Hands-on preview of Sony 4K VPL-VW1000ES projector

posted on Tuesday, 29th November 2011 by Steve May

projectors  3D  4K 

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Sony took the wraps off its groundbreaking VPL-VW1000ES 4K projector yesterday, for the first media demonstration in the UK. The model on display may have been an engineering sample running at just 1500 ANSI-lumens rather than a specified 2000, yet it still delivered an image that sets a new benchmark for home theatre projection.

Sony describes the VPL-VW1000ES as the world's first home theatre front projector specifically designed to meet the needs of custom installers. Unlike rival '4K' projectors from JVC, it employs a native 4K (4096 x 2160) 8.8 million pixel SXRD panel, for true super-high resolution imagery.

Sony's David Edwards told Inside CI that the introduction has only been made possible because of the brand's professional heritage. "We've installed 10,000 4k digital cinema projectors worldwide to date, and have pioneered digital acquisition tools for the film industry. We know 4K"

He adds: "The important thing to remember is that 4K is already relevant in consumer's lives. They're already becoming used to it as the top cinematic experience."

With no native 4K content available, the commercial appeal of the projector hangs squarely on the quality of its upscaler, and that doesn't disappoint. Sequences from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides looked tremendously impressive. A freshly developed Reality Creation chip incorporates proprietary pixel mapping technology which gives this already good looking disc astonishing sharpness; ultra-fine hair and skin textures are introduced without additional artefacts. As this was an engineering sample, no demonstrations of upscaled 4K 3D were offered.

Sony says the challenges to bring 4k from the cinema to the home have been considerable. The brand has had to develop an entirely new SXRD panel, a new generation optical block, plus new ARC-F lenses capable of maintaining absolute clarity from edge-to-edge. The model also conforms to the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) and Adobe colour space specifications; dynamic contrast is rated at 1,000,000:1.

Interestingly, the VPL-VW1000ES uses a high brightness UHP lamp. Previous high-end SXRD projectors have used Xenon lamps, as these typically deliver a more accurate red.

According to marketing manager Tak Nakane, Sony engineers fine-tuned the light frequency of the UHP lamp to compensate, which has allowed the brand to hit the DCI spec.

While there is no native video content available, Nakane believes the boost from the projector's upscaler still justifies this evolution in projector technology. But he did confirm that the brand is currently developing a converter box which accepts four HDMI/SDI inputs and outputs 4K over a single HDMI to the projector. Currently the only devices to offer 4K playout are ultra high resolution graphics cards which typically use a quartet of SDI outputs to deliver an 8million pixel image.

Currently, 4K is not standardised at the HDMI level, says Nakane. "For 4K native content to be used, the HDMI specification must be modified in the future to allow a super high resolution player to output 4K. Therefore, there is no solution at the moment. And package media for 4K doesn't exist at this moment."

Not that that should put anyone off buying one. "This is an investment in the future of home theatre. To buy one is to future proof your home cinema installation."

The VPL-VW1000ES will begin shipping in January, priced at £18,000.

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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