Sony VPL-VW300ES 4K Ultra HD projector review

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posted on Sunday, 14th December 2014 by Steve May

projectors  4K  Marata Vision 

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The VPL-VW300ES is the third addition to Sony’s current SXRD 4K resolution home theatre projector line. Known Stateside as the VPL-VW350ES, it's a derivation of the popular VPL-VW500ES, it sheds surprisingly little to achieve what seems an astonishingly low retail price of just under £6,000, yet it’s images remain undeniably premium. For any custom installer looking to specify a forward-looking home theatre, we suspect it’s going to feature high on any kit list.

Sony VPL-VW300ES projector: Build Quality and Features
Visually what we have here is much of the same. The VPL-VW300ES utilises the same chassis as the step-up VW500ES model. It's an extremely well-made unit, with a sparkly black matt finish and the brand’s distinctive gold-rimmed centre-mounted optics. As we’ve seen on previous Sony projectors, inputs are side-mounted rather than rear, and there are only token on-body controls. This projector is specifically designed for theatre installation, not popping on a coffee table, yet isn’t awkwardly large or heavy (it measures a compact 495.6 x 195.3 x 463.6 w/h/d mm and tips the scales at 14kg). Connections include two HDMI 2.0 inputs with support for HDCP 2.2 provided on the second HDMI. There’s also USB, RJ45 and dual 12v triggers for simple automated integration. The projector ships with a standard Sony IR zapper.

Unlike its bigger brother, the VPL-VW300ES lacks dynamic iris control, and offers slightly less brightness at 1500 lumens. Neither caveat should cause overmuch concern in the average cinema install. However, the lack of a lens memory, essential when switching between 16:9 and Cinemascope displays, may provide a reason to invest in the more expensive model. 

Reassuringly, the VW300 can be installed quickly and once aligned is pretty much good to go. The projector features a 2.06 zoom and expansive lens shift; the amount of play is considerable, some 31 per cent horizontal and 80 per cent vertical. Electronic zoom and focus control make it a doddle to frame and sharpen the image. A wireframe grid can be called up from the remote.

The UI will be familiar from other Sonys, and is reasonably intuitive. There’s a variety of picture presets, all carefully calibrated: Reference, Cinema Film 1 and 2, Photo, Game, Bright Cinema, Bright TV and User. Sony may have dropped the light output of this model, but the two Bright settings still provide enough illumination for the VW300 to be used in moderately lit media rooms. Of course, the projector does look its best in a fully light controlled theatre. There’s a very good black level , complemented by rich colour performance and plenty of shadow detail. There’s also an optional 1.24x and 1.32x anamorphic mode too.

Operational noise is moderate, and sound slightly louder than the 26dB rating might suggest. In a cinema environment though it’s not going to draw overmuch attention to itself. The Bright settings lead to a corresponding loudness boost though. 

HDMI Inputs

12v Trigger

Sony VPL-VW300ES projector: Performance
Image quality is astoundingly high. Sony’s Reality Creation 4K upscaler does a terrific job adding pixel density to Full HD images, and works great with HD TV sources, such as Sky or Freeview. However, it really comes into its own with Blu-ray. Via the VW300ES, the Mastered in 4K BD release of Captain Philips becomes an astonishing spectacle, beautifully crisp with fluid, immersive action. Similarly, if you’re looking for a demo sequence that really shows of the clarity and depth on offer, we advise you spin the opening beachfront battle sequence from Edge of Tomorrow. This is a real project clincher! The projector will support 4K resolutions up to 4096×2160, although for most use it’ll likely be run at 3840 x 2160.

Motion handling remains a strength of Sony’s image processing bouquet. There are several Motionflow modes to choose from - Smooth High, Smooth Low, Impulse, Combination and True Cinema – all of which retain high levels of detail. One good over-arching mode is Impulse, which maximizes motion resolution without sacrificing cinematic sensibilities. If the projector is largely going to be used for sport, then Smooth Low is a good option. Avoid Smooth High as this generates some unsightly artefacts around some moving objects.  For gamers, it’s definitely worth employing the dedicated low-latency Game mode, a new feature debuting on this Sony. This mode does away with all Motionflow image processing, and offers a low-lag 0.5 second response time.

Image refinements include a three-level Contrast Enhancer, and options for D93, D75 and D65 colour. The former is worth putting on its Low setting, as this adds a smidge more depth to certain high contrast images. Sony uses its Triluminos branding to emphasis that this is a wide colour gamut projector, and the onscreen results are suitably rich. The benefits of this (somewhat ambiguous) process can be seen in ruby reds and verdant greens of the Cinema 2 image preset. Given this level of eye candy it’s certainly not worth locking this projector down to the confines of BT.709.

The VPL-VW300ES also proves to be an extremely competent 3D performer. Compliant with Active Shutter 3D, it’s able to throw deeply immersive images without significant double-imaging. Its stereoscopy is crisp and engulfing. Significantly, we weren’t bothered by any obvious loss of brightness in 3D mode either; the projector manages to maintain both colour fidelity and shadow detail through shuttering glasses.

3D syncing is achieved via a built-in RF 3D transmitter. We auditioned the projector with Sony’s own TDG-BT500A Active Shutter RF spex, which worked perfectly well.

Reference Mode

VPLVW300ES_front (1)

Sony VPL-VW300ES projector: Verdict
It’s difficult not to be extremely impressed with this affordable yet premium performance projector. With 4K native sources and services only likely to grown in number during 2015, it makes perfect sense to future-proof home theatre installs today. The VPL-VW300 does drop some features which may be useful for higher-spec installs, but for the majority of CI jobs it represents almost unfathomable value. It’s the best argument we’ve seen yet for ensuring every home cinema room is 4K ready.

The Sony VPL-VW300ES projector is available now
Retail price: £5,800
The Sony VPL-VW300ES is distributed by Marata Vision. For more on Marata Vision’s products and services, visit our partner page here.

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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