Now that Sony can no longer claim to be the only brand out there selling truly native 4K projectors at remotely affordable prices, the brand seems to have decided it’s time to up its projector game in other, potentially spectacular ways. Certainly the new VPL-XW5000, VPL-XW6000 and VPL-XW7000 projectors Sony has announced today look as if they have the potential to cause something of an earthquake in the premium home cinema world.
This is especially true of the VPL-XW5000ES. Despite sporting a full laser lighting solution, new and improved Sony SXRD optics and a video processor previously only found on Sony’s uber-expensive GTZ380 projector, the VW5000ES is set to retail for just $5,999.99 (£5,999 in the UK, and €5,999 in Europe). That means it will cost more or less the same as the launch price of the entry level VPL-VW325ES (VW290ES in other territories) Sony projector that it’s designed to replace. And that VW325ES predecessor only used a lamp-based lighting system.
The shift to a laser light source sees the XW5000ES reaching a claimed peak light output of 2000 Lumens – around a third more than the VW325ES provided. This should, of course, work wonders on the XW5000ES’s potential with high dynamic range content. Especially when combined with the latest, optimized version of Sony’s excellent Dynamic HDR Enhancer feature.
The Dynamic HDR Enhancer is capable of manipulating the laser light source to enhance black levels while simultaneously using processing to boost bright highlights. The effectiveness of this feature has been so striking on previous Sony SXRD projectors that it’s almost felt like a form of local dimming (even though it clearly isn’t). So the thought of what the feature might be able to do for the sub-£6k projector market when combined with a bright laser optical system is mouthwatering.
Using a laser light source instead of a traditional lamp also means anyone who buys an XW5000ES won’t need to worry about replacing lamps every 3000-5000 hours. In fact, Sony rates the laser system in the XW5000ES as good for at least 20,000 hours. Which equates to 10,000 two-hour films for anyone who’s particularly bad at maths.
Laser light sources also typically unlock purer colours with more colour volume (the combination of brightness and saturation) than lamp projectors – something that Sony is keen to leverage thanks to a new Triluminos Pro colour management system. In fact, Sony claims its new projectors can cover 95% of the DCI-P3 digital cinema colour spectrum.
The biggest processing surprise with the XW5000ES, though, is its carriage of Sony’s X1 Ultimate For Projector processor. This processor, which adds key AI and object-based image processing elements to deliver a much more refined, three-dimensional image, was previously only available on Sony’s megabucks ($80,000!) VPL-GTZ380 projector. So finding it sliding all the way down to the XW5000ES is a seriously welcome surprise.
The new SXRD ‘panel’ inside the XW5000ES, meanwhile, has been reduced in size to 0.61 inches, despite still offering a native 3840×2160 4K resolution. And when I say native here, I mean it. There are no ‘pseudo’ 4K technologies in play here.
Cramming so many pixels into a smaller area should make the XW5000ES’s images look more detailed, bright and lifelike, with less potential for visible panel structure to get between you and immersion in what you’re watching. Even at epic screen sizes.
The new SXRD chip also boasts improved reflectivity and a more uniformly flat surface, which Sony claims contributes to improved brightness, contrast, colour accuracy and colour gradations.
There’s some good news for gamers with the XW5000ES, too, as Sony reports that it’s got the amount of time the projector takes to render 50/60Hz image data when running in its fast response mode down to just 21ms. Happily, the XW5000ES adds support for 120Hz gaming too, and at this frame rate the image rendering delay drops to a mere 13ms. It is a slight shame, though, that none of the HDMI ports found on any of the new Sony projectors have enough bandwidth to support full 4K resolutions at 120Hz or variable refresh rates, despite these features being available (later this week in VRR’s case!!) from Sony’s own PS5 console. You can only run 120Hz at 1080p resolution.
The only obvious sign of Sony having to cut costs somewhere to make laser lighting an option on its entry level 4K projector is the XW5000ES’’s use of a manual lens adjustment system, whereas full motorised control is available on the VW325ES/VW290ES. Removing motorised lens controls denies the XW5000ES the lens memory features of its lamp-based predecessor, too.
On balance, though, provided it can control its extra brightness well enough to maintain good black levels, the XW5000ES seems on paper like it could be a serious game changer for its level of the market.
Stepping up to the VPL-XW6000ES, the first thing to say is that this model isn’t currently set to go on sale in the UK or Europe. In the US, though, it will retail for $11,999.99, with its most significant enhancements over the XW5000ES being a significant jump to 2,500 lumens of peak brightness, and the introduction of a motorised lens with lens memory features in tow.
The XW7000ES, finally, is designed to replace the VW915ES (US)/VW790ES (UK), and builds on what’s gone before in three key ways. First, its brightness jumps to a seriously intense 3,200 lumens. The thoughts of the difference this much light might make to the HDR experience with both full-screen and small peak brightness content is mouthwatering. Especially with the Dynamic HDR Enhancer on hand to hopefully ensure that the brightness goes to the right places, without damaging black levels.
The second big selling point of the XW7000ES is a much more premium motorised Advanced Crisp Focus (ACF) lens set up that includes multiple low-distortion glass elements to get more impact from the native 4K resolution, and reduce focus and colour convergence issues in the image’s corners.
The XW7000ES adds a Live Colour Enhancer, finally, to its image processing armoury. This is designed to boost saturations generally, but sensibly includes an element that can detect skin tones and treat them differently, to ensure they don’t start to look unnatural.
Unlike the XW6000ES, the XW7000ES will be available in the UK and Europe as well as the US, with some interesting pricing between the regions. In the US the XW7000ES is slated to go on sale for $27,999.99, while in the UK and Europe it’s set to retail for £14,999/€14.999…
All three of Sony’s new projectors helpfully feature significantly smaller and lighter designs than anything we’ve seen before from the brand’s SXRD range. The XW5000ES is 30% smaller and 35% lighter than the VW915ES/VW790ES, while the XW7000ES and XW6000ES are both 20% smaller and 30% lighter than the same previous model.
All three models are available in white or black finishes, and finally I’m very happy indeed (after getting model number brain rot while writing this article) to report that Sony is finally consolidating its projectors’ global model numbering system with the new models, so they’ll be known as the XW5000ES, XW6000ES and XW7000ES no matter what territory you happen to live in. Phew.