Sony VPL-HW10 - Performance
12/01/2008 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL HW10 Brightness
It is the nature of home theater projectors, that there are two general types of projectors when it comes to brightness. The first group, which includes the Sony HW10, are those that do not have a big increase in brightness as you go from "best" movie mode, to "brightest mode". Typically, with this class of projectors, "brightest" mode is typically 10% to 100% brighter, than best mode. The other class, shall we say, typically, has 100% to 400% more lumens, in brightest mode.
With the first class, like this Sony, the problem is that there is plenty of lumens for movie watching, but not enough for HDTV/TV/Sports, with some room ambient light.
As a result, with the Sony, you can (forgetting higher gain screens), go with a significantly larger screen, if all you care about is movie watching, but if you plan to do a lot of HDTV/TV/Sports, with some ambient light, as well as movies, then you need to limit the screen size.
The Sony VPL-HW10 is brighter than most in best mode, and definitely less brighter than average in "brightest.
Out of the box (pre-adjustment) measurements:
Cinema: 773 lumens @ 6502K
Standard: 840 @ 7921K
Dynamic: 873 @ 9187K
After calibration Cinema mode actually increased in brightness to 836 lumens (we arbitrarily consider "average brightness" to be 400 to 550 lumens). Only a handful of projectors are brighter (in best mode), including the InFocus IN83, and the Optoma HD81-LV, but both of those are real light cannons when in their brightest modes. The JVC RS1, RS1x, and likely the RS10 shipping next month, are very similar to the Sony, with around 800 lumens in best mode, and 900 in brightest. They are also direct competitors.
More details and information can be found in the calibration page of this review.
As you can see, Cinema mode is virtually as bright as Dyamic mode.
Bottom line: The types of content you watch, will determine how large a screen will work for you. If you don't care about HDTV/TV/Sports, or don't mind watching them with your room at its darkest, then you can have a nice large screen, like my 128" or even a little larger, but if you are looking at watching HDTV with some lights on, you better keep your screen size to 110" or smaller (assuming normal gain screens). My rule of thumb for filling my 128" Firehawk for sports viewing, with some ambient light, is a minimum of 1500 lumens.
Dropping the lamp to eco-mode (low power), we measured a much larger than typical 32% drop in lumens. That's probably a good thing, as those with smaller screens, will likely run the projector in eco-mode (low lamp power), for movie watching, and kick it back up to full power for other content.
With a 1.6:1 lens, the brightness difference between closest position (wide angle) and furthest (telephoto) is not near as great as the many projectors with 2:1 zooms.
At full wide angle, brightness increases by 11% to roughly 930 lumens.
At full telephoto mode, brightness decreases by 16% to 698 lumens.
Bottom line, if ceiling mounting is your thing, and you can up your brightness slightly by mounting the projector so you are almost to full wide angle.
Sony VPL-HW10 Sharpness
It's hard to say, definitely, since it's been a long time since I had the older VPL-WV40 here, but my take is that sharpness has been improved, but only very slightly. I did have the Sony side by side with the Panasonic PT-AE3000, and I'd give the Sony the slightest advantage (but not enough to affect any buying decsion. I doubt anyone could determine which is sharper, without a side by side comparison.
That makes the Sony still a little soft compared to the sharpest projectors out there, such as the InFocus IN83, most Optoma's and the Mitsubishi 1080p projectors. The Sanyo PLV-Z3000, (which arrived yesterday, but hasn't been viewed yet, will fit into the sharper group as well (even their low cost PLV-Z700 is sharper than the Sony.
I refer to projectors like the Sony (in terms of sharpness) to be average, and the rest, sharper. LCoS projectors typically are in the average category, so the Sony keeps good company, with the likes of the JVC LCoS projectors, and also some others, notable the Panasonic, and the Epson Home/Pro Cinema 1080 UB. The new Epson's should be here shortly. They are claiming an improvement in sharpness, but, whether it's significant enough to put the new Epson's in the "sharper" category, we won't know for a few weeks.
Close up of a computer monitor, from Space Cowboys (Blu-ray), left to right: HW10, Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, Mitsubishi HC7000, and BenQ W20000.
Sony VPL-HW10: Bottom Line Sharpness
The great thing about "average sharpness" 1080p projectors is that they really look very sharp. There's not one current 1080p projector that I would reject, based on the softness of it's image.
When you are watching movies, comparing the Sony, to one of the sharpest 1080p projectors, like the IN83, the differences are definitely subtle, in part do to the "artifacts" in the movies, most significantly the film grain.
You are more likely to appreciate a sharper image when watching 1080i HDTV, especially travelogue type programming, as well as the usual content on stations like Discovery HD. You'll also be able to discern the difference when watching the sport of your choice. With good 1080i content, and a razor sharp projector, your screen really does start looking like looking through a window.
That said, I have no problem at all with the Sony. I've logged dozens of hours so far, and, like my own similarly sharp JVC RS1, I most certainly can live happily with this level of sharpness.
The HW10 leaks light through the lens. In my testing room, I can spot a small amount of light hitting my wall, outside of the projected image area. To do so, though I need an almost perfectly dark scene, and then I have to go looking for it. Thanks to great black levels, etc., this is not a real issue. I believe the Sony projector has less stray light hitting the front wall, than my JVC RS1 does, and in over 1500 hours of watching the JVC, it has never marred a viewing experience. (Of course for some folks, just knowing it's there, may annoy them, even if they don't notice while enjoying content.
No complaints with the processing. No jaggie issues, 3:2 pull-down is good when used (most of my movie content is from Blu-ray at 24fps, which doesn't need 3:2 pull-down). Mesquito noise is very reasonable, again, cleaner than many projectors, including just about all the DLP models we've reviewed. Worry not!
Wow, this Sony got quiet. The older Sony's were reasonable in audible noise levels, but this HW10 is one of the quiest projectors around in low power, and is still very good at full power. When I say very good, it's quieter than virtually all of the DLP contestants out there, as well as some LCD projectors like the Epsons. In fact it's quieter in full power mode, than many are in their low power (eco) modes.