Realistic, refined colour palette; sharp and concise
Fauxk or 4K? Though it’s not a question you’d want to ask yourself out loud too many times, it is a consideration for anyone in the market for an Ultra HD projector. True (or native) 4K projectors – that is, those with 4K-resolution chips – are hard to come by at this price point so, ultimately, the answer will largely be determined by your budget.
Native 4K projectors have previously started at around the £6000 mark, thanks to Sony’s now-discontinued VPLVW300ES – and we’ve seen greater choice at double the price. However, more affordable 4K models tend to use alternative methods, such as pixel shifting, to reach the resolution.
A range of ‘pseudo-4k’ projectors have filled the gap between the humble Full HD and pricey 4K models, but Sony’s latest and most affordable projector aims to deliver true 4K at the same price.
Like many Sony 4K projectors before it, the VPLVW260ES uses the brand’s proprietary 4K SXRD panels to achieve its true 4K 4096 x 2160 resolution. It goes a long way to explain why the company has been a leading light in the 4K projector market – a position it seems determined to keep, going by the all-round standard of the VPLVW260ES.
A quick run-through of its specifications puts it in good stead for class-leading status. HDR support goes as far as HDR10 and HLG, and the second of the Sony’s two HDMI inputs allows 4K and HDR, thanks to its HDCP 2.2 certification. There’s 3D support too.
Sony claims a 6000-hour lifespan (on low-lamp mode) from the VPLVW260ES’ lamp. That’s not a patch on the 20,000-plus hours promised by laser projectors, but then a shorter bulb life is one drawback of lamp models.
The mighty, shelf-hogging 14kg stature and attractively speckled-finish of the
this price Nothing really, at Sony’s shell is reminiscent of the brand’s more expensive models. The finish doesn’t have to be spoiled by your grubby mitts during set-up either, as the powered focus, zoom and lens shift controls are easily adjustable via the remote control handset.
We delve into the menu to experiment with and tweak the Sony’s full range of settings, which include ‘Motionflow’, ‘Reality Creation’ and ‘Contrast Enhancer’. As we find black levels the poorest of the Sony’s immediately noticeable talents out of the box, the last of these proves a worthy enhancement on low or medium level.
The VPLVW260ES’S stark insight and faithful delivery of colours raises its calibre above the Optoma’s. So, what better movie to convey that than Thor: Ragnarok, one of Marvel’s most colourful films. As the film opens with Thor and a fire demon, the Sony beams the brightness of the blaze to our projector screen, while maintaining the detail in his rock formation.
The next two hours are a rainbow assault on the senses – there are eclectic aliens, pink and green lasers from Thor and Loki’s guns and the glint off the gold in the murals. The Sony serves up the well-considered balance of richness and accuracy that has you confident you’re seeing the movie colourists’ true work.
The motion handling, while not completely free from judder during camera pans, is more than smooth and stable enough to enjoy. Its motion performance looks more natural without the Motionflow setting activated, too.
“The VPL-VW260ES’S stark insight and faithful delivery of colours raises its calibre above the Optoma’s”
As sharp as the movie’s class-a wit, the Sony is more studious than the Optoma: crisper, more refined and capable of carving out the finer details that make all the difference in a film that relies on visual narrative as much as, say, The Revenant. The Sony’s penchant for the nitty-gritty means it can unearth more textures and layers of depth in that film’s sprawling, barren landscapes, and distinguish its discreet discrepancies.
Who knows when – or if – the prices of native 4K projectors will be cheaper, but for now the £5200 Sony VPLVW260ES represents the most affordable end of the spectrum, and makes a strong argument for true (over faux) 4K indeed.
At 14kg, the VPL-VW260ES isn’t a lightweight... in size function