What is the Sony VPL-VW260ES?
So how do the two differ? Well the VW260ES doesn't have a lens memory or a dynamic iris but otherwise the two appear very similar, so if you don't need the former and you're not planning on using the latter, the VW260ES could be very tempting. It doesn't just have a native 4K (4096 x 2160) panel, it also supports High Dynamic Range and Wide Colour Gamut, includes Motionflow and Reality Creation and has a claimed brightness of 1,500 lumens. However the projector market is hugely competitive at the moment and Sony can't expect to rely solely on native 4K resolution if they want the VW260ES to succeed. It will need to perform well in all the other key areas of image quality if it hopes to justify its price tag compared to some significantly cheaper models from the competition. So, let's see how it performs.
Connections & Control
Features & Specs
Other features include a claimed brightness of 1,500 lumens, TRILUMINOS colour, Motionflow, 3D and motorised focus, zoom and shift controls. The VW260ES supports High Dynamic Range (HDR10) and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), along with Wide Colour Gamut, specifically DCI-P3 within Rec.2020. Unlike their TVs, none of Sony's 4K projectors support Dolby Vision and they can't be updated to do so either. As mentioned in the introduction, Sony have dropped a couple of features in order to get the price down, so unlike the VW360ES there's no dynamic iris, or manual iris control for that matter, and no lens memory feature. Although there's no iris control the VW260ES does still have a Cinema Black Pro section, which contains the Contrast Enhancer feature and Lamp Control. Finally there's Sony's Reality Creation which uses image processing to add sharpening and enhancement based on propriety algorithms and database.
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-Box
We ran the projector for 20 hours before taking any measurements, in order to let the characteristics of the lamp settle down, and all our measurements were taken with a Klein K-10A colour meter, a Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator and CalMAN Ultimate calibration software. For more information on how to correctly set up your Projector, you can take a look at our PicturePerfect Guide.
Picture Settings – Calibrated
Picture Settings – High Dynamic Range
In terms of the SDR black level and peak brightness, the VW260ES was capable of a blacks with a measurement of 0.017 nits and a maximum brightness of 224 nits in its calibrated Reference mode using a 10% window. That equates to an on/off contrast ratio of 13,200:1. When it came to HDR content, the Sony could deliver a black level of 0.021 nits and a peak brightness of 397 nits, which equates to an on/off contrast ratio of 18,900:1. Although these aren't the best measurements that we've seen, they're still pretty good for a projector.
Sony VPL-VW260ES Video Review
When setting up the projector all we needed to do was zoom, shift and focus the image to our screen and tweak the panel alignment slightly. The result was a pin sharp image, which suggests that the latest version of the glass and plastic lens array is proving effective at handling the native 4K images. Of course resolution isn't everything and we do feel that Sony have been guilty of using the native 4K nature of their projectors to justify higher prices and less capable machines in other areas. In direct comparisons with a JVC e-shift projector (we can run multiple displays from a single source thanks to our Digital Zone S6) there was no real difference between the perceived resolution of the two projectors at a normal viewing difference, even when using native 4K content. Obviously as we got closer to the screen the native 4K nature of the VW260ES became apparent but it's worth remembering that most films are still finished at 2K, so resolution is only one factor in what makes a good image.
We started with standard dynamic range content and the VW260ES immediately impressed with a detailed and highly natural image. Initially there was a slight yellow tinge to the whites but after we had calibrated the projector, the results were impressive with accurate colours and a pleasingly bright image. The brightness of the VW260ES and the lack of any iris control, manual or otherwise, means that the black floor has been elevated, which is a shame as Sony have made big improvements in this area of late. The black levels were certainly one area where the JVC was superior to the Sony and the same goes for shadow detail retention, which wasn't as good on the Sony. However the motion handling was very good on the Sony and although there is Motionflow the only option was Impulse, which appeared to make no real difference in our tests – neither improving the motion resolution nor adding any soap opera effect. The VW260ES was suitably quiet in operation and the Reality Creation feature could be effective with some content, although it had a tendency to exaggerate film grain. We certainly found that our regular test discs like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Moana could look very nice on the VW260ES with lovely images that really popped. The same was true when it came to streaming video and shows such as The Expanse, with its detailed effects work, looked particularly impressive projected on to the big screen. However we did feel that our JVC projector had the edge over the Sony in terms of overall image quality with standard dynamic range content.
When it came to high dynamic range content, the VW260ES remained impressive although we should caveat that by pointing out that no projector can deliver an HDR performance that can compete with a TV, which will be capable of much brighter specular highlights. However the VW260ES was still able to take full advantage to all the benefits that Ultra HD has to offer and not, as we've already mentioned, just the increased resolution. The 10-bit video depth eliminates most banding and the wider colour gamut produces more vibrant and saturated colours, which the Sony was able to render with excellent accuracy. Despite the elevated black floor, the VW260ES was still able to deliver improved detail in the darker parts of the image, combined with more detail in the brighter parts that resulted in a picture that could have real impact. We did need to use the High Lamp Control setting, which obviously increased the fan noise, however we weren't aware of it when actually watching a film. A reference Ultra HD Blu-ray like The Revenant looked superb on the Sony, with the projector creating a sense of realism that was certainly the director's intention. This disc was encoded at 1000 nits, which the VW260ES had no problems tone mapping without introducing any clipping. However with a 4000 nits disc like Pan, there was some clipping of the sun in the 'Arriving at Neverland' scene for example. When we moved on to streaming services the results were equally as impressive with HDR shows like Star Trek Discovery and Mindhunter (four episodes of which were directed by David Fincher) looking stunning on the VW260ES. We definitely felt that when it came to high dynamic range content the Sony had the edge over the JVC, with a better overall performance.
- Native 4K panel
- Excellent accuracy after calibration
- Impressive HDR performance
- Great video processing
- Easy to setup and operate
- Attractive design and good build quality
- Inaccurate out of the box
- Blacks could be better
- No lens memory
- No dynamic iris
Sony VPL-VW260ES 4K SXRD Projector Review
Should I buy one?The Sony VPL-VW260ES is an exciting new model from the Japanese manufacturer because at £5,199 it brings native 4K projection to a level that is approaching a more realistic price point. Sony's efforts to deliver the VW260ES at that price, along with the higher spec'd VPL-VW360ES at £6,999, is even more impressive when you consider that the VPL-VW550ES, which was originally launched at £8,499, now costs £9,899 in this brave new Brexit world. So what do you get for your hard earned and rapidly depreciating cash? Well the VW260ES includes everything you would expect from the more expensive models with native 4K resolution, HDR10 and HLG support, Triluminos colour, 3D, Reality Creation and Motionflow. There are also motorised lens controls but the lens memory feature has been dropped to save money, as has the dynamic iris.
The out-of-the-box accuracy was disappointing considering the price, although to be fair the VW550ES wasn't any better when we reviewed that model towards the end of last year and it costs almost twice as much. Thankfully the VW260ES was very accurate after calibration and it also performed well in our HDR testing, with some measurements that were better than the VW550ES. We certainly found the VW260ES to be a great performer, delivering a lovely SDR image that was detailed and boasted natural colours and good motion handling. The black levels could have been better and appear to be a retrograde step compared to recent Sony projectors but overall the VW260ES impressed us. It also proved to be a good performer with HDR, at least as far as projectors go, with good tone mapping, saturated colours and reasonable brightness.
The problem is that as good as the VW260ES is, the HDR projector market is very competitive and there are other manufacturers who can deliver models that are not only better in some respects but also considerably cheaper. The fact that the Sony is a native 4K projector simply isn't enough when watching at any a sensible viewing distance and other factors like black levels, brightness, tone mapping and colour gamuts are equally as important. However, the Sony VPL-VW260ES does represent a significant step in the evolution of native 4K projection and for that reason, along with its overall performance, comes recommended.
What are my alternatives?There are a number of alternatives, not only at a similar price but also for less. JVC have always been strong in the £3,000 to £6,000 price bracket and their current line-up includes the excellent DLA-X5900 at £3,999 and the superb DLA-X7900 which costs £5,699. Whilst these projectors aren't native 4K, they can accept an Ultra HD signal and, thanks to e-shift, deliver an image that is indistinguishable at sensible viewing distances. Naturally being JVC projectors their black levels are impressive, especially the X7900, they have a brightness of 1,900 lumens and colour gamuts that approach 100% of DCI-P3. The Sony might have the edge in terms of HDR performance but the JVCs include a dynamic iris, a lens memory feature, HDMI inputs that both support HDCP 2.24K/60p at 4:4:4 and, in the case of the X7900, a motorised lens cover.
Another manufacturer that has been very strong in this price range is Epson, especially with their EH-TW9300 which offers exceptional value at £2,999. This projector uses a similar approach to JVC's e-shift and also supports HDR, WCG and 3D, it also includes a motorised lens cover, a lens memory and a dynamic iris. Epson were also the first manufacturer to offer a laser projector at anything approaching a sensible price and the EH-LS10500 is another great alternative. It currently retails for £5,999 and includes the same resolution enhancement features found on the TW9300 but obviously uses a laser light source with a longer and more consistent lifespan. The LS10500 also supports both 3D and HDR and, whilst not the brightest projector, its laser light source can deliver over 100% of DCI-P3.
Although JVC and Epson have dominated the sub-£5,000 market of late, there have been a number of DLP projectors that, whilst not native 4K, are capable of accepting a 4K signal and use four million mirrors and diagonal shift technology to deliver a higher resolution experience. Of the ones that we've reviewed so far, the Optoma UHD65 is the most impressive, offering a great SDR performance and excellent motion handling, along with a decent HDR performance. Although the projector lacks WCG and 3D support and the lens controls aren't motorised, it also retails for just £2,999 making it a bit of a bargain in projector terms.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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