A CLOSER LOOK AT SONY’S LATEST 4K PROJECTOR LINE-UP

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by Tony O'Brien

18th December, 2018

A CLOSER LOOK AT SONY’S LATEST 4K PROJECTOR LINE-UP

Let’s face it, bold claims from marketing departments are nothing new. Although it’s worth keeping an open mind, such claims are often best approached with at least a little scepticism.

In this regard, Sony’s launch of their new 4K projector line-up was not a lot different. With a new range of projectors, there were the usual claims of how much better they were, in particular, its new VPL-VW870ES and their entry-level 4K VPL-VW270ES projector.

What did pique my interest, however, was that Sony and its Australian Distributor, Audio Active, were more than happy to put their money where their mouth was and had both the outgoing VPL-VW260ES and their new VPL-VW270ES available for direct comparison.

Sony has five projectors in its 2018 4K lineup, which comprises the VPL-VW270ES ($7,999), VPL-VW570ES ($11,999), VPL-VW760ES ($22,999), VPL-VW870ES ($35,999) and VPL-VW5000ES ($90,000).

Except for JVC’s 2017 Z1, Sony projectors are the only brand to offer true 4096 x2160 4K resolution, whereas other manufacturers are using pixel shifting technology.

While both the VPL-VW5000ES and VPL-VW760ES have continued from the 2017 range, the VPL-VW270ES (which replaces the VPL-VW260ES), VPL-VW570ES (which replaces the VPL-VW550ES) and VPL-VW870ES are new entries to the lineup.

Except for the VPL-VW270ES and VPL-VW570ES, all of the projectors use a laser light source. They also share the same lens, except for the VPL-VW870ES, which has the same ARC-F lens that’s used in the $90,000 VPL-VW5000ES. Likewise, all projectors within the line up except the VPL-VW270ES feature a Dynamic Iris.  

A significant improvement over their predecessors is the VPL-VW270ES and 570E’s ability to handle a full 18Gb workflow, with 4K, 60p 10 bit signal processing. Sony has also made improvements to their Reality Creation and Motion Flow processing.

At Adelaide's VAF Research, the VPL-VW870ES, VPL-VW270ES and VPL-VW260ES were connected to their reference home theatre in ‘the big room’ with a 140” screen, while the VPL-570ES demonstration was held in a separate room.

The evening started with a demonstration of Sony’s VPL-VW870ES capabilities. The major difference between the 870ES and the 760ES is the ARC-F lens. The All Range Crisp Focus (ARC-F) is touted as being able to produce razor-sharp images from corner to corner without any blur.

Coupled with Sony’s new digital focus optimiser, the VPL-870ES produced breathtaking images that were razor sharp. Far from just marketing hyperbole, the audience was greeted with images that were rock solid without any hint of blur on any part of the screen.

The VPL-VW870ES produced images that were simply stunning and to date, amongst the most life-like I’ve seen from any projector. 

While I did spend some time calibrating the 870ES before the demonstration, I’m looking forward to spending more time and thoroughly reviewing this projector soon.

First, though, I need to spend some more time with the VPL-VW870ES, as I suspect it may just dethrone the VPL-VW760ES which we reviewed and awarded a Best in Class Award earlier this year. 

With the demonstration of the VPL-VW870ES complete, it was time to move on to the ‘main-event’ which of course was the comparison of 2017’s VPL-VW260ES and the newer VPL-VW270ES. Both projectors were side by side and projected on the same 140” 16.9 screen.

Neither projector had been calibrated but used identical 'out of the box' picture settings with the 260ES having 16 hours on its lamp, while the 270ES had been used for 32 hours.

The same images were displayed on both projectors while the presenter switched back and forth between the two. The VPL-VW260ES was and still is a great projector, but the 270ES produced images that were both noticeably sharper and with greater detail. 

This is due to improvements Sony has made to Reality Creation. The latest iteration of Reality Creation can now be applied to 4K signals, whereas in the past it was limited to lower resolution signals. Likewise, Sony’s Motion Flow processing can also be used with 4K signals. 

Sony's Reality Creation analyses the incoming signal on a pixel by pixel basis, drawing on a range of data from Sony Pictures and Paramount titles to recreate the extra picture information. Titles that don’t full under either banner still benefit from Reality Creation, but not to the same extent.  

Although much of the focus (pun intended) was on the improvements to Sony’s Reality Creation and Motion Flow, Sony has also improved the way their projectors handle HDR picture quality. For this, they have looked to their BVM-800 reference grading monitor, which is capable of producing 1,000 nits.

Monitors and TV’s for that matter are capable of producing far brighter images than projectors. To compensate, the incoming signal needs to be remapped. Where the VPL-VW260ES hard clipped the signal, the VPL-VW270ES employs a softer roll off.

While there are a lot of conditions that need be fulfilled to conduct a full comparison, the changes that Sony has made to its Reality Creation processing and improved tone mapping algorithm were visible to all in attendance.

Far from marketing hyperbole, Sony has produced a very worthy successor to the VPL-VW270ES that offers significant improvement over its predecessor. The VPL-VW270ES convinced me that it was time to replace my ageing 1080p projector.

So I (happily) walked away from the demonstration with a new projector and a bit lighter in the pocket. Naturally, I will be spending quite a bit of time with Sony’s VPL-VW270ES projector. I’m also hoping to be able to spend some more time with the VPL-VW870ES, so expect reviews on both projectors in early 2019.

For more information visit Sony.

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Written by:

Tony O'Brien

As the owner of Adelaide based 'Clarity Audio & Video Calibration', Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.

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Posted in: Home Theatre Visual
Tags: sony  audio active 

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