Sony VPL-HW30ES Home Theater Projector Review

Sony VPL-HW30ES 1.6:1 Zoom Lens

The Sony projector’s manual 1.6:1 lens provides very good placement range. Nothing new here, Sony’s been providing a 1.6:1 zoom going as far back as the original projector in the series, the VPL-VW50. Of particular note are the optics.

Unlike most projectors, there’s very little drop off in brightness as one goes from wide-angle, to telephoto on the zoom.

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VPL-HW30ES Projector 3D Capabilities

Let’s talk 3D. The VPL-HW30ES uses active glasses. They do not provide any as part of the projector’s price. That doesn’t mean some dealers might not have a bundle, or bundle the glasses with some content, as has been fairly common.

Interestingly, the HW30ES definitely appears brighter, than the far more expensive VPL-VW90ES we reviewed earlier this year. Sony talks about using lamp dimming type features to actually increase brightness to the eye, whose LCD lens is open.

I had 3 different 3D capable projectors set up in the testing room at the same time this past week. Since my calls regarding 3D brightness are subjective, lacking a reliable measurement system, I thought I’d double check. So, I had my wife and a friend both view the projectors, two at a time.

All three of us agreed that the 3D looked brightest on this Sony projector. The other two projectors – the much brighter claiming Optoma HD33 (a $1499 projector), with its 1800 lumen claim measures about 100 lumens brighter, but seems slightly dimmer. The Optoma HD8300, which isn’t as bright as either, came in last in perceived brightness of the three. Decisions were unanimous.

3D Glasses (they are optional):

Your $3699 isn’t going to include any 3D glasses, unless someone is nice to you at the Sony dealer. Sony’s glasses are pretty light weight, and fit comfortably over my own glasses. After a several hours or so of watching, though, I was feeling enough of the edge of the glasses arms, that I was ready to take them off. Still, not bad at all, and it’s true, I have a particularly large head, so they should be more comfortable on most folks.

Relating to the glasses, you can set the projector for one of four settings relating to the duration of the frames and black frames. The settings are 1-4. I found 4 to have a lot of noise relating to the 3D. It was far worse than the 3D I just witnessed on two lower cost projectors – the Optoma HD33 and Epson Home Cinema 3010e.

Setting 3 cost a little brightness, but I still found noisy. Ultimately, I settled on the 2 setting. I gave up more brightness than desired, but the image was cleaner.

With the setting at 4, the Sony projector in 3D is actually pretty bright, actually respectable on a 100″ diagonal sized typical screen, but I wouldn’t want to watch it that way!

Use the lower setting, and despite the loss of brightness, you will almost certainly be happier.

I should also note, that the noise related issue seems to exist primarily when I’m watching content off of DirecTV, where the compression may be having some effect, or it just may be those lower res 720p, or 1080i content.

When I switched to either 60 fps 1080p or 24 fps movies in 1080p – both on Blu-ray 3D, the noise was not an issue!

So, at the moment – slightly split personality, with the best 3D on Blu-ray 3D content, but more noisy when viewing DirecTV, and potentially cable feeds..

VPL-HW30ES Creative Frame Interpolation - CFI - smooth motion

The Sony’s CFI is rather smooth. There are two settings besides Off: Low, and High. I used Low successfully for sports viewing, didn’t spend much time with the high setting. I also left it on for most HDTV content. Consider MotionFlow – CFI, when on, to be a matter of taste, when watching most digital content.

As is case with virtually all projectors I review, I’ve tried CFI on for movie watching, on low, but find the CFI to be apparent, with that digital video look (a bit of “soap opera”), that changes the “director’s intent”.

One interesting thing about Sony’s implementation of CFI on the HW30ES, is that the CFI – motion smoothing, operates not only with 2D content, but also with 3D. If I recall correctly, the not that long ago review of the Optoma HD8300 Optoma, I determined that their CFI does not operate in 3D modes. I imagine only a few will, at least for this generation. As panel speeds get faster – 240hz, 480hz, it will be easier to be doing 3D and CFI…

Sony VPL-HW30ES Pixel Adjust

We’ve discussed this on the VPL-VW90ES. These Sony’s allow you to do a pixel adjust for the whole screen, or break the screen down into 21 sections and do all of them individually. Unlike the VW90ES, you can’t make adjustments in increments smaller than 1 pixel. (One pixel adjustments are the standard, when you can even find projectors offering that option). Less than 1 pixel means either physical adjustment of a panel, or a digital adjustment which means no longer 1:1 pixel mapping.

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