Sony has unveiled two new home theater projectors, the lamp-based VPL-VW715ES ($9999.99) and laser light source VPL-VW915ES ($19999.99). These models replace the VPL-VW695ES and VPL-VW885ES, respectively. With these projectors, Sony debuts the "X1 for Projector" processor that's derived from the X1 used in its TVs.

I had an opportunity to get hands-on time with both the 715ES and the 915ES. It was informative since I have also reviewed their predecessors. So, here's the thing: Projection is following the path of TVs in that what's happening now is a refinement of existing display technology, combined with advances in picture processing. In other words, don't underestimate the impact of a good video processing chip.

Like TVs that can produce "perfect" SDR, if you watch SDR content on pone of these Sony projector, you might wind up asking "what's different this year?" But if you play HDR content, you immediately notice improvements over past models, especially when it comes to tone mapping and the perceived brightness of the overall image. At its core, this is why Dolby Vision is so popular for TVs, it adapts the content to the actual capability of the display.

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This is the Sony 715ES with the X1 for Projector processor. It ships on October 2 from Amazon and is available for preorder now.

The 715ES is a bulb-based projector and not quite as bright at the 915ES, with 1800 lm specified output. It is available in either a white or black enclosure, is available to preorder now and ships from Amazon on October 2, 2020.
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Better HDR

With the 715ES and 915ES, Sony has zeroed in on how to get the best HDR picture out of projectors, which are not bright enough to create the 1000-nit or 4000-nit specular highlights used in HDR mastering. But focusing on highlights misses much of what's so great about HDR: The superior color and higher bit depth. Simply put, if you translate HDR properly for projection, the bulk of the image will look better than what SDR can achieve. But if you don't properly compensate for the display device, HDR can look too dark, and you might not fully experience the more vibrant colors.

Both the 715ES and 915ES exhibited the best rendition of HDR I've seen from a Sony so far. But it's the 915ES that's the real eye-opener in terms of picture fidelity. It consistently achieved deep black levels while simultaneously outputting a vivid, yet tonally neutral image that's sharp from edge to edge.

Spec'd at 2000 lumens output, the 915ES comes with a 20,000 hour "Z-phosphor" light source. It has a dynamic iris that it can use while modulating the laser to achieve optimum contrast frame-by-frame with tonemapped HDR. Without putting too fine a point on it, the picture looks so natural that you forget you are looking at a projected image. You cease to think about video formats, and whether it's doing a good job with HDR, because there's nothing to distract you from what you are watching.

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The Sony VPL-VW915ES projector with the new X1 for Projector processor. It ships on October 2 from Amazon and is available for preorder now.
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In many ways both these projectors will be very familiar to Sony ES fans. The enclosures, menu systems, remote controls, they are all carried over from the previous generation. This includes the built-in picture modes, which (IMO) provide sufficient accuracy that you can skip the professional calibration, if you so desire. Of course, perfectionists will want to call it a skilled calibrator to tweak either of these models to nigh perfection.


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Full Press Release

SAN DIEGO, CA — September 8, 2020 — Sony Electronics Inc. today announced three new native 4K (4096 x 2160) home cinema projectors with SXRD panels for the consumer and custom installation (CI) channels. The VPL-VW715ES, VPL-VW915ES and flagship VPL-GTZ380 models offer innovative processing, impressive brightness and best-in-class viewing experiences.

“Sony has led the 4K projector market for nearly a decade, and we’re thrilled to announce a new range of powerhouse models for our customers and CI dealers,” said Mike Fasulo, president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics North America. “Offering a big screen, immersive viewing experience that delivers the creator’s true intent is a core goal when developing our projectors, and these new models are no exception.”

VPL-VW715ES & VPL-VW915ES Key Features

The new lamp VPL-VW715ES model and laser VPL-VW915ES model will replace the VPL-VW695ES and VPL-VW885ES respectively. The two models offer an incredibly clear HDR experience by implementing new picture processor “X1 for projector,” based on technology used for Sony’s best-in-class TVs. These projectors – both offered at competitive price points – will add to Sony’s range of reliable and high-quality offerings.

Dynamic HDR Enhancer: Due to the processing power of the newly installed X1 for projector, more detailed analysis is performed and HDR enhancement power is stronger compared to previous models. The new HDR feature analyzes scene-by-scene to deliver the best contrast performance when viewing HDR content, making the bright scenes brighter and the dark scenes darker. This dynamic range of contrast and brightness is further expanded by linking the light source and iris to further calibrate lighting output.

Digital Focus Optimizer: This new technology improves focus level by compensating optical degradation of the lens to offer corner-to-corner clarity.

Sony’s Unique Super Resolution “Reality Creation” Technology: X1 for projector analyzes each scene to enrich 4K content with real-world detail and texture. Even content filmed in 2K or Full HD is upscaled close to 4K. Resolution of each subject is then optimized to reproduce real-world textures.