Sony VPL-HW30ES Home Theater Projector Review

Like most of these projectors – if you like larger screens, you will be a bit underpowered for 3D viewing. Still, this Sony is the brightest around, other than some new LCD based 3D capable projectors we have not yet reviewed, notably, the Panasonic PT-AE7000, and the Epson Home Cinema 5010 (both priced slightly less), and the Epson Pro Cinema 6010 (slightly more). In past lives, older Sonys also had less lumens than those guys, but also had a more natural picture.

Before it gets forgotten, regarding the Sony 3D glasses: People, your Sony’s going in a home theater. That means more than two people are watching sometimes. The good news, is that Sony has priced their active glasses fairly reasonably, at $129 each. $99 seems to be about the low price for glasses sold by the manufacturers, so not so bad. BTW, I still can’t believe there aren’t lots of 3rd party glasses out there yet for under $50, but now that we’re seeing some manufacturers grouping together so their glasses have interoperability, perhaps we will see some price drops in the not too distant future. I had dreamed of $29 or $39 glasses by this Christmas.

If you’ve got a family, or like having friends over, you’ll need a couple/few more pair, so 3-4 extra pair of glasses costs can make a real dent in your wallet, if they are more expensive.

By comparison, the competition prices their glasses from $99 to over $200 a pair.

VPL-HW30ES Color and Overall Picture Quality

I believe I’ve already stated this: The VPL-HW30ES is a well balanced projector. In terms of key factors such as brightness, color accuracy, picture naturalness, black level performance and shadow detail, the HW30ES does well in all areas.

I’m not sure the HW30ES is the best at one thing in particular, at, or near its price range, but then, I’m pretty certain, that it isn’t even near the worst at anything. Color and naturalness seem to be the key strengths, while black levels (very good) and shadow detail (ok for the price range) are fine, they aren’t the bell ringers. A real strength are the dynamic controls which, when used, tend to be smooth, and less noticeable than most.

The bottom line is that when you turn it on, like a Runco we reviewed, it just looks really good. No overt issues (except in 3D, and the brighter glasses modes). Just enjoyment.

Fancy features include CFI for smooth motion. Sony names their CFI implementation as MotionFlow. It worked admirably on sports. As with almost all projectors, (even in the low setting) CFI is something I avoid when watching movies. It still is changing the “director’s intent”. I note that my college age daughter, most of her friends, etc. don’t seem to care, though about highbrow stuff like the director’s intent. The bottom line is you will get that digital look on movies. Your call. As someone once said: “Whatever floats your boat!”

The dynamic (or manual) iris, has two auto modes, and manual. In Auto 1, the end result was very good black level performance on dark scenes, certainly at least average (which is very good), in this price range.

The Very Bottom Line on the VPL-HW30ES projector:

I like the natural look of the image on movie content, and also consider the projector to be a bit forgiving on lower quality content. That Sony VW90ES was last year’s flagship Sony projector. Previous Sony home theater projectors have proven popular. It often isn’t apparent to our visitors. As they are, per Sony, only sold by authorized local dealers, they aren’t as visible online as many projectors that are sold online. Certainly, there aren’t any dealer ads to keep the Sony name in the forefront of consumers minds when learning about projectors online. Sony, for example, has never advertised with us, so, other than the usual few reviews a year, they are fairly invisible on our site. No matter!

Brightness of the VPL-HW30ES is typical, fine for 2D and basically adequate for 3D viewing on average sized screens. It is also slightly brighter than most of the competition we’ve reviewed as of this date (10/11), which helps with the 3D viewing.

Placement flexibility is really good with 1.6:1 zoom and a good amount of lens shift.

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