Sony VPL-VW1000ES review
Most TV broadcasts are still in standard definition here in the UK, but Sony is already looking two steps ahead to the next evolution in home cinema. Its latest projector, the VW1000ES, is the first of its kind to have a native resolution of 4,096x2,160, or 4K. That’s higher than the Digital Cinema format currently showing in your local multiplex.
As a semi-professional projector, there’s no surprise that the VW1000ES is something of a beast, taking up a huge amount of floor space. A rough finish that feels a little like sandpaper might not sound particularly attractive, but the centrally-mounted lens and elliptical shape are very easy on the eye.
The lens assembly is entirely motorised, meaning you can shift, focus and zoom using the remote control. The lens cover also opens and closes automatically when you power on the projector, making it ideally suited to mounting on the ceiling.
All the inputs are slightly recessed below the lip of the main body, which hides them from sight. Two HDMI, component and VGA ports are available, as are Ethernet and remote control options for custom installations. A 3D emitter is built into the projector, although you can add an external booster if you need to cover a wider area. The internal emitter was fine for our test room, but larger theatres may need the extra coverage.
The projector uses SXRD technology, Sony’s own take on liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS). This means it has three 4,096x2,160 SXRD chips handling red, green and blue colour elements. In practice, this means colours are vibrant, no matter how bright the image. Brightness certainly wasn’t lacking, with a 2,000 ANSI lumens lamp illuminating even the darkest scenes effectively. Dynamic iris control kept blacks looking black, as opposed to washed out and grey.
For the purposes of this review, we had to use a high-end PC provided by Sony to feed the VW1000ES 4K content. As there’s currently no official standard for 4K video, and an uncompressed full-length film would require over 100 Blu-ray discs, we were limited to the few 4k files Sony sent us. With an AMD Radeon 7970 GPU on decoding duty, we could stream 4K content over HDMI to the projector (HDMI 1.4 supports 4K resolutions).
At its native resolution, projected images looked jaw-droppingly good. The level of detail has to be seen to be believed, as even the smallest rocks can be picked out of a cliff-side scene. We could read the headlines of each magazine in a newsstand during one scene, even as the view panned from left to right. We noticed some screen tear, although this was likely due to the PC’s graphics card failing to keep a steady frame rate.
Thankfully, the VW1000ES can also up-scale existing content to its 4K native resolution. Using its Reality Creation processor to increase pixel density and lower the obvious signs of pixelation, it can upscale any video source, regardless of its original resolution.
Naturally, Blu-ray films see the most improvement, but we were surprised how well the projector coped with standard definition sources. DVDs contain less than 5% of the information of a 4K video, and although we could spot noticeable noise artefacts, the results were still reasonable.
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