- Native 4K SXRD projector
- Laser Diode light engine
- HDR10 and HLG HDR playback
- 2000 lumens brightness
- Infinity:1 claimed contrast ratio
Sony VPL-VW760ES hands-on – affordable laser HDR goodness
If you’re after a projector to replace a TV or deliver high dynamic range pictures properly, lasers look like the way ahead.
Epson was busy proving the ‘laser projector can replace a TV’ argument at IFA 2017 with the Epson EH-LS100. The job of showing what laser projection can do with HDR, though, fell to the groundbreaking Sony VPL-VW760ES.
This is not the first 4K-resolution HDR-capable laser home cinema projector. Sony already has its own VW5000ES, and JVC has the DLA-Z1. Both these models are brutally expensive (£55,000/$71,500 and £35,000/$45,500 respectively) and brutishly huge. As such, they stretch the idea of ‘home’ cinema to the limit.
The VW760ES, on the other hand, costs ‘just’ 15,000 Euros (which currently translates to £13,850/$18005), and is 40% smaller than the VW5000ES. This makes it easily the most affordable and compact 4K HDR laser option yet.
Design and features
Seeing the VPL-VW760ES, in the flesh on Sony’s IFA stand, it’s hard to reconcile its compactness with its inclusion of a genuine blue laser optical system. It only looked like a big brother to the new, non-laser VW260ES projector sat next to it; the old Goliath/David laser/lamp comparisons no longer apply.
It retains the distinctive Sony projector design DNA enjoyed by the brand’s non-laser 4K models too. The shaping around the centrally mounted lens still resembles a squashed Darth Vader helmet. The projector’s sides still feature a grilled finish to help keep it cool. And there’s still the same large cowl around the lens to limit chassis reflections and ambient light interference.
The projector also still uses the same 4096×2160 SXRD chipsets as the non-laser models. However, turning to laser enables it to produce 2000 lumens of light output and a dynamic contrast ratio Sony optimistically describes as ‘infinity to one’.
The £55K/$71.5K VW5000ES laser model delivers 5000 lumens, so clearly saving tens of thousands of pounds comes with significant brightness strings attached. But then the VW5000ES is capable of supporting semi-pro setups and huge screens – for a home cinema ‘Bat Cave’, 2000 lumens of laser-focused light will hopefully make even brightness-hungry HDR work.
Certainly this seemed to be the case during my IFA hands on. Even though the picture quality of the demo unit was only apparently 80% finished (the projector doesn’t go on sale until November).
Sony’s demo comprised extended 4K HDR trailers from Blade Runner 2049, Passengers and The Dark Tower. And for the most part the images the VW760ES delivered showed massive potential.
Particularly promising was how dynamic most shots looked. The VW760ES hit both far brighter light peaks and a markedly higher average brightness level than any other sub-£20,000/$26,000 HDR projector I’ve seen so far.
It’s great to experience such a palpable sense of HDR’s extended light range without having the overall image look significantly darker than SDR, as happens with most projectors. This means that it mostly avoids the problem often seen with HDR on projectors, where dark objects appearing against bright backgrounds look like empty silhouettes.
The wealth of neon and artificial lights in the Blade Runner clip also showcases an impressively rich and expansive range of colours. This runs far beyond anything you would see with a mere standard dynamic range projector. Yet for the most part it doesn’t seem that the extreme colour performance is being delivered at the expense of subtle toning.
On the contrary, the projector’s ability to delineate tiny colour shifts contributes to the extreme sharpness of its handling of native 4K images. Having a native 4K resolution can mean precious little if it’s not underlined by the sort of colour accuracy the VW760ES appears to serve up.
The Dark Tower clip was particularly effective for bringing out the VW760ES’s native 4K resolution. You could see an exceptional, HD-thrashing amount of detail in everything from the actors’ skin to the endless stream of cool clothes and weapons. This looks set to be one 4K Blu-ray well worth looking out for if you’re a picture quality fan. Even if the film ain’t all that…
The Dark Tower’s extensive camera work also benefited from some crisp, clean motion handling, ensuring the VW760ES’s 4K sharpness remained consistent.
The VW760ES demonstration wasn’t perfect. Some extreme contrast shots revealed a little greyness over blacks. Some of the skin tones in Passengers looked oddly blocky and digitised. And a couple of particularly extreme shots in both The Dark Tower and Blade Runner 2049 still suffered a little with the silhouetting issue mentioned earlier, reminding us that the light output of the VW760ES is 2000 lumens versus the 5000 lumens of the VW5000ES.
Overall, my main take away from experiencing the Sony VW760ES at IFA was that it performed at least as well as JVC’s £35,000/$45,500 Z1 – and better in some areas. Even though it’s apparently only 80% ready…
So provided nothing goes wrong between now and its November release, the VW760ES could be one hell of a Christmas present for the home cinema geek in your (very well-heeled) life. Look out for a full review soon.
|Native Aspect Ratio||16:9|
|Brightness (Lumen)||2000 Lumens|
|Contrast Ratio||Infinity to one|
|Full HD 1080p||Yes (actually 4K)|
|Max Diagonal Image Size (Inch)||300|
|Lamp Type||Laser Diode|