Sony VPL-HW15 Projector Review
September 2009 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL-HW15 Projector Overview
The VPL-HW15 replaces the HW10, and in doing so, offers up an improved, but every similar projector, for less money. We'll call that evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. While the MAP pricing on the older Sony was $3499, the VPL-HW15 comes in $500 lower at $2999.
For the most part, the Sony VPL-HW15 home theater projector looks, and cooks, exactly like the HW10. Brightness is about the same. They look virtually identical (I confess - I haven't taken photos of the HW15, so the product shots you are seeing are actually the HW10).
Even when it comes to the specs, there's only one noteworthy change (besides the price), and that is the rated contrast. Sony's contrast spec for the VPL-HW15 is 60,000:1, exactly double the HW10's 30,000:1.
The doubling of contrast should yield a slight improvement in black levels. Would have been interesting to have both old and new projectors side by side, to see how much improvement. Lacking an HW10, I did put the Sony side by side against several other projectors. More in the image quality page.
The Sony VPL-HW15 is a larger projector, it sports a manual zoom lens, and lens shift. With nice sculpting, it physically is more attractive than most, but it's the performance that is most appealing.
The Sony VPL-HW15 has a dynamic iris to achieve its best black levels. While I have no confirmation from Sony, it seems to me that the dynamic iris action has been improved. It seems smoother than the older model, one which I noted worked well, but not as smooth (unnoticeable) as with a few other projectors. With the new VPL-HW15, my impression is that it has one of the least noticeable irises.
You can, of course count on Sony for at least very good color, and, no surprise, the HW15 is really very good.
Picture quality is very good overall, a blend of excellent color, very good black levels, good brightness (more would be better). With the price reduction compared to last year's model, this LCoS based Sony is finally poised to slug it out (price wise) with the better ultra-high contrast 3LCD projectors, like the new Epsons and Panasonics. Traditionally, the older Sony was considered a more expensive projector.
VPL-HW15 Projector Highlights
- Overall a very well balanced home theater projector
- Very good color out of the box, even better after calibration
- Brightness in best mode, a little above average - 538 measured lumens
- Brightness is definitely below average in brightest mode, when you need extra lumens for ambient light -we measured 771 lumens
- Improved black level performance, not the best, but comparable or slightly better than most of the similarly priced competition
- Zoom lens is relatively short thow, may not work shelf mounted in deep rooms, or in typical rooms with small to medium sized screens
- Adjustable vertical and horizontal lens shift, not as much range as some, but not bad
- Dynamic iris seems improved - less noticeable than older Sony
- Looks to have very good price/performance, but it is one of the first of the new fall 2009 projectors we've received
- Lacks support for an anamorphic lens (that is reserved for their more expensive VW projector)
Specs for Sony VPL-HW15
Technology: LCoS (SXRD)
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: 1000 lumens claimed, 771 lumens highest we measured
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.6:1
Lens shift: Vertical and horizontal
Lamp life: Sony does not provide info, we assume 2000 hours at full power
Weight: 22.1 lbs. (10 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Years Parts and Labor
Sony VPL-HW15 Special Features
Sony VPL-HW15 Gamma Modes
Sony has upped the number of configured gamma modes, to 7, from 4. That can only be a good, if confusing thing. We didn't take a close look at all the different gammas, sticking to about 3 for our image viewing purposes.
Sony SXRD panels - (LCoS)
(This paragraph taken right from the older HW10 review.) The vast majority of home theater projectors use either DLP or 3LCD technology. Sony uses Liquid Crystal on Silicon, a reflective panel, as opposed to the translucent typical LCD panels. Sony calls their LCoS implementation SXRD. In the under $10,000 price range, JVC and Sony are the primary manufacturers of LCoS home theater projectors. The advantages of LCoS, these days, are two fold: First, LCoS panels have, for all practical purposes, invisible pixel structures, way below visibility at normal seating distances with a 1080p projector. Only the 3LCD Panasonic PT-AE3000, with its addition of their SmoothScreen technology, has less visible pixels, and it comes with a price, a slightly softer image.
Pixel visibility, and screen door effect are, effectively non-issues, with this Sony, thanks to the LCoS panels.
The second advantage, it seems is in terms of black level performance. While some 3LCD and DLP projectors can match some of the LCoS projectors, at this point in time, the Sony but more so, the JVC LCoS projectors outperform almost most of the non LCoS competition, in black level performance
Image below - from Quantum of Solace
Individual SXRD panel adjustment
A very nice, touch, this Sony allows individual adjustment of each panel for more precise alignment. This feature carried forward from the HW10. And, it works nicely!