Sony VPL-HW30ES - Review Summary
One more time, with enthusiasm: Sony's VPL-HW30ES is a $3699 3 panel (chip) LCoS projector that is designed for a home theater environment. It has more than enough brightness to handle some very nice sized screens, say 130" diagonal. The HW30ES offers 3D capability as well as 2D. To accomplish 3D, you can purchase the standard VPL-HW30ES, and buy a 3D kit with 2 pair of active glasses, and an RF emitter, or you can buy the VPL-HW30AES, for $3999, which comes with the (2 pair) glasses, and RF emitter (transmitter).
Below we summarize key items written about in the previous pages of the review. Consult those pages for more details, including even our calibration settings.
10/11/11 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL-HW30ES Projector - The Bottom Line
It seems I always like Sony projectors I review, although I've never owned one myself. Mind you I have considered buying one or two over the last few years, but it was never the right Sony at the right time. For example, the original in the VW series, the "Pearl": VPL-VW50 (4 generations old), was at the top of my short list, but for one feature at the time... Price! My wallet, and the Sony's price, didn't see eye to eye.
My point would be this: There are many features and benefits with every projector we review. The trick is to find the best (dare I say exact) set of such features and benefits that will work best for you.
Some projectors can truly excel at just one or two things. We've seen projectors with exceptional black level performance, that just don't have as natural skin tones as some other projectors...and so it goes.
In the case of Sony's VPL-HW30ES, you will have to decide if it's the best match for you.
Our Hot Product Award is our way of saying two things:
The VPL-HW30Es is one of several excellent projectors that we've reviewed around its price point. and
This Sony will likely prove to be the best projector around for a significant number (not necessarily a majority) of folks considering it and the competition.
With that said, let's revisit a few topics, for those who skipped the interior pages of this review.
VPL-HW30ES Brightness: The VPL-HW30ES is slightly brighter than the typical over $3500 (to $10,000) projector. Post calibration, it provided just over 814 measured lumens in "best" (measured with zoom at mid-point). At its very brightest, the projector reaches 1065 lumens. (Move the lens to full wide angle, in Brightest mode, and you can squeeze out more than 1100 lumens).
The picture in that brightest mode is definitely cool (around 9000K), so thin on reds, but you've got those extra lumens if you need them. Most, I suspect will forego the extra 25+% more lumens, and instead enjoy near perfect color. Consider, for example, JVC's DLA-HD250 (2D only) we reviewed not that long ago. That slightly less expensive projector, at $2999, only measured 49 lumens brighter at its brightest, than the Sony measures in its calibrated "best mode". Yet the Sony has about 250 more lumens available in its "brightest mode".
VPL-HW30ES 3D Performance: (If you have no curiosity or interest in 3D, skip down please!)
Overall, the Sony's 3D looked great on Blu-ray 3D in particular and pretty much every other 1080 source. With four brightness levels, relating to black frames and the 3D glasses, you can go for more brightness, in exchange for some more crosstalk, or other image noise.
720p content off of DirecTV posed a bit more of a challenge. The higher brightness settings for 3D (in the 3D menu), tend to be very noisy. Of the four settings, I stuck to 1 or 2 (the two least bright) for 720p content. I routinely used the third setting for Blu-ray 3D...
That's OK though, while the #2 setting wasn't as bright as I would have liked, it seemed to be every bit as bright as most of the reviewed 3D projectors in this range, could muster at their brightest. So, there may be times where you have a real trade-off - better 3D picture quality if you will give up some more brightness.
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.
Below: Sony VPL-HW30ES beautifully handles the skin tones of the receptionist in The Fifth Element
As I started this review by saying, "When it comes to thinking about the Sony's value proposition, perhaps most impressive is that the Sony VPL-HW30ES offers overall performance reasonably close to the $9999 VPL-VW90ES projector, and with more brightness, but less frills."
This is a projector that works best in a home theater environment, but can double in a light controlled family room as well. It's definitely more value than last year's VPL-VWPro1, and can easily take on the likes of the Sharp XV-Z17000, and Optoma HD8300. It's early in this home theater season, so there are more new competitors yet to review, still, the Sony VPL-HW30ES is definitely a projector worth considering. Tastefully done.
Sony VPL-HW30ES Projector: Pros and Cons
Above: Photo of the Sony VPL-HW30ES in 3D mode - Alice in Wonderland. No way for you to see how that really looks in 3D
Sony VPL-HW30ES Projector: Pros
- One of the brighest 3D capable projectors so far, in the over $3500 price class
- 800+ measured lumens in "best" mode, no problem, even with large screens (ie: 10 feet wide)
- Excellent overall color, and skin tones
- Lots of preset image modes
- Calibrates nicely for really good color handling, natural look
- Respectable shadow detail
- Very good placement flexibility
- HDMI 1.4a inputs (2) allows for support for Blu-ray 3D content
- 3D glasses (optional on base model, included on HW30AES for $3999), are relatively light weight, reasonably comfortable for glasses wearers
- Very good CFI (motion smoothing) MotionFlow
- Does motion smoothing, even in 3D (which is not common)
- Get extra brightness in 3D with glasses control (but more image noise)
- Excellent warranty
- Fairly quiet, even at full power
- Very good remote control
- Near black finish works well in dedicated theaters
- Very good menu layout
Above, Bellatrix - Harry Potter. Sony looks great on this extemely dark scene that shows off blacks and shadow details.
Sony VPL-HW30ES Projector: Cons
- Black levels, while very good, not best in class
- Emitter seems to work best in front of room (long ethernet cable from projector)
- CFI (like all but a few projectors) is a little much for movie viewing (changes the director's intent)
- Though brighter than most competitors, more subtle - less "wow" factor
- 3D glasses are optional (just a reminder)
- Overall price: While reasonable, it prices slightly higher than several new direct competitors although well below some others, like the Optoma HD8300 and Mitsubishi HC9000D, and Sony's own VPL-VW95ES
- Like most 3D capable projectors, a bit underpowered at 3D for medium and larger screen sizes
- Cost of operation (lamp life on the low side of the range)
Sony VPL-HW30ES Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Black Level performance
- Lens features (lens shift, medium zoom range)
- Cost of operation
- Overall value
- Documentation (very good at some things, but still could use a bit more in explanations)
Ready to go? Want a very nice projector under $4000 for your home theater, that can do some very natural 2D picture quality, and 3D with a bit more brightness than most? If this projector works in your room, it is definitely one to be considered!
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