JoeRod
12-12-2018
 SONY VPL-VW995ES 4K HDR10 3D REVIEW
So here we are nearing the end of 2018 which means it is that time of year to check out Sony's newest flagship type model. I say newest since their 5000ES (MSRP 60K) is going on 3 years old. The new 995ES sports another laser and the same exact lens as the 5000ES. The current laser 885ES (Reviewed here) has outsold their expectations and puts out an image which is stunning. So where does this leave us with the 995? I would say smack-dab in the middle of the 5000 and 885. Right where it is intended to be. I am in rare but blessed company to have the 995, 885 and 5000 under the same roof. That is a lot of lasers in one house! Before I get into particulars I will say they are definitely more similar than different. I will focus mainly on the 995 but will also throw out comparisons to either the 885 or the 5000 (Reviewed here) and sometimes both. Let's get started...
First stop, the lens. I will be one of the first to tell you the lens in the 885 is damn good. Super sharp! I never had a single complaint with it. Most who came to my home were hard pressed to tell a difference between it and the 5000. The only difference visible to the eye were the corners and far sides of the image. The 5000 and now the 995 have that tack sharp image from screen edge to screen edge. The 4K All-Range Crisp Focus (ARC-F) lens minimizes distortion and ensures high precision and detail in all corners of the image. Its an 18-piece all-glass design which features extra-low dispersion glass. So the $10,000 dollar question is it worth the price difference between the 885? Possibly the larger the screen the more noticeable the sharpness in the edges and corners? Maybe we should be asking if the price difference between the 995 and 5000 is worth it? Again this would definitely come down to screen size. Maybe say 14 foot and larger screens would benefit from the 5000 and 12 to 14 foot the 995 and 12 foot and smaller the 885? That's not to say if you have an eleven foot screen you should skip the 995. This of course should come down to individual preferences. The 995 has more features for us to discuss to help you decide which laser model would best fit your application. 

Let's start with the all new Digital Focus Optimizer. Sony is very excited about this new feature. By analyzing every pixel of the images with their own algorithm and detecting possible optical degradation in advance, the DFO performs optimum image quality correction, so that even the image in the corners and edge to edge are better than ever. I will say DirecTV is improved with this feature. I noticed when the Titans were punting to the Jaguars the behind the kicker view not only the punter was in good focus but the players far off to the side were as well. Usually they are more blurry and not as distinguished. No pun intended but Sony's new DFO feature is in fact a "game changer." Look for it in their future products!

Dual Contrast helps the 995 achieve deeper blacks and very vibrant colors. Under the Advanced Iris menu you will find iris control and that the laser can be controlled dynamically to optimize light output for both dark scenes and those with high contrast. Colors have plenty of pop and I will say the black level is a little better than the 885. Definitely not a night and day difference but there is a difference. 
995 ES
885 ES
885 ES
995 ES
As mentioned above the Corner-to-Corner sharpness with the ARC-F lens. This goes hand in hand with the DFO feature. Combine them and this does make the sharpest image I have seen to date. The 885 though very close is eclipsed here. The 5000 with the same lens but not with the DFO feature is also surpassed. Of course the 5000 still being brighter has that over the 995ES. Of course on a 12 to 14 foot screen at this time I would take the 995ES over it. If you could do an A/B/C comparison I think the vast majority would. Many are asking if it is worth spending the extra from the 885 to the 995 and they have every right to. Just remember it is always that last 5% to 9% increase in performance that ends up costing the most. My suggestion is if you own an 885 do yourself a favor and don't borrow trouble by comparing a 995. Leave well enough alone. If you own a 5000 and a larger screen you have nothing to fret. If you are in the middle and planning a purchase it is in my opinion worth springing for the 995ES. This paragraph is reading like the conclusion and in many ways it is but let's look more closely at the 995ES and what makes it a standout... 


Times are a changing. We have been mainly streaming movies from our Apple TV 4K. Movies come out weeks before they do on discs. Vudu has been my "go to" with them offering their movies in HDR10 and Dolby Atmos. I really like the look of 4K/60 HDR. We used to be told that 1080p/24 was where it is at but I can't watch them anymore. The motion is smoother and there is a constant calmness to the eyes. The image quality is near disc like and now with Atmos sound there is no reason to need to buy more expensive discs or the other super expensive alternative for streaming.
Besides, their movies can sometimes cost twice as much...
So how does the 995ES do with the movies? Having just had the 5000ES and the 885ES in the same exact spot (as well as many others) I would have to say it is top-notch. Something that stood out immediately was the menu (pic above.) The letters and numbers on the sides, very bottom and top of the screen were all crystal clear. As if they were in the center of the screen! Even the screensaver demos (pic above) looked outstanding. It is harder to discern the Full-Screen Sharpness I am referring to in pics like it is in person. Many will say during actual movie content that the difference is negligible but for someone like myself who has "busy" eyes it is definitely apparent. Once I pointed it out to our guests once or twice we all were able to see the difference. I checked out the movies above with the 995. The Nun has some very dark moments and the 995 blended shadow detail with black levels brilliantly. Mission Impossible is hands down one of this year's best movies. Tom Cruise pleaded for people to watch it with Motionflow off (and we did) but I could not do this with every movie. I love Smooth Low with 4K/60. With smooth as butter panning and details remaining razor sharp the 995ES is Sony's best yet. The DFO definitely is making a difference. In the pic above while Tom is hanging from the bottom of the helicopter you can see the sharpness way off to the side on the landing skid. Even the mountains look amazing as does the ground. This movie scores 97 on Rotten Tomatoes for a reason!

The new Predator movie also revealed dazzling details on the Predator! Is it possible to say the new levels of 4K HDR10 are making them look less real? We had fun with this one and it was a good popcorn movie. As was The Meg. There were some spectacular views (and I do not just mean Jason Stanthem for the ladies) and action moments. Venom, wow! This movies was made for HDR10 and Atmos! The intricate details on Venom look astounding. This one is tailor made to show off the 995ES's abilities! A Simple Favor, one of my Wife's favorites had a nice artsy look with strong colors. Hell Fest, one of my favorites looked terrific. Behind the killer's mask (his view) you could see intricate details. This one also takes place at night so again black levels and shadow details were key to an impressive viewing. And who could resist a good laugh with The Happytime Murders? Colorful and sharp this one provides good eye candy. The Twin's favorites (besides Paw Patrol, Moana and Trolls) are Small Foot and Incredibles 2. Both are brilliantly done with their animation and colors. We recently took them to their first movie The Grinch and can't wait to watch that next Christmas with them on the 995...So far I am using Film 1 for movies. I have been experimenting with Brilliant Cinema with HDR content but still prefer Film 1. I will update here if I come to a conclusion. Gamma 2.4 and Smooth Low under MotionFlow with 4k/60 movies. I will do True Cinema with 1080p/24 Blu-ray movies. The titles of movies look as if they are floating in front of your screen or 3D like (Pic below.) Same for subtitles. Animated movies like The Grinch look 3D without the glasses!
So going over the specs and some more features... With 4K HDR 60P content increasing, the VPL-VW995ES is now 18 Gbps capable. This means it can handle anything you throw at it. We also still have the option for 3D. We still own over 150 movies in 3D. Many times our guests or visitors ask to see 3D. It still is a crowd pleaser and some movies like Ready Player One become even more immersive. Also both HDMI inputs are compatible with HDCP 2.2—the latest content protection standard. New is IMAX Enhanced. Sony 4K projectors are compatible with IMAX Enhanced content, making them ready to deliver the bigger, more breathtaking IMAX visuals you love in compatible content. Take advantage of the size of your projector screen with movies that become even more immersive with IMAX Enhanced. To read all about it go here. The 995ES being 4K offers 8.8 million pixels (4096 x 2160) for a picture that is incredibly lifelike, which is why it is the resolution defined by the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) for theater distribution. Sony tells us their latest SXRD panels deliver even better contrast, as well as native 4K resolution. With SXRD projection, you'll see rich, inky blacks, clear cinematic motion and smooth images. Sony's exclusive Reality Creation technology analyzes images right down to the pixel level. It then employs pattern-matching algorithms developed over years of movie production to enhance crispness even without increasing digital picture noise. I have to say so with what we've been seeing they are right on point...

HDR10... From Sony: "Get the most from your projector when viewing new UHD Blu-ray and streaming services with High Dynamic Range (HDR). HDR video offers a vastly expanded brightness range to deliver far more realistic, high-contrast images and brilliant colors. Compatible with both HDR10 and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) formats. Sony's home projectors reproduce color and contrast faithfully to creators' intentions." This is where I am seeing the best images on the 995ES. Movies with HDR(10) simply look the best. The 995ES was made to display them. 

Dual Contrast... From Sony: "In addition to the dynamically-controlled laser light output, an Advanced Iris is also incorporated. Both the iris control and laser can be adjusted independently and dynamically, to optimize light output for both dark scenes and those with high contrast. The result is deeper blacks than ever, as well as bright, vibrant colors where needed. The infinite dynamic contrast makes every scene spring to life with detail and realism." I have Dynamic Control set to Full. Laser around 80. It had a default of 100 which I was shocked at how bright the image can be. I am inching up so could land about 90. Now with the 5000 and 885 anything over 80 would make the projector louder. Not the case with the 995. It is very quiet and I found myself a couple times making sure it was on the first couple movies. It is that quiet!

The Laser... Let's not forget one of the most important features of the 995ES. Like the 885 and 5000 The VPL-VW995ES uses an ultra-pure and reliable Z-Phosphor™ laser light source. This Sony-developed light source offers bright images for up to 20,000 hours of uninterrupted operation—no lamp replacement and virtually zero maintenance. There is just something more pleasing to the eyes as well. The image has a certain "calmness" that you just don't get from a lamp based projector. 

The Remote... Same as it ever was which is a good thing. We get direct button pushes to the 9 Picture Modes as well as Lens options. As well as Aspect (I usually prefer 1.85:1 but so far have been going back and forth with Normal), Color Space, Gamma, MotionFlow, 3D, Advanced Iris, Contrast Enhancer, Color Temp and Reality Creation. Let's not forget the Sharpness, Brightness and Contrast toggles at the bottom. The remote lights up a nice blue. It also feels natural in your hand...


So many who read my Reviews know that I always spend time reviewing sports and of course usually when the new models hit it is in the thick of the NFL season. Football has always been a huge part of my family life and every Sunday growing up we would watch the games. We had a board in which we would pick each game each week even my Mom. So can I just say right off the bat the best football I have now seen in my home theater is from the 995ES. Yes, it is even better than the 5000ES. Of course that is due to the DFO which I discussed above. I have officially taken my Darblet out of my theater. The 995ES has made it obsolete. The pics above do not do it justice. You can make out individual blades of grass and easily see divots! Brilliant Cinema is my picture mode of choice. Smooth Low is the MotionFlow setting. Gamma 2.4 with color bumped up to 55. Reality Creation is at the default of 50 and Noise Reduction 10. Digital Focus Optimizer is ON.  Contrast Enhancer High. Dynamic Control Full. Color Space 3. Clear White Low. Smooth Gradation Low. More screen shots below show some details...
The 995ES comes in a box reminiscent of the 5000ES. Once you cut the nylon ties and plastic off it is very simple to open it. Just lift the top of the box straight up and there is your 995ES laying there wrapped and ready for action. Do note the projector by itself is 49 pounds so be careful when installing. Good idea to have an assistant or hire someone.
The ARC-F Lens = more weight!
Equipment used for all or part of my Review:

Sony VPL-VW995ES, Stewart Studiotek 144 ST100 16:9, McIntosh MX160, Apple 4K TV, Datasat RA7300 Amps X 2, DirecTV 4K, Oppo UDP-205 4K Player, Darblet DVP 5000S, Samsung UBD-K8500 4K Ultra Blu-ray player, Integral 2 HDFury, Monster Power HTS 5100, DENON DVP-602CI Video Processor (for DirecTV), DVDO iScan DUO Video Processor (for DirecTV), Value View 3D glasses, Antec Component Coolers, Speakers: MARTIN LOGAN ILLUSION Center, IMPRESSIONS (Left and Right), VANQUISH (HEIGHTS & ATMOS & Top), AXIS (Backs), Subwoofers- Martin Logan BalancedForce 212 X 2, Dayton APA150 Sub AMP x 2, 8 Aura Pro Bass Shakers, 8 Black Seatcraft Venetian Home Theater Chairs (with Raffel Integrated Lighted Cup Holders), Remote: Harmony 1100, HARMONY ELITE. Cables: Audioquest & Monster Black Platinum shorter HDMI cables top to bottom. And two 32 Audioquest (Cinnamon & Forest) HDMI cables.
My summary... As you can see I am gushing over the 995ES. It is my official 4K projector of choice. Of course if and when the 5000ES gets an update which adds the features of the 995ES then it would immediately be reinstated as the King. Even so for my screen size the 995ES is ideal. As for the 885ES it is very close and not far off from both upper models. I actually have an amazing 885 with very low hours I used to compare to the 995ES for sale if anyone is looking. It truly is the best 885 I have seen to date. The percentages of how close these models are is very close. The 995ES separates itself with its corner-to-corner clarity and edge to edge sharpness. Sony's new key feature the "Digital Focus Optimizer" is the cherry on top. Sony already has the best image processing in the business. And to my eyes the best just got better...
Thanks a million to Audio Video Interiors Chicago for helping me get the 995ES! Thanks especially to Noah for his patience from all my calls and texts asking if it was in! If you are ever in their area (by Oakbrook Mall) stop in and check them out. They have plenty of cool stuff to play with. I believe they may have a 995 on display there. Give Noah a call at (630) 607-0054 and tell him hello from me. Also Mike Ditka's and Michael Jordan's restaurants are close by so you can get some good food while you're out there!
Make sure you check out more screen shots below. Also some settings and other tweaks. Obviously those are geared more towards my screen. If you have any questions or comments feel free to hit the contact button below. 
From my family to yours we would like to wish everyone a safe and Happy Holiday Season...
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