Runner-Up – Best in Class ($2000-$3500): Sony VPL-HW40ES

The Sony VPL-HW40ES: Why It Won

I got to spend over 100 hours viewing the HW40ES.  Overall it closely resembles its big brother, the VPL-HW55ES, but differs in a few critical ways.  First of all, to its credit, it’s noticeably brighter.  Think of the HW40ES as the projector for the non-theater – for the living room, media room, family room, etc.   Oh it’s very respectable in a dedicated theater but where it comes up short there, is by intent.  Sony did not put a dynamic iris in the HW40ES so it’s black level performance is no match at all for either the VPL-HW55ES or the Epson UB projectors.   And for that matter, on the really dark scenes where better black levels really matter, other projectors in the price range also can do better blacks, including the BenQ W7500, and probably (haven’t had one here in almost two years), the Panasonic PT-AE8000U.

One thing important to note is that out of the box, the color is nearly perfect.  Mike our calibrator basically said, his calibration made such minor changes that he doubts anyone can tell the difference “before” and “after”.  In that regard its slightly better than our two top award winners.  Like the HW55ES, the built in 3D emitter is IR not RF.  The optional kit with the RF emitter and cable is officially $199 extra on top of the official $2499 price.  You’ll need to buy 3D glasses too.

The HW40ES is a physically larger than most, projector but doesn’t seem especially large thanks to its nicely curved black case which makes for a clean look.

Ultimately there were a couple of other projectors that were competing for this particular award.  It was this Sony’s great balance that makes it a first class choice for less than ideal rooms, that one the day.  The Epson UBs can out muscle it when you need max brightness, for those same family/media/living rooms, and easily crush it in terms of black levels in more of a theater, but then they got a higher award.   The BenQ W7500 is the closest competition, but costs a bit more, and can’t match the near perfect color, right out of the box.  That was really the HW40ES’s closest competitor, and one that has the edge in brightness and black levels.

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