Review Price £16,799.00
Smart TV? Old hat. 3D? Yesterday’s news. So far as we’re concerned, the future of home cinema technology is 4k. And we’ve just had our most in-depth look yet at just what a 4K future might look like, courtesy of Sony’s startlingly ahead-of-its-time VPL-VW1000ES projector.
The European launch event for this exciting machine was The Century Club on Shaftesbury Avenue - one of those places that’s so cool that you can’t find its door unless you already know where to look. Inside, after some very pleasant nibbles - is it possible not to love mini burgers? - we were lead into a comfortable room only a bit bigger than the sort of dedicated home cinema room likely to be used by the relatively wealthy types able to afford the VW1000ES’s £18,000 asking price.
At one end of this room was a massive, wall-filling screen, while at the other was ‘the beast’. For the VW1000ES is unquestionably a hefty bit of kit. With its huge centrally mounted lens and extravagantly expansive lens ‘cowl’ sitting at the front of an elongated, wide and high chassis, the VW1000ES leaves you in no doubt that you’re looking at a fundamentally serious, high-end product that’s come down through Sony’s professional projection division rather than ‘up’ from Sony’s normal consumer electronics division.
Tucked inside the VW1000ES’s large form is the key development that’s made the projector possible: a brand new Sony projection chipset that almost miraculously manages to squeeze the necessary 4096x2160 pixels onto an SXRD panel just 0.74in across. This is less than half the size of the SXRD panels found inside the enormous 4k Digital Cinema projectors Sony makes for the commercial theatre market, and requires the pixels to be positioned with a pitch of just 4um.
Sony’s innovations for the optics of the VW1000ES don’t end there, either. It’s also had to develop a new lens with sufficient uniformity to handle the extremely high resolution of 4K images right up to the picture’s edges. Plus, in the course of working out how to construct the smaller 4k SXRD panel, Sony improved the flatness of the pixel surface, which improves light efficiency and thus boosts black level response. So much so that the VW1000ES claims a remarkable 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.
Having been lucky enough to be amazed by the quality of a couple of 4k commercial cinema presentations over the past year, our ‘geekometer’ was in overdrive as Sony’s ‘people’ dimmed the lights and fired the VW1000ES up. But we were quickly deflated when it was suddenly announced that we wouldn’t actually be watching any native 4k material...