Sony VPL-HW15 Projector - Physical Tour
9/9/2009 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL-HW15 Projector - Appearance
The new Sony VPL-HW15 projector is physically identical to the HW10 it replaces. Like the older projector, the VPL-HW15 is a larger home theater projector, finished in an almost black, piano type, shiny finish on the top, while most other surfaces are a flat black. If you are ceiling mounting, of course, the projector is inverted, with the piano finish facing down, where it is nicely attractive with lights on.
Sony's manual zoom lens, with its 1.6:1 zoom ratio, is partially recessed.
The lens zoom and focus are adjusted from the lens trim rings. If you are facing the front of the projector, the infra-red sensor for the remote, is just to the right of the lens area. Two screw thread adjustable feet can be found on the bottom just behind the front.
Moving to the top of the Sony VPL HW15, all you will find, are the two manual lens shift wheels, just behind the lens in the front.
VPL-HW15 Control Panel
Sony relies on a very small, and basic, control panel located on the side of the projector, right above all the inputs and outputs (left side, if viewing from the front). This is unlike most projectors which tend to put the control panel on the top. There are others like this Sony, though, including the Panasonic PT-AE3000.
Looking at the control panel from that side of the projector, you'll find a small power button, closest to the front (once for on, twice for off). Next to it, is a button for Input selection, then one to bring up the menus. The rest of the control panel consists of four arrow keys in a round configuration, with a center enter button. I'm not sure if I'm a fan of side mounted control panels and input areas. It may allow you to place the projector a couple inches closer to the back wall, if shelf mounting, but when ceiling mounting, if people enter your theater from that side, they will have the best look at all those cables. Not an issue for most of us, but, forewarned is forearmed, as they say.
No changes compared to the older HW10, the input panel of the Sony HW15 is located on the left side (if looking from the front). Facing that side, from back of the projector to the front, you'll find the power receptacle, two HDMI 1.3 inputs, and a standard HD15 connector for the usual analog computer input (it can alternately be used as a second component video inputs). Next, comes the S-video (DIN connector), and composite video (RCA jack). Then comes the standard component video input (3 color coded RCA jacks), and finally an RS-232 serial port for command and control by a room control system, or a computer, if so desired.
The HDMI inputs support 1.3, Deep Color, x.v.Color, HDCP, computer HDMI standards, and LipSync. That pretty much covers all the newest standards. This is an improvement over the older Sony VPL-VW40 and VW60, which had HDMI 1.3, but, for example, lacked Deep Color support. (No content yet, for Deep Color, but, we should see some content in 2009).
The Sony's menus are well organized. Type size is reasonable, smallish, but not too small to be difficult to read at normal seating distances.
The menu layout seems to be virtually identical to the HW10. You'll need to get used to where certain menu items are hiding, such as the lamp power control being found in the Picture Menu, but hidden in the sub-menu called Cinema Black Pro. Who would have thought? Dynamic iris control is also hiding in the Cinema Black Pro sub-menu.
There are three pre-configured picture modes (Cinema, Dynamic, and Standard), and three User modes where you can save your settings changes. I like the way the three user modes are matched to the pre-defined ones. User 1 starts out the same as the Dynamic settings, User 2, Standard settings, and User 3 is based on Cinema. It's often a nuisance, when calibrating a projector, that starts out very close to ideal, only to find that the user area defaults are horrible, thus making a good calibration far more difficult than it needs to be.
The Expert Setting sub-menu (of Picture), offers 5 gamma settings, with some control, a choice of wide or normal color space, noise reduction options, and a control called Black Level Adjust. That last one is designed to let you enhance black performance. It works, but it does seem to wipe out some dark shadow detail. Some may like using the control to get more pop into those darker scenes, but the price for that is lost dark detail.
There are a number of other menus, and another of note is the Setup menu, shown here. Besides the language choices, and postioning for the menus, there's the high altitude fan control, standby and power options, and control of source type for Input A. There is also a Lamp Setting item, but on this menu, that's for resetting the lamp counter, after replacing a lamp.
All told, a good layout, easy to navigate, but with a few things hidden where you might not think to look.
Sony VPL-HW15 Remote Control
Sony has a new remote for the HW15, and I do like it a lot better than the old remote which has been around a couple of generations.
Sony VPL HW15 Lens Throw
The lens is a manual, 1.6:1 zoom lens. Per the user manual, if you have a 100 inch diagonal 16:9 screen, the lens allows the projector to be placed as close as 10 feet, 1 inch, or as far back as 16 feet 4 inches. Despite the reasonably good zoom ratio, the HW15 can not be placed as far back as most projectors that are rear shelf mountable (has lens shift). Most of the non-DLP competition can be placed as far back as 19 - 21 feet, for the same sized screen.
The bottom line, therefore is while you can of course ceiling mount the VPL-HW15 projector, many will not be able place the Sony on a rear shelf, unless they are using an unusually large screen for a that room size. Let me restate that - you aren't likely to be able to rear shelf mount unless your room isn't very deep - a fairly square room, though should work fine.
The Sony VPL-HW15 has vertical and horizontal lens shift. Both functions are manual, and controlled by the adjustment wheels on the top of the projector, just behind the lens.
For a 100" screen, the center of the lens can be placed as high as approximately 7.5 inches above the top of your screen surface Actually Sony quotes, in their manual a maximum of 31 - 7/8 inches above the center of the screen, which is about 49.5 inches high, so top of the screen is about 24.3 inches above the center of the screen.
The Sony HW15 does not inherently support an anamorphic lens and motorized sled, for those wanting to go with a 2.35:1 (Cinemascope) shaped screen. Sony does provide said support on their higher end VW projectors. This is not an unusual marketing decision. Few folks will spend about $4000 for a lens and sled, for an under $3000 projectors. Still, if you want to go anamorphic after you buy an HW15, it can be done, by adding an outboard processor that can provide the necessary stretch aspect ratio to make it work. As outboard processors typically start around $1000 and go up from there, if you are really serious about going that route, you might want to consider the more expensive Sony VPL-VW70 (or its replacement), as you will be getting a better projector, and the cost differential isn't great, compared to an HW15 and external processor.
As an additional note, there is no 12 volt trigger for controlling a lens sled, but the most popular anamorphic lens/sled combination is Panamorph, and they provide what you'll need to control the sled.