SONY VPL-VW325ES 4K SXRD PROJECTOR REVIEW - PERFORMANCE

June 6, 2021 / By Phil Jones

COLOR REPRODUCTION

Like all Sony home theater projectors, the VW325ES delivered an outstanding picture quality right out of the box. The REFERENCE and USER preset were not too far off my calibrated white balance target of 6500K. 

For extra brightness to combat higher ambient light, you can switch to BRIGHT TV or BRIGHT CINEMA. These picture modes are slightly oversaturated with a cooler color temperature, but it may be worth it to cut through a lot of ambient light.

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While the color reproduction of the VW325ES out of the box is better than most projectors, I calibrated the USER Mode. Since your room and screen material has a major impact on the overall picture, I don't recommend using someone else calibration adjustments. If your room is brighter/darker or your walls are a different color, copying someone else results can cause more harm than good. However below are the before and after results in my room.

Out of the box, the color temperature was cool with a heavy emphasis on blue at higher brightness levels. Colors are also slightly over-saturated.

  • Picture Mode: User
  • Color Temperature: 7592K
  • Color dE: 5.89

I placed the COLOR TEMP setting to Custom 3 and made some quick adjustments to the 2-point RGB balance to produce very good D65 white balance.

The achieve my gamma target of 2.2 in my room, I set the GAMMA CORRECTION to 2.4.

The VW235ES offers CMS adjustments but the color tracking was excellent so I didn't feel the need to utilize them.

  • Picture Mode: User
  • Color Temperature: 6517K
  • Color dE: 1.1

Delta E as a measure of grayscale/color accuracy. 3 and under is considered ‘Excellent’ and imperceptible by the human eye after calibration the VW325ES had an average dE of 1.1. Like most Sony Home Theater projectors, once white balance and color are accurately adjusted for SDR, they look great for HDR as well.

While there was a noticeable improvement to the picture after calibration, the difference was not dramatic. Like other Sony home theater projectors, I would be satisfied with the picture quality of the VW325ES whether it was calibrated or not.

BRIGHTNESS

The Sony VPL-VW325ES has a rated brightness of 1500 ANSI lumens. I set the projector to BRIGHT TV Mode (the brightest mode) and I took 3-4 readings about 15-20% out from the center of the lens. 

Sony VW325ES Brightness (Reference mode, Lamp Control High): 1432 Lumens

At wide zoom, Reference Mode.

The VW325ES measured 1432 lumens which is close to Sony's rated brightness of 1500 lumens. You will find the VW325ES more than bright enough for viewing SDR content on a 150" screen or HDR content on a 120" screen in a dark room.

Picture Mode Brightness (default laser power settings)

Color ModeLumens Color Temperature
Cinema Film 113117525K
Cinema Film 212917572K
Reference14327592K
TV13299912K
Photo12736204K
Game13568851K
Bright Cinema13328872K
Bright TV13569572K
User12737591K
Reference Mode (calibrated)12896517K

After SDR calibration, the VW325ES still produces nearly 1300 lumens. When calibrating many projectors, you have to sacrifice half of the projector’s rated brightness to produce an accurate image..  

Also when viewing HDR content, the Dynamic HDR Contrast feature did an excellent job maximizing the brightness on the screen. The VW325ES produced a brighter, more vibrant HDR image than many competitor's projectors with higher rated/measured brightness.

BLACK LEVEL AND SHADOW DETAIL

While brightness is important, deep, accurate black levels separate a good home theater from a great one. If you compare two projectors with identical brightness, the one that can produce deeper blacks will deliver the higher perceived contrast. 

The VW325ES rated brightness of 1500 lumens, combined with great black level, made images pop in a darkened room. While many projectors claim crazy high Dynamic Contrast numbers, most can’t match the native contrast of the VW325ES. 

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While I have reviewed several good DLP projectors, none of them could match the black levels and native contrast of a 3-chip SXRD projector like the Sony VW325ES. 

The VW325ES does not have a dynamic iris which is found on step-up Sony models. This feature probably won't be missed if the projector is used in a family room or other space with higher ambient light because you won't be able to take advantage of ultra-deep black levels anyway. 

PICTURE QUALITY

Due to its native 4K SXRD panels, the VW325ES had no problem delivering sharp, detailed 4K imagery. Most TV shows and live broadcasts are still produced in HD so good 4K upscaling continues to be important. Sony has over a decade of experience when it comes to 4K upscaling, so the VW325S does an excellent job as expected.

4K HDR content can deliver expanded color space with better highlight and shadow detail, but even the brightest HDR projectors can struggle to faithfully reproduce HDR. The new Dynamic Contrast Enhancer feature performs frame-by-frame HDR tone mapping and did a great job balancing the need to deliver respectable full screen brightness while still displaying a good amount of highlight detail.

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes brighter highlights are still clipped, but Sony believes this is necessary to keep most of the image on the screen as close to the director's intent as possible.

Unlike most HDR compatible projectors, I rarely felt a need to make any manual tone mapping adjustments during HDR viewing. I left the Dynamic Contrast Enhancer set to LOW during most of my HDR viewing, and only occasionally changed it to HIGH when watching dimly mastered HDR material. You can do this quickly with the press of a button on the remote control.

You can also adjust the HDR Contrast setting when viewing content mastered at 4000 and 10,000 to restore some of the clipped highlight detail

The VW325ES, like all Sony 4K Home Theater projectors, also has an "HDR Reference Mode" located under the HDR menu option. When engaged, the VW325ES will faithfully track the luminance of HDR content (no tone mapping) until the projector hard clips just like an HDR mastering display. This mode works well on content mastered at 1000 nits or below, but content mastered above that will have a few more clipped highlights.

The VW325ES could only produce about 90% of DCI-P3 color space but HDR colors still appeared rich and vibrant. Sony home theater projectors like the VW325ES do not use a color filter to extend their color gamut. While a color filter would increase the VW325ES’s color gamut coverage, it would also reduce the projector's brightness. Colors look more saturated when they are brighter. When viewing HDR on a projector, I personally prefer the look of extra brightness over a slightly wider color gamut.

VW325ES Versus VW295ES

In addition to the VW325ES, Sony also loaned me a predecessor VW295ES to compare the two models. I could easily see the improvement over the previous model when viewing SDR and HDR content.

I set up both projectors side-by-side on a single screen and took several screenshots with both projectors set to factory defaults. Any setting adjustments were made to both projectors. While the photos below do not capture all the differences, they provide a relative idea of how the projectors match up. The following pictures are screenshots of HD and standard 4K content.

The X1 processor combined with the new HDR Contrast Enhancer improves HDR reproduction on the VW325ES. Most of the HDR side-by-side screen shots were taken with HDR Contrast Enhancer (VW325ES) and Contrast Enhancer (VW295ES) set to LOW or MID. Switching the settings to HIGH does increase on scene brightness at the expense of clipping more bright highlights. 

Personally, I believe a few clipped sparks or clouds in the background are worth it for a brighter overall picture with more saturated colors. Below are several HDR comparison shots.

While the overall HDR scene brightness was similar, the VW325ES delivered deeper blacks, higher contrast, more saturated colors. 

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