Before I post my review of the Sony 760 and 870, here are some caveats and background information to go along with.
New SXRD Panels?
- I have had the Sony 760ES for 3 weeks to play with. So one might say I have had an extensive idea of how this projector performs under most content.
- I only had the 870ES for 3 days. But while I have the 870, I also have the 760 together so I can do a lot of side by side comparisons. Most of my 870 viewings were with the sole idea of comparing it with the 760ES.
- The 870 had only 7 hour on it, so it was practically brand new. The 760 had I think less than 100 hours on it when I got it.
- I am using a 138 inch 16:9 screen. 1.8 gain, silver, micro perf. Projected with maximum zoom, basically the brightest possible.
- These are out of the box, non-calibrated. I used Cinema Film 1 on both. Then adjusted the Contrast, Brightness, and other normal user settings available to me without going into the Service Menu.
This is actually confirmed by the Sony Engineer and their Marketing person. At the Sony Laser projector launch event, they had a slide comparing their projectors, and those that started from the 760ES had the newer panels. All of these panels are made in Japan with very high quality control. They showed a video on how they make the SXRD panels. Essentially looked like a NASA clean room. They also confirmed a better contrast between the newer panels and the older ones. Their main purpose was to work on Contrast as they realize that that is the ONLY single variable they lose to JVC. I tend to agree with them on this assessment. To me the Sony is better in every way compared to the JVC other than contrast and in real environment, it’s not going to be night and day difference… some might disagree, but I am willing to bet 99% of people who aren’t looking for it on purpose won’t even notice it.
At the Sony Launch Event, they also showed slides of the glasses they used vs JVC’s N5, N7, and according to them their lens are superior. This could be marketing hype. I won’t comment on it. But later when I do the comparison between the Arc-F lens of the 870 vs the 760, I’ll give my comment and it may prove this point moot.
Review / My Subjective Observation
Now on to my observation of these laser projectors. These are my own subjective review. I am not going to post numbers, etc. You can get those from the professional reviewers. Mine is what a regular AV enthusiast who spends a lot of time and effort trying to do the best for my own Home Theater, for my own enjoyment. My review will be mostly comparisons between what I see on these Lasers vs the Lamp based counterparts. So, for those that own the lamp based ones, you can basically see what you’ll get out of these in relatively. I owned the 500ES for 3 years so I am very familiar with the Sony lamp based projectors. I have also recently reviewed the 360ES in my Cinema for a week or so.
Here are some of the things that JUMPS out at you with the 760/870
- CALMNESS. This is purely due to the laser light source vs lamp. Same thing with the JVC Z1 (which I have also reviewed). The biggest difference is the eerie calmness of the laser light source. With bulb based projectors, you’ll see a very slight inconsistency with the light. With lasers, this all goes away, because the laser light source is very calm and very consistent. You won’t even know you’re looking at a projected image, but rather more like seeing thru a glass to the other side. The picture would be so stable, so calm, like you can touch it, whether it’s natural objects like trees, flowers, sand or a human being. I can’t stress this enough. If this were the ONLY difference, I would be sold on the lasers already. In fact, I was so sold I went ahead and bought the 760ES even though I didn’t think I’ll get it in the first place. I would say that the difference going from lamp based to lasers would be the same as going from an AT woven screen to a solid screen. The clarity increase is astounding. Just like I’ll never go back to AT screen, I’ll never go back to Lamp. If you put the lasers with a solid screen together, you’ll literally be able to walk thru the screen and touch whatever is on the other side. Last but not least, lasers have the advantage of very, very long life as compared to bulbs. You never have to worry about changing out your bulbs anymore as they get dimmer. You’ll be able to enjoy your projector at near full brightness for at least 10,000 hours. That’s a lot of movies you can watch! By the time you’re thinking the picture is getting a little dimmer, it’s probably time to buy a new projector.
- Next, you’ll notice the vibrancy of the colors. I don’t know quite how to explain it, but lasers can give you a more intense, more vivid picture than their bulb based counterparts. The intensity of the lasers will pierce right thru certain picture elements. For instance, when you’re looking at a star field, or a candle light, they seem to shine brighter and more incandescent. This gives you a more realistic image. This is all more apparent with HDR. As others have described it, HDR on these projectors is very close to watching a 3D image.
- I love the instant switch on/off. No more slow wait times. I can keep switching it off and on at will without worrying about the lamp.
- Fade to black is great! I won’t go too much into all the other aspects of this projector as I want to concentrate on only the Picture Quality. For the specs and details, one can easily look them up.
Now that we have touched upon what Sony 4K laser projectors bring to the table, let’s talk a bit about the differences between the 760Es and the 870ES model.
The Sony Marketing person actually called the 870Es the replacement of the 760ES, but that they will continue to make available the 760ES. This made me feel that in the future they may just consolidate both into just 1 model. At which point I believe to get the lasers, you’ll have to fork out more money. If they really plan on consolidating the 760/870 eventually into 1 model, I think the price point would be something inbetween the 2.
Without further adeu, The 870ES.. .
When I fired up the 870, and started going thru the same content I went thru with the 760ES, I did notice a slight improvement in clarity. Also, noticed a slight improvement in contrast in lower APL scenes or even mixed scenes like the car chase scenes in Korea of Black Panther. This is consistent with all the reviews I read about the 870 vs the 760. So, to re-cap, the consistency of the improvement of the 870 vs the 760 could be boiled down to:
Ok, that’s what it SHOULD be right?
- Better lens translate to more clarity
- Dynamic IRIS translate to more contrast.
- 200 extra lumens which should translate to ‘brighter image’ but I just can’t notice it subjectively. I am sure if you use a light meter, you’ll be able to measure it, but to me, I simply can’t see it.
Everyone says so, and all the data measurement says so. Here’s the rub… and this is where it gets controversial. For the longest time, we have all complained about Sony’s decision to not put a dynamic iris on the 760ES and their decision to use only their laser engine as the dynamic contrast. We all assumed that there would be a far far superior black to be gained correct? I too fell into that trap. Also, the lens, why Sony didn’t just put their most expensive lens on the 760? Sony keep telling us that their new and improved lens are really, really good already, but we insist on the ARC-F… it should be way, way better correct?
At first, I was like, OK, the lens and the IRIS did make a difference. But then I remembered something at the launch event. Sony showed us the 760/870 side by side comparison (by blocking half the image on each projector). They displayed some very sharp patterns and characters so you can go right up front and see it for yourself. At the patterns, you can see that the lines were a little more pronounced on the 870, thinner lines, vs the a bit bloated ones on the 760 (blooming? I don’t know the term).
Then the Sony guys showed some images with fine patterns on dresses, etc.. and showed off their Digital Focus Optimizer
. For those that don’t know what this is, here’s what’s written on their website:
“Optimum focus is achieved, not only optically but digitally, by the Digital Focus Optimiser. It compensates the possible optical degradation of the lens in advance then outputs the optimum corrected images, so that even the focus in the corners is better than ever.
This is supposed to work with their ARC-F lens to ensure even the edges are ‘sharp as tact’. At least that’s the marketing of it. But when they showed how it worked, they switch it on and off while showing some intricate pattern on a girls dress. You can clearly see that it sharpens the patterns quite a bit while it’s on compared to when it’s off. At first I was like damn, I want that feature on the 760. I even asked them and they say it’s only available on the 870.
Now, why did I go on a tangent talking about the Digital Focus Optimizer, which does not seem to really matter, especially for people who don’t care much about digital enhancements.
And this is where the idea suddenly came into my mind. What if the so called Digital Focus Optimizer is doing something similar to their ‘Reality Creation’? Could I simulate the sharpness of the 870 by increasing my RC? I paused at some images, and turned the DFO off and on many times and I can’t see any difference between what it’s doing vs the regular RC… so, what I did was this… I picked a screen in Black Panther where they showed those warrior women with their intricate costumes. This is what I did. I switched on the 760ES, set the RC to 60. I usually only use 20 or 30. Then I did the on/off test of RC.. guess what? The difference I saw was the exact same difference between using the 870 DFO on/off. I can NOT tell the difference at all. Then I just went to many different scenes. Take the Avengers Infinity war, close up pictures of faces, especially Pepper Pots, during her conversation with Tony Start at the beginning of the movie. There are some close up shots of both their faces. I did this scene many times with the 870 with on/off DFO (RC set at 20), vs the 760 on/off RC set at 60. I do not see any difference between the two at all.. both will show the exact amount of sharpening. When the DFO on the 870 were off, the clarity of the supposedly ARC-F lens disappear. Now, based on my limited testing, I am starting to believe the lenses on the 760 is already so good, what the ARC-F lens being to the table is only extra costs. Any improvement in image quality is explained away with their image processing of the DFO which you can simulate with the RC at 60. Now, most people won’t like RC at 60, and I believe most also won’t like the DFO turned on for that matter. I personally liked it though, so I kinda settled on RC at 40 or 50.
So, one of the advantages of the 870, ie, clarity basically disappeared on normal viewing content after you adjust the RC.
What about the Contrast advantage? Again, here’s the rub. For most content that are bright, there are ZERO differences as the IRIS is wide open. For content where you can see the IRIS closing down a little is where you’ll notice a slightly blacker black… so, again, I was thinking, can I simulate that ‘blacker black’ on the 760? I tried by turning down the brightness on the 760. And viola, at -3 (from whatever you set both to, say starting from 50), you’ll again, no longer see any difference between the two. In reality, if you actually measured it, you’ll prob see a contrast difference. But in real life viewing, I can’t tell the difference. The black floor goes down (I suppose the brightness also goes down at the top end, but at only -3 I don’t really notice the top end at all). So, in real life viewing, lowering the brightness by -3, will give you almost exactly the same thing the dynamic IRIS does. Again, I watched many scenes between these two projectors with this settings and I can’t tell the difference.
Long story short. If you were to set your 760’s RC to 50 or 60, and your brightness to -3 (relative to the 870), all the advantages of the 870 disappears. I think this is because the 870 is only 200 lumens brighter. So, the effect of the dynamic iris isn’t as noticeable. If the 870 is 3000 lumens for instance, the hit you get from turning down the brightness may then seem more apparent.
So, to summarize, the 870 do indeed have better lens, but since the lens of the 760 is already so good, it’s really not noticeable on real life content. That may be why they introduced the DFO, to maybe artificially show a sharper image. And almost every comparison video you’ll see online or even reviews, the ‘noticeable clarity’ or ‘as if a fog is removed’ comments can be explained by the DFO working rather than just the lens. And that’s basically some sort of RC. Maybe not the same, but the effect is very similar. And the Dynamic IRIS isn’t going to add that much more to the picture really, unless you have enough lumens to spare to begin with. I think Sony engineers already knew this when they designed the 760, and that may be their decision on not including it in. But after reading all the complains, they put it into the 870 to satisfy everyone. Remember, the consumer is always correct? Cause they are willing to pay more money for a feature they ASK for. I think Sony would have more to improve on with a better algorithm with their laser dimming feature, and also, with their Tone Mapping. If they improve those two, you’ll likely see a significant step up. But not with the ARC-F lens nor the Dynamic IRIS. The biggest difference they could make in my opinion is adding lumens. If Sony combines the 760/870 into a new model called the 990 and price it at exactly the same as the 760 today, but add up to 3500 lumens, they’ll have a winner. And then maybe put a laser engine and 2000 lumens into the 590. Leave the 290 as is but add the dynamic iris.
Lastly the added 200 lumens is a bonus rather than a true step up.