I figured it's time to post my impressions after doing a little comparison at Mark's house over the weekend. I feel most of my opinions fall in line with Kris Deerings. Sorry for the long read:
I had roughly 8 hours of direct viewing on Mark’s Sony VPL-VW1100ES over the past weekend. I used my PC to feed it a 4K (3840 x 2160 24p) image and 90% of the scaling was done with MadVR’s JINC scaler with the anti-ringing filter enabled. The remaining 10% was done with the Sony’s internal scaler for comparison purposes. RC enabled but set to minimum. 90% of the viewing was done the iris set to Auto-Limited, the lamp was in high lamp mode. The remaining 10% was done for comparison purposes with the iris in “auto-full” and manual.
Even with the lamp in “high” mode, the auto-limited DI setting reduced the overall brightness by a considerable amount. Enough so that the JVC in low lamp mode was brighter. The Sony has a lamp with 190 hours and my JVC lamp is newer with 10 hours. The brightness difference was clearly evident. Mark even commented on this I tried Auto-Full mode, which was considerably brighter than the auto-limited, but to my eyes this raised the black floor and apparent contrast to levels no where close to the auto-limited mode.
I also had my DP HIGHlite 260HC with me but of course I forgot my ND filter which I was planning on using if the Sony turned out to be not quite as bright as I thought it would be. This was of course the case so a direct proper comparison (with brightness matched projectors) couldn’t be made. But (and this is my opinion), if I were to put my ND filter in place, the brightness in low lamp mode would have been pretty close. Contrast performance was about 1 or 2 “clicks” better in most scenes. In “dark” content, like in Harry Potter 7, the Sony’s higher native combined with the auto-iris enabled did produce an appreciably better “contrasty-er” image. But nothing I would call a major step up. To be completely honest I wish the image could have been brighter and still reach the same apparent intra-image contrast on screen, but the Sony wasn’t capable of this.
Against the JVC, obviously, it was no contest for contrast. Even Mark blurted out on his own that the JVC easily looked better with darker material. No contest. But then again, I’ve never really see anyone debate this. What’s interesting is that it always seems to be people who own Sony projectors who say this; “Don’t brightness match, you’re crippling the projectors capabilities.” So I decided to play devils advocate here and switch things around. Because the JVC was clearly brighter I wanted to see how this affected colors, sharpness, and overall image quality compared to the Sony. To say the least, on all but rare occasion the JVC clearly had more depth to the image and appeared to have more saturated colors. Mark even commented on the colors looking more saturated on the JVC. I will give the nod to the Sony. It did look sharper and more natural. I also saw a difference in motion in the Sony’s favor, but not by much.
DI performance on the Sony was a little odd. Overall it’s excellent and one I could live with constantly on 100% of the time. But, like the JVC’s iris, it’s slow. Even slower than JVCs. With the content I watched with the Sony, there were many fade to blacks. The JVC handles this astonishingly better. The Sony can actually get pretty close to the JVC with an all black image, but it just takes much longer for it to close down, and then when content comes back on screen, it seems to take too long for the brightness to re-settle. Most people aren’t going to be watching content with a lot of fades to black so no real issue there. I would say this is it’s biggest “flaw”. But again, not a big deal because there really aren’t many times during a movie where you see this kind of content. On occasion it would anticipate, by looking a few frames ahead, and close down in good timing with the fade, but it would always be too slow to open back up. The Sony’s DI is a bit better with mid-APL and brighter content. It’s definitely more “stable” in it’s actions. It feels confident with it’s movements with brighter stuff. To sum it up. JVC’s iris works noticeably better with most darker content, the Sony better with brighter/mid-APL level content. This is of course in general and was the overlying trend of what I saw with most of my viewing. I’m sure there are scenes where one might have the more “appropriate” action which would negate my generality mentioned above, but again, overall what I’ve previously said seems to be true.
I have to say I’m still more impressed with the overall image from the JVC. I say this for one major reason and it’s the one major reason I wanted to demo the 1100ES; I wanted to see how much better than the best DLP’s it is with contrast in lower APL level content. Is it better? Yes and depending on the content it’s much better, but overall, it’s not really that much different than the best DLPs. I’ll put it plainly. Dark content that looks like it should have more contrast on the DLP still looks like it needs more contrast on the Sony too. It’s a simple as that. It just doesn’t have enough extra contrast in most content for me to justify it as “much better” as some others would put it. And for me, personally, I feel the small advantages it has in image sharpness and image naturalness don’t make up enough for the even greater advantage the JVC has over it with contrast. In other words, these strengths (a little extra sharpness and naturalness) are not large enough advantages compared to the much larger visible advantage the JVC has in contrast performance. Brighter scenes may have had a little more “pop” but again, it wasn’t large enough to warrant me to spend six figures on a projector. This is my personal opinion and of course you may disagree with me. You may find in your demo you appreciate these advantages more-so which for you is a justification in buying the Sony over the JVC and that’s perfectly fine. I can already get these advantages with the DLP’s I currently own with roughly equal, in all but the darkest of scenes, contrast performance. Yes, Harry Potter looked better on the Sony compared to the 3-chip DLP, but the difference in contrast between the 1100ES and 260HC was no where near the difference in contrast between the 1100ES and the JVC. As I previously said, even with the advantage the Sony had over the 260HC, both still looked like they needed more contrast for the particularly dark scenes we were watching but yes the Sony looked a little better. If I were able to brightness match with the ND filter which I forgot to bring I’m sure there would have been very little difference. The 260HC also has some quirky gamma settings, which Mark pointed out, that made the 3-Chip look a bit “flat” with brighter material. I’m hoping to get the latest firmware for the projector to see if this remedies the odd out of the box gamma selections. I was able to use MadVR to raise the gamma a bit to compensate this oddity.
I’m glad I got to check out the Sony at Mark’s house. It honestly saved me from spending over $10000 to check one out, which I was about to do. I was in contact with someone and about to pull the trigger before Mark invited me down. Pfew…. I liked the image the 1100ES put out. It was very DLP like in it’s seemingly effortless sharpness and overall naturalness to the image. It’s a bit better with contrast than a good DLp, but honestly not enough for me to justify spending over $10000 on one when the best DLPs are pretty close already and also give the same naturalness and sharpness attributes. Now, we didn’t have time to check out any 4K content, it was all blu-ray so I guess there’s a whole other aspect of the Sony I didn’t get to see, but that wasn’t really why I wanted to see it anyways, so that’s fine with me. One thing I’ve noticed with Sony projectors, and again, with the 1100ES was that yes it could resolve 8-point font as Zombie mentions, but it couldn’t tightly focus down on individual pixels. This gave a more smooth looking pixel structure. I specifically disabled UI scaling in windows to see how well it handled focusing down on pixels and it reminded me of what the VW90ES looked like. The JVC here does it much better, albeit 2 million vs 8 million pixels. I just thought that was odd for the calibre lens on the Sony. Maybe this is a unit to unit thing?