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Sony VPL-VW300ES review

Katharine Byrne
7 Feb 2015
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
5,850
inc VAT

The VPL-VW300ES is a great entry-level 4K projector, but with hardly any 4K content available, it's an expensive bit of future-proofing

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Specifications

Projector type: SXRD, Native resolution: 4,096x2,160, Video inputs: HDMI x2, Lamp life: Not stated, Lamp brightness: 1,500 lumen, Size: 195x495x463mm, Weight: 14kg

At £5,850, the VPL-VW300ES is Sony’s cheapest SXRD-based 4K projector yet. That might seem hard to believe when the price is still eye-wateringly expensive, but when you consider Sony’s next model up, the VPL-VW500ES, costs almost double that, the VW300ES is certainly a far more tempting prospect for anyone after a 4,096x2,160 home cinema experience.

The projector itself is huge, measuring 495x195x463mm and weighing a hefty 14kg, so you’ll need a fair amount of room if you’re installing it on a shelf. As such, this projector is probably best suited to mounting on your ceiling, particularly since the menu buttons, video inputs and power supply are all located around the sides of the projector and in some cases underneath the outer plastic lip of the chassis.

The VW300ES has just two HDMI 2.0 inputs for connecting external devices, but as only the second input is HDCP 2.2 compatible you’ll have to use it for any HDCP-protected 4K content. Still, this means it should be relatively future proof for 4K streaming services and 4K Blu-ray when they eventually arrive. There’s also a USB port for firmware updates and a Fast Ethernet port for connecting the projector to your home network. All other ports are for home automation, including two minijack triggers, an RS-232C remote, and an IR input to extend the range of the remote.

Fussy port locations aside, the VW300ES is very easy to set up, as the +85 /-80% vertical and +/-31% horizontal lens shift, 2.06x zoom and lens focus are all controlled via the remote rather than on the projector itself. It can project a screen ranging from 60in to a massive 300in, so you could have films projecting across an entire wall if you have the space.

The main problem, however, is finding 4K content. For example, 4K Netflix and Amazon Instant Video are both currently confined to compatible 4K Smart TVs and while Sony has been a big supporter of 4K content, its FMP-X10 4K media player is currently only available in the US for a staggering $699. Although Sony says the VW300ES is compatible with its range of 'Mastered in 4K' Blu-rays, these are still only 1,080p movies which have been optimised for 4K upscaling, rather than true 4K films.

With 4K Blu-rays and native 4K Blu-ray players still a full year away as well (if not longer depending on when the Blu-Ray Disc Association get round to finalising the standard), the only 4K content you’re likely to be watching on the VW300ES in the foreseeable future is either still photos or 4K video footage you’ve shot yourself on a smartphone or video camera.

For this you’ll need a PC or laptop with an HDMI output, but bear in mind that only those that support the HDMI 2.0 standard can output 4K video at 60fps. At the moment, it’s more likely your computer will have an HDMI 1.4 output, which can only manage a maximum frame rate of 24fps at 4K. This isn't really up to the task of showing 60fps or 30fps footage smoothly and it limits the amount of content you can comfortably enjoy on the VW300ES even further. We tried running both 60fps and 30fps 4K clips from a laptop, but all of them were very jerky and juddery, so we'd recommend shooting in 24fps if possible.

Of course, anyone after a 4K projector today is clearly buying it as a long-term investment rather than something to enjoy in here and now, but when so much about 4K is still up in the air, it still leaves the VW300ES feeling like a very expensive bit of future-proofing. Let's not forget that you'll also want to buy an AV receiver with HDCP 2.2-compatible HDMI 2.0 ports when the time comes, but at time of writing the only one that fulfils these requirements is the £450 Onkyo TX-NR636.

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