4K TVs may be getting dirt-cheap faster than you can spit, but projectors have been much slower to fall off the pricing cliff.
Early in 2015 Sony will finally break the $10,000 barrier with the VPL-VW350ES, the cheapest true 4K projector yet. Yes, faux-4K solutions like JVC's eShift cost a good deal less, but they don't deliver every 8,847,360 discrete pixel of the Sony's 4,096x2,160 resolution.
Why is this important, you might ask? We've been saying for years that at normal seating distances TV-sized screens (think 50, 60, 70 inches) aren't big enough to allow most people to see the extra detail of 4K sources. Blow the screen up to a projector-friendly 100 inches or more, however, and suddenly 4K makes a whole lot more sense.
Sony's product manager told us that the VPL-VW350ES is basically a de-featured version of the well-received VPL-VW600ES, which will remain in Sony's lineup at 15 grand. Saving $5,000 loses you the 600's advanced iris, which likely means the VW350ES lacks some of the 600ES's contrast and punch.
The 350ES is also slightly dimmer, at 1,500 vs. 1,700 lumens, and doesn't include any 3D glasses. Since it does have a built-in 3D emitter, however, and complies with the full-HD 3D standard, you can pair it with any glasses that also comply, down to the $20 Samsungs.
Beyond that, the two projectors are very similar. Both offer the great contrast of Sony's LCoS-based, SXRD chips, as seen on models like the VPL-HW50ES we reviewed earlier. They share the same chassis and design, including the motorized lens with remote lens shift, zoom and focus. There's also a game mode to reduce lag, and given Sony's excellent low-lag TVs, we expect good things here.
A pair of HDMI 2.0 compatible inputs, one of which also handles HDCP 2.2, is on-board. The 350ES works with Sony's FMP-X10 4K media player, of course, and is also compatible with Crestron Connected and Control 4 SDDP, allowing plug-and-play discovery and control with those systems.
Sony will start shipping the VPL-VW350ES to the US in early January for a list price of $9,999. To further entice well-heeled buyers on the heels of its introduction at CES, Sony will offer a $2,000 discount through February 28, bringing the price down to a lucky $7,999.
Sony has already sent CNET a review unit, so we look forward to reviewing the VPL-VW350ES soon.