As anticipated by some timely rumors that arrived during the summer, Sony has updated the range of home cinema projectors. There are three innovations in all: the new VPL-VW590ES and VPL-VW790ES are joined by the VPL-GTZ380 model, initially introduced for the professional sector (in areas such as CG images for simulators and large-screen viewing of eSports events) and now also available for high-end home cinema installations.
The basis is common to all products: we talk about SXRD technology (Silicon X-Tal Reflective Display), the Sony declination of Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS), or LCDs commonly called "reflective". The three projectors each have three 0.74 "panels with native 4K resolution (4096 x 2160 pixels). Other features vary by model, with GTZ380 featuring the sum of all Sony technologies currently available and others two positioned instead on a lower range (relatively to the top of the range).
Christopher Mullins, Home Cinema Product Manager for Sony Professional Solutions Europe, said:
For nearly a decade, Sony has led the 4K home cinema projector market with our 4K SXRD projectors and are excited to announce a new range of powerful models for our CI and consumer resellers. Delivering an immersive viewing experience on the big screen that faithfully conveys the vision of content creators is a top priority for the development of our new projectors, and these new models are no exception.
Let's see all the innovations introduced on the 2020 range.
The Sony flagship is admittedly a product for luxury installations both in dedicated environments with very large screens, and in untreated environments and perhaps even in the presence of light sources. The light source is in fact capable of ensuring a very high flux: we are talking about 10,000 lumens measured both WLO (White Light Output, measured on white) and CLO (Color Light Output, measured on colors). To ensure this result, various modifications have been made to the SXRD panels, in order to make them resistant to the heat and light generated by such a high amount of lumens.
GTZ380 uses a system with a blue laser combined with a wheel containing phosphors in synergy with two other lasers, one blue (with a different wavelength) and one red. This configuration allows you to maintain a high coverage of the largest color spaces without sacrificing brightness (after all there are no special filters). Sony declares 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 with all 10,000 lumens available. The result is therefore a substantial increase in color volume (here our guide to learn more).
Zoom and focus are motorized while the shooting ratio and the lens-shift (the displacement of the image that does not require the repositioning of the projectors), which is also motorized, varies according to the combined optics. VPLL-Z8014 has a shooting ratio of 1.49 to 2.91: 1 (1.95x zoom) while VPLL-Z8008 ranges from 0.85 to 1.09: 1 (1.28x zoom). The VPLL-Z8014 lens excursion is ± 80% vertically and ± 33% horizontally while VPLL-Z8008 is ± 50% vertically and ± 19% horizontally.
The video processor is directly derived from that of high-end Bravia televisions. We are talking about X1 Ultimate for projector, a version optimized for use on projectors and equipped with many functions that we also find on Sony TVs currently on the market, such as the A8 OLEDs that we recently reviewed. The image processing is entrusted to a system called Dual database. The images on the screen are compared in real time with an archive (created from the experience of a decade of development) made up of a series of sample images; the latter act as a term of comparison to apply the algorithms that improve quality by acting separately on upscaling and noise reduction (this is why the archive is defined as "dual").
Object-based Super Resolution, on the other hand, works specifically to optimize colors and contrast and therefore to obtain greater precision in details. Objects are significant details identified by the processor and on which the electronics apply the appropriate algorithms. X1 Ultimate allows you to identify hundreds of on-screen objects and smaller in size than X1 for projector processors found on other models. Object-based HDR remaster effectively applies the same concept to high dynamic range content with the aim of optimizing the finest contrast.
X1 Ultimate for projector also features the Digital Contrast Optimiser which analyzes scenes and optimizes contrast to improve both the black level and the intelligibility of darker scenes. The equipment is completed by the Dynamic HDR Enhancer, a novelty that introduces dynamic tone mapping on Sony projectors. Tone mapping is the processing that allows TVs, monitors and projectors to adapt the brightness of the contents to what they are really capable of. On a projector, this is therefore a very important addition since the difference between the dynamic range present in the sources (movies, TV series, games, sporting events, etc.) and that offered by the projectors is very large.
Sony has implemented the Dynamic HDR Enhancer by acting on three areas. It starts with the analysis of HDR video frame by frame thanks to the computing power of the X1 processors, capable of operating on many more tones (both in the brightest and darkest parts) than the electronics previously used on Sony projectors (without of dynamic tone mapping). Once the data relating to the images to be reproduced have been obtained, the signal is processed to optimize the yield in the two extremes: brightness peaks and black.
For the peaks, the electronics try to preserve the highest possible brightness level while improving the detail to avoid the "burnt" white, ie indistinctly white and devoid of details that would be lost. The projectors also act to improve color saturation to the advantage of color volume. In dark scenes, the modulation of the Laser light source is used to obtain a deeper black and expand the dynamic range downwards.
GTZ380 supports HDR in HDR10 and HLG formats. Available connections include two HDMI 2.0b inputs with HDCP 2.3 and two DisplayPort 1.4 with HDCP 2.3. The projector handles input signals up to 4K resolution at 60 Hz and can also support 4K at 120 Hz. In the latter case it is necessary to use a connection with two DisplayPort cables and the color sampling is in RGB 4: 4: 4 10-bit.
The projector is also equipped with a dedicated game mode and has an input lag (the delay in responding to commands) of 21 ms with 4K signals at 60 fps which rises to 30 ms with 4K signals at 120 fps. The projector will be available from January 2021 at the indicative price of 79,999 euros.
The VPL-VW790ES model replaces the previous VPL-VW760ES offering various novelties and a lower price. The laser light source with phosphors has remained in fact the same as can also be seen from the statements of Sony. The specifications report the same brightness of 2,000 lumens.
The lens has a shooting ratio between 1.38 and 2.83: 1 (2.06x zoom). The lens-shift has an excursion of +85% / – 80% vertically and +/- 31% horizontally. Zoom, focus and lens-shift are motorized. Sony's VPL-VW790ES also benefits from the arrival of a new video processor. This is X1 for projector, a slightly less advanced version of X1 Ultimate present on the top of the range but which still offers most of the functions. For example, we find Dynamic HDR Enhancer that works in the same way we have described for the GTZ380.
Then there is Motionflow, Sony's proprietary technology that enhances moving images by reducing blur and increasing fluidity. In this version, intervention on 4K resolution sources is also supported. VW790ES is equipped with the Reality Creation function with Super Resolution, whose operation is based on the sample image archives that we have already illustrated when talking about the top of the range projector.
The X1 processor analyzes the scenes in real time and finds the matches with the samples in the archive. At this point algorithms are applied that have already proved effective with similar images; the electronics thus increases the level of general detail using some tricks to optimize the results. In particular, we try not to increase the video noise. Thanks to the X1 processor, the processing on high frequencies has been refined, that is portions of the image that contain details such as hair or finer textures.
Digital Focus Optimizer (DFO) intervenes instead to compensate for the limits of the optics. This is not new: it is already present on the VPL-VW760ES, VPL-VW870ES, VPL-VW5000ES and VPL-ZV1000ES models. DFO aims to reduce the blur that can generally be found near the corners on the screen (the center is perfectly in focus, the corners are not). An algorithm analyzes the pixels present in the picture and applies the appropriate compensations to obtain a more uniform focus on the whole screen.
VW790ES also supports HDR in HDR10 and HLG formats. Available connections include two HDMI 2.0b inputs with HDCP 2.2. The projector supports signals up to 4K resolution at 60Hz, is equipped with a game mode and has an input lag (delay in responding to commands) of 27ms with 4K signals at 60fps. The product can already be ordered with a list price indicatively set at 11,999 euros.
VPL-VW590ES closes the triptych of the new Sony projectors. Unlike the higher-end models, it uses a 280 W UHP lamp capable of guaranteeing 1,800 lumens in high lamp mode. It is equipped with a dynamic iris (Advanced Iris), a mechanical diaphragm that adjusts the amount of light (opening and closing) that reaches the screen in relation to the images that the projector must display. The optics have the same characteristics as that of the immediately higher range model.
The integrated electronics are the same X1 for projector processor found on the VW790ES. The functions are exactly the same: there is the Dynamic HDR Enhancer which here simply no longer modulates the Lasers but works in synergy with the dynamic iris. We also find the Reality Creation with Super Resolution, the Motionflow also in 4K and the Digital Focus Optimizer.
Support for HDR10, HLG, two HDMI 2.0b inputs with HDCP 2.2 and game mode with 27 ms input lag complete the equipment. VPL-VW590ES can be pre-ordered at the indicative price of 6,999 euros.
The best quality / price ratio of 2020? Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite, on offer today by Tecnosell at 263 euros or from Amazon at 308 euros.