SONY VPL-VW325ES 4K SXRD PROJECTOR REVIEW – SUMMARY

June 6, 2021 / By Phil Jones

OVERVIEW

For the past few months, I have been using a VW915ES as my reference projector. While the VW325ES is lamp-based and not as bright, it delivers a lot of the image quality of its $20,000 big brother. I was very impressed with the VW325ES picture quality. 

Like I mentioned earlier, the VW325ES is like a base model Porsche 911 compared to the fully loaded VW915ES Porsche 911 Turbo. While the base model doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the better model, it still outperforms most vehicles in its class. In fact, except for a few models like the JVC NX5/RS1000, the VW325ES outperforms most projectors near its price range. 

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As expected, when it comes to HD and 4K SDR content, the Sony VW325ES was outstanding. While calibration will improve the picture quality, the VW325ES delivered an accurate, natural-looking picture right out-of-the-box. 

Once the projector is calibrated, the unit's Auto Calibrate feature ensures that the projector will deliver "calibrated" color accuracy for years, even as the lamp ages. 

Many projectors deliver significantly less than their rated brightness when placed in their most accurate picture mode. It is not uncommon to see the brightness cut in half. The VPL-VW325ES produced close to its rated brightness of 1500 lumens even in its most accurate picture modes. 

Sony VW325ES in a Living Room Setting

Its native 4K resolution SXRD panels delivered a sharp picture. The VW325ES did an excellent job upscaling HD content, and the black level is very good. Only a select group of projectors like JVC's lineup of DILA projectors or a higher-end Sony 4K SXRD model equipped with a dynamic iris will beat this Sony's black level and contrast. Very few DLP models can even come close.

Like its bigger Sony 4K SXRD brothers, you are going to notice the incredible HDR performance of the VW325ES. While some projectors struggle with a lack of brightness and produce dull HDR video, Sony's new HDR Contrast Enhancer works to eliminate this problem. HDR Contrast Enhancer measures the average and peak brightness of HDR10 content frame by frame for precise dynamic tone mapping to maximize the projector's HDR picture quality.

The new projector's optimized X1 processor combines signal HDR analysis with a dynamic iris to produce a great looking HDR picture.

Lastly, while the VW325ES is Sony's most budget-friendly 4K SXRD Home Theater model, it’s still packed with "installer-friendly" features including a motorized lens with tons of zoom and lens shift. Having a large amount of zoom and shift capability makes installation a breeze especially when you are trying to replace an older, previously mounted unit. 

With a retail price of $5,500, the VW325ES is more expensive than a DLP based laser home theater projector, but if you truly care about picture quality and can fit the VW325ES into your budget, it should be at the top of your list.

VALUE PROPOSITION

The VW325ES is one of the best performing home theater projectors under $6000

If you have a budget of $5500, there are lots of great home theater projectors to choose from. For example, both the LG AU-810PB ($3999 SRP) and Sony VPL-VW325ES ($5500 SRP) are outstanding units. We reviewed the AU810PB, which is the custom install-focused version of the HU180PW, and we gave it a Hot Product award.

However, the 3-chip native 4K SXRD system used in Sony Home Theater projectors is far superior to the 1-chip DLP devices used in the HU-801PW or AU810PB. The SXRD system is the same one used in most Sony 4K home theater projectors including the new ARC-F lens-equipped laser-based VW1025ES (which retails for $40,000). 

I have yet to find a single chip consumer 4K DLP projector that could come close to the color fidelity, native contrast, and black levels of a good LCoS projector like the Sony VW325ES. It is not even a fair fight as Sony 4K SXRD projectors are in a completely different league. 

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If you have the budget to step up from a 4K DLP projector to a 4K LCoS projector like a Sony 4K SXRD unit, you should absolutely do it. You pay a premium for SXRD, so Sony puts most of its money there instead of adding a laser light source or smart features. 

If absolute performance in a dark theater is your #1 goal, choose the Sony VW325ES. If maintenance-free laser operation and built-in smart features are important factors, or you are watching most of your content in a room with ambient light, then the brighter laser-powered AU810PB might be a better choice for you.

Epson makes some great 4K e-shift projectors like the 6050UB ($3,999) which offers an excellent picture as well. However, the Epson lacks the resolution and HDR performance of the VW325ES.

The JVC NX5 /RS1000 ($5,999.95) is the only comparable native 4K LCoS home theater model near the price point of the VW325ES. The JVC has a higher rated contrast and better optics for $500 more. 

If you have a bigger budget, Sony also offers the VW715ES ($10,000 SRP) which is also a lamp-based projector. This step-up unit adds a dynamic Iris and Picture Position (motorized lens memories). 

While the VW325ES does command a premium price over most 4K DLP projectors, its outstanding SDR and HDR picture quality and feature set make it a great option for any movie enthusiast who can afford it.

SONY VW325ES - PROS AND CONS

Pros

  • Frame by Frame Tone Mapping to optimize HDR10 viewing
  • Retains most of its rated 1500 lumens even after calibration 
  • Native 4K resolution (4096x2160)
  • Very good black levels
  • Great "out of the box" picture 
  • Dual 4K HDCP 2.2 (18Gbps) HDMI inputs
  • Compatible with HDR10 and HLG
  • Excellent 4K upscaling
  • Excellent placement flexibility with motorized lens features, including:
    • 2.06:1 zoom lens 
    • Lots of lens shift (vertical and horizontal) 
  • Low input lag – claimed 27ms on 4K (37ms measured @1080p)
  • 3-year parts/labor warranty 

Cons

  • Lamp-based, so you still have to deal with lamp replacements
  • No Dynamic Iris 
  • Could be brighter
  • The remote control would benefit from a brighter backlight
  • Larger than many competitive DLP home theater projectors
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