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Sony VPL-VW520ES review - hands on with Sony's first HDR 4K home cinema projector

Katharine Byrne
3 Sep 2015
Sony VPL-VW520ES
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Sony adds built-in HDR support to its flagship 4K home cinema projector, the VPL-VW520ES

IFA has been all about one thing for Sony this year and that's 4K. Hot on the heels of its Xperia Z5 Premium unveiling, which introduced the world's very first 4K smartphone, Sony has announced a new line of 4K home cinema projectors, along with built-in High Dynamic Range (HDR) support for its flagship model, the VPL-VW520ES.

Like its predecessor, the VPL-VW500ES, the VW520ES uses one of Sony's SXRD panels as well as its proprietary Triluminos engine to project native 4K content. With the latest HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0 standards on board, you'll be able to enjoy 4K content at 50 or 60fps as well. Sony's also bumped the brightness slightly up to 1,800 lumens, albeit a very minor improvement over the VW500ES's 1,700 lumens, but the VW520ES's overall noise levels still only come in at just 26dBa, so it's relatively quiet to run. 

Of course, its headline feature is its HDR support. Just like HDR-enabled TVs, this means the VW520ES has a much wider contrast range than non-HDR projectors, allowing it to reproduce the very whitest whites and the blackest blacks with much greater accuracy. 

Sony VPL-VW520ES side on

I could certainly see the difference when I was shown a demo clip of The Amazing Spiderman 2, as shadows in particular were more pronounced when playing the HDR reel than the non-HDR version. Colours also appeared a touch more vibrant on the HDR clip, but it wasn't as noticeable as you might hope. 

Sony was keen to stress that the VW520ES isn't just for playing native 4K content, as it's also compatible with 'Mastered in 4K' Blu-rays, and its Reality Creation upscaling technology should also help HD and ordinary Blu-rays look their best. However, considering how easy it was to identify which Spiderman clips weren't in 4K, I'm not wholly convinced that you'll be wanting to project many Blu-Rays on the VW520ES, let alone DVDs, when you've got a screen size of around 300in.

Still, now that HDR support is starting to trickle down into TVs, it was only a matter of time before projectors followed suit, so it's good to see Sony bringing it to a wider range of devices. Likewise, now that 4K Blu-rays are definitely on their way, it's bound to be a good bit of futureproofing if you're looking for a new 4K projector right now. Sony's also making the projector available in both white and black for the first time to help suit a wider range of living room and home cinema arrangements. 

Of course, a 4K HDR-enabled projector is never going to come cheap, as Sony's current retail price is 9,999 Euros. UK pricing has yet to be confirmed, but when it's due to arrive this October, we shouldn't have to wait very long to find out. 

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