Sony VPL-VW1100ES 4K UHD projector review

Inside CI 5 Rating

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posted on Thursday, 28th August 2014 by Steve May

Marata Vision  4K  projectors 


The Sony VPL-VW1100ES is, quite simply, the nearest you'll get to installing a pukka 4K digital cinema projector outside of a commercial theatre. A subtle but important update on the original SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display) VPL-VW1000ES, it shares many of its winning attributes but adds a welcome level of future-proofing. Big at 52 x 20.8 x 64cm (w/h/d), this projector is suitable for larger dedicated private cinemas, and while relatively expensive at just under £20,000, retails for comfortably less than many premium rivals which can't match it for resolution. 

Sony VPL-VW1100ES 4K projector: build quality and features
Overall build quality is excellent. The projector's cabinet has an upmarket sparkle matt finish that reduces reflectivity, while Sony's characteristically rimmed and central lens glowers in a positively imperial manner. Unlike the step-down VPL-VW500ES, the optics here are precision glass. Indeed, the All-Range Crisp Focus (ARC-F) lens is very similar to that found in Sony's digital cinema line, and features an 18-piece lens structure with floating focus system. This retains detail to the very periphery of the lens.

Connectivity is solid, with twin HDMI inputs, PC VGA and component video. Installers can take advantage of a variety of control options, including dual 12v triggers, RS232 interface and control over IP compatibility. Above this left-side jack pack you'll find hard buttons for lens, menu, input and power. The projector vents heated air from the rear. The lens cover itself is fully automated, while the supplied IR remote is conveniently backlit.

Video Inputs


Unlike the original VPL-VW1000ES, this iteration supports 4K/60p content over HDMI. While there remain huge issues with 4K content availability, there's no question that behind the scenes broadcast wheels are turning and that high-frame rate 4K will indeed become a reality in due course.

Installation should prove largely painless. With a 2.06 motorised zoom and generous lens shift adjustment, it's a snap to line up projector with screen. The lens shift range coverage is 80 per cent vertical and 31 per cent horizontal. Helpfully there are memory settings for up to five screen aspect ratio formats. User navigation is straightforward. The menu tabs to Picture, Screen Position, Setup, Function and installation menus, all intuitive enough to browse.

The projector itself is compatible with both cinema format 4096 x 2160 4K, and domestic 3840 x 2160 UHD. Whatever comes down the pipe, it should be able to cope.

Sony VPL-VW1100ES 4K projector: performance
We've long admired Sony's image processing prowess, and here the brand's Reality Creation engine does a remarkable job adding a smidge more definition to all sources, without incurring unwanted artefacts or looking artificial. Buried inside is an algorithm seemingly simpatico with the brand's Mastered in Blu-ray releases, although actual details as to what this algorithm may entail remains elusive. Whatever the secret sauce, the projector looks superb with Blu-ray content. The Tom Cruise SF movie Oblivion is a standout BD demo disc and boasts a fabulously detailed transfer. Upscaled here by the VPL-VW100ES, it looks nothing less than sensational. Images are astonishingly detailed, with glorious hues.

Sony Picture's Mastered in 4K release of The Amazing Spider-Man, played back on a Triluminos-branded Sony BD player, was similarly jaw-dropping. We'd wager customers will need superpowers not to realise that what they're seeing isn't genuine 4K UHD. When Peter Parker, freshly bitten by that infamous radioactive arachnid, handstands on the edge of a skyscraper, you'll feel suitably dizzy; when he web-spins through New York for the first time, you may even feel a tad motion sick. That's just how immersive the images are.

Lizard Screen


Brightness is rated at 2,000 ANSI-lumens, which in a dedicated theatre room is fine. Pictures can be cast up to 300 inches across. The projector's black level performance is excellent, helped in part by Sony's dynamic Advanced Iris3 technology. Gradations are seductively smooth and deep, with no extraneous pixel noise. Sony claims 1,000,000:1 and we're not going to argue. There's a real dynamic pop to its pictures.

Motion handling is benign. There are two settings, Film Projection and Motion Enhancer. The latter has the biggest effect on moving footage, and refreshingly with both Low and High settings, there are no intrusive artefacts to report. Horizontal pans are icy smooth, so this is clearly the best option for sports footage. Movie content is more suitable to the Film Projection setting, although with negligible impact either way our instinct was to leave this setting Off.

Image presets are well judged, and include Cinema Film 1 & 2, Cinema Digital, Reference, TV, Photo, Game, BrightCinema and Bright TV. There are copious calibration options too - make sure you drop Sharpness down to 15 to avoid excess ringing.

Obviously there's precious little native 4K content around, so in order to stretch the VPL-VW1100ES we created our own footage using Sony's new FDR-AX100 4K camcorder. The resulting image fidelity at 2160/30p was astonishing. We filmed a variety of finely detailed fauna and landscapes, and was staggered at the clarity delivered onscreen. 4K is a format absolutely perfect for big screen projection, able to hold its detail and depth without any image deterioration on the largest of screens. It also has big implications for seating arrangements. Sony recommends the optimum viewing position is just 1.5 x the height of the screen.

While our home brew material might not be good enough to debut in London's West End, but it certainly had us eagerly awaiting news of legitimate 4K source material.

Colour space settings comprise BT.709, DCI, Adobe RGB, plus a user configurable option. We chose DCI for the most part, which delivers vibrant cinematic images. Overall fidelity was deemed fabulous, from beautifully upscaled Full HD to 4K UHD.

The projector also does a terrific job with 3D content. The Blu-ray menu for Disney's Tangled, which is usually seen as an unruly crowd of double imaging lanterns, appeared crisp and defined through Sony's Active Shutter glasses. Each lantern clearly delineated and spatially separated. The sense of dimensionality is pronounced. Two pairs of 3D glasses are supplied. In use, the projector proves extremely quiet, gently purring at 23dB while it entertains.


Sony VPL-VW1100ES 4K projector: verdict
Sony has taken a convincing lead with 4K projection, and with this second generation flagship, it's set the bar almost impossibly high for the competition. The VPL-VW1100ES is well equipped, delivers mesmerising image quality and for high-end home theatre installs is clearly the model to beat. We were blown away by the quality of its images, the low operating noise, excellent 3D and future-proofed 2160/60p HDMI input; and it's a fair bet discerning clients will be too. Consequently the VPL-VW1100ES gets an unambiguous recommendation. This really is a stunning performer.

The Sony VPL-VW1100ES is available now.
Retail price: £19,000

The Sony VPL-VW1100ES is distributed by Marata Vision. For more on Marata Vision's product portfolio and services, visit our partner page here

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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