OK. Let’s be clear about this, Sony’s new near-£9,000 projector is expensive. In fact, it’s so pricey that it’d be cheaper to invest in a lifetime’s cinema-going instead of owning it.
But hands up if a top-class movie experience without chatting people, overpriced popcorn and the occasional “turn your phone off” heckle sounds appealing? If your arm is still dangling, and you aren’t put off by the prospect of selling your firstborn to help get it in your home, the VPL-VW520ES is an amazing bit of home cinema kit.
The standard has been quite literally set for a next-gen premium home cinema experience (officially called ‘Ultra HD Premium’), which includes both 4K (giving you more pixels) and HDR (making those pixels more accurate) as basic requirements. The VPL-VW520ES backs both.
Invite your pals over soon enough and you’ll be able to boast ownership of the ‘world’s only’ 4K HDR home cinema model around. This handful of projector houses three SXRD panels with a full 4096 x 2160 resolution. In other words, the VPL-VW520ES is more future-proofed than an Elon Musk-made bachelor pad.
It boasts an impressive 6000-hour lamp life too. Do the maths and that’ll keep up a film-a-day habit for roughly a decade. Or survive around 550 runs of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, if you are so inclined. If that doesn’t have you salivating over the spec sheet, perhaps a 300,000:1 contrast ratio will.
Build-wise, this Sony is a true heavyweight as well. Weighing in at 14kg, it’s every bit as solid as it looks. It may resemble a Batmobile spare part, but the curvy edges and gold frills around the lens give it an heir of class.
Are you projector newbie? The Sony’s foolproof set-up shouldn’t put you off. A powered lens means measuring up your picture doesn’t require turning dials to your wit’s end. Just press the shift, focus and zoom buttons on the backlit-on-demand remote – and from the comfort of your sofa – and you’ll be up and running in minutes.
When tested with a few 4K HDR clips, this projector really shows its worth. Even The Amazing Spider-Man 2's director Marc Webb would be impressed by the Sony’s emphatic rendition of his Times Square scene. Everything from billboards to the voltage on Electro’s face leaps off the screen, while the texture of Spidey’s suit in close-ups looks real enough to reach out and grab it.
There’s shading even in the most insignificant details of the scene – lights in buildings, the crowd’s clothing – and a sense of picture depth that comes as naturally as the hero’s willingness to save the day.
Take HDR out of the picture (literally) and 4K performance still wows, especially after the Sony’s picture settings have been given a once over to draw out any colour saturation. Edges are pin-sharp, colours bask in realism and contrast is dramatic yet nuanced. It’s as good as any 4K TV performance we’ve seen, and the size of the projected picture (100ins in our case, although anything up to 300ins is possible) makes it all the more impressive.
The Sony doesn’t discriminate against Blu-ray (or Full HD Netflix streams) – they still look crisp and precise – and even DVDs uphold a very decent standard where clarity and detail are concerned. It’s a double-edged sword for 3D fans: the VPL-VW520ES will play 3D Blu-rays, it just doesn’t include any glasses. The cheek of it!
Sony VPL-VW520ES verdict
Still, this doesn’t stop the spectacular Sony in its bid for greatness. Offering superb 4K and HDR picture quality, it’s as cutting edge as projectors come. Well, you'd expect as much given its near-£9,000 price tag.
This device has got ‘a movie lover’s dream’ written all over it. If you've got the spare savings to hand, then why not treat yourself to a blockbuster home cinema set-up.