Sony VPL-XW5000 review: “Undoubtedly a fantastic projector; but it demands a very high price”
The Sony VPL-XW5000 shows what the brand’s projectors are all about: it makes serious projectors for gaming and entertainment, at serious prices. These aren’t casual units for frenzied shows while dozing on the couch, they’re centerpieces for home theaters. Although it’s compact for the amount of tech it packs, the size and weight really show that this is a premium projector to build a setup around, rather than slotting into a everyday living room.
The XW5000 is part of Sony’s 2022 lineup (including the XW7000, a $15,000/£15,000 snip), and marks the company’s move from lamp projection to laser sources, while continuing to s rely on the high-end technology of its Bravia Televisions, suitable for projection. But is it worth its extremely high entry price?
The VPL-Xw5000 is big. So big that it doesn’t just fit on a shelf, and the best option is to place it on a tall base unit or mount it on the ceiling. If you’ve chosen the latter, Sony advises getting a licensed craftsman to do this, as you don’t want 28lbs/13kg of the projector falling onto the one sitting below. I had to move furniture in the living room and apologize to my partner for the time spent with us. However, Sony claims it’s the world’s most compact native 4K HDR laser projector, showing just how much technology is needed to deliver quality indoors.
If the size hasn’t conveyed seriousness enough, the connections hammer it home. There are two standard HDMI 2.0 ports and one USB, but no audio connectivity or internal speakers. Sony assumes you have an AV receiver to use and splits the signal from there.
There are no streaming options either, as you’ll already have all the high definition media sources you need. If you’re dropping $6000/£6000 on a projector, those aren’t unreasonable assumptions – it’s for people who demand top-end image and performance and have setups to match.
The switch to laser projection means it runs cooler and with lower power consumption than Sony’s previous models, but most importantly it delivers a superior image. As with most Sony projectors, images are powered by the latest Bravia technology – in this case the X1 Ultimate chip, and there’s also their Triluminos Pro algorithm to reproduce lifelike colors with excellent depth. The 0.261-inch Silicon X-tal reflective screen (SXRD) improves brightness and contrast, for even better color reproduction.
The XW5000 does without the mechanical zoom and lens shift of previous Sony models, which is a slight disappointment. But it was a bit of a novelty that I liked to play with rather than a functional need – once installed and properly configured it won’t budge so you only need to use them once time.
It took me a little while to really get the most out of the XW5000. The initial presets are good, but needed some tweaking to totally land with my setup. This heightened the feeling that this projector is for those who really know what they’re doing, or at least can pay someone who does, to set it up optimally.
The 2000 lumen output was bright enough to watch even with the ambient summer sun streaming in through my living room patio windows, although of course in the dark is when it really shines and gives his best. The realistic color of the Triluminos system produced beautiful images, although I had to resist oversaturation in a way that would have made the image less naturalistic.
Although it scaled well, I became more aware of the input sources I was using. Streaming from the PS5 doesn’t usually offer any noticeable issues, and while the picture here was good, I definitely noticed the XW5000 kicking into another gear when it had a proper 4K signal to run. . The advice is like Snake yelling at Homer Simpson when he realizes he’s filled up with regular gas, “She needs premium, man! Premium!”. Running recent games or 4K videos really gave the impressive picture I expect at this price point.
It’s what many imaging pedants would call ‘true’ 4K, as opposed to the ‘fake’ K offered by many projectors that are claimed to deliver this quality. More wallet-friendly options will hit that standard using pixel-shift technology to give a fairly passable impression of 4K imaging, but the XW5000 delivers the real deal and is a suitable contender for best 4K projector of 2022. In practice, I find the difference negligible compared to today’s high-end projectors that use this technology, but if you’re throwing that kind of cash, you might just be in the camp where only the best will do for you.
For games, the statistics are very impressive. Game Mode delivers just 21ms input lag at 4K when running at 60Hz, which should be ideal as a projector for PS5 and Xbox Series X and satisfy all but the pickiest of competitive gamers, and can down to 13 ms at 120 Hz and 2K.
Games look great here, and again I was particularly impressed with the current generation of games which showed a real improvement in image quality. The landscapes of the Forbidden West looked stunning, while the shooters worked smoothly even as I spun around chaotically in a panic.
Overall – should you buy it?
So is it worth it? Now, we’re not here to tell you how to spend your money, but the price of this projector and the economic climate begs that question. If that amount is reasonable for you, you already have a high-end home theater setup for it, and you need to have “good” native 4K, then this is a warm recommendation. It is unquestionably a fantastic projector; but that demands a very high price.
If your eyes widened when you saw the price of this, it’s worth exploring the market further – we recently reviewed the also 4K BenQ TK700 and BenQ X3000i which are both significantly cheaper than this Sony model.
The XW5000 costs around three times the price of some excellent projectors, but for the extra gain rather than three times the image quality. Especially if you need change for other upgrades to your home theater (a screen, surround sound, blackout blinds, etc.), that money can be spent elsewhere, which would have a bigger impact. on your viewing pleasure.
How we tested the BenQ X300i
I continued my adventures through Horizon: Forbidden West and loved the level of detail in the landscapes – images of this quality really help to immerse yourself in the game. Couch co-oping Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands was equally fun – the smoothness of the frame really helped me play more calmly than usual, and I noticed a drop in my gameplay when switching back to a projector that wasn’t running at the same specs.
Streaming to these sources or viewing HD sources began to show weaknesses in the source picture. The switch from the end of Ms. Marvel streaming on Disney+ from the PS5 to a full UHD source of Birds of Prey was very noticeable. The Harley Quinn vehicle is a great test for the spotlight as it combines bright colors in the foreground characters with murky darkness in the backgrounds and some specific settings. The level of detail in dark areas was excellent for a projector, and it passed that test with vibrant and very clear colors. Slight relief at the end of the tests, taking into account the reorganization of the furniture required by the size of the projector. In terms of image quality and gaming specs, there was a real drop when returning to my normal unit.
You can read more about our holistic approach to gaming technology in our hardware policy, and read more about how we test gaming projectors at GamesRadar+ here.
If you’re shopping for a projector this year, be sure to choose one of best projector screens or one of best outdoor projection screens if you are also looking to embrace the last of the long evenings.