Sony VPL-VW300ES

Review: Sony VPL-VW300ES

Introduction and features

Those after a Full HD home cinema projector are unlikely to think of Sony, but mention 4K and there’s really only one brand in town.

Since it specialises in ultra high-end projection for large venues, the Sony VPL-VW300ES is something of a trickle-down attempt.

But an entry-level projector costing £5,849? You betcha – that’s where 4K home cinema is right now.

Nevertheless, the VPL-VW300ES’s eight million pixels do come with a few restrictions you need to be aware with.

Design & specs

The VPL-VW300ES is a home cinema beast.

It’s not designed to be used in daylight or, at least, not much. Its 1,500 lumens rank it less bright even Sony’s step-up 4K home cinema projector, the VPL-VW500ES.

And its hulking physical size rule it out for occasional use; its 496x195x464mm chassis and 14kg weight has been created for a permanent installation in a dedicated home cinema room.

At the core of the VPL-VW300ES is a Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD) a Sony-only tech that’s essentially a hybrid between DLP and LCD. The key benefit of SXRD is an ultra-fast response, so a lot of that 4K detail ought to remain even during high-octane video.

Sony VPL-VW300ES

Image perfectionists will love the the VPL-VW300ES’s endlessly tweak-able parameters.

There’s a colour-specific correction tool for hue, saturation and brightness, while preset picture modes include the moody yet colour-accurate (and supremely quiet) Reference mode, Cinema Film, 1 & 2, Game, Bright Cinema and Bright TV (both handy for where there’s ambient light around during the day, though don’t expect too much), among others.

Inputs are plentiful for home cinema. On the side are two HDMI 2.0 inputs – one compatible with HDCP 2.2 – alongside a RS-232C for integrating the VPL-VW300ES into a in-room control system, an Ethernet LAN slot for hard-wiring it into a network, a couple of 12V triggers and a USB slot.

Optional accessories include the IFU-WH1 wireless HD unit and TDG-BT500A 3D specs. The VPL-VW300ES is also 3D-ready, and in the detail-maximising active shutter 3D camp, as you would expect for a 4K machine.

It even upscales 3D into 4K quality. Sadly, it doesn’t come with any 3D specs from Sony so I wasn’t able to review the 3D performance.

Sony VPL-VW300ES

Performance

Set-up was simple thanks to a very handy 2x optical zoom and both horizontal and (huge) vertical lens shift, complete with a green screen pattern to help aim the slinky electronic zoom and focus controls on the long, slender remote you get with a Sony TV.

Sony sent me its POP-FMPA60 4K player pre-loaded with native 4K footage from around World Heritage sites in Japan (though Netflix 4K and Amazon Instant 4K will work fine, too). In my test the VPL-VW300ES proceeded to use its Cinematic 4K, 4096×2160 pixels, to devastating effect.

First it was majestic sight of Mount Fuji, watched on a bright afternoon with curtains half-closed. In Bright Cinema mode, the VPL-VW300ES produced just 53 decibels while it sent out well-saturated, bold colours and so-so black levels.

The level of detail, especially with the Reality Creation mode activated, is sublime.

Sony VPL-VW300ES

However, engage the paler, contrasty Reference mode and it quietens down to a whisper-like 48 decibels, though the more exacting, brighter yet blackout-friendly Cinema Film mode.

During a stunning 4K sequence shot at sunrise on Fuji-san, the black levels were utterly convincing, containing plenty of shadow detail. Images are super-smooth, too, with the lightning-quick response of the VPL-VW300ES supplying ultra-fluid images from high-octane sequences.

I wasn’t convinced by its frame interpolation circuitry, called Motionflow, partly because it’s not much needed, and partly because engaging the ‘impulse’ mode dulls the image somewhat.

The VPL-VW300ES doesn’t half handle non-4K sources well.

It doesn’t miss a beat when thrown Guardians of the Galaxy, offering clean, crisp Full HD detail that’s terrifically boosted by Reality Creation. War of the Worlds on DVD also gets a shot in the arm from this darned effective upscaling tech.

Even a blast of ProEvolution 2015 from an Xbox 360 in the bright yet unusually conservative ‘game’ mode does well, though I did notice some jagged edges.

Verdict

It may seem ridiculous to be talking about a nearly £6,000 piece of tech being the entry-level option, but that’s exactly where we are with 4K projections.

And considering the top 65-inch Samsung JS9500 TV is around the same price while this beamer is able to produce a far larger picture, it starts to make some sense.

For that proper cinematic feel it’s hard to beat a big screen projector, especially one that’s capable of filling a wall with 4K images.

Sony VPL-VW300ES

We liked

Aside from its ability to spew 4K images, itself a rarity, perhaps the highlight of the VPL-VW300ES is how little attention it needs out-of-the-box.

Both its Bright Cinema and Cinema Film modes are finely tuned for daylight and blackout conditions respectively, with the VPL-VW300ES’s ability with nuanced colour and black levels quite something.

Just as appealing in these days of mixed quality video, the VPL-VW300ES manages as sublime performance with Blu-ray and even DVD as it does with native 4K sources.

It even does all this very quietly, especially in the blackout-specific Reference mode. Also, the motorised set-up is enjoyable, easy to do and exact in its results – a real slice of high-end design.

We disliked

It may be substantially shorter than Sony’s top-of-the-range VPL-VW1100ES 4k projector, but the VPL-VW300ES remains a big boy beamer that’s tricky to host without some careful planning.

Do be careful with Motionflow, which can introduce some obvious flicker and ‘rips’ around fast-moving objects, though only when on its strongest Smooth High setting.

And, of course, there’s that high price. It may well be cheaper than other 4K projectors around, but let’s not even pretend that the VPL-VW300ES could be judged good value.

At this price, the lack of 3D specs is a shame, too.

Verdict

Is there anything wrong with the VPL-VW300ES?

Judged on any purely technical considerations, this 4K SXRD projector just refuses to put a foot wrong.

First, there’s great colour and black levels, whatever the ambient light levels. Secondly, awesome Reality Creation tech that brings out Maximum detail from native 4K sources, Blu-ray and even DVD. Thirdly, the exemplary Bright Cinema and Cinema Film 1 & 2 presets and, finally, the hugely flexible optical zoom/lens shift options that make set-up a cinch.

If you’ve got the money, the space and the 4K source, the VPL-VW300ES is a shoe-in to become the centrepiece of your next home cinema.