Sony VPL-HW10 Projector Review

Sony VPL-HW10 Projector: Bottom Line

I’d like to say that the VPL-HW10 is a significant improvement over the older VPL-VW40it replaces. And, as it turns out, it is, true in some regards. While it offers only minor improvements in image performance, such as sharpness, black levels, etc., where it does shine, though (pun intended), is in brightness, and price performance. The HW10 is more aggressively priced today than the VW40 was last year, and it is significantly brighter than the VW40, in fact about twice as bright in its “best mode”. When you need maximum lumens, the HW10 is almost identical to the VW40, producing a maximum of about 900 lumens. In addition, the VPL-HW10 solves some older issues, notably support for Deep Color.

Today’s projectors keep getting better, and that means it is tougher to distinguish between many of the better ones. That’s how I feel about the Sony VPL-HW10. I think Sony has priced it perfectly. There’s nothing out there that is, overall, better, that costs any less.

Ultimately, that means this Sony will be on many home theater projector shopper’s short list. It will be up to each of you to determine if the VPL-HW10′s mix of features and performance, are the best solution for what you watch, and the room conditions you watch it in. For many, the Sony HW10 will be an excellent choice, both overall, and for the money.

For others, the projector may not be bright enough in brightest mode, or they might prefer a projector that is “very sharp” rather than merely “average” for this class, or perhaps you need a projector with more placement flexibility.

The HW10 is definitely the more challenging projector to calibrate. It would have been great if the the HW10 calibration could be based on the Cinema mode, but instead, the custom settings have their own starting points, and in all cases, those are more than a little above the ideal 6500K.

Utimately, you can buy a better home theater projector, but for more money. With the possible exception of one or two models other “affordable” 1080p projectors just being released, but not yet reviewed, it looks like the Sony VPL-HW10 is about as good a value in a higher performance projector, as you will find.

We considered the Sony VW40 last year, to be similar to, but a “poor man’s” JVC RS1, this time around the VPL-HW10 has closed the gap between those two projectors, and the new Sony still costs less. We shall have to wait and see if the HW10 turns out to be a poor man’s JVC RS20, the new version of the RS1. In the past I’ve recommended the VW40 to folks who didn’t have the budget for the RS1, and the feedback has been very good.

Based on your budget, and other issues, you’ll need to decide if you can live rather well, with the HW10, or feel a compelling need to choose from a handful of well under $10,000 1080p projectors that can produce an even better image.

Sony VPL-HW10 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities

Sony VPL-HW10 Projector: Pros

  • Extremely good color accuracy after calibration
  • Excellent black level performance
  • Very good shadow detail
  • Very bright, in “best” movie mode
  • Extensive color control management (called RCP), for the adjustment of individual colors (we do not go this far, in our calibration)
  • 2 HDMI 1.3 inputs with full support for 24 fps, Deep Color, x.v. color, HDMI CEC (control) etc.
  • No image noise issues, thanks to very good image processing
  • Good menus
  • Very good (but not great) placement flexibility with 1.6:1 zoom and plenty of lens shift
  • A very quiet projector overall, and reasonably quiet even in brightest mode
  • Good manual, but definitely could have more in-depth explanations for many functions
  • Good remote control
  • Very good looking projector – physically
  • Very good price/performance

Sony VPL-HW10 Projector: Cons

  • Limited brightness in brightest mode, will tend to limit screen size for those that want to watch HDTV/Sports, with some intentional ambient light
  • Lamp door is on the bottom, and may not allow the lamp to be changed out, without unmounting the projector, at least with some mounts. From reading the manual, it isn’t clear, but Sony’s own mount may allow the lamp to be changed, without unmounting. Check with your dealer
  • Lacks 48, 96/120 fps support – lacks creative frame interpolation. We’re still on the fence whether these are significant new features, but it may be something many want, for smoother motion on fast moving scenes and panning.

Sony VPL-HW10 Projector: Typical Capabilities

  • Two year warranty (about average for this class of projector)
  • Average lamp life (we assume, Sony does not publish lamp life specs)
  • Range of the remote control
  • Selection of inputs

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