Sony VPL-HW10 Projector Review

VPL-HW10 Projector Highlights

  • Very good black level performance, not the best, but better than all but a handful of competitors
  • Slight improvement in sharpness (compared to the older VPL-VW40) gets the HW10 at least average in terms of sharpness
  • Very good brightness in “best” movie mode, above average, and able to handle larger screens (110″ – 128″ inch), with typical screen surfaces, and good room lighting control
  • Below average brightness in “brightest mode”, will leave many who plan to watch a HDTV and sports with some lights on, limited to smaller screens
  • Extremely good color accuracy post calibration. Not the very best, but impressive
  • Very good skin tones – usually a Sony strength, and the HW10 is no exception
  • No internal support for an anamorphic lens (needs an external processor to support, so if you want to use an anamorphic lens, the otherwise more expensive Sony VPL-VW70 is a better choice
  • Vertical and Horizontal lens shift, plus 1.6:1 zoom for good placement flexibility including the ability to shelf mount in the rear of most rooms.

Sony VPL-HW10 Projector Overview

The Sony HW10 is a suitable replacement for the older VPL-VW40. It is incrementally better, but breaks little new ground. This 1080p, 3 panel LCoS projector (SXRD) home theater projector supports Deep Color ans x.v.color, over HDMI, unlike the older model. It also has slightly improved black level performance, and may be a touch sharper.

The HW10, is one of the brighter projectors out there, when in its best mode, but really is only the slightest bit brighter in its brightest mode. We’ll discuss this in-depth later, as it means that the mix of content you watch, will be an important factor in determining if the HW10 is the right projector for you.

Overall, the HW10 provides an excellent picture at a realistic price. The older VW40 competed most closely with the JVC RS1x, although we favored the more expensive JVC. This time around, the HW10′s closest competition will most still be RS1x, and the due out 12/08, JVC DLA-RS10, which will cost more. I say the closest competition, in that they are similar in many ways. Other direct competition considered will include the less expensive Panasonic PT-AE3000, and the soon to be released Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, and perhaps the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, and the Mitusibishi HC7000, but those last two are not as bright in movie mode, and therefore are suited for smaller screens.

When it comes to considering the whole package, the Sony is a well balanced projector with really good picture quality, in all areas. Our Hot Product Award goes out to this Sony, for just that – a well balanced projector, with a brighter than most movie mode, and not a single noteworthy flaw. This Sony will definitely find fans among home theater enthusiasts.

Sony VPL-HW10 Special Features

SXRD (LCoS) Panels

The vast majority of home theater projectors use either DLP or 3LCD technology. Sony uses Liquid Crystal on Silicon, a reflective panel, as opposed to the translucent typical LCD panels. Sony calls their LCoS implementation SXRD. In the under $10,000 price range, JVC and Sony are the primary manufacturers of LCoS home theater projectors. The advantages of LCoS, these days, are two fold: First, LCoS panels have, for all practical purposes, invisible pixel structures, way below visibility at normal seating distances with a 1080p projector. Only the 3LCD Panasonic PT-AE3000, with its addition of their SmoothScreen technology, has less visible pixels, and it comes with a price, a slightly softer image.

Pixel visibility, and screen door effect are, effectively non-issues, with this Sony, thanks to the LCoS panels.

The second advantage, it seems is in terms of black level performance. While some 3LCD and DLP projectors can match some of the LCoS projectors, at this point in time, the Sony and JVC LCoS projectors outperform almost all of the non LCoS competition, in black level performance.

Iris Modes

The Sony HW10 has three iris modes. Two are dynamic (Auto 1, and Auto 2), and the third, is a manual iris adjustment, which means in that mode, there is no dynamic iris to improve black level performance on very dark scenes. I spent most of my watching (and the photo shoot), with the iris on Auto 1. In addition, there are two speed modes that determine how quickly the dynamic iris responds: Fast, and Slow. I preferred the Fast mode. There are fast changing scenes where Fast mode may be detectable, but the nature of such scenes, is that you aren’t normally likely to notice any issue. With it set to slow, you can spot the iris at work, especially during scene transitions. Even slow, does a pretty good job, but, Fast, is the place to start. You can try Slow, and, well, if you like it better, go for it!

Panel Adjustment

The Sony allows separate adjustment of R, G, and B panels, for better alignment. This can be a real plus, if one of the color panels is a little off, compared to the others. You could also use this for, as the manual suggests, to intentionally have a little error, to fill in the gaps around each pixel. I’m not a fan of intentionally slightly mis-aligning the panels to accomplish this. LCoS pixel structure is virtually invisible at normal seating distances, so why bother.

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