Sony VPL-VW590ES: the ultimate 4K Ultra HD HDR projector?

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The Sony VPL-VW590ES projector is the first model in the Sony 2020 series of 4K projectors to adopt the Sony X1 image processor for projectors, developed on the basis of the one used by the best Sony 4K TVs. 

Compatible with 4K 60Hz and HDR via its two HDMI 2.0 inputs, the Sony VPL-VW590ES projector benefits from dynamic HDR optimization and Reality Creation technology to offer viewers a high-end visual experience. The projector has been awarded a 5-star rating by What Hi-Fi? magazine which lauded “a significant improvement over its predecessor and Sony’s native 4K projector, the VPL-VW270ES”.

The Sony VPL-VW590ES projector is designed to project a large, bright, high-contrast image in a large living room or a private cinema room and is available for €6,990. Is this the cost of excellence?

The Sony VPL-VW590ES projector is available in a white and black finish. It is quite massive and has wide vents on its front, which allows it to be placed in an alcove at the back of the room, for example.

Sony VPL-VW590ES: the brand

Founded in the spring of 1946, the Sony company was initially involved in repairing electronic equipment. It was during the 1950s that the company experienced strong growth by starting to produce a basic but essential electronic component: the transistor. The Japanese company then became increasingly influential and in 1955 marketed the first radio receiver using exclusively transistors.

At the forefront of innovation and often an initiator of new trends, Sony has been a driving force in the audiovisual and consumer electronics industry since its inception. Among its major inventions, the Walkman, which appeared in 1979, revolutionized our relationship with music and foreshadowed the success of the portable devices we know today. In 1981, Sony introduced the world’s first digital camera, the Mavica (Magnetic Video camera) and then the first camcorder in 1983 (the Betamovie, a portable camera in Betamax format). Sony is also at the origin of the Blu-ray disc which was launched in 2006.

Today, Sony is still a major player in the audio and video electronics market, both for professionals and the general public, whose expertise covers multiple fields such as hi-fi (receivers, digital audio players, Bluetooth headphones, True Wireless in-ear monitors, portable Bluetooth speakers, portable radios…), home theater (AV receivers, 4K Blu-ray players, sound bars…), TVs (OLED TVs, 4K UHD TVs and 8K UHD TVs) and video projectors (4K UHD video projectors, ultra-short throw video projectors and HD video projectors).

The Sony Pro branch of the Japanese company is in charge of developing the range of home cinema projectors that includes the Sony VPL-VW590ES of this test. Indeed, Sony is a key player in the cinema sector, as the brand is involved throughout the entire production chain, from the capture of images to their distribution in cinemas and at home. It is only normal that the video projectors designed to project films on big screens in our living rooms should be conceived and developed in partnership with the teams that designed the filming (digital cinema camera) and production (monitors) equipment. It is also for this reason that Sony 4K video projectors such as the Sony VPL-VW590ES adopt an SXRD matrix with 4K Cinema resolution (4096 x 2160 pixels) and not simply UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels).

Sony VPL-VW590ES: packaging & accessories

We received a demonstration model for this review of the Sony VPL-VW590ES video projector. It was therefore delivered to us in an impressive flight case that allows it to be easily transported and protected when used during trade shows and demonstrations.

The standard packaging is obviously more classic. It consists of a large box containing the projector and its infrared remote control with backlit buttons, two AA batteries and a power cable. 

A plastic cover protects the projector lens (it can be removed manually). We wish it could have been integrated into the chassis.

Sony VPL-VW590ES: presentation

The Sony VPL-VW590ES projector is equipped with SXRD panels with native 4K resolution (4096 x 2160 pixels) and supports wide dynamic range images (HDR10 and HLG). Its X1 processor is inherited from the video processing technology used by Sony Bravia 4K TVs and is specifically adapted for projectors. It is in charge of optimizing HDR rendering and upscaling HD 1080p and DVD sources.

The Sony VPL-VW590ES projector’s large-diameter lenses let a maximum amount of light through.Les lentilles de grand diamètre du vidéoprojecteur Sony VPL-VW590ES laissent passer un maximum de lumière.

SXRD panels

It is also, along with JVC’s D-ILA, the only technology that adopts a native 4K definition matrix (4096 x 2160 pixels), while 4K DLP technology projectors rely on 1080p HD matrices and shift pixels several times per second to reproduce a 4K image.

Inside the Sony VPL-VW590ES projector, the light from the lamp is divided into 3 distinct streams that are separately directed to the three SXRD panels which each manage a primary color (red, green, blue). A prism then unites the three luminous fluxes into one, directed towards the lens to project the image.

Using panels of distinct colors guarantees greater purity and richness of color. This technology also eliminates the rainbow effect that can sometimes be noticeable with DLP projectors using a color wheel.

Motorized lens

The Sony VPL-VW590ES video projector offers great flexibility when it comes to its placement in the room thanks to its motorized zoom (2.06x) and the possibility to shift the lens both horizontally and vertically (motorized lens shift). This gives the user a wide range of options in placing the projector in the room. In addition, the air vents positioned on the front of the video projector and its connectors located on the side allow the video projector to be installed in an alcove at the back of the room. 

Another advantage of this Sony VPL-VW590ES 4K video projector is that it is capable of memorizing 5 different zoom settings to easily switch from 16:9 mode to 2.35:1 mode, for example.

X1 processor for projectors

This is the first time that Sony has borrowed technology from its Bravia TV ranges and incorporated it into its video projectors. The manufacturer has in fact adapted the X1 video processor used by the Sony XH9096 and Sony XH8096 4K TVs in order to optimize the image quality of the Sony VPL-VW590ES.

The Sony X1 processor for projectors is directly derived from the one used for the latest generation of Sony TVs.

The X1 projector processor includes Dynamic HDR Enhancer technology, which replaces Contrast Enhancer technology of the Sony VPL-VW570ES and Sony VPL-VW760ES models. 

This processor also enhances the performance of the Reality Creation 4K upscaling process for scaling the 1080p HD content of Blu-Ray Discs and DVDs. It provides more detail and finer, more realistic textures in the image.

Dynamic HDR optimization

The Sony VPL-VW590ES projector supports HDR and HLG wide dynamic range content to display images with higher contrast, higher brightness and finer gradations on brightness variations and color gradients.

The X1 image processor used in the Sony VPL-VW590ES ensures even more efficient HDR enhancement than the previous model. Each scene is analyzed to clearly optimize the contrast.

Reality Creation 4K

The Reality Creation 4K process allows the conversion of natively HD (1080p) videos to 4K Ultra High Definition. The Sony VPL-VW590ES projector can scale to full 4K resolution with a result close to a true original 4K-UHD image thanks to the power of the X1 image processor. The X1 Image Processor analyzes each pixel of each image and then uses pattern and texture matching algorithms developed by Sony over the years to improve image sharpness and definition without increasing noise.

Digital Focus Optimizer

Even when using very high-end lenses, an optical blur remains visible in the corners of the image as circular lenses are used to reproduce a rectangular image. The Digital Focus Optimizer technology implemented by Sony on the Sony VPL-VW590ES projector compensates for this clarity problem by correcting the image digitally. 

Sony VPL-VW590ES: key specs

Display

  • Projection system: 4K SXRD panel (0.74″ matrix x3)
  • Number of pixels: 26,542,080 pixels (4096 x 2160 pixels x 3)

Objective

  • Motorized focus
  • Digital focus optimization
  • Motorized zoom (approx. x2.06)
  • Motorized Lens Shift :
    – Vertical: +85 % -80
    – Horizontal: +/- 31%.

Light source

  • 280W high-pressure mercury lamp
  • Recommended frequency of lamp replacement: 6,000 h (lamp mode: Low)

Projection

  • Projected image size (diagonal): 1,524mm to 7,620mm (60″ to 300″)
  • Brightness: 1800 lm (lamp mode: High)
  • Dynamic contrast: 350,000:1

Image processing

  • Image processor: X1 for projector
  • Dynamic HDR optimization: scene by scene HDR enhancement
  • Reality Creation technology: analysis of each scene to improve details and textures
  • 2K (2048×1080) and Full HD (1920×1080) to 4K conversion

Maximum Supported Image Resolution

  • PC: 1920 x 1080 pixels (HDMI input only)
  • Video: 3840 x 2160/60p and 4096 x 2160/60p

3D

  • 3D compatible
  • Integrated 3D radio frequency transmitter
  • Compatible with RF-synchronized 3D glasses (sold separately)

Connectors

  • 2 HDMI inputs (RGB & Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr compatible)
  • 2 trigger mini-jack sockets (12 V DC max. 100 mA)
  • 1 RS-232C port (male 9-pin D-sub)
  • 1 RJ45 LAN port (10Base-T/100BASE-TX)
  • 1 IR mini-jack input
  • 1 powered USB port (5 V DC, 500 mA max)

General

  • Dimensions (W x H x D) without protruding parts: 496 x 205 x 464mm
  • Weight: Approx. 14kg

Accessories

  • RM-PJ24 Remote Commander (1)
  • Manganese AA batteries (R6) (2)
  • Lens cover (1)
  • AC power cable (1)
  • User manual (CD-ROM) (1)
  • Quick Reference Manual (1)

Sony VPL-VW590ES: testing conditions

For this test of the Sony VPL-VW590ES projector, we used it with a network AV player to access different streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video as well as a Zappiti Pro 4K HDR player to watch movies from our digital video library. We also used a Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray player to watch Blu-ray discs, including the 4K UHD Blu-ray version of the movie Mad Max: Fury Road. We used an Audioquest Carbon HDMI cable to connect the players to the projector.

The projection was done on an electric projection screen at a distance of just over three meters to obtain an image with a diagonal of 2.54 m (100″).

NB: note that this is the white model that Sony lent us for this test. This may seem anecdotal to some people, but the material chosen by the manufacturer to make the “shell” of the projector has a “grainy” aspect that easily attracts dust and fingerprints. It is therefore recommended to wear cloth gloves when handling the projector to avoid leaving fingerprints on it. Good point, the projector isn’t shiny because the finish is matt and therefore more discreet.

Installing the projector

Once the Sony VPL-VW590ES was in place behind the seating area, it only took a few minutes to set the image in the center of our projection screen. What delightful experience to be able to make these adjustments with the remote control while sitting comfortably on a couch!  

The powerful optical zoom and the Lens Shift of the Sony VPL-VW590ES are both motorized and directly accessible by pressing the “pattern” button on the remote control. The projector then displays a grid pattern to facilitate image registration. The electric focus (Lens Focus function) is also available in this menu.

The lens shift makes it possible to easily correct the position of the image upwards, downwards, to the left and to the right without any distortion, while the zoom makes it possible to enlarge or reduce the image size in a very precise and gradual way.

The zoom, lens shift and focus of the Sony VPL-VW590ES can also be accessed from the Lens button on the side of the projector. A small directional pad for navigating through the adjustment menus is located between the Lens button and the menu button.

Réglages images

The setting menus of the Sony VPL-VW590ES projector are very comprehensive and allow you to call on a calibration professional if you have no knowledge of the subject matter. This professional will be able to carry out adjustments perfectly adapted to the specific conditions of use of the room in which the projector is installed. 

However, an informed user can make the “basic” adjustments (contrast, light, color, etc…) with the help of a suitable calibration disc such as the Spears & Munsil Blu-ray 4K.

The Spears & Munsil UHD HDR Benchmark Calibration Blu-ray is a very good tool to check and possibly correct the calibration of an Ultra HD projector or a 4K TV.

The ideal solution is to use the Cinema mode as a basis and to adjust some settings if necessary. In our case, we only slightly adjusted the settings of this mode, which is already well calibrated by default. We set the Motionflow parameter to True Cinema, which limits jerks on moving images without creating a “soap opera effect”, which is despised by die-hard moviegoers! We checked that all noise reduction systems were disabled and left HDR management on Auto since the video projector automatically detects HDR content.

Sony VPL-VW590ES: our impression 

Like the 4K JVC DLA-N5 video projector we tested earlier this year (read our review of the JVC DLA-N5), the Sony VPL-VW590ES impresses first and foremost by its size and the diameter of its glass lens, as well as by the fairly low level of noise of its ventilation system when in operation (especially in eco mode).

The Sony VPL-VW590ES has large air vents and large-diameter fans that rotate slower and are therefore quieter, allowing us to enjoy a great picture in very pleasant conditions.

Mad Max: Fury Road 

The film Mad Max: Fury Road in 4K HDR regularly switches between light-saturated images and darker, more contrasting scenes as well as night scenes. This projector by Sony is very comfortable with these images with an extended dynamic range, offering  realistic rendering and excellent contrast.

Slightly less detailed and nuanced than other models such as the JVC DLA-N5 with the brightest lights, the Sony VPL-VW590ES is particularly comfortable revealing a lot of detail in dark areas. During high-contrast scenes inside the vehicles and in the caves of the Citadel, a great deal of detail is visible and the gradation of the dark areas preserves the density of the black. This reinforces the realism and tension in the chase scene in the corridors of the Citadel, after Max escapes from the tattooist.

When Furiosa gets behind the wheel of the truck towing the tanker, one can fully appreciate the work done by the set designers on the cockpit. The textures of the different materials are perfectly rendered: steering wheel covered with tawny leather, rusty metal of the dashboard, quilted chrome dials, hydraulic tubes, hoses and moving parts of the driver’s mechanical arm. 

Colorimetric rendering is also a strength of the Sony VPL-VW590ES video projector, which displays images with colors that are realistic, nuanced and ideally saturated. The skin tone of the various protagonists is realistic, as is the ochre of the desert sands, the rusted steel of the vehicles or the yellow and orange of the explosions. 

Alita: Battle Angel

In the movie Alita: Battle Angel (4K HDR), where many key scenes take place at night, the Sony VPL-VW590ES projector is completely in its comfort zone. From the opening scene in the open-air garbage dump, we were impressed by the light management on the successive scenes in light and dark with very strong backlighting. The brightest areas were sometimes a little clipped, with a slight loss of detail. But it was to the benefit of the darker parts of the image which were then beautifully nuanced.

In Dr Dyson’s laboratory, the “techno-retro-futuristic” atmosphere was superbly transcribed (lights, screens, scenery…). When Alita wakes up, we were seized by the quality of the textures (Cyborg skin, synthetic skeleton materials, fabrics of the sheets, knits of her colored clothes…) and the realism of the colors.

During the Motorball match when Alita has to escape from the bounty hunters, the Sony VPL-VW590ES video projector once again showed its ease with high-contrast night scenes. The details of the costumes of the various protagonists are not lost on the viewer while enjoying the special atmosphere in the huge arena bathed in very cold, even clinical artificial light.

Le Mans 66

With Le Mans 66 (4K HDR), the Sony VPL-VW590ES did justice to James Mangold’s directing and photographic work that give this film its incomparable atmosphere. The rendering of the lights was remarkable, both at night and during the day, whether it was the competitors’ headlights during the opening race or during the GT40’s night test phases, or the sun’s reflections on the cars. Once again, the colors were very accurate, balanced and realistic.

The image was detailed and precise and offered a very satisfying sharpness while retaining a certain “cinematic” softness. At no point did the images have a “clinical”, super clean-cut aspect with overly marked contours and artificially “enriched” textures. On the contrary, the image was very natural. It was a real treat! 

Sony VPL-VW590ES: compared to…

BenQ W5700

This BenQ projector, which we will soon review, made a very good impression with its rich and natural color images and rather good contrast. The sharpness and level of detail with 4K sources were also very satisfactory, despite the DLP technology using a DMD chip natively in 1080p definition. Like the majority of the Taiwanese manufacturer’s video projectors, its very well calibrated Cinema mode allowed us to enjoy movies with a beautiful image right out of the box.

With the Sony VPL-VW590ES video projector, we venture a little further into the world of cinema. The projected image is particularly realistic and natural thanks to the richness and accuracy of the colors delivered by the SXRD panels. The contrast is better, the blacks are denser and at the same time very legible. 

The Sony projector also has the upper hand in terms of installation flexibility thanks to the motorized lens shift, zoom and focus. But it is much more expensive than BenQ’s model…

JVC DLA-N5

Thanks to its auto tone mapping function, the JVC DLA-N5 outperforms Sony’s projector in terms of HDR rendering quality in the more nuanced bright lights. Sony engineers have chosen to clip anything beyond 2000 nits in order to emphasize the nuances in dark areas. This is a clever choice considering the human eye is more sensitive to nuances in dark areas than in very bright areas. In fact, the projector by Sony offers better readability than the JVC DLA-N5 in low light with a black that is both dense and nuanced.

Sony VPL-VW590ES: conclusion

The image projected by the Sony VPL-VW590ES really won us over with its extremely realistic and natural rendering. One of the strong points of this projector is the richness and accuracy of the colors that guarantee the complete credibility of the projected images.

The quality of the HDR rendering is particularly satisfying in low-light conditions, the Sony projector offering very good readability of the darkest parts of the image with a black that is both dense and nuanced. With such a video projector, you really bring cinema into your living room.

We also greatly appreciated the installation flexibility offered by the Lens Shift, the powerful zoom and focus function, all three of which are motorized.

What we liked

  • The accuracy of the colors, which are very natural (Cinema mode)
  • The low light management
  • The overall balance of 4K HDR images
  • The silent operation (in low light mode)
  • The motorized optics (zoom, lens shift, focus)

Wer would have liked

  • A lens cover integrated into the chassis

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