Sony VPL-GTZ380 4K SXRD Projector Review - Notable Features

November 29, 2021

/ By Projector Reviews Staff

The GTZ380 utilizes many of Sony's popular features and proprietary technologies discussed in great detail in our reviews of other Sony home theater projectors including the VW1025ES, VW915ES, and VW715ES. However, let's quickly summarize some unique/upgraded features found on the Sony GTZ380.

UPGRADED Z-PHOSPHOR LASER LIGHT SOURCE

The GTZ380 is one of five 4K SXRD home theater models in Sony's lineup that utilize a Z-Phosphor laser light source. However, the GTZ380 upgraded laser light source incorporates a red laser diode along with two different-wavelength blue laser diodes, which gives the projector the ability to reproduce 100% DCI-P3 color gamut without losing any of its 10,000 lumens of brightness.

The GTZ380 uses an RBB laser light source to deliver 10,000 ANSI lumens and 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut

Most home theater projectors require a color filter to display the DCI-P3 color gamut, but that type of filter can reduce the overall brightness by up to 45%. When viewing HDR content on a projector, I believe brightness is more beneficial than a wider color gamut, so I always recommend disengaging the color filter.

Since the GTZ380 utilizes an RBB laser light source, it can easily reproduce the DCI-P3 color space commonly used in HDR content without a color filter so you don't have to make a potentially tough choice between wider color gamut reproduction and brightness. You get all the benefits of exceptional color and outstanding brightness.

The Z-Phosphor light engine has a rated life of 20,000-hours so you will get years of nearly maintenance-free operation. If you watched the GTZ380 for 8 hours a day, five days a week, the laser light engine would last about a decade. There will probably be 8K projectors for sale by the time you’re ready to replace the light source on this unit.

The GTZ380 is only one of the four Sony laser projectors that have both dynamic laser functionality and a mechanical dynamic iris.

LATEST GENERATION OF 4K SXRD PANELS

First, all Sony 4K Home Theater projectors (including the flagship GTZ380) use Sony's 4K SXRD (4096 x 2160) panels which is Sony's version of LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon). This three-chip 4K SXRD imaging system is very similar to what has been utilized in Sony 4K cinema projectors that are found in the best movie theaters in the world.

Due to its high brightness capability, the GTZ380 utilizes newly developed 0.74" Native 4K SXRD panels to improve stability and durability

While most 4K UHD flat panels have a resolution of 3840x2160, the GTZ380 is a native 4K projector so it delivers the same 4096x2160 resolution as your favorite 4K movie theater projector. Unlike some competitor 2K pixel shifting projectors, it can faithfully reproduce all 8.8 million pixels.

It delivers more native contrast than the standard LCD panels or DLP chips used in most consumer projectors. These three SXRD panels eliminate the possibility of the Rainbow Effect (Color Breakup) seen on many single-chip DLP projectors and it also minimizes the "screen door effect" (blocky image distortions) compared to most 3LCD projectors.

The GTZ380 features a newly developed 0.74" Native 4K SXRD panel which is Sony's proprietary version of LCoS technology to deliver a 16,000:1 contrast ratio and deep blacks. Adopting a new liquid crystal material for the panel dramatically improves light stability and durability while producing a rated 10,000 lumens of brightness.

While the GTZ380 has a native contrast rating of 16,000:1, its dynamic contrast is nearly infinite due to the projector's ability to precisely modulate its laser light source.

These latest and greatest Sony SXRD panels also have a pixel density of about 61,000 pixels per square mm which is a much higher pixel density than imagers found in competing DLP and transmissive LCD projectors.

For comparison, the DLP chips used in professional 10,000 lumen Native 4K DLP projectors are not only up to 75% larger, but they can only have a native contrast ratio of 2,000:1 which is 8x less.

Smaller, denser SXRD panels reduce the size of the optical block and lenses, resulting in a compact projector that can deliver the performance of a larger model. This is one of the reasons why the GTZ380 is the lightest and most compact native 4K projector in its class.

X1 ULTIMATE FOR PROJECTOR

To fully maximize the awesome capabilities of the GTZ380, it is the first Sony projector to utilize the new picture processor called "X1 Ultimate for projector". This video processor is based on the original X1 Ultimate Processor used for Sony's top-of-the-line BRAVIA TVs. While the processor was originally designed for Sony's Master Series LCD and OLED flat-panel televisions, this version has been optimized for projectors with the goal of enhancing the picture quality of projected images.

The X1 Ultimate is the most powerful video processor ever utilized in a Sony projector

The X1 Ultimate Processor not only improves the detail and resolution of any source, it also provides a noticeable improvement in the HDR performance compared to the VW5000ES / GTZ280. HDR content will be brighter with richer colors, deeper black levels, and bright highlight detail will be more visible.

Of all the benefits of the X1 Ultimate Processor, the most notable is the Dynamic HDR Enhancer feature which dramatically improves the look of HDR content. Thanks to the Dynamic HDR Enhancer, the GTZ380 can analyze HDR content scene by scene for precise dynamic tone mapping of HDR10 content.

Dynamic HDR Enhancer improves scene brightness while maintaining hightail detail

HDR analysis and tone mapping might be a new concept for a lot of projector manufacturers, but Sony began blazing the trail back in 2017 when their 4K TV lineup introduced the X1 Processor. HDR scenes are brighter, with richer colors and a better black level.

In addition, a second feature called Object-based HDR Remaster analyzes and adjusts the colors and contrast of individual objects on the screen. Some projectors can adjust contrast frame-by-frame, this is accomplished along a single contrast curve. The X1 Ultimate adjusts each object in each frame individually of both SDR and HDR content using multiple contrast curves per frame. Because of Object-based HDR Remaster, you will experience results in greater depth, richer textures, and an even more realistic SDR and HDR image.

In the GTZ380, this precision tone mapping is combined with a dynamic laser and a dynamic iris to greatly improve the look of HDR content. In a recent article, we took a deep dive into how the processing of the GTZ380 achieves such stellar results. Check it out!

The GTZ380 is compatible with both HDR10 and HLG content. Since most HDR10+ and Dolby Vision content is either backward compatible with or available in HDR10, you will be able to watch most of the HDR content available on 4K Blu-ray Disc and streaming services. HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) was developed for live broadcast, so you are all set to enjoy sports and award shows when the networks start broadcasting.

While more and more 4K HDR content is available every day, we still watch a lot of HD content. When HD content is projected onto a massive screen, you often see noise and artifacts. For even better 4K upscaling, the X1 Ultimate also includes Dual Database Processing. Two powerful image improvement databases work together, dynamically improving images in real-time. 4K X-Reality PRO™ upscales images to near 4K clarity while a second database cleans the picture and reduces onscreen noise.

ARC-F LENS ASSEMBLY

The GTZ380 is compatible with two ultra-high quality ARC-F lenses

The GTZ380 is compatible with two ARC-F lenses which are Sony's ultra-high-quality multi-element all-glass lens assemblies. These types of lenses are also used on the VW5000ES and the VW1025ES home theater projectors.

This ARC-F lens is a significant upgrade in optical quality compared to the very good lenses used on Sony's other, less expensive native 4K SXRD projectors.

If you plan on sitting close to a very large screen, you will definitely appreciate the additional sharpness. Currently, I am using a VW915ES as my reference projector and the difference in sharpness was noticeable on my 120" sitting 14 feet away.

As brighter, higher resolution professional and consumer projectors become available, screen sizes continue to get larger and larger. Distortion and lack of detail are far more noticeable when you sit close to a massive screen. With great optics, you can better appreciate all the exceptional detail found in today's 4K content. 

The 18 element all-glass large-aperture lens includes six Extra Low-Dispersion (ELD) elements which significantly reduce chromatic aberration (color fringing). If you are projecting onto a massive screen, high-quality optics are worth the premium to be able to extract every ounce of detail from the native 4K SXRD panels.

It is like looking through an open window. When viewed through the unit's ARC-F lens, things just seem clearer – richer, more real.

The standard lens (VPLL-Z8014) has a throw ratio of 1.40:1 to 2.73:1. For even more installation flexibility, there is also a short-throw ARC-F lens available (VPLL-Z8008) which has a throw ratio of 0.80:1 to 1.02:1.

OTHER NOTABLE SONY FEATURES

Since many of the common features found in our older special feature section were repetitive, that information can now all be found on the new Sony Feature Explanation page. You also click any of the bolded/highlighted terms in the article to access a more detailed definition.

The GTZ380 uses a motorized lens assembly with Picture Positioning (lens memories). Lens Memories offers the ability to save different motorized lens settings, like one for HDTV and one for widescreen movies. If you want to opt for a 2.35:1 screen to take advantage of the entire screen area when watching widescreen movies, you will find this a very useful feature.

When used with a stationary anamorphic lens, the GTZ380 has several Aspect modes, including V Stretch and Squeeze, which can properly display both widescreen and 16x9 content on a 2.35:1 screen.

The standard lens (VPLL-Z8014) has approximately a 2x zoom range and also has a large amount of horizontal and vertical lens shift which really simplifies installation.

To maximize your gaming experience, the GTZ380 includes a Low Latency Game Mode. When this mode is engaged, the projector switches off most of its video processing to dramatically reduce game lag.

Sony quotes 27ms input lag with 4K content (up to 60fps). According to Sony, with 1080p games, input lag will be a bit longer due to the need to upscale HD to the projector's native resolution, but it is still in the 33-40ms range. We measured 4K/60p at 28ms and 1080/60p at 36ms, which is a good performance for most gamers.

Unlike most flat-panel TVs,  Sony home theater projectors like the GTZ380 still support 3D. The projector's built-in RF transmitter is compatible with third-party Active RF 3D glasses for wider coverage and greater stability.

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