Projector Reviews

Runner-Up: Best in Class ($2000-$3500): Sony VPL-HW40ES

The Sony VPL-HW40ES returns to our list of award winning home theater projectors for the second year.

The Sony VPL-HW40ES: Why It Won

Last year I spent more than 100 hours viewing Sony’s HW40ES.  The least expensive home theater projector from Sony, it differs from their more expensive HW55ES in several ways:

First of all, to its credit, it’s noticeably brighter.  Think of the HW40ES as the projector for the media room, or a good living room, family room, etc., rather than a dedicated, dark surfaced home theater.   Understand, it’s still an excellent choice in a dedicated theater, but, for example, it lacks a dynamic iris for better black level performance.  As a result our other winners in this price range, the Epson HC5030UB/PC6030UB and Sony’s own VPL-HW55ES are superior in this regard.     A few other projectors around the price, including the BenQ W7500, and probably the Panasonic PT-AE8000U, also have slightly better black level action.

A key strength is that the color is nearly perfect, “right out of the box.”  Mike our calibrator figured that only the hard core enthusiast viewing before and after, side by side, might notice a difference.  When it comes to 3D, the built in 3D is IR, not RF. The optional kit with the RF emitter and cable is officially $199 extra on top of the official $2499 price.  You’ll need to buy 3D glasses too.

[prsku sku=”VPL-HW40ES”]

The HW40ES is a physically larger than most, projector but doesn’t seem especially large thanks to its nicely curved black case which makes for a clean look.  For those dropping one of these in a family type room, it would have been nice if there was a white version for light colored ceilings.

Compared to the most series competition:  The Epson UBs can out muscle it when you need max brightness, for those same family/media/living rooms, and easily crush it in terms of black levels in more of a theater.  That’s why the Epsons got the higher award.   The BenQ W7500 is the closest competition, but costs a bit more, and can’t match the near perfect color, right out of the box.  That was really the HW40ES’s closest competitor, and one that has the edge in brightness and black levels.  The BenQ being single chip DLP produces cleaner 3D.

Bottom Line, great color, good value, nicely bright.  Want better, the choices are its big brother, or the Epsons, each due to certain strengths.