The VW590ES proves emphatically that Sony’s new projection system for getting more impact out of HDR video can make a difference with more affordable lamps as well as laser projectors.
- Dynamic HDR Enhancer tech continues to impress
- Excellent all-round performer
- Much cheaper than the step-up VW790ES
- Not as bright as its laser-based siblings
- Minor colour striping
- Input lag not the lowest
Native 4K resolutionThe small pixel pitch of Sony’s SXRD technology has long made it possible for it to deliver true 4K projection where most rivals cannot.
Dynamic HDR Enhancer technologyThis proprietary Sony system uses a combination of exceptional processing and light control to enhance the dynamic range of HDR sources.
X1 For Projector processorAn all-new processing chip for Sony projectors built around some of the principles of Sony’s successful X1 for TVs processor.
Lamp based projector systemThe VW590ES swaps the laser lighting of the much more expensive VW790ES for a more traditional lamp system.
Sony’s SXRD home cinema projectors have a proud history, for first supporting native 4K resolutions, and then more recently for taking serious steps towards making HDR not only watchable (HDR having been designed with TVs in mind, not home cinema projectors), but actually seriously enjoyable.
The VW790ES we reviewed previously took this bold attempt to master HDR on a projector to a whole new level with its combination of laser lighting, a new X1 For Projector processor and, best of all, a new Dynamic HDR Enhancer system that somehow manages to boost the intensity of bright parts of HDR images without compromising the look of dark areas.
However, the more affordable VW590ES model looked at here trades the laser lighting for a more traditional lamp system. So the fairly straightforward question that needs to be answer is how much of a hit the VW590ES’s performance takes from losing the lasers.
Price and availability
At £6999, the VW590ES is hardly cheap by today’s projector standards. However, it’s a grand cheaper than its excellent VW570ES predecessor was at launch – and it’s only just over half the price of the step-up VW790ES. So, contextually speaking, its £6999 UK price actually looks like potentially good value. Especially when you consider that this is a truly native 4K projector, rather than a ‘pseudo’ 4K model like most of its rivals.
- UKRRP: £6999
- USARRP: $9999.99
- EuropeRRP: €6999
- CanadaRRP: CA$12999
- AustraliaRRP: AU$11999
The VW590ES is widely available globally. In the UK, it can be purchased from Sevenoaks Sound And Vision. In the US, where it’s known as the VW715ES, it can be had from Best Buy for $10,000.
Amazon Canada has it for $12,998, while in Australia it’s available for AU$11,999 from Sight and Sound Galleria.
- Too large to be considered a ‘desktop’ projector
- Available in white or black finishes
- Fully motorised image setup
Sony has adopted more or less the same design for all of its consumer 4K projectors to date – and it isn’t changing things with the VW590ES.
I don’t take issue with this, though – the Sony 4K design happens to be pretty attractive. The gently elliptical sculpting, with curved top and bottom edges plus rounded corners looks elegant and ‘domesticated’. Also, the strikingly large, centrally mounted lens is highlighted by a distinctive outer cowl of angled gold lines that contrasts nicely with the rest of the bodywork, regardless of whether you opt for the white or black version of the VW590ES.
Large vents at the left and right edges of the front edge actually enhance rather than spoil the design, as well as pushing the heat away from your seating position (unless the projector is sited behind you, of course).
Build quality is excellent, and while the VW590ES is substantially larger than typical ‘desktop’ projectors, it’s about par for a serious home theatre model.
- Native 4K resolution
- Important new Dynamic HDR Enhancer feature
- New X1 For Projectors video processor
Sony is no longer the only mainstream brand offering native 4K resolutions on its home cinema projectors. JVC has finally gone native 4K with some models, too. However, true pixel-for-pixel native 4K projectors remain a rarity in the projector world, with most supposedly 4K projectors using clever tricks such as pixel-shifting and ‘double flashing’ to deliver pseudo 4K effects.
The VW590ES improves on its already strong VW570ES predecessor in two key ways. First, it gets Sony’s new X1 For Projector processor. As its name suggests, this takes some of its principles from the esteemed X1 processor Sony originally designed for TVs. For instance, its Super Resolution Reality Creation element deploys Sony algorithms developed to enhance the crispness of all sources without simultaneously exaggerating noise.
The same system also claims to boost upscaling of sub-4K sources to the projector’s native 4K resolution. In fact, the iteration found on the VW590ES and VW790ES carries an extra element that targets very high-frequency image areas, such as hair, to avoid the sort of shimmering or glimmering noise that can accompany such finely textured image content with less adept upscaling systems.
In addition, for the first time at this level of Sony’s projector ranges, the VW590ES’s extra processing power also gets a Digital Focus Optimizer. This uses digital image processing to try to compensate for any localised blurring that might be caused by the projector’s lens. This is arguably more useful at the VW590ES’s level than it is with models higher up the range with more high-spec lenses.
The X1 For Projector chipset also drives the second key new feature that sets the VW590ES apart from its predecessor: The Dynamic HDR Enhancer.
Impressively found right across Sony’s 2021 4K projector range, it uses advanced signal analysis to somehow boost the intensity of bright parts of HDR images without compromising the contrast performance of dark parts of HDR images. I say ‘somehow’ because, honestly, I still don’t know how the technology can achieve what feels like a local dimming effect without actually having any local dimming. More on this later.
The VW590ES’s lamp is capable of delivering a claimed 1800 lumens of light output (the same as the VW570ES) and an impressive-sounding contrast ratio of 350,000:1. It can play back 3D if you sort yourself out with compatible 3D glasses, as well as the HDR10 and HLG HDR formats.
Setup is aided by fully motorised lens adjustments capable of delivering vertical and horizontal lens-shift, as well as an impressive x2.06 of optical zoom.
Finally, connections comprise twin v2.0 HDMI ports, two 12V trigger ports, an RS-232C control port, an Ethernet jack for system integration, an IR mini-jack, and a 5V USB. Note that the HDMIs can’t support next-gen gaming features such as 4K at 120Hz, or variable refresh rates. However, the VW590ES does carry a fast response setting for gaming that gets the time the projector takes to render images down to a respectable (though not