Sony VPL-HW40ES Home Theater Projector Review

The VPL-HW40ES projector  an LCoS home projector for under $2500 (US).  Impressive, right out of the box.  Read on.

This home theater projector review published on 7/10/14.  Additional content will be added over the first week following publication.

For your hard earned money you get a projector rated by Sony at 1700 lumens. It has a 1.60:1 manual zoom lens, and lots of lens shift. The projector uses 3 LCoS Panels, which Sony calls SXRD. It’s a mid sized home theater projector, typical or slightly larger than most of the competition. In the US it is, to my knowledge, only available in a black (really dark gray) case, although if like the HW55ES there may be a white version available in other countries.

Sony has been a serious competitor in the $3500 and up price ranges, but didn’t have anything priced lower until now. Leading up to the release of the HW40ES, Sony has been offering four home theater projectors. There’s the VPL-HW55ES, a $3999 projector, which the HW40ES closely resembles. In fact the HW40ES is pretty much a “stripped down” version. Then there’s the $5999 VPL-VW95ES, which, at this point, is due for replacement. Sony’s other two projectors are downright exciting – the $14999 VPL-VW600ES – a true 4K projector, and the VPL-VW1100ES, Sony’s flagship – also 4K, for $27999. (Note that both of those come with a media server, and a Sony Android tablet for control for their prices).

But, for the most part Sony has been priced too high to have a fairly high volume selling projector. At $2499 though, while it still won’t match the unit sales of projectors around $1000, it is at a price where there is serious volume.

The VPL-HW40ES is similar too, but is a lower cost less featured HW55ES. What’s different? Most importantly, the HW40ES lacks a Dynamic Iris, thus affecting black level performance. Nor does it offer manual iris options.

The HW40ES, has one advantage over its big brother:  It is brighter!  It  also has a lot less of other controls. It’s more of a plug and play projector. True, there’s a full CMS for calibrating individual colors, but when it comes to grayscale, there are only four modes, and only one of them has adjustments. According to Mike, our calibrator though, the one that is adjustable – Color Space 5, won’t calibrate well enough to rival the preset BT.709 setting.

There’s no custom gamma, and limited preset gamma choices, and so on. There are less menu options in most areas and less choices, in other words, for those that like to tweak their projectors, play with settings, compare, this projector won’t be near as much fun as it’s bigger brother.  But, what matters to you – or should, is whether this Sony is right for you, or if you should go for a different projector in the same budget range, or spring for the significantly more expensive HW55ES.

Once you get past all the things that the HW40ES lacks compared to the, then focus on this:

Impressively, the VPL-HW40ES projector comes out of the box about as close to fully calibrated as any home projector we’ve reviewed.  It’s one of the best projectors around the price, we’ll take a close look at all its strengths, as well as pointing out what it lacks.

Sony VPL-HW40ES Highlights

  • Very Bright projector post calibration (1700 lumens claim)
  • Multiple pre-set modes
  • CFI – smooth motion (Sony calls it MotionFlow)
  • Manual zoom lens with a good amount of lens shift for placement flexibility
  • CMS for calibrating individual colors
  • X number of years warranty
  • 3D Capable, including 2D to 3D conversion – uses RF glasses (optional?)
  • Suitable for dedicated theaters, or living/media/family room
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News And Comments

  • Imran

    i have bought the sony w40 recently. i understand its a bright projector. i wanted to buy a screen for it but the opinions are split between glass bead and matt material. i am a stickler for black levels. what material would you suggest for the screen. and also suggestions to maximize the black levels considering it is a bright and sharp projector.

    thanks

    Imran

  • Kyle Kelley

    I’ve heard this projector benefits from the use of an FLD filter, and then calibrating with the Custom5 Color Space. Have you ever viewed this projector or the 55ES with such a setup?

    • ProjectorReviews.com

      Hi Kyle, No I haven’t tried that. Believe me, I stay pretty slammed just doing a review based on a single calibration… I expect you can find out more about that on AVSforum, if you haven’t already. -art

      • JB0070

        Hi Kyle,
        I am tired of reading reviews and posting questions on AVS and other forums. Always get a mixed response. I was asked to connect with you for a professional advise. I have 2 options 5030 UB or Sony HW40ES. I don’t care about gaming. I have a dedicated media room and all I care about is great picture quality where I can enjoy 2D HD movies with solid colors and contrast. Picture and Image quality all that matters to me. Can you please recommend which of these I should be getting Epson 5030UB or Sony HW40ES. Thank you so much!

        • ProjectorReviews.com

          Hi JB, Well, for openers, on our site, I did a write up specifically on the HW55 vs the 5030UB that can provide you some insight, although there are distinct differences.

          Both are good projectors, and one can rationalize either, over the other, based on a few preferences. Still, here’s why in most cases I recommend the Epson, for those with at least a good quality viewing room, and and interest in great movie watching:
          The 5030UB does blacker blacks on the darkest scenes. They will pop more. The Sony’s blacks are lighter gray than the Epsons. True, the Epson uses a dynamic iris, but that’s mostly a good thing. Consider that the biggest difference (other than price) between the HW40ES and the HW55ES is the addition of a dynamic iris.
          Overall, both produce excellent color, and both will calibrate beautifully. The Sony is a touch quieter. The Sony, is also much brighter – in “best” mode, but then, unless you are pushing 150” diagonal screen size, you won’t need the difference in brightness. The Epson achieves movie theater brightness levels on 130” diagonal screens with a 1.1 gain screen. And, even if you were going “huge” you could calibrate the Living Room mode and have some really good color (but not as perfect as calibrating the THX mode which has a special color filter in place, which knocks down the brightness in exchange for smoother color accuracy.
          For me, it’s a slam dunk. While I enjoy watching the HW40, because of the black level performance, I definitely go with the Epson. That simple. As I’ve stated many times, black levels are the holy grail, but, once you achieve a certain level of performance, then other things come into play. Well, from my standpoint, the Epson and the HW55 achieve that level, the HW40 does not.
          Guess what, you are likely to love either projector. Helpful thought. In making your final decision, based on all you know, all the opinions you’ve read, and realizing that there are always trade-offs: Based on all of that, which projector do you think you might be more likely to NOT be happy with 6 months after purchase. That is, what is it of these two projectors, in terms not of their strengths, but their weaknesses, is more likely to annoy you down the road. Good luck, and please let me know which you choose, and, at least several weeks after getting one, what your thoughts are, especially compared to your expectations. Feeback from the many comments, emails and posts that I answer, help me further define my recommendations… -art

          • JB0070

            Dear Sir,
            Thank you so much for such a detailed response. Much appreciated. Can you please send me the link for HW55ES vs 5030 UB. Your response made it easier for me. Seems like 5030UB is a no brainer compared to HW40ES.
            After reading reviews, my heart had always set on HW55ES which is best of both worlds and a better performance over 5030 UB. Problem is that I can’t afford a $2999 projector. Now, the same projector is available at several online retailer for about $2100, however Sony won’t authorize their 3 year warranty with such retailers. What is you recommendation on such a purchase?

          • JB0070

            Also, I am planning 150” screen. Do you think 5030 B will be bright enough for that size screen? Thanks again!

          • JB0070

            Sir,

            Still waiting for your response.

          • ProjectorReviews.com

            Hi again, In a good room (dark surfaces) you can stretch to 150” diagonal in THX mode, with a good 1.3 gain screen. I certainly wouldn’t go higher, When you are watching less critcal stuff, perhaps sports or typical TV, Living Room mode will over double available brightness. It needs a little tweaking of the color though. Here’s the link: Sony VPL-HW55ES Projector vs. Epson HC5030UB Projector Your screen will be way too big for decently bright 3D. The 5030UB here barely cuts it on my 124” I’m always wishing for brighter. But when I’m using it, it’s table top so I’ll zoom out to produce a smaller image. -art

          • ProjectorReviews.com

            Art will respond to your question shortly. In the mean time, the link is here! Thanks: http://www.projectorreviews.com/comparisons/sony-vpl-hw55es-projector-vs-epson-hc5030ub-projector/

  • JB0070

    Hi,
    I am tired of reading reviews and posting questions on AVS and other forums. Always get a mixed response. I was asked to connect with you for a professional advise. I have 2 options 5030 UB or Sony HW40ES. I don’t care about gaming. I have a dedicated media room and all I care about is great picture quality where I can enjoy 2D HD movies with solid colors and contrast. Picture and Image quality all that matters to me. Can you please recommend which of these I should be getting Epson 5030UB or Sony HW40ES. Thank you so much!