Sony VPL-VW290ES in conclusion
Even though the VW290ES uses a traditional lamp rather than the lasers found higher up in Sony’s projector range, it has the light control and processing power necessary to deliver high dynamic range images as convincing as any found in a projector of this price range.
Oral-B iO Series 10 Pros
- Style that dazzles
- Performance that meets expectations
- There are many options for the interface
Oral-B iO Series 10 Cons
- Life of batteries is short
- Issues related to vulnerability
- An expensive product
The Sony VPL-VW290ES overview
New Sony projectors will include laser lighting for the first time in their native 4K range of SXRD projectors, the XW5000ES. Sony’s recent news, however, hasn’t immediately pushed out its current VW290ES lamp-based projector, but might actually make it even more desirable. Is it the world’s biggest bargain as it’s now widely available for £3999 compared to £5499 it cost previously?
Sony’s VW290ES, though eye-catchingly affordable, is a serious projector. Because of this, it comes with an unusually large chassis compared to modern projector standards. If you try to fit it on a coffee table, you won’t be able to fit popcorn and drinks on top.
The VW290ES is best suited for a dedicated home cinema room rather than any casual living space. This means that, ideally, it will be permanently mounted there, possibly on the ceiling, so its size isn’t an issue.
In addition, the VW290ES looks good and feels like a home. Its rounded edges and vaguely elliptical shape make it feel domesticated, and it is available in both white and black options for your convenience.
To keep the lens from getting damaged, it’s recessed, and on either side of it is a highly effective venting system that dissipates heat without running as loudly as you’d expect. An excellent remote control comes with the VW290ES, which is large enough to carry well-labelled, easy-to-find buttons, as well as bright backlighting so you can still use it in a dark cinema room.
The VW290ES’ main advantage is its native 4K resolution, not its pseudo 4K resolution. Its SXRD panels are 3840 x 2160, not 4K like its competitors at this price point.
Honestly, I think the Dynamic HDR Enhancer on the VW290ES is better. It improves black levels (by adjusting lamp light output) and boosts highlights to boost the visual impact of HDR sources.
Sony’s VW590ES and VW790ES projectors tested perfectly with it, so hopefully this less expensive model will perform just as well.
Instead of the laser system introduced by the VW790ES – and the upcoming XW5000ES model – the VW290ES uses a lamp light source, like the VW590ES. Consequently, the lamp needs to be replaced after 5000-6000 hours, and the brightness peaks at 1500 ANSI lumens rather than the 2000 ANSI lumens of the VW790ES. The Dynamic HDR Enhancer system should not be adversely affected by this relatively low brightness.
This VW290ES features a motorised lens setup system that allows you to adjust its focus and zoom with the remote control, as well as adjust the image optically horizontally and vertically. As well as offering plenty of image size and positioning flexibility, the adjustment controls are precise. However, unlike Sony’s more premium projectors, the motorized lens adjustments aren’t accompanied by lens memory.
Active shutter-type 3D playback
As part of its active shutter-type 3D playback capabilities, the VW290ES has a dynamic iris that lets you control light output on the fly, which enhances contrast. Sony’s X1 For Projector chip powers its various image processing tricks. The controller controls Motionflow motion processing optimized for projectors, as well as Dynamic HDR Enhancer and Reality Creation.
With two HDMI ports, a 12V trigger port that can be used to activate a motorised roll-up screen, an Ethernet service port, an RS-232C control port to link the projector to a broader “macro” control system, an IR port, and a USB port, the VW290ES is well equipped for all of your needs. The USB can only be used for service purposes; it cannot play multimedia files.
The HDMI ports are of the 2.0 variety, supporting 18Gbps data speeds. This means they don’t support aren’t compatible with the latest cutting-edge gaming features of 4K/120Hz feeds, or variable refresh rates.
The key question with the VW290ES is whether Sony’s Dynamic HDR Enhancer is. Can still deliver the goods when it has only a 1500 lumens lamp light system to work with. And the simple answer is, yes, it can.
Feeding in tough-to-show HDR imagery, containing a high-contrast mix of very dark and very bright elements. Instantly reveals what a difference the Dynamic HDR Enhancer makes. The feature’s Medium strength mode, in particular, joins the versions found on the VW590ES and VW790ES in making dark areas look darker, while also making the bright areas look lighter. It does this so convincingly that it’s hard to believe Sony hasn’t somehow introduced some sort of premium LCD TV-like local dimming system to the VW290ES’s optics.
It hasn’t, of course; such a thing isn’t possible using current projector technology. But the sense of enhanced contrast and extra localised punch for bright HDR highlights delivers an HDR experience unlike anything else in the VW290ES’s class.
Especially since the VW290ES has enough colour range up its sleeve to keep colour saturations in line with the brightness. If it didn’t do this then colours might start to wash out slightly as the brightness feeding into them increases. But not even the strongest Dynamic HDR Enhancer setting causes so much as a hint of a faded colour tone.
That said, I wouldn’t suggest using the highest Dynamic HDR Enhancer setting, since it starts to push things too far. Causing colors to look unnatural, with the gap between the brightest and darkest parts of the picture rather forced.
Dynamic HDR On The Sony VPL-VW290ES
In addition, Dynamic HDR Enhancer does not produce the same dramatic HDR-looking effects as it does on VW590ES and VW790ES. Given VW290ES’ smaller brightness, this isn’t surprising. The biggest advantage is that it dramatically improves the VW290ES’ HDR performance, so no other similarly priced projector can compete with its contrast, colour vibrancy, and brightness punch.
Besides HDR, VW290ES also has 4K native resolution, which is its biggest advantage. With more clarity and precision than any other projector under £5k, it provides 4K Blu-ray sources with detailed details. There are a few DLP models that come close, but there’s nothing quite like being able to directly map a pixel from a 4K image to a pixel on a 4K display.
In addition, Sony’s Motionflow processing doesn’t impact the VW290ES’s 4K clarity since it works equally well on Sony TVs and projectors. In True Cinema, hardware judder is eliminated while natural judder is preserved.
Likewise, the True Cinema setting performs its function without causing distracting processing effects. Together with the VW290ES’s stunning details, rich and natural colors, and excellent contrast performance, it delivers a fantastically consistent and immersive big-screen experience.
It also does a great job upconverting HD sources into VW290ES’s native 4K resolution, adding plenty of detail without creating ringing around edges or exaggerated grain that are common upscaling problems. In addition, the projector runs quiet enough – so long as your home cinema sound system is half-decent – that it won’t break your immersion in HDR even in its brightest HDR modes.
In light of its price, it’s difficult to find fault with the VW290ES. Purists might have appreciated a more traditional dynamic tone mapping system instead. Sony has often argued, convincingly, in my opinion, that HDR was created with bright TV screens in mind rather than projectors, so you need to use your imagination to create an HDR experience with the tools available to projectors if you want to create an impressive, exciting HDR experience.
JVC’s D-ILA projectors can also deliver significantly deeper black levels than Sony’s SXRD. They don’t come with Dynamic HDR Enhancer, which lets you get HDR-friendly contrast just like the VW290ES, so even the cheapest D-ILA costs more than twice as much as the VW290ES.
Is it worth purchasing?
Especially true for projectors that are capable of handling sources with a high dynamic range, picture quality is exceptional for the price. Although, to be fair, few rivals offer 4K/120 playback and variable refresh rates, which are important for gaming.
Lastly, I want to say
It was a great projector, especially for rendering high-dynamic-range images, despite its previous price. With this quality available for $3999, a projector that was already excellent is now more than irresistible.