Sony VW-290ES Home Cinema Projector - Hard to ask for better

Sony VW-290ES Home Cinema Projector - Hard to ask for better

Sony has renewed its entrance projector for those who want to create a proper Home Cinema location, improving the already excellent "270" with this VPL-VW290ES. It is an economic product in the world of professional Home Cinema; therefore, it is not to be confused with the many inexpensive projectors on the market that promise high quality 4K images, but which in practice are only amateur solutions, often with upscaled and non-native 4K resolution. The 290ES costs about 5000 euros, and for this price it is a really good solution, considering that "out of the box" is able to offer excellent performances.

We have carried out the test in collaboration with professionals of the cinema halls,, inside an ad hoc home cinema hall.

How it's made

The VW290ES does not change much, aesthetically, from the previous model, taking up its shapes and sizes. It is about 50 cm wide and deep and 21 cm high, weighing just under 15 kg. As you may have guessed, it is not a product to be placed on a table in front of a wall, but must be positioned in a special niche or attached to the ceiling using a special bracket.

The set of doors, aligned on one side , provides two HDMI inputs, a USB port and a LAN port for firmware updates, along with other service ports, such as an IR socket.

Technical equipment

The sensor is native 4K, indeed Sony uses a trio of chips, each for the individual basic colors that make up the image. This solution allows for superior precision and sharpness, but the calibration process takes some time; it is also within the reach of the amateur, who will still have to arm himself with a lot of patience to make the different control patterns coincide. The 225 watt and 1500 ANSI Lumen lamp is able to offer enough brightness to also manage HDR video streams, even if in the environment of video projectors an HDR calibration as it must pass more than anything else by the way of tone mapping, but this is another story. The lamp is guaranteed for 6000 hours of low intensity work; therefore, we think that a value between 4000 and 5000 hours is more truthful.

Combined with a 2.06x zoom aspherical lens, it allows you to view an image from 60 to 300 inches, depending on at the distance. In our case we tested it at a distance of about 4 meters, with a screen of about 130 inches (projection ratios from 1: 38: 1 to 2: 83: 1).

The SXRD panel is based on LCOS technology, acronym for “Liquid Crystal on Silicon”, and aims to obtain the best result offered by LCD and DLP technologies, ie a sharp image and at the same time deeper dark tones. The management processor is the X1, already present on the Bravia TV range, capable of manipulating the image for a better HDR rendering and also a better sharpness, especially when using sources that require upscaling and manipulation.

Image quality

We specify that our test was conducted without proceeding with a manual color calibration, and limiting ourselves to a "quick" alignment of the three color matrices, thus simulating a situation very similar to that that anyone can get by purchasing this product and installing it in their home. Obviously, when you want to rely on professionals, the quality of vision that you can expect will be even higher than what we are about to tell you.

The biggest surprise was an excellent performance immediately upon first start-up. We spent about 15 minutes between adjusting the image size and alignment, and we immediately started various reference films, both native 4K resolution titles and Full HD titles. Using the remote control it is possible to choose pre-settings of the images, which mainly affect the color rendering. At a glance, all the profiles show a saturation higher than the perfect calibration, which is not unpleasant after all. Often a correct tone mapping according to industry standards creates, on some titles, an image that is somewhat flat, or in any case less emotional than desired. Consequently we cannot say that the factory calibrations of this Sony are unpleasant; they are probably not perfectly correct, but the final result is pleasant.

The same can be said for the sharpness of the images, not reachable by lower-end products, and still improvable considering that getting closer the screen loses some focus (we had confirmation by checking the alignment of the panels). The upscaling result is impressive. Playing, for example, Oblivion at Full HD resolution, the difference from another similar native 4K title is almost unrecognizable. This experience was an opportunity to re-emphasize how an extra tone of warmth and saturation in such a film can be preferred to the academic precision of a calibration according to industry standards.

The the only specialty in which the VW-290 shows its side slightly is in the reproduction of darker scenes, not so much for the depth of the blacks, which is not bad, but in situations where the limited brightness (compared to higher-end models) makes you lose a bit of detail.


It is easy to consider the VW-290 an excellent product and recommend it to anyone who wants to create a cinema station, or rather a cinema room, while containing costs for the projector. At around 5,000 euros it is difficult to find a better product, especially one that offers a high-level yield without special interventions and relying on factory calibrations. There is obviously better on the market for those who want to do even more seriously, but at a definitely higher price.

Given the excellent qualities and functions of the Sony VW-290ES, we give the product our award.

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