What is the Sony VW760ES?
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 Control
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 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.
VW760ES Specs and Features
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Performance
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?
- 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 Review
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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