Brief Review of Sony Laser Projector XW5000

Preliminary summary: I had been using the Sony VW255 (VW278 in the domestic model) for over 500 hours and noticed a decrease in picture quality compared to when I first purchased it. I had inquired about other machines on TG but couldn’t make up my mind to switch.

However, last month, Sony announced the latest XW series of laser projectors in Japan, reigniting my desire to upgrade. Before the official release, I visited a projection specialty store in Tokyo to see the demo units, which included the following machines:
JVC V70r (N80 in the domestic model)
JVC V80r (N98)

Since it was a specialty store, the light control was excellent, and the JVC laser projectors had significantly better picture quality compared to Sony. However, the contrast difference between the two JVC models, V70r and V80r (40,000:1 and 80,000:1), was not very noticeable. It seemed that high-end projectors didn’t necessarily offer better value for the price. The JVC projectors started at 1.17 million Japanese yen, while I could obtain the Sony XW5000 for 760,000 Japanese yen. Considering my room’s imperfect light control, I decided to give the Sony a try.

After getting the XW5000, I was pleasantly surprised by the picture quality in my own environment. I’m not sure if it was because the Sony units in the store were not properly calibrated or if JVC projectors were more demanding in terms of environmental conditions. My current impression is that the difference between Sony and JVC V70r is not as significant as what I saw in the store (although I don’t have a JVC unit now to make a direct comparison). If I were to rate it, I’d say my previous VW255 was 60 points, and the XW5000 would be 85 points, while the JVC projectors would be around 95 points.

To summarize the advantages of this projector:

  1. Sufficient brightness and excellent HDR performance
    Previously, when watching HDR content on the VW255, I couldn’t achieve a convincing sense of sunlight, but with the XW5000, the HDR performance is at least passable. To test the HDR performance, I like to use the opening scene of “La La Land.” If you can see the sunlight reflection on car windows around the two-minute mark, then the HDR performance should be reasonably good. The images I took were shot in a room with some daylight leakage at around 4 PM, and even in this environment, it still showcased the HDR effect. Therefore, I believe this projector’s performance should be sufficient for typical home environments. However, when using the brightest mode on my 130-inch screen at night, I can’t watch HDR content for an extended period because it becomes too dazzling.
  2. Excellent digital processing
    I initially had concerns that the smaller CMOS size and lower-cost lens might impact the image quality, but after using it, I didn’t notice any deterioration in picture quality. In fact, sometimes I feel the image is even slightly sharper than before, thanks to the X1 Ultimate chip.
  3. Low noise
    Even when the laser is fully powered, it produces less noise compared to bulb-based projectors. When watching SDR content with reduced laser power, it’s virtually silent.

This projector also has its drawbacks. Firstly, it lacks motorized lens focus and shift, which is quite disappointing. However, there is currently no competitor in the same category among Japanese-made projectors, so I have to accept it. Secondly, it doesn’t support 3D, but considering the diminishing number of 3D movies, it’s not essential to have a laser projector for that purpose. Laser projectors are mainly designed for 4K HDR content. Apart from these two points, the most inconvenient aspect of using this projector is the long startup time. It takes about 40 seconds to turn on, and the HDMI handshake speed is very slow, taking around 10 seconds to switch signals. The slow speed of this projector greatly affects the user experience, and in this regard, Sony’s previous projectors were much better.

The positioning of this Sony projector seemed a bit strange to me initially, and I was concerned that it might not find many buyers due to the significant compromises. However, considering the current pricing and performance, it appears to be quite competitive. It is a preferred choice for an entry-level 4K HDR native projector. When it comes to HDR content, bulb-based projectors have inherent flaws due to their dimming capabilities. When you reduce brightness, color quality also deteriorates, and achieving a sense of sunlight depends on high bulb power, which increases noise. Additionally, even with dynamic aperture and dimming, bulb-based projectors are still affected in dark scenes, and the HDR effect diminishes over time due to bulb brightness decay. Laser projectors eliminate many of these issues. This year’s Epson LS12000 is also a laser projector that I saw in-store. It offers sufficient brightness and good HDR performance. However, its native contrast is too low compared to Sony’s level. This projector seems to be positioned as a competitor to the low-cost 4K DLP projectors made in Taiwan and China.

The biggest difference between Sony and JVC is the lack of HDR dynamic mapping, which is crucial. Currently, I achieve excellent results by using MadVR for dynamic mapping. However, if you don’t want to deal with MadVR, I recommend going with JVC without hesitation. Sony has slightly improved the factory EOTF curve this time, which can correspond to around 1200 nits. Therefore, I’ll briefly discuss another method I use—playing Dolby Vision content through Apple TV and combining it with HDFury for Dolby Vision to HDR10 conversion.

Currently, Apple TV supports both streaming Dolby Vision and playing single-layer Dolby Vision through Infuse. In the HDFury interface, I set the target brightness to around 1400 nits (see attached image). After this setup, Dolby Vision content is converted to HDR10 using Dolby Vision Low Latency Video (DDLv) within the range of 1400 nits. When the projector receives the HDR signal, it will utilize the default EOTF curve to maximize performance. The target brightness value can be adjusted higher or lower, but if it’s too low, you’ll lose the sense of sunlight, and if it’s too high, there may be a loss of contrast due to EOTF issues. The specific value should be adjusted based on the individual display device. Additionally, this method doesn’t seem to make much sense for HDR10 or dual-layer Dolby Vision. In my testing, I still find MadVR’s dynamic mapping to provide much better results (visually higher contrast and more vibrant colors) when using UBD with dual-layer Dolby Vision content.