First Look: Sony VPL-VW285ES 4K HDR Projector

Sony VPL-VW285ES 4K HDR Projector

Of all the products to debut at CEDIA 2017, none arrived with a bigger bang than Sony’s VPL-VW285ES projector. It’s the first of its kind, a true 4K projector for a buck under five grand, and based on first impressions it’s a winner.

I received a review unit of the 285ES from Sony on October 20, 2017. As of this post, I have had a weekend to play with it by checking out a couple of 4K HDR movies as well as video games.

My sources for the 285ES include an Apple TV 4K, a PlayStation 4 Pro, an Oppo UDP-203 UHD Blu-ray player, a PC equipped with a GTX1080 video card, and a Roku 4 (non-HDR) 4K streamer.

For a screen, I’m using a 120″ (horizontal) 2.40:1 aspect Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 130 non-perforated fixed-frame. I do not have an anamorphic lens, so I’m manually zooming to accommodate changes in aspect ratio. Sound in this system comes courtesy of StormAudio’s I.ISP integrated processor and a Klipsch Reference Premiere 7.2.4 system with physical height speakers.

Before getting into specifics, there’s no question that the quality you get for the $5000 asking price of the 285ES ushers in a new era of in-home entertainment, where beating the fidelity of what’s on screen at the local cinema does not break the bank.

For now I am working with the projector in SDR. With about 25 hours on the bulb, I performed a quick calibration of the 285ES and some basic profiling to ascertain its color accuracy with default settings in the included presets.

For these measurements, I zoomed the lens to fill the entire 120″ screen, so the illumination is what you’d get on a 137″ diagonal 1.3 gain screen (native 3840 x 2160 pixels) but of course in my case cropped to 2.40:1.

I also performed a measurement of the screen with the projector zoomed to show 16:9 with side-windowbox bars. The diagonal measurement of that image is 102″. Ultimately I got a reading of around 130-135 nits at the larger screen size, 235 nits at the smaller size.

A quick comment on 130 nits… that’s about as bright as a TV that’s BT.709 calibrated for a dark room. Since that’s how Blu-rays are mastered, and there are tons of Blu-ray titles out there, is great to have a projector that really aces the format at such a large screen size (with a new bulb).

Calibrating the VPL-VW285ES. Photo by Mark Henninger.

First let’s look at the pre-calibration performance using the Cinema 1 Film defaults. Subjectively, this mode has boosted colors the can flatter some content (including video games) but is definitely not as accurate as the projector’s Reference mode.

133 nits in the default Cinema 1 Film mode on the v285ES.

Grayscale accuracy could be better, but its not distracting. Best to perform a quick calibration.

The Cinema 1 Film mode sacrifices some accuracy to create a pleasing image. But it’s still decent. I did not work to maximize contrast, but it still measures over 14,000:1.

Colorchecker shows a sizeable error in red. That’s because this mode exaggerates it.

Here you can see how Cinema 1 Film default settings overshoot the primaries, especially red.

Now let’s look at Reference mode using default settings. Here again the projector was zoomed out to fill the entire 120″ (horizontal) 1.3 gain screen.

Peak brightness in about the same here. 130 nits is plenty to work with.

Nothing much changed with the uncalibrated grayscale versus the Cinema 1 Film mode; it can use a tweak.

Here we see good overall performance with room for improvement with a calibration.

Reference mode does a good job accurately displaying the BT.709 gamut.

These are some nice looking saturation sweeps for an uncalibrated projector.

OK now let’s look at results after spending 10 minutes on the 2-point grayscale plus CMS adjustments. My apologies, I measured this while zoomed to the 102″ 16:9 diagonal image size, which resulted in the higher peak luminance reading of 235 nits.

With a 16:9, 102″ (diagonal) 1.3 gain screen and a new bulb, the VW285 ES can hit 235 nits.

With almost no effort, a calibration provided a proper grayscale.

You can see the effect of the calibration on here as well, the average deltaE is below 1, a great result.

Colorchecker confirmed the calibrated VPL-VW285ES is doing a great job.

Nice saturation sweeps post-calibration.

Next week I will return to this projector and dive into HDR. Plus, in the first week of November I’m swapping this projector for a VPL-VW885ES.