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Sony VPL-VW270ES review: Projection perfection

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
5,000
inc VAT

A spectacularly good native 4K projector at an almost reasonable price

Pros 
Fabulous picture quality
Motorised zoom and lens shift
HDR10 and HLG support
Cons 
Not as bright as good 4K HDR TVs
Rather big and heavy
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Although 4K has become mass market for TVs in recent years, it’s still a premium feature in the world of projectors. That’s as odd as it is frustrating, because a projector benefits far more from the increased detail 4K brings, given that you’re usually dealing with a much larger screen size.

We are beginning to see some 4K projectors at around £1,000, such as the BenQ TK800, but these aren’t native 4K projectors. Instead, they use pixel-shift technology to simulate a 4K image. True 4K projectors, such as the new Sony VPL-VW270ES, still tend to cost a pretty penny, although prices are slowly falling.

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Sony VPL-VW270ES review: What you need to know

The VPL-VW270ES is Sony’s entry-level 4K projector, despite the £5,000 price tag. It uses Sony’s SXRD tech, which employs three 0.74in transmissive LCDs inside instead of the single, micro-mirror DLP chips used in cheaper 4K projectors, and this ensures super-sharp true 4K images at 4,096 x 2,160 pixels.

It supports HDR playback, too, at frame rates up to 60fps at brightness levels up to 1,500 lumens. It can project at screen sizes from 60in to 300in across the diagonal and comes with motorised lens shift, zoom and focus, so it’s very flexible.

Where DLP projectors tend to be small and easy to tuck away, however, the Sony is big and beefy. It weighs a hefty 14kg and measures a substantial 496 x 464 x 205mm so although you could plonk it on a table in your living room it’s far better suited to a permanent installation, perhaps mounted to a beefy VESA mount attached in the ceiling.

Sony VPL-VW270ES review: Price and competition

Even at this elevated price, though, true 4K projectors are few and far between. Indeed, the closest competition for the VPL-VW270ES comes from older Sony models such as the VPL-VW260ES, which can be picked up for around £4,200 today.

Other manufacturers’ offerings at around this price still tend to use pixel-shift technology, such as the JVC DLA-X5900 (£3,999) or the Optoma UHZ65 (£4,499). If it’s native 4K performance you’re after, then, it would appear that Sony is the brand to choose.

You can have 4K output for a lot less, of course, if you’re willing to put up with pixel shifting or upscaling, although those projectors don’t deliver results that are as crisp as true, native 4K machines like the Sony. Of these, we like the compact, DLP-based BenQ TK800 (£949) and also the larger Epson EH-TW7300, which combines a Full HD, triple-LCD setup with upscaling (£1,464).

Sony VPL-VW270ES review: Design and setup

Despite it being the newest 4K projector in Sony’s range, the VPL-VW270ES has a familiar look to it. The lens is large and mounted in the centre of the chassis, flanked by a pair of front-facing vents and all housed in a curved, tunnel-shaped chassis. It’s a touch taller than its predecessor – the now-cheaper VPL-VW260ES – but otherwise it looks pretty much identical and it comes in either white or black.

Ports and sockets are sensibly arrayed along the left edge and comprise a pair of HDMI ports, each capable of outputting 4K HDR at 60fps. These are accompanied by a 3.5mm trigger socket, an RS232C port, IR connector and a 500mA USB Type-A connector. Slightly surprisingly there’s no form of audio output, not even a 3.5mm jack, so you’ll need to make sure you pass all your HDMI signals through a compatible home theatre receiver first to get your audio out.

Setting up, once you’ve recruited a few strong friends to help you lift the thing into place, is straightforward. With powered zoom (x2.06), focus and lateral/vertical lens shift capabilities, it’s possible to line up the projected image very precisely with your screen, pretty much wherever it happens to be positioned. You can do this using the controls mounted on the projector’s right side or use the supplied remote control.

And once you’ve done this, you’ll find that the VPL-VW270ES needs very little tweaking from here on. Optically, it’s a very fine projector indeed with super sharp, consistent focus from corner to corner.  Where with cheaper projectors you might struggle to maintain similar sharpness across the image, especially at larger screen sizes, I had no such problems with the VPL-VW270ES.

Sony VPL-VW270ES review: Image quality

As well as being a native 4K projector, the Sony VPL-VW270ES supports HDR in both HDR10 and HLG flavours. This being a projector, however, real-world dynamic range is limited, so you’re not going to get the same dramatic effect as you will on a good HDR TV. Even a decent LCD set will have higher peak brightness and better contrast than a projector will ever manage at this sort of price.

The projector delivers 1,500 lumens at its brightest setting, which works out nowhere near as bright as even a mid-range TV. Indeed, with the brightness and contrast tweaked to deliver the most even spread (to my eyes) between bright and dark areas and the screen at 173cm in width, I measured 250cd/m2 of brightness in the centre of the screen.

More important in the world of projectors is how good the black level is, and the good news here is that the Sony is exceptional. It’s still a little grey but a world away from the much lighter greyish-black and dark greys I saw on the cheaper BenQ TK800. As a result, images delivered on the Sony look much more vibrant and solid.

With such a low dynamic range, though, and no dynamic iris to help out (this is where the VPL-VW270ES lags behind its more expensive sibling, the VPL-VW570ES) it’s important to have some kind of HDR contrast adjustment on hand to boost the dark areas of the picture.

With the Sony, you can boost both the shadow details and the highlights so you can actually see what’s going on in dark scenes while still appreciating that HDR look. This comes in useful across all HDR content but particularly so in murky films such like Solo, which is one hell of a dark film, especially in the opening scenes. And although the VPL-VW270ES is down on brightness compared with its more expensive sibling, the VPL-VW570ES (at 1,500 versus 1,800 lumens) I can’t say this is something that gave me any cause for concern.

Coupled with Sony’s surprisingly subtle (but rather excellent) MotionFlow and Reality Creation processing, it all goes together to deliver an image that is incredibly enjoyable to watch and packed with the sort of crisp, sharp detail that cheaper, pseudo 4K projectors can only dream of. It’s also worth bearing in mind that because it uses three LCD panels, the Sony doesn’t suffer from the distracting rainbow effect that DLP-based pixel-shifting projectors do.

Last, but by no means least, the Sony is also bang on the money when it comes to colours. The projector comes with a couple of reference modes, one targeted at Rec.709 the other at Rec.2020 and the former is superbly accurate. I preferred the two preset “Cinema” modes, however, both of which deliver a slightly more punchy, vibrant and thus watchable image.

Sony VPL-VW270ES review: Verdict

The Sony VPL-VW270ES might be the firm’s entry-level 4K projector but it’s so good that, for most home theatre applications, it’s probably all the projector you’d ever need. Yes, the next model up in the range (the VPL-VW570ES) does offer a bit more brightness and, yes, it does have dynamic iris to help boost perceived contrast, but it’s also a whole lot more expensive. – £3,000 more expensive to be precise.

That’s not to say you wouldn’t see a difference or that the VPL-VW570ES isn’t worth the money, but when the cheaper model this good, it’s hard to look elsewhere.

If you have £5,000 to spend this Sony projector is an excellent place to spend that money. It’s optically superb, super easy to set up and delivers spectacularly good image quality.

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