Another welcome feature you do get, though, is a handy Picture Position memory slot that allows you to shift between 1.78/1.85:1 and 2.35:1 aspect ratios without needing an external anamorphic lens attachment. There’s a feature too, that enables you to adjust the alignment of the three SXRD chips, so you don’t have any areas of colour bleed.
We’ll get to the VW1000ES’s performance soon now, we promise. But there are still two more bits of context-setting we need to do.
First, there’s the difference between Sony’s 4k claims and the ‘4k’ claims of the latest JVC DLA-X70/X90 projectors. Whereas Sony genuinely gives you 4096×2160 pixels of picture data on each of its three chipsets, and can upscale lower resolution inputs to this level by adding in extra pixels of new picture information, JVC’s e-Shift engine instead essentially doubles the pixel density of a full HD source picture, without actually adding any new picture information. In fact, the JVC models don’t accept native 4k sources.
The 4K elephant in the room
Next there’s a rather substantial elephant in the room: the current lack of 4K video content. For while many films are now shot in 4k2k for cinema distribution, there’s just no easy way to get such ultra-HD masters into your home cinema. Blu-rays don’t have enough capacity to take full 4k2k transfers, and downloading huge 4k film files from the Internet practically would require a much faster broadband connection than the majority of the UK currently enjoys.
Even the computational processing power required to successfully play 4k video files is formidable. To aid us with our tests, Sony supplied the biggest tower PC we’ve ever seen, loaded with a Sapphire HD 7970 3GB GDDR5 graphics card and Intel Core i7 2700K 350GHz socket 1155 8MB L3 cache CPU. And even this suffered with noticeable stuttering and screen tearing when showing the few minutes of 4k material Sony had managed to get on there. If you fancy trying to build a 4K-ready PC for yourself, let us know in the comments section and we’ll reply with the full spec on the machine used for our tests.
The various issues just described with getting 4K into your home – together with what currently seems to be resistance from Hollywood to making such high quality video available to the domestic market – mean that true 4k sources are currently excruciatingly rare. Our demo material comprised a reel of specially shot time-lapse sequences from Italy, and a minute or so of clips from open movie project Sintel (www.sintel.org).
Some day our 4k prince will come
The apparent consumer enthusiasm out there for 4k, not to mention Sony’s own vested interest now in getting 4K sources into homes, will likely mean that domestic 4K video does eventually arrive in quantity. But the general consensus is that you’re talking years rather than months before this happens. So if you get a VW1000ES you’ll have to be patient before you can unleash its full potential.
While 4K video is in short supply right now, though, there is a more static 4k solution already at your fingertips. For VW1000ES purchasers all get given a voucher enabling them to download an update for the PS3’s PlayMemories application that allows native 4k digital photos to ship to the VW1000ES, despite the console only sporting an HDMI 1.3 port.
Inevitably we kicked off our tests by checking out the VW1000ES’s groundbreaking 4k pictures. And what we saw can only be described as jaw-dropping.
With the Italian video clips, the best way to describe the experience is to say that it felt as if you were looking through an open window at a real view outside, thanks to the astonishing amount of detail, density and clarity on show. There’s also seemingly no video noise at all, contributing still further to the sense that you’re not actually watching a video device, but rather just staring at reality.
With a shot of a magazine vendor’s stall we could read far more text on the titles on sale than we could in normal HD. Views of a rugged country landscape reveal grass, stone and leaf detail that frankly beggar belief. A close up of leaves and buds on a tree reveal individual fibres around the buds that are ordinary HD just can’t show. Stick your head right up to the screen as we discussed at the start of this article, meanwhile, and you still can barely see any trace of any image structure to ‘give away’ the mechanics behind the stunning images.
Don’t think, though, that you only see the 4k difference if you sit close to the screen. From a perfectly normal viewing distance the all-round perfection of the 4k image is still utterly apparent and totally compelling, giving you a much more intense connection with what you’re watching. Little wonder that 4k resolution is considered comfortably adequate for commercial cinema purposes.