Released in late 2020, the Sony VPL-VW590ES is an attempt to show just how well the cinema can be recreated at home with the best projectors for gaming and movies – something many of us have been trying hard to do in the last year. It replaces the consistently well-reviewed VW570, adding 300 lumens and memory for lens positions and aspect ratios to a model which had been a high benchmark for the best 4K projectors in recent years. But does it just replace it or become the new benchmark?
Design & Features
Out of the box, the most obvious thing about this projector physically is that it is very big. Imagine the best portable projector, and then imagine something at the opposite end of the spectrum entirely. Weighing in at a hefty 14kg, almost fifty centimetres wide and deep, the VPL-VW590ES is a beast. This can cause some practical concerns about how you install it – from the ceiling with a very sturdy bracket is the best bet unless you have a particularly big set of shelves. This isn’t unique to the model, current 4K lamp projectors are usually around this size and weight, but it can mean having to think through placement more than you would with a standard HD projector.
Once you’ve been able to find a solid place for the projector to sit, set up is a breeze. Helping this is the digital zoom and motorized image positioning. This is particularly useful given the weight of the unit – you can have it in the most solid position and then set the image to the precise place you want rather than having to angle the unit itself. There are even several memory slots for you to save presets, just in case you are moving it around between different places.
The VPL-VW590ES takes the Bravia TV video processing tech which has been the heart of Sony TVs for many years and optimises it for a projector in technology it calls the X1 processor. This works with a dynamic HDR enhancer to process HDR frame by frame for amazing contrast.
The available connections are two HDMI ports and a single USB. There’s no audio in or out, and internet connectivity is purely for updating firmware or servicing the unit. This might cause a bit of contention: one one hand you may be in the "I’m spending thousands on a top-of-the-line projector so, of course, I have an AV amp which all my media sources are linked up to" camp; but you might also be in the "I’m buying a really expensive bit of kit, I shouldn’t have to buy something else to be able to connect it up to sound" camp. If the projector can go straight into an existing setup then it won’t be a negative, but if you need to invest yet more money in an amp then it might well be annoying.
Also in the spirit of keeping things simple: there are no built-in speakers. But to be honest, this does make a lot of sense. If you’re spending this money on a projector, you want the absolute best sound quality. Integrated speakers don’t give that, so Sony didn’t put any in. And that’s the right call. Because this projector is all about the amazing picture.
In short, the picture quality is absolutely superb. Truly brilliant. I had the projector arrive on the day of a big Champion’s League game and the first thing I watched on it was a football match in incredible detail. How good it looked frankly pulled me out of the game such was the distracting nature of the picture quality. Especially when the pitchside camera with low depth of field was on the players, it felt almost 3D.
The Sony VPL-VW590ES deals amazingly with anything you throw at it. Put through its paces on Birds of Prey on UHD, and the picture was outstanding. The balance between colourful sequences and the dark was absolutely no problem for this projector. The climactic fight sequence in the basement of the abandoned theme park was an amazing mix of vibrant colour and detail in the shadow. Doing either of them this well is very impressive, doing both at once is borderline unbelievable. There was a moment I thought there might be some distortion on Margot Robbie’s face tones until I realised that this was actually just how precise the image was – I was seeing individual points of makeup on her face. The picture was just that sharp.
I moved onto something notoriously dark: the underwater scenes of Pacific Rim. It was so clear that I was baffled by the idea that they could ever be seen as a problem. Even more than high-definition TV sets, projectors can be notorious for not getting enough detail in dark images. But the Sony’s SXRD panel tech gave rich blacks which lost no detail and made everything crystal clear. Watching a number of DVDs and streamed content on this, it always upscaled beautifully, again thanks to the processing power and pattern matching of the X1 chip to enhance resolution.
It’s easily a top contender for the mantle of best projector for PS5 and Xbox Series X, too. The huge landscapes of Assassin's Creed Valhalla looked incredible, giving me moments where I’d ride up into mountains just to look out at the view, and also had no noticeable input lag whenever I needed to make carefully timed assassinations. When I was playing in the (real world) daytime I did have a couple of moments where I struggled to pick out details if the game was at night but either shutting the curtains or meditating to get me through to dawn solved these. Even the best projector isn’t going to be perfect with very dark images combined with significant amounts of ambient light.
Daylight, or even artificial light, can be the enemy of a projector. And it is annoying to have to close all the curtains and put the lights off to watch on a reasonably priced projector. But the Sony VPL-VW590ES held up incredibly well to even quite strong light as long as the picture wasn’t too dark. The brightness with daylight through my nearby patio window was quite comparable to my HD projector’s best picture in the dark. Bright modes are available quickly through dedicated buttons on the remote should you wish to switch over which makes it even brighter, although at the loss of contrast and colour depth. Playing around with the presets can give a happy medium between the extra brightness and the colour intensity.
Overall - should you buy it?
This is Sony’s top-of-the-line native 4K lamp-based projector. And it lives up to everything you expect from a premium product from such a household name. Yes, the price tag is hefty. But this is an astonishing bit of kit: crystal clear images with outstanding contrast and depth of colour, which can genuinely be watched any hour of the day or night.
A big change worthy of note is the X1 processor, an incredibly quick chip that processes images astonishingly fast, meaning amazing images without motion blur or jagged edges, that will absolutely rival the best gaming TVs, best OLED TVs, and best QLED TVs. It’s a big step forward in projector technology, and the VW590ES showcases it on sport or action brilliantly.
It’s a lot to fork out. But if you want to truly bring the cinema inside, go massive with your gaming in premium quality, and watch true native 4K quality in the comfort of your own home, this is how to do it.