Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K HDR Laser Home Theater Projector with Native 4K SXRD Panel, Black

Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K Laser Projector

Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K Laser Projector

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Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K HDR Laser Home Theater Projector with Native 4K SXRD Panel, Black

Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K HDR Laser Home Theater Projector with Native 4K SXRD Panel, Black

There’s no doubt that this is going to be the year of the laser, and Sony has launched a new entry-level 4K projector, the VPL-XW5000. The projector features a new laser light source, and is a complete re-engineering of Sony’s legacy 4K projectors. 

With new ‘Wide Dynamic Range’ optics, the whole optical pathway has been redesigned from the ground up – brightening and improving black levels are both improved. In order to create white light, the laser light source utilizes blue laser diodes directed through yellow phosphor wheels. The VPL-XW5000 has a quoted brightness of 2,000 lumens, a 25% improvement over its predecessor, the VPL-VW290ES, and runs cooler and quieter. The laser light source can also be adjusted frame-by-frame, making it dynamic. 

It has a native resolution of 3,840x 2,160 and the smallest 4K chipset on the planet at just 0.61. Because it’s a native 4K chipset, it doesn’t have to resort to pixel shifting or other methods of digital wizardry to achieve its 4K resolution. Sony says that the new reflective silicon layer reduces light scatter, while improving black levels, shadow detail and light bleeding.

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Japanese manufacturers continue to manufacture their lenses in-house. A ten-piece design, the VPL-VW5000 consists of nine all-glass lenses with an outer resin optical aspherical lens, not an existing lens assembly. Instead of using an existing lens assembly, this lens assembly is custom-built. According to Sony, this results in sharper images, particularly at the edge of the screen, due to a larger focus area. Sony’s GTZ-380 projector’s ‘secret sauce’ is its X1 Ultimate Projector Picture Processor – the same one in the X1 Ultimate. 

With the latest version of Sony’s Reality Creation Engine, objects are compared to Sony’s image database for intelligent sharpening, noise reduction, and resolution. Although it applies changes that aren’t source-agnostic, I’ve seen firsthand the most significant benefits with streamed content with sharper, more detailed images on the now superseded VPL-VW290ES. The Digital Focus Optimiser is also included. As a digital technology, it improves focus, particularly on the edges of the screen, which had previously been reserved for the company’s more expensive projectors.

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X1 Ultimate chip

The Sony X1 Ultimate chip emulates HDR’s ‘look’, unlike other DTM solutions. It is Sony’s proprietary Dynamic Tone Mapping (DTM) solution. The Sony DTM algorithm operates in the contrast realm, and is based on Sony’s own BVM-X300 Mastering Monitor, which is the exact same monitor that many filmmakers use to master HDR content. As closely as possible to the PQ curve, it analyzes and applies contrast enhancement on a frame by frame basis, in combination with laser light control. In this way, the VPL-XW5000 emulates HDR television’s deep dark blacks and bright highlights. It is claimed to cover 95% of the P3 gamut, the wider colour gamut available in 4K HDR.

Additionally, the VPL-XW5000 supports Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) along with being IMAX Enhanced Certified, HDR, and HDR. In spite of not supporting HDMI 2.1, it has a quoted delay of 27 milliseconds for 4K 60P signals and 16 milliseconds for 2K 120P signals. I suspect that many gamers will be unhappy with the VPL-XW5000’s lack of HDMI 2.1 support, which firmly entrenches it as a home theatre projector.

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In addition to being smaller and having a more angular design than its predecessors, the VPL-XW5000 is also 460x200x472mm in size. A central lens is mounted centrally on the front of the matte black chassis. Sony has also decided to keep all the connections on the side of the projector, except for power, which makes the lens assembly very much like the lenses on Sony’s older 1080p projectors. This means it can fit into smaller spaces as a result of its smaller size.

In addition to the two HDMI inputs (HDCP 2.2) and 18GB of workflow (4K, 60p 10-bit), the VPL-XW500 has an Ethernet port, two 12-volt triggers, an IR input, an RS232C connection and a USB-A connection. 

Under a small flap on the bottom, there are lens shift controls. With this new model, there is no motorized lens like on the VPL-VW290ES, which it replaces. I’m not a fan of manual lens controls. However, given the choice of an enhanced feature set or mechanical lens controls, I will gladly take the former, particularly if it means staying within a budget. 

With a vertical shift of +/-71% and a horizontal shift of +/-25%, centered images were relatively easy to achieve. The VPL-XW5000 is a three-chip SXRD projector with panel alignment controls. In addition to whole-picture adjustments, these are also zone-by-zone alignment controls, which are more precise. It would be handy to be able to change colour in the middle of an operation – without having to exit the current one – but there are controls available that make it possible to align the panels accurately without leaving the current one.

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Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K HDR

This review used an optical HDMI connection to the video output of a JBL SDR-35 AV receiver and Panasonic UB9000 4K Blu-ray player and Apple TV as sources. A Severtson Cinegray 16.9 100” screen was used to project images. For the Atmos 5.2.2 layout, two custom 10-inch VAF Gravitas subwoofers were used with VAF Signature i91 front and center and four VAF i90 speakers for surround and overhead channels. Otherwise, you can skip the following section if you’re not interested in learning how this product is measured and calibrated.

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Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K HDR

The Sony VPL-XW5000 was calibrated to industry standards for SDR and HDR with a Klein Instruments K10A colourimeter, profiled against a reference-grade 2nm JETI 1501 spectroradiometer. Test patterns for SDR and HDR were rendered by a Murideo 6G pattern generator, with 10% window patterns used for calibration and measuring light output. Test patterns were also provided from the Spears & Munsil HDR Benchmark and DVS HDR10 discs. The unit was calibrated using Calman Ultimate and Sony’s Projector Calibration Pro Software.

Contrast ratios and black levels are included but were measured in my viewing environment rather than a controlled testing environment. Nonetheless, it provides us with the means to compare contrast ratios between projectors we review here at StereoNET, as they’re all tested in the same viewing environment.

With the VPL-XW5000, you can choose from a variety of picture modes, including Film 1, Film 2, Reference, TV, Photo, Game, Bright Cinema, Bright TV, User, and Imax Enhanced. Both basic and advanced calibration controls are available, as are grayscale controls, nine gamma presets and a colour management system (CM). For HDR and SDR playback, the unit was calibrated in Film 1 Mode. In my case, I obtained a contrast ratio of 1,703:1 with an on/off contrast ratio of 18 fL, or 63.8 cd/m2, and a black level of 0.0375 cd/m2 after SDR calibration. A contrast ratio of 4,168:1 was achieved when the Dynamic Laser control was engaged in its limited mode with a black floor of 0.014 cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 4,448:1 when it was engaged in its high mode. 

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Sony VPL-XW5000ES Projector Picture Quality

Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K HDR Laser Home Theater Projector with Native 4K SXRD Panel, Black
Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K HDR Laser Home Theater Projector with Native 4K SXRD Panel, Black

The outgoing VPL-VW290ES has similar numbers, but is significantly brighter, bringing additional benefits, particularly in HDR, to the table. Such a balancing act is difficult to achieve due to the fact that brighter displays tend to result in higher black levels. It’s quite an engineering feat that it kept the black levels of its predecessor while staying on budget. 

Averaging a dE of 0.54 after calibration, the VPL-XW5000ES produced excellent greyscale accuracy. Gamma response was also excellent, with the VPL-VW5000ES conforming closely to the calibration curve of 2.4. Sony’s projector offers excellent colour accuracy, with a dE average of 0.75 and a maximum of 1.63.

A different laser setting, brightness and contrast level are available for HDR on the VPL-XW5000 when in HDR mode. As well as forcing the colour space to BT.2020, it also activates Dynamic HDR Enhancer with three EOTF options: Auto, HDR10/HLG and HDR Reference/HLG.

A UHDA-P3 gamut of 88.57% (1976 uv) and 83.66% (1931 xy) was produced with the projector in HDR and BT.2020 colour mode. The Cinema P3 redpoint was slightly different, but the results did not meet the promised 95% gamut coverage of P3. HDR, where it excelled with 46fL or 157 cd/m2, is arguably more important. 

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Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K HDR Laser Home Theater Projector with Native 4K SXRD Panel, Black
Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K HDR Laser Home Theater Projector with Native 4K SXRD Panel, Black

With its outstanding detail and depth, Sony’s VPL-XW5000 produces images that are incredibly realistic in appearance. Colours are well saturated in SDR and HDR, with a strong feeling of realism. HDR viewing is exciting with its extra brightness and decent black levels, which give images a 3D-like appearance. There’s an increase in resolution and detail with streamed content, and a sense of sharpness and clarity not usually associated with streamed content is noticeable. Sharp, poppy images perform equally well with legacy SDR content.

As I often do, I kicked off my viewing with the demonstration clips on the 4K Spears & Munsil HDR Benchmark disc. What struck me most was how detailed the VPL-XW5000 produced. The all too familiar content seemed to give me a new sense of depth. As I watched the scene with the deer, I marveled at the amount of detail it revealed; from its snout to its fur, I have never seen such detail displayed on a projector. 

In addition to clips of animals and objects against black backgrounds, the demonstration is a torture test for projectors and televisions. I was unable to detect any anomalies from my primary viewing position, and I was only able to notice the edges were slightly softer when I got very close to the image. The performance is excellent, whereas many other projectors have struggled with it.

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My impression

The Sony impressed me again with its sharpness and level of detail when watching Netflix’s excellent Our Planet. It was startling to see such level of detail from a projector, let alone one at such a low price, with the swirling cloud pattern and the shape and details of the landmasses. Although I usually use Netflix’s Kate to test televisions, I couldn’t resist testing it with the VPL-XW5000. 

The dynamic range of a projector is limited compared to what HDR televisions can offer, but Sony’s Dynamic HDR Enhancer makes it a little closer. I moved it to the middle or high position to get that extra pop. Though it isn’t as bright and punchy as a good HDR television, it performs admirably, with HDR images looking suitably HDR-like. The performance isn’t without compromises, though. With the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of Aquaman, the lighthouse keeper stands at the edge of the jetty and the sun and clouds are clipped. 

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Best way to watch the DC

The best way to watch the DC flick is to set the HDR to low, and let the riotous colors of Atlantis shine. With the VPL-XW5000 set to low, the riotous colors of Atlantis were done justice. However, where it truly shines is in the marketplace scenes, where objects and people appear almost three-dimensional. The scene looks incredible if you combine sharpness with Reality Creation, but too much makes it look over-processed, so it’s hard to get it right.

With the X1 processor, the HDR transfer of Wolverine is not the only one benefiting. The SDR transfer of Wolverine is as impressive. In addition to producing reference colour reproduction, the VPL-XW5000 captured all the natural skin tones found in the transfer. I was left marveling at the detail with everything I sent its way. The image appears to have a good sense of depth, thanks to good gamma tracking and decent black levels, even though it doesn’t have the same level of black levels as its rivals.

Afterlife in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, with excellent brightness and good black levels, I was amazed by the HDR. There was an extraordinary sense of depth and detail in the shot of the characters and Ecto 1 as the onscreen menu appeared, and I knew I was in for a treat. In contrast to SDR, HDR offers an exhilarating viewing experience with bright spectral highlights, whether they come from proton guns or the neon lights at the local hamburger joint. 

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Final thoughts on Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K Laser Projector preview

A StereoNET Applause Award for Sony’s XW-5000ES Projector. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the VPL-XW5000 and Sony’s other XW models emerged fifty years after Sony’s first home theatre projector was released. The Sony VPL-XW5000 not only leaps ahead of its predecessor, but also leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor, the VPL-VW290ES. Crisp, sharp images are provided by excellent optics and the Digital Focus Optimiser. The ‘secret sauce’, however, is what ties everything together… 

The Sony VPL-XW5000 comes with Sony’s X1 Ultimate for Projector Picture Processor. With good source material, it produces astonishing detail and 3D-like images. As it enhances video content, it is only surpassed by high-end video processors that cost more, making it ideal for streamers. With its high light output, Sony’s Dynamic HDR Enhancer creates stunning HDR images by enhancing contrast to produce beautifully saturated colours and brighter than expected spectral highlights. As a result, it’s an outstanding projector at a great price.

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