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Review: Sony VPL-VW590ES – 4K projector with native 4K panel

Review: Sony VPL-VW590ES 4K projector. This Sony projector delivers very good performance, but we would still like to see a number of things improved.

The Sony VPL-VW590ES is the first 4K projector we test that does not use pixel shifting, but is equipped with a native 4K panel. It is also equipped with a special version of the X1 processor that we already know from Sony TV. Combined with the excellent light output and the impressive contrast of SXRD technology, this promises beautiful images.

Sony VPL-VW590ES – specifications

What Ultra HD 4K SXRD projector
Setup 4,096 x 2,160 native, light output 1,800 ANSI lumens, dynamic contrast 350,000: 1, throw ratio 1.37 -2.83 (100 inch diagonal at 3.05-6.28m), motorized zoom (2.06x), focus and lens shift ( V + 85 / -80%; H +/- 31%), noise level 26-nb dB (ecomode, standard)
Connections 2x HDMI (2.0), 1x USB (power supply), 1x IR, 1x ethernet, 1x RS-232c, 2x 12V trigger
Lamp life up to 6,000 hours (in eco mode)
Extras HDR10, HLG, X1 for projector
Dimensions 496 x 205 x 464 mm
Weight 14.0 kg
MSRP 7,999 euros

Sony VPL-VW590ES – Design

Impressive, that’s the word that fits this projector . The dark black housing is quite large, with hardly any decorative fringes, which makes it look rather monolithic. The device has a slightly rough structure, so that it combines a matte appearance with a slightly sparkling accent and fingerprints are invisible.

On the side we find control buttons. These are of course only for emergencies, the full operation including zoom and focus can be done from the remote.

It is especially its front that gives a good impression. The huge aperture surrounded by a gold-colored ventilation grille and the ventilation outlets on the side are his signature. He illustrates the word light cannon excellently. This Sony is available in black (VPL-VW590 / B) and white (VPL-VW590 / W).

Sony VPL-VW590ES

Sony VPL-VW590ES – Connections

The connections to this projector are on the side. Two HDMI 2.0 connections, with the full 18Gbps bandwidth, are ready for Ultra HD HDR up to 60fps. Two connections may seem little, but on a projector like this one is enough. After all, it doesn’t have built-in speakers, so you’ll use an AV receiver anyway.

In addition, the Sony has a lot of connections for control. Ethernet, RS-232c, IR input and two 12V triggers make it possible to fully integrate the projector into your automation system. The USB connection is only for firmware upgrades and can serve as a power supply for a USB dongle.

Sony VPL-VW590ES – Placement

This is a “standard throw” projector that you place in the back of the room in other words. Thanks to the 2.06x zoom lens, you can place the projector between 3.05m and 6.28m from the screen for a 100 inch image. The projection offset is 50%, so the lens is perfectly central to the image. Extensive vertical and horizontal lens shift further allow the projector to be positioned up or down or even left and right off center. The entire setup, including focus, is motorized, so you can set everything with the remote control.

The projector uses three panels, which must of course be perfectly aligned. Our demo model showed a fairly significant deviation out of the box. Sony informed us that this is very exceptional, presumably due to our demo model having been on too rough a journey.

Fortunately, Sony offers the necessary settings for aligning the panels. Not only can you move an entire panel, you can also make local corrections very accurately. After a good ten minutes, the projector was perfectly set up.

The Sony is not really quiet as a mouse. Especially with the lamp in the highest position, the fans are emphatically present in the room. If you switch the lamp to the lowest position, the sound is not too bad.

Sony VPL-VW590ES – Ease of use

Sony has a smoothly working and clear menu. Moreover, you will be provided with a lot of functionality. It is neatly grouped in submenus. There is MotionFlow for sharpness of motion. For detail there is Reality Creation and for contrast there is Cinema Black Pro. The extensive options of the X1 processor are behind the Expert Settings.

Remote control

This projector gets very good points for its remote control. Not only is it large and handy, with clearly marked keys, but it also provides a huge amount of functionality.

Sony VPL-VW590ES

You can choose any image preset directly with one button, but you can also activate or set a lot of image processing with one button. This is particularly useful for things like the iris, MotionFlow, Reality Creation, and the Contrast Enhancer. Depending on the image material, you can quickly adjust the display to your taste. Of course, this remote is illuminated, as it should be for a real home cinema projector.

Functions

This Sony does not come with any built-in streaming services or media player.

Sony VPL-VW590ES – Image processing

Sony has been using the X1 processor on its TVs for several years now. The VPL-VW590ES has a specific version of the processor for projectors. As a result, our expectations are quite high. And the projector can largely fulfill that.

The native 4K panel shows a lot of detail. There, the device has a slight advantage over the competitors that use pixel shifting . To solve minor distortion and focus problems in the corners, there is the Digital Focus Optimiser. Admittedly, we could see the result on test images, but the difference is small. That means the deviation was relatively small to begin with.

To highlight that detail even more, there is Reality Creation. With this technique, Sony succeeds in making fine details a bit clearer, giving the image more depth. Fine detail makes you forget that it is a projection. However, it is best to only use sources in Full HD or lower. With 4K content, we saw a little too regularly some image artifacts in that fine detail. Reality Creation can also be set in small steps.

Another important feature is the noise reduction. The results were good for both random noise and compression noise (block formation), but slightly less than we are used to on Sony TVs. Smooth Gradation is also available to smooth out color bands in soft gradients. That worked fine, but on our very difficult dark Game Of Thrones test scene, even the lowest setting took a lot of detail. So only use it when necessary.

Another great asset is the Contrast Enhancer. Now this Sony, as we will see, has an excellent contrast, so it is not really necessary. But the Contrast Enhancer works very well, it gives a relatively modest but clear effect. That extra bit of contrast can give the image extra depth. You sacrifice some minimal black detail for it, but we never thought that was bad enough not to use it.

MotionFlow is available to keep more detail visible and smooth in fast moving images. Good results here too, but with the classic reservations. The highest setting makes the image smooth and detailed, but sometimes makes image errors in complex backgrounds. The ‘True Cinema’ mode displays movies in the original 24fps, but still shows a bit more judder. The middle position is a good compromise. Ultimately, your own taste is decisive here.

Sony VPL-VW590ES – Image quality

No lasers on board, but a normal UHP lamp. It therefore takes a few minutes for the projector to be at full power, which takes some getting used to. But other than that, the performance is good. Of the 1800 lumens on paper, we still have 1,577 lumens in the ‘Reference’ image mode. That is enough to illuminate a 130-inch screen even in moderate ambient light. In the other picture modes get similar or slightly lower results. But for a projector that is absolutely intended for use in a darkened home theater, that’s great. Switch the lamp to the lowest setting and you will see the light output drop by 40%. But even with that 940 lumens you can aim for 100 inches, and with real darkening even 140 inches.

A comment, putting the iris and the Contrast Enhancer together in the highest position is not a good idea, that will cost you too much black detail. Together in their lightest position is an option, but it often seemed to us that you should choose one of the two. Our preference went to the lowest setting of the Contrast Enhancer.

The Reference image mode is well calibrated, although we immediately add that it is best to have a projector in this price range calibrated. The color temperature is slightly too cool, due to a small surplus of blue. Most colors therefore tend slightly towards blue, but the error is too small to have a real visible impact. The gamma curve runs down in the bright parts, making them a bit too bright, but the final result is excellent. The images are to die for.

Sony VPL-VW590ES – HDR

HDR is a difficult task for projectors, but with its light reserves and excellent contrast, the Sony is well equipped at the start. We measure the color range, and there we notice that it is stuck at 78% DCI-P3 (56% Rec2020). Sony chose not to provide a special color filter. But all things considered, we are not sorry about that. With projectors we have already noticed that light and contrast are more important for HDR than an extremely large color range. The VPL-VW590ES supports HDR10 and HLG.

The calibration is also good in HDR. We do notice that the EOTF runs slightly below the reference, which makes the images a bit dark. In the darkest tones, it is a bit too bright, but it does hide a minimum of black detail. The projector ignores metadata and shows white detail up to approximately 2,000 nits. All in all, thanks to the generous light output and top contrast, this delivers very beautiful HDR images. In our opinion, the Sony is the first to approach the HDR feeling of TV, which is a remarkable achievement.

The projector has one last asset, Dynamic HDR Enhancer. This is the HDR equivalent of the Contrast Enhancer, and just like the SDR version, the results are very attractive. It makes images clearly brighter, but also accentuates black at the same time. So yes, you do lose some extra black detail and possibly white detail, but it really makes the HDR display sparkle. The settings has three steps, so you can adjust to taste.

Personally, we prefer to see the lower setting with dark images, while clear images benefit the most from the higher setting. Experiment. The setting has a button on the remote, so testing is done quickly.

One last note. In the menus you can also choose HDR-Reference for the HDR setting. That sounds tempting, but the projector then behaves like a mastering monitor and mercilessly cuts out all white detail above 1,000 nits. It is slightly brighter up to those 1,000 nits. But in practice you do not know whether that is the right choice. Choose the regular HDR10 setting and play with the Dynamic HDR Enhancer, which is safer.

Sony VPL-VW590ES – Gaming

In the normal picture modes, the input lag is up to 131.7 ms. Fortunately, you can check the ‘Input Lag Reduction’ in the menus, and that drops the input lag to 36.7 ms. That’s fine for a lot of games.

Keep in mind that the Sony does not have HDMI 2.1 connections . We must therefore disappoint gamers who were hoping for a high-end projector for their PS5 or Xbox Series X. You can of course use it with those consoles, but 4K60 is the maximum, gaming at 120fps is not possible.

Review equipment

For the lag measurement we use a Leo Bodnar Display lag meter. For all other measurements we rely on a Portrait Displays C6 HDR2000 Colorimeter, Xrite i1 Pro spectrophotometer, a VideoForge Pro pattern generator, and the Portrait Displays Calman for Business software. We use an HDFury Vertex to analyze any HDR problems. Our projection screen is a Projecta Tensioned Elpro Concept with HD Progressive 1.1 canvas.

Sony VPL-VW590ES – Conclusion

This Sony projector delivers very good performance, but we would still like to see a number of things improved. It is quite noisy in the highest lamp position (which you always use for HDR). The projector is almost certainly hanging above you, so that can be a bit disturbing. We would also prefer to see it equipped with a laser light source. Not only for convenience and longer life, but also for the wider color range. You can opt for the VPL-VW790ES, which has a laser light source, but is even more expensive. Finally, it is a pity that it does not have HDMI 2.1 connections. The input lag is low enough to make it attractive to gamers, but 4K60 is the limit right now, 4K120 is not possible. The projector is priced quite high, but it is worth it given its performance.

Despite all those comments, we have spent quite a few pleasant hours with the VPL-VW590ES. It puts clear, vivid images on the screen, with a lot of detail, a deep contrast and beautiful colors. And in fact, it shows that it is indeed possible to get impressive HDR images from a projector. It is 100% intended for use in a home cinema room that can be darkened, and where you connect it to a handsome audio system. That is where its strong performances come into their own. That would never be the case in an average living room. The excellent image processing and handy remote control make it very easy to make small adjustments. This way you always have a fantastic image, with the darkest film noir, or with the brightest animated film.

Pros 

  • Impressive SDR and HDR images
  • Native 4K with top detail
  • Very high contrast and ample light output
  • Excellent service
  • Very good image processing

Negatives 

  • Noisy in the highest lamp position
  • No HDMI 2.1 connections
  • Classic UHP lamp with limited HDR color range

 

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