact.

Despite the presence of the active shutter glasses, the 3D images had vivid and well saturated colours and an impressive dynamic range. Motion handling was smooth and well defined and the 3D images were free of any artefacts. The 3D was also almost completely free of crosstalk and the only time we ever saw any at all, was very occasionally on the extreme edges of the screen; although this might just have been due to us looking through the active shutter glasses at an angle. Even with a film like Happy Feet Two, which has a lot of black penguins against white snow, and despite our best efforts, we couldn't see any crosstalk.

As a result of this, elements in the frame were clearly defined and three dimensional objects had a wonderful solidity. There were never any of the distracting elements that can sometimes shatter the 3D illusion and draw you out of the experience. The VW1000's ability to deliver large screen 3D images that were vivid, bright and free of crosstalk, created an amazingly immersive and enjoyable experience.

We found ourselves watching our favourite scenes from various 3D Blu-rays to take full advantage of the VW1000's wonderful images.

Although the JVC projectors deliver a reference performance in terms of 2D, it is fair to say that 3D isn't their strong point and at times they suffer from crosstalk. So whilst there might not have been much to differentiate the VW1000 and the X70 in terms of 2D performance, in A-B tests the VW1000 was vastly superior when it came to 3D. The only question is, how did Sony manage to go from the VW90 to the VW1000 in just a year?

Verdict

9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Excellent black levels and dynamic range
  • Excellent greyscale out-of-the-box
  • Reference calibrated greyscale
  • Excellent colour gamut out-of-the-box
  • Reference video processing
  • Native 4K panel
  • Reference performance with 3D
  • Well designed menu and remote
  • Lens memory function
  • Detailed panel alignment feature
  • Excellent build quality and attractive design
  • Very quiet in operation

The Bad

  • No Colour Management System
  • Currently no 4K delivery system
  • Price

Sony VPL-VW1000ES 4K 3D SXRD Projector Review

At a recent AVForums event to demonstrate the VW1000, we asked attendees which they would rather have - 3D or 4K? Unequivocally the answer was 4K, so there is certainly plenty of consumer interest in the new format. Having been lucky enough to experience 4K in our home cinema, that interest is justified and we can certainly testify to the amazing images that will one day be the norm... one day. There in lies the rub because although the VW1000 is an amazing technological achievement, you will be paying a hefty premium for something that you won't be able to take full advantage of any time soon.

For the next two years at least, the main video source for the VW1000 will be 1080p, so the projector will stand or fall on the quality of its scaling and video processing. Thankfully in this regard, the VW1000 delivers the goods with some wonderfully detailed and film-like images which, due to the projector’s brightness, deliver plenty of impact. The Reality Creation image engine proved to be a genuine asset, scaling 1080p content up to the full resolution of the VW1000’s 4K panel without adding any unpleasant artefacts. When watching film content, the projected image was well defined but also retained its grain structure and never became overly ‘digital’. The motion handling was surprisingly good and certainly better than we had seen in previous demos of the VW1000. Unlike earlier SXRD projectors, there was far less smearing on camera pans and the resulting images were reminiscent of DLP. For a Sony projector, the native blacks were also quite good and the manufacturer has clearly capitalised on recent advances in this area.

Whilst we had seen demos of the VW1000’s 2D performance prior to this review, our only experience of it in 3D mode had been marred by some excessive frame interpolation. So we were delighted to discover that the VW1000 is a very capable 3D performer and could even give Sim2's C3X Lumis 3D a run for its (quite considerable) money. The VW1000 was able to deliver wonderfully bright 3D images, despite the presence of the active shutter glasses. The 3D images had vivid and saturated colours and motion handling was smooth and well defined. The 3D was also almost completely free of crosstalk or any other distracting artefacts and was easily among the best we have seen to date.

As you would expect from a flagship projector, the VW1000 has a host of useful features including Sony’s new lens memory function, called Picture Position, and a very flexible panel alignment control. The remote has some useful buttons, a backlight and is intuitive to use, whilst the two pairs of active shutter glasses included are well designed and more tolerant to tilting your head than previous Sony models. The menu system is concise and sensibly laid out and Sony have finally used the correct names for some of the key calibration settings. The Reference picture preset proved to be quite accurate out-of-the-box and the VW1000 could deliver a reference greyscale after calibration. However the lack of a Colour Management System (CMS) is inexcusable in a projector at this price point; Sony need to address this as soon as possible because it prevents the VW1000 from achieving a reference status. It’s worth noting that the VW1000 is quite large which might make installation problematic but for a projector this large and bright, it was surprisingly quiet in low lamp mode.

In direct comparison with the JVC DLA-X70R, we found that whilst the VW1000‘s higher resolution was visible when close to the screen, both images were very similar when watched at a normal viewing distance. Inevitably, despite Sony’s advances in this area, the JVC had better blacks and it also had a more accurate colour space thanks to its built-in CMS. Conversely the VW1000’s higher lumens allowed it really light up our nine foot wide 2.35:1 screen, delivering an image that had plenty of punch.

When it came to motion handling both projectors were very good, which is surprising when you consider their respective technology's weakness in this area. Whilst the 2D comparison resulted in a draw, the VW1000 was clearly better in terms of its 3D performance, with the JVC lacking the same level of brightness and suffering from occasional crosstalk. Of course, there is one other major difference between the VW1000 and the X70 and that's the price, with the X70 costing £10,000 less. In terms of 2D performance the X70 remains our reference projector and despite the VW1000's existence, don't be tempted to sit on the fence and wait for 4K because 1080p will remain the de facto standard for at least the next five years.

So where does all this leave Sony's new flagship 4K projector? Well as an innovation statement the VPL-VW1000 is second to none and if you're the kind of person who has to have the latest technology then the VW1000 is currently the only projector that can accept a native 4K input. However the absence of any 4K content means the VW1000 will be upscaling 1080p and whilst its 2D and 3D performance is bordering on reference, the reality is that when it comes to 2D, there are other projectors equally as good but considerably cheaper.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels

.
9

Colour Accuracy

.
9

Greyscale Accuracy

.
9

Image Uniformity

.
9

Video Processing

.
9

2D Picture Quality

.
9

3D Picture Quality

10

Features

.
9

Ease Of Use

.
9

Build Quality

.
9

Value For Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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