SONY VPL-VZ1000ES Review: Throwing 4K up against the wall

This premium ultra-short-throw projector can make any space an Ultra HD screening room. But Steve May finds it’s more comfortable with some sources than others. Read our SONY VPL-VZ1000ES Review.


PRODUCT: Ultra-short-throw 4K HDR laser projector

Position: Sony’s premium short-throw model

Peers: JVC DLA-Z1; Sony VPL-VW1100ES

SONY’S VPL-VZ1000ES PRESENTS itself as the future of home cinema/large screen viewing. And certainly, at face value, it’s irresistibly seductive. This SXRD beamer needs only sit 155mm from a wall to cast a 4K-resolution image 100 in across. It offers stunning clarity, from a cabinet that could pass for a funky coffee table in a suitably ostentatious apartment. But it comes with caveats… and a huge asking price.

SONY VPL-VZ1000ES Review
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SONY VPL-VZ1000ES Review

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Sony has dabbled in this market before, of course, with the LSPX-W1S, launched in 2015. This other 4K UST outing was simply gargantuan – impressively, the VPL- VZ1000ES arrives some 40 per cent smaller (although it’s still got a sizeable footprint of just under a metre wide). And while the price isn’t pocket change, the LSPX-W1S cost more than double.

The projector uses a high-efficiency Z-Phosphor laser light engine. This means you can look forward to low maintenance and TV-style response times – there’s no need to wait for the lamp to warm up. There are also four HDMI inputs (two side-mounted, two rear-mounted), all v2.0 with HDCP 2.2, making it easy to accommodate a games console, set-top box and UHD Blu-ray player without having to swap cables.

Styling is perhaps best described as ‘industrial’ – the VPL-VZ1000ES is black, boxy and square-edged. It’s by no means ugly, though.

Ultra-short-throw projectors have a unique appeal.

If you want to put a monster image in a room with sightline-blocking lighting (those candelabras are a nuisance, aren’t they?), or other physical restrictions, then they’re a godsend. And if you don’t have the floor space close to your wall, you can always ceiling-mount (gulp) or use the rear-projection mode.

A curious omission is the absence of in-built speakers. The LSPX-W1S packed a pair of two-way cabinets into its chassis; this model does away with audio altogether.

So it’s not quite a one-stop home entertainment shop.

For this audition, we partnered the VPL-VZ1000ES with a 120in light-rejecting fixed screen, but you could just as easily whitewash a wall.

Image size is dictated by the distance of the projector from a wall. As a result, it’s actually quite simple to install. An Auto Calibration mode manages white balance, while lens shift and adjustable feet allow you to frame up the picture. That said, given the price of the VPL-VZ1000ES and the outlets it’s available from, you probably won’t be installing it yourself.

SONY VPL-VZ1000ES Review

SONY VPL-VZ1000ES Review

Given its form factor, this projector is unlikely to be specified as part of a traditional home cinema. It’s a lifestyle solution, likely to end up in a media room, so a constant level of ambient light is probably inevitable. Consequently, the most valuable preset actually transpires

to be Bright Cinema. A Bright TV mode provides an even bigger light boost, but it’s too much for authentic movie viewing. If you can view in full dark-room conditions, the Cinema Film options work better.

Ready for HDR

The projector is HDR 10 and HLG HDR compatible (but not Dolby Vision-enabled) and auto detects HDR content. Contrast (HDR) is adjustable via a sliding scale. The VPL-VZ1000ES will project Ultra HD up to 60 frames per second (either as 4K 60p YCbCr 4:4:4 8-bit, or YCbCr 4:2:2 12-bit).

A 4K resolution pattern confirms that the projector delivers unfettered 2160p from centre to edge, and when images are cast large, this Sony really showcases the pixel density of UHD sources. But it’s not the knockout performance you might be expecting.

Sony’s picture processing definitely dazzles. Reality Creation offers adjustable resolution and noise filtering, and even with native 4K content, proves enormously effective: fine detail, as seen in Planet Earth II (UHD Blu-ray), gains extra visual snap without unwanted edge emphasis.

The VPL-VZ1000ES is rated at 2,500 Lumens, a 20 per cent increase over its forebear, yet proves to be no dynamic light-cannon, and in rooms with some ambient light it struggles for contrast. With HDR material, it doesn’t have the energy to punch out spectral highlights. HDR discs often just look dark. Thing improve when the lights are turned off, but black level performance remains limited and shadow detail sometimes gets lost.

The perennially gloomy Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (UHD Blu-ray) presents this Sony with insurmountable problems. The final climatic raid on The Hive, which involves perilous poorly-lit underground tunnels and chambers, illuminated only by flashing torchlights, is flat. It’s often difficult to make out what’s going on, as the projector struggles to distinguish low-level blacks.

It doesn’t take long for the penny to drop that this Ultra HD model is at its best with SDR content. Partner it with a Sky Q box, or BT 4K IPTV box, offering SDR 2160p with a REC.709 colour space, and it’ll look terrific. It’s tailor- made for Formula 1 or Premier League footy in UHD.

Colour handling is excellent, with strong hues and plenty of smooth tonal shifts.

Feed the VPL-VZ1000ES Full HD Blu-rays, which enjoy a higher average picture level than HDR discs, and the results are joyous to behold. I ran the 4K edition of Mad Max: Fury Road, against the regular Blu-ray, and it was the latter that held my attention.

In a media room environment, you need big, bold images that cut through.

When Max attempts to evade the death-obsessed War Boys, in the opening chase sequence, it’s the 1080p Blu-ray which offers the greatest overall sense of vibrancy. If you want to see something akin to what the colourist rubber-stamped, then my advice would be to invest in a real theatre room with an appropriate long- throw projector.

Glorious conundrum

Sony’s premium VPL-VZ1000ES projector is a glorious conundrum. In terms of design and execution it’s a beauty, with superb resolution, and excellent colour rendering and motion handling. However, it’s not really got the light output for effective HDR in ambient lighting conditions, where it generally tends to look better with SDR source material.

Install it in a Batcave though, and the dynamics improve greatly. This could be the ideal solution for difficult theatre spaces or designer lofts, and for those with cash to spare. Judged on that criteria it’s undoubtedly successful

1. The promise of Sony’s PJ is a 4K TV without actually having to fit a 4K TV

2. The VZ1000ES is smaller than its predecessor, but still 92cm wide


3D: Yes. Active 3D (glasses optional) 4K: Yes. 4,096 x 2,160 resolution HDR: Yes. HDR 10; HLG CONNECTIONS: 4 x HDMI inputs (all v2.0 with HDCP 2.2); RS-232C; USB; Ethernet; IR input; 12V trigger BRIGHTNESS (CLAIMED): 2,500 Lumens CONTRAST (CLAIMED): ‘Infinite dynamic contrast’ DIMENSIONS: 925(w) x 218.5(h) x 493.8(d)mm WEIGHT: 35kg

FEATURES: 3 x 0.74in SXRD panels; Z-Phosphor laser light engine; 24dB claimed fan noise; Cinema Film 1, Cinema Film 2, Reference, TV, Photo, Game, Bright Cinema, Bright TV and User picture presets: MotionFlow Smooth High, Smooth Low and True Cinema modes; powered vertical and horizontal lens shift; adjustable feet; Triluminos colour; floor-stand, ceiling-mount and rear-projection installation



Your dealer may chuck in some 3D spex, but if not, Sony’s active shutter glasses. Lightweight (35g), they use a replaceable lithium coin battery rated to last for around 100 hours.


8 Total Score
SONY VPL-VZ1000ES Review

This 4K HDR projector may not be for hardcore cinephiles, but its ultra-short-throw design works superbly well and performance dazzles with Blu-ray and SDR 4K.

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SONY VPL-VZ1000ES: Price Comparison

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Sony VPL-VZ1000ES Ultra-Short Throw 4K HDR Projector with Salamander Credenza...
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Steve May
Steve May

Steve is a home entertainment technology specialist who contributes to a variety of UK websites and mags, including Louder Sound, Yahoo UK, Trusted Reviews, T3, The Luxe Review and Home Cinema Choice.

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