Sony VPL-VW350ES Review – 4K Home Theater/Gaming Projector (VPLVW350ES)
So far, Sony has consistently kept its position as the overwhelmingly dominant industry leader in 4K home theater projectors to the point where the company’s models are some of the only offerings for true 4K projection on the market. Of course however, despite the lack of serious competition, Sony’s different projectors and particularly those in the VPL-Series of devices are truly superb products in most ways, with what is usually a native DCI cinematic resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels, excellent color reproduction, stunning contrast and some great luminance in their internal projection bulbs. On the other hand, while we’ve seen some price decreases in these Sony projectors in the last couple of years, they still remain quite expensive for all their quality technology. The current average price of the limited number of models on the market has in no way decreased at the same pace as drops in 4K TV offerings have.
The above is essentially the story for the fairly recently released Sony Sony-VPLVW350ES. It is one superb piece of 4K home entertainment projection technology and it is more affordable than previous projectors we’ve seen but it’s still a very pricey piece of technology, costing as much as some of the very largest and best 4K UHD TVs on sale today.
When loaded to play the very best in native 4K content, the VPL-VW350ES performs admirably. Contrast looks superb and the color quality of native 4K video sources is quite stunning to behold. Furthermore, in a nod in the direction of Sony’s legacy of producing some of the world’s most widely used and popular professional cinematic 4K theater projectors, Sony has given the VPL-VW350ES a native resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels. This results in a slightly wider aspect ratio for the projection and about 500,000 extra pixels, to which native 4K UHD content is scaled up to cover. In reality, the extra scaling and the extra pixels will be practically unnoticeable when viewed on the display surface of your choice.
Once again, the picture quality for said native 4K content on the VPL-VW350ES is this projector’s single biggest selling point. Sony has managed some amazing picture quality in the VPLVW350ES. Colors are vibrant and the projector also delivers some truly excellent inky deep contrast levels which further augment how well colorful scenes appear on the projection screen. What we also love about the 350ES is that despite being the “cheapest” of the Sony home theater projectors currently on sale, with no HDR capacity built into it like some of its peers, it still performs admirably across the board with native 4K content.
Finally, price-wise, this particular Sony projector is what you’d call your most reasonably priced native 4K projection option. There are cheaper upscaled (faux) 4K projectors being sold by JVC and even Epson but they do not offer native 4K projection capacity, instead delivering what amounts to a sort of Full HD upscaling projection from what are native Full HD sensors. For real native cinematic 4K video display, the VPL-VW350ES is so far at least as cheap as it gets and it performs very well against its somewhat brighter and more contrast-rich but pricier cousins from the same Sony line.
4.9 - 5 Reviews
On the other hand, for all its ability to project native 4K UHD content in excellent quality, the VPL-VW350ES oddly delivers upscaled non-native 4K content sources such as HD video with less quality than we would have expected from it in comparison to the competition. In fact, for native Full HD video, rival models from JVC like the DLA-X700R not only perform slightly better but also deliver slightly better contrast overall. This is not to say that the VPL-VW350ES upscales non-4K content like HD Blu-ray disc media and DVD video poorly, because it doesn’t, at all! It’s just to say that the differences between its performance and the performance of a much cheaper rival like the JVD e-shift “4K” projector mentioned above is slightly notable and this is surprising given the specs present in the VPL-VW350ES.
Furthermore, as we’d already mentioned quickly, the Sony VPL-VW350ES does not offer specific HDR enhancements such as those we’ve seen in a few other higher priced Sony 4K projectors for the home user. This of course doesn’t mean its contrast looks bad, since just pointed out how rich and inky the black levels delivered by the 350ES can be for high quality native content in a well darkened room but the overall quantity of dynamic range stops is weaker in this model and contrast could have been better still for all its quality and the price you’re paying for this device.
Finally, speaking of that price, it’s still not cheap. While less expensive than counterparts we’ve seen sold by Sony, the VPL-VW350ES still comes priced at a level comparable to those of the very best and largest flagship 4K TVs sold on the 2016 TV market and these TVs on the whole offer a much richer range of display specs, smart TV features and connectivity options even if they offer smaller display spaces. This means that in a choice between spending $8,000 or more on the VPL-VW350ES or a truly top-shelf 4K TV, you’d probably get better value out of the TV, even if it offers less location flexibility.
Overall, Sony’s VPL-VW350ES is one superb piece of 4k home entertainment technology by almost any measure and if what you’re determined to buy is a real native 4K home theater projector, then this particular model offers some of the best value for your money spent on the current market, though we think a large flagship 4K TV would be an even better purchase for general home viewing needs.
• Weight: 30.6 pounds
• Projection Size: 60” to 300” inches
• Resolution (native): 4K (4096 x 2160) x3 / 26,542,080 pixels
• Contrast Ratio: 200,000:1
• 3D: Yes
• Brightness: 350cd/m2
• Video Compatibility: NTSC, PAL, SECAM, SDTV (480i), EDTV (480p)
• Lamp Life: 2 to 3000 hours
• Lamp output: 1500 lm
• Resolution: 4096x2160 pixels UHD
• Connectivity Ports: HDMI (2 inputs, Digital RGB/Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr), IR IN (Mini Jack), LAN (RJ45, 10BASE-T/100BASE-TX), Remote (RS-232C), TRIGGER (Minijack, DC 12V Max. 100m A), USB (DC 5V. MAX. 500mA)
• Power Zoom/Focus: Yes
• Zoom lens ratio: 2.06:1
• Dimensions: 19.51 x 7.69 x 18.25 in
• 3D capability: Yes, with 3D emitter and optional TDG-BT500A 3D glasses
Native DCI 4K Resolution: The VPL-VW350ES doesn’t just offer 4K ultra HD resolution for its display space, as do virtually all current 4K TVs on the market. It takes things still further into the territory of “True” 4K DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) 4K resolution at 4096 x 2160 pixels. While many users won’t even notice the difference as the projector upscales any content being viewed in 4K UHD (3840 X 2160 pixels) to fit the larger display space, the fact that this projector displays at the same resolution as Sony’s powerful professional cinematic 4K projectors for the Big Screen is a nice bit of specs information to have on hand.
Reality Creation Engine: Sony’s Reality Creation upscaling engine is at work in the VPL-VW350ES to make sure that all sources of non-4K content you’re likely to view on this machine scale up smoothly and cleanly. According to Sony, the Reality Creation engine analyses all non-4K content pixels for an upscaling experience that’s as smooth and clean as possible with color, contrast and textures enhanced as well for maximum video quality. From what we’ve seen the Sony hype is lived up to quite nicely in this case, with Full HD content in particular scaled quite well to the DCI 4K pixel space of the projector display.
Built-in 3D Transmitter: Sonny has also added in a built-in 3D transmitter technology to the VPL-VW350ES, which works to synchronize the 3D glasses included with the projector with the 3D abilities of the projection apparatus as well. This allows for a second type of upscaling in which 2D movies can be scaled up to 3D video projections in a way that’s interesting to say the least. The VW350ES also happens to comply with the Full-HD 3D standard, meaning that it can be paired with any 3D glasses on the market, even cheaper models from other brands lie LG or Samsung.
interface and remote control: Sony’s remote control for the VW350ES is both large and easy to use, offering dedicated buttons for all of the projectors different picture modes (nine in total). There are also plenty of shortcut controls for some of the most important picture and specs adjustments. On top of these, rockers for contrast, brightness and sharpness have also been built into it. All of the keys are backlit and overall, the remote is a great piece of technology which we found to be in some ways superior even to the TV smart remotes the company offers with many of its 4K UHD TVs. In addition to this remote, the display control interface of menus that appears on the projector screen is also wonderfully simple and easy to navigate, with an intuitive layout of menus and sub-menus that offers few problems when it comes to picture settings like Sony’s Cinema Black Pro toggles for contrast enhancement or the four different color temperature presets and five custom color temperature presets that Sony allows for the VW350ES.
4.9 - 5 Reviews
Since the vast majority of currently available content on the market today is still going to be of the non-4K sort, all of the major display qualities in the VW350ES have to work well even with said non-4K video sources as well. Fortunately, we can say that they do. This projector delivers a viewing experience that can best be described across the board as being smooth and this smoothness applies not only to native 4K video resolution but also to how well the VW350ES upscales and enhances non-native 4K UHD video content for some excellent contrast, color and realism qualities. Gentle enhancement of fine details and color tones creates a viewing experience mostly free of glaring color palettes or brightness levels and digital noise is extremely minimal for nearly any well mastered 4K and non-4K video sources you can throw at the VW350ES.
The projector is downright exquisite when it comes to delivering native 4K video sources in razor sharp clarity and beautiful color with rich blacks but it also delivers nearly the same level of performance with Blu-ray HD and other well-mastered Full HD digital video sources. What’s more, we think its performance with DVDs is also surprisingly and rather stunningly high in its caliber.
Additionally, with a practical light output of about 1400 lumens (with a specified maximum light output of 1500 lumens), the VPL-VW350ES throws out more than enough light power to easily and very brightly illuminate even its maximum specified display space of roughly 200 inches. If you want a dimmer viewing experience, the VW350ES also offers a “Low Lamp” mode which reduces overall light output by 21%. Overall though, we’d have to say that brightness works superbly even in the worst possible scenario of maximum screen size and maximal telephoto zoom. But even under these settings you can expect a solid 900 lumens of light output with a relatively fresh lamp –Sony’s built-in lamp is designed to last at least 2000 hours at high levels of brightness.
The Sony VPL-VW350ES offers most of the crucial connectivity settings you’d need for a number of different 4K and non-4K content sources. Both of its dual HDMI inputs are of the 2.0 variety and can handle 4K content at 60 frames per second while offering 4:2:0 chroma subsampling. However, only the second (HDMI 2) port offers up HDCP 2.2 compliance for connectivity to devices such as 4K Blu-ray players and other 4K media entertainment boxes. The VPL-VW350ES also comes with a USB port for software updates and access to external storage media devices and an Ethernet/Lan port along with two remote triggers and an IR remote port.
The price of the Sony VPL-VW350ES is definitely on the larger side, even if this is one of Sony’s most affordable 4K home theater projectors and thus one of the most affordable native 4K projectors for the home on sale today. This model is currently retailing for $7,998.00. Like we already said, it’s still definitely not cheap.
4.9 - 5 Reviews
To rehash the less than ideal aspects of the VPL-VW350ES quickly. Its biggest problem is the simple fact that it’s really expensive. Considering the kinds of top-shelf 4K TVs you can get your hands on at this price, buying a VPL-VW350ES is something you’d have to be very sure of. Beyond this, at the price it sells for, we’d have expected HDR technology and even better contrast performance from this particular projector.
• Excellent color delivery
• Superb visual performance for 4K and non-4K content
• Very low noise and heat levels
• Great projection brightness
• Well-designed remote and on-screen menus
• DCI 4K at 4096 x 2160 pixels
• Still very expensive
• No HDR
• Contrast could use improvement