Sony VPL-HW30ES Home Theater Projector Review

Of the movies I viewed and took images of, many provide skin tones that I can only call natural and easy. Lord of the Rings and the modern Bond flicks I use fit that description. By comparison, movies like Red, and Star Trek (the new one), the Bourne movies, and many action movies in general, seem to push the dynamics, and therefore provide a projector with less accurate, and less forgiving skin tones to reproduce.

Below are our three James Bond images from Casino Royale. Each has a different lighting scenario, the first – full sunlight, the second image; indoor fluorescent, and finally, filtered sunlight in the third image. And as one would expect, that causes each image of James Bond – Daniel Craig – to have different looking skin tones. All look pretty good!

Sony VPL-HW30ES Black Levels & Shadow Detail

VPL-HW30ES Black Levels

Sony’s black level performance, i.e.,how close the HW30 comes to getting inky blacks, rather than medium dark grays, is very good.

The HW30′s black level performance is great, but it isn’t going to match the best of the more expensive projectors, and even a couple of lower priced ones. If you are a black level fanatic, like me, you can be very happy with the VPL-HW30ES, even knowing that there are a few projectors that can do better still. I identify the Sony as a very good “ultra high contrast” projector. Forget the claims, I use the term subjectively, as a way of saying, “black performance we only dreamed about 4-5 years ago” (except in comparison with those old CRTs which really can do a true black).

From a practical standpoint the Sony does well enough, with likely only one less expensive projector that does a bit better, the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, and therefore also likely, the Home Cinema 5010 that will replace it. That said, black levels are just one element. The new Epson though, is in the same price range as the Sony. My point, however is that “ultra high contrast” projectors do black levels well enough, that you will in most cases, be considering other features as at least as important, when comparing two such projectors.

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hd8300 5thelement starship over large
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LS10 5thelement starship over large
VPL-VW90ES 5thelement starship over large
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That is to say, you have found a very acceptable level of black performance for the vast majority of folks. Consider placement flexibility, ease of calibrating, final color, audible noise, brightness, and other features which will likely all be factors in your choice. The difference between black performance in this price class, is real, and visible. Remember that the difference in black level performance between the Sony, the Epson, the Optoma HD8300, JVC HD250 (being discontinued), and others, is hardly “night and day”.

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