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A Review of the Sony VPL-VW320ES 4K Projector

by on October 6, 2015
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Overview

As one of two 4K UHD consumer-oriented projectors unveiled at IFA 2015 in Berlin, Germany, the Sony VPL-VW320ES features the exact same compact design of its cousin the Sony VPL-VW520ES, which we also recently reviewed, but comes without some of the latter’s superior display features and expanded luminance. This means that with the VW320ES you get a 4K projector model that doesn’t quite perform as spectacularly as the VW520ES but which still delivers some genuinely superb projection capacity on its own. Furthermore, the VW320ES is considerably more affordable than the VW520ES.

And despite a couple of missing high-end specs, the VW320ES is still a spectacular projector that comes with nearly perfect levels of 4K display quality, excellent enhanced Triluminos Display color and some spectacular brightness that’s ideal for almost any home entertainment or office video projection work. Basically, it comes with every feature anyone who’d want top-quality conventional 4K projection could want while costing at least a third less than its more decked out counterpart the VW520ES. Both share the same connectivity options and HD-to-4K upscaling technology as well.

The Good

First off the bat, let’s start with the compact simplicity and flexibility of the VW320ES’s physical design. This is a compact projector that’s really been built with home entertainment or small office use in mind, despite being able to also deliver impressive results on a larger scale. It’s body is compact, easy to set up either on a platform or as a hanging fixture from a ceiling and due to front facing exhaust ports, the VW320ES can be placed right up against a wall for maximal flexibility in small spaces without the need to worry about excessive heating issues. Despite this small size though, the VW320ES still delivers some truly powerful visuals due to its projection space capacity of between 60 and 300 inches, meaning that whether you want a “screen” small enough for a cozy entertainment den or a large backyard gathering at night, the VW320ES delivers crisp, fleshed out clarity for both.

For one thing, the 1500 lumens lamp brightness of the VW320ES, while considerably dimmer than the 1800 available in the VW520ES is still more than powerful enough to deliver some very sharp contrast and color vibrancy in native 4K or HD content that has been upscaled to 4K-like resolution. We should also mention that Sony’s own HD upscaling technology, called Reality Creation Super Resolution processing technology, is very good at this particular trick of digital video. Just like the company’s 4K TVs, Sony’s 4K projectors make HD and even DVD resolutions look genuinely superior to what their native resolution supports, particularly if the projection size is kept below the 300 inch maximum of the VW320ES.

We also love the Triluminos Display technology built into the VW320ES. How Sony managed to develop this color enhancement feature that works so well in their 2015 and late 2014 4K TVs so that it also delivers excellent vibrancy in a projector is a bit difficult to work out in detail but the final result as your eyes see colorful 4K content shine on a wall or projection screen is something to behold.

Finally, we also love the connectivity of the VW320ES. Fully future-proofed, this projector offers HDMI 2.0 specs for smooth transfer of native 4K UHD media at a full 60 frames per second and because both of its HDMI ports come with HDCP 2.2 content copy protection integration, the projector shouldn’t have any problems with the latest content sources.

The bad

First and foremost, because the VPL-VW320ES is a projector so this might work against it for some users. Projectors certainly offer a lot of setup and positioning flexibility that’s completely lacking in any sort of 4K TV but in other respects, involving interactivity with the web and so forth, the smart TV platforms of any decent 4K UHD TV are definitely far superior. Thus, the VW320ES is definitely built with a specific type of user in mind and considering its price tag, you should carefully think about whether you want something like this for your UHD content needs or would be better off with a TV instead.

Secondly, while the VW320ES is certainly one of Sony’s much more affordable 4K UHD projector models, it still costs far more than all but the best 4K UHD TVs. In fact, for the price of this model, you could even get your hands on one of LG’s smaller OLED 4K TVs and experience out of this world contrast and color realism, albeit on a smaller screen space.

Finally, while the contrast of the VW320ES is certainly superb for what we’d expect from a projector, the results delivered are certainly not as good as what we’ve seen in many higher quality 4K UHD TVs and naturally, since it lacks HDR capacity and an extra 300 lumens of brightness, the VW320ES doesn’t come close to matching its cousin the VW520ES in the sheer intense range of light and dark tones that make up truly high dynamic range.

Final Thoughts

We definitely recommend the Sony VPL-VW320ES as a premium 4K UHD projection choice for home use. This projector lacks the HDR and enhanced brightness of its cousin the VPL-VW520ES but still delivers superior performance at a better price than many of Sony’s 2014 4K consumer projectors. The VPL-VW320ES is definitely expensive but it’s at the same time highly affordable by the highly limited standards of the 4K UHD projector market.

Specs

Weight: 31 pounds
Projection Size: 60” to 300” inches on a diagonal
Dimensions: 19 1/2 x 7 11/16 x 18 1/4 inches
Video Compatibility: 480/60p, 576/50p, 720/60p, 720/50p, 1080/60i, 1080/50i, 1080/60p, 1080/50p, 1080/24p, 3840 x 2160/24p, 3840 x 2160/25p, 3840 x 2160/30p, 3840 x 2160/50p*3, 3840 x 2160/60p*3, 4096 x 2160/24p, 4096 x 2160/25p, 4096 x 2160/30p, 4096 x 2160/50p*3, 4096 x 2160/60p*3
Lamp Life: 6000 hours
Resolution: 4096 x 2160 x 3 4K SXRD panel, projection system
Connectivity Ports: 2 x HDMI 2.0, DC12V, IR IN Mini Jack, RS232C, and LAN
Power Zoom/Focus: Powered (Approx. x2.1)
Light output: 1500 lumens
Dynamic contrast: 200,000: 1

Highlights

The VPL-VW320ES offers several key highlights that Sony built into it for some of the impressive contrast, 4K content sharpness and projection power it offers. We’ll go over these in brief sections:

First of all, there is the Cinematic 4K UHD clarity that this model genuinely lives up to with its use of the same SXRD panel technology. This is the same spec that Sony’s cinematic projectors for professional applications also offer and as a result, there is no artificial pixel enhancement at work in this projector when it comes at least to native 4K UHD and cinematic 4K content. This means some truly superb clarity on the screen with an absolute minimum of noise being visible. During viewing of native 4K content, this effect was truly visible to us and even for upscaled HD content, distortions and noise on the display space seem to be virtually nonexistent.

The 1500 lumens brightness of the VPL-VW320ES’s lamp isn’t as impressive as what we saw with the 1800 lumens lamp of the VW520ES but it still delivers more than enough power for any normal home theater use you’re likely to have for this projector. Dark tones look wonderfully rich on the screen and colors shine with very high levels of brightness. Furthermore, the level of precision between even small dark sections and small bright parts is excellent –not nearly as good as the HDR technology in the VW520ES but still superb for a 4K projector.

The Triluminos Display technology that Sony added to the VW320ES for dramatically enhanced color also shines wonderfully on the screen. Vibrant colors stand out with native 4K UHD content and except for a few incidences of over-saturation, we definitely love the high level of realism that the VW320ES manages for movies or other video content.

Finally, we love the simplicity and compactness of the VW320ES’s design. Its front-facing exhaust vents, long lasting 6000 hour lamp and powered zoom lens with wide lens shift are all useful and easy to deal with features that make placing this projector in even very complicated or compact spaces a relatively easy thing to do.

Visual Specs

Sony’s 4K TVs offer visual specs that we’d consider to be some of the best in the entire industry by the standards of any LED/LCD TV and while we don’t really have the same range of comparative brand options for 4K projectors (none at all actually, Sony is the only current manufacturer of true 4K consumer-grade projectors), we can safely say that what we see looks fantastic with even the more economical VPL-VW320ES.

The VW320ES projects its native 4K content at a smooth 50 to 60 frames per second in 4K resolution at 3840 x 2160 pixels and does so at a color signal strength of YCbCr 4:2:0/ 8-bit for an even higher degree of realism, smoothness and color most of all. On top of this, there is also the Sony Triluminos Display technology, a phosphor based light filtering film development for enhancing existing native color capacity in Sony TVs by up to 30%. Here in the VW320ES the Triluminos offers a similar level of enhancement which we definitely appreciate. While this model doesn’t offer the even further enhanced 10-bit color and high dynamic range of its cousin the VW520ES, both HD and native 4K movies projected in a dark space look plenty rich enough. They definitely impressed us.

Finally, the range of dynamic contrast brought on by the 1500 lumen lamp is very solid. We’vve seen superior performance in high quality 4K UHD TVs with expanded contrast technologies and Sony’s own Bravia TVs from 2015 really deliver much better results than what the VW320ES can manage but that doesn’t mean that this projector is a flop. Dark scenes offer a very fine level of detail when it comes to showing specific, precise shades of light and dark and bright scenes look great without being overly illuminated. In both cases, the VW320ES delivers a picture that’s wonderfully watchable.

Connectivity

Connectivity on Sony’s 4K projectors is pretty straightforward and basic since these machines don’t have the highly interactive smart TV features of their distant TV cousins.

Thus, the VPL VW320ES offers all the standard features you’d need for maximal enjoyment of a broad range of 4K UHD content from external media and broadband sources. There is full HDMI 2.0 integration for moving 4K UHD content at 60 frames per second and native 4K content from external media players won’t be blocked for copy protection reasons since the VW320ES comes with full integration of HDCP 2.2 content copy protection. HD content sources like DVD players and media boxes are also a cinch to connect and have going for an upscaled HD viewing experience. Finally, the VW320ES also comes with a LAN connection and audio connectivity for setting up some powerful speakers.

Pricing

The Sony VPL-VW320ES doesn’t yet have a formal U.S dollar price tag but it’s selling on the U.K market for £5,850 GPB, or roughly $8,900 USD.

Not so Great

To summarize briefly, the Sony VPL-VW320ES is a superb projector for its class and specs. It delivers what it promises wonderfully and with a very high level of precision. Its main minor defects are levels of contrast and color vibrancy that we’d call inferior to those of higher-end 4K TVs, despite the projector having a much steeper OLED-like price tag. That said, if you need a projector instead of a TV and you want it to come with 4K resolution, this is a superb choice.

Positives

• Excellent compact design
• Great connectivity for 4K content
• High contrast levels for a projector
• Superb color vibrancy
• Long lasting lamp
• Flexible setup

Negatives

• Many high-end 4K TVs deliver better contrast, color
• Expensive, very expensive
• Some content limitations

Editor Rating
 
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User Friendliness
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Connectivity
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Price
B-

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A-

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Bottom Line
 

If you want a 4K UHD projector for your home or other non-professional cinema setting, the VPL-VW320ES is one of the best choices available in the limited projector market. It’s expensive but by the standards of other 4K projector models, somewhat reasonably priced.

 
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