No stranger to preserving the artist’s intention, if there’s any brand in the world that understands the movie-making-and-reproduction chain, it’s Sony.
From the cameras used to capture to post-production monitors and some of the best home video displays, the VPL-VW570ES 4K projector has a lot of learning behind it. The large chassis means business, so don’t expect to take one home and tuck it in a corner for an IPL party. Designed for dedicated home-cinema rooms ideally, the rather modest 1800 ANSI lumens of brightness might seem low compared to lower-priced, family-room oriented projectors, but the Sony is gunning for a more accurate rendition of cinema at home and not just a big and bright, fun image.
The clean design is monolithic, with most connectivity limited to one side like the twin HDMI inputs, ethernet , RS-232 and 12v triggers, while the basic controls fall on the other side. That leaves the top finished in matt black that seems to be scratch resistant and built for custom install projects. The lens ring, though, is garnished with premium looking matt gold ridges that heighten the sense of drama and anticipation even before you turn it on. Setting it up could not be any less easy. Despite its intimidating proportions, the VW570ES makes light work of getting a 120in image in our review room with a distance of 3.7m from the screen.
Motorised controls for zoom, focus and lens shift make it snappy and the precise increments in which you can control each of these parameters ensures you get the best picture geometry without applying to IIT for a master's degree in science. The other advantage of motorised controls is that you can preserve the alignment, unlike on manual zoom/focus rings on lesser projectors, which inevitably causes tiny amounts of shake and movement in the projector. Lens memory on the Sony also allows you to use different screen types with masking for anamorphic 21:9 or Netflix-friendly 16:9, aiding to its custom-install credentials.
With a large handful of a remote, the VW570ES is best set-up from the primary viewing position and offers a healthy mix of basic and advanced controls, depending on your level of OCD. With a resolution of “true 4K”, it boasts of 4096x2160 pixels delivered with its SXRD engine, which in turn is a variation of the LCOS technology and the topic of another article if you want to get to grips with it. But, Sony does have an advantage over the DLP-based projectors in terms of a more cinematic feel to its picture with a richness and smoothness that is akin to watching a movie in the finest multiplex. The flip side, though, is less brightness, and even with 1800 lumens and a dynamic iris, the Sony is best suited to a completely dark room dedicated to movie watching.
Sony offers multiple HDR modes, best suited to your content, but Auto seems to work best. If you do want to experiment or are confident of your programme material, you could choose HLG, HDR-10 or Reference. The last one is optimised for content that is mastered at a 1000 Nits; there are some discs in the market with this specification, if you know where to look. Keeping HDR Off just generates a washed out image that isn’t true to any source – maybe Sony’s way of pushing up conversion of SDR to HDR. Mind you, using HDR will also shorten the life of the lamps in terms of its peak brightness. Not that it should be a bother if you’re considering a high-end projector in a supposed home-theatre room.
Sony’s motion processing also is superb and while the difference between the various options might be hard to see, True Cinema is a great looking mode for the vast majority of content captured at 24fps. I wasn’t impressed by the Clear White mode, though, as it always cast a blue-ish tone on the frozen Antarctic landscape, which also happens to be a great test for this feature by the way. I chose to leave it off for the whitest looking whites, ironically.
Once saddled in with basic calibration done and the curtains drawn, the VW570ES doesn’t take long to convince you that projectors are the way to go if you’re serious about your cinema. The cinematic fluidity of the picture, the detail in the shadows and the richness in its black levels is unbelievable. Watching The Mandalorian on the new Disney+ Hostar app, every scratch on the Beskar steel armour of Mando is brought to the fore as if you were having a face to face argument with him. The dynamic iris never makes its presence felt by way of fluctuations in the light output and the smoothness of the motion will make you devour shows after shows, movie after movie, gaping in disbelief that you can have a picture quality like this in your own home for not a lot of money.
It’s not exactly cheap, but speaking relatively, of course. Its HDR performance was significantly better than most other entry-level projects claiming to have the feature too, with accurate colours without the associated drop in brightness or altering skin tones. My only real grouse with the VW570ES is its slight lack of peak light output which can tempt you to increase HDR contrast and that in turn will rob your image of high-key details and introduce noise and artefacts of its own. The absolute requirement of a dedicated room (or at least seeing conditions) means that it isn’t a projector for everyone.
The bulk and brightness are the only two areas where you might have to consider your room’s dimensions and ambient light management. In terms of performance, the Sony VW570ES is probably the most accomplished projector in this price segment, but then again, its lower priced sibling, the VW270 runs it so close in terms of performance, it begs the question, is it worth the added outlay? If you’re keen on HDR and want to squeeze out the last iota of brightness from the SXRD engine, then yes. It won’t let you down and the motorised lens functions are just the icing on the cake. Sony knows a thing about making and reproducing movies, and this is a fine tribute to their hallowed legacy.