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Sony VPL-HW15 - Review Summary

Posted on September 1, 2009 by Art Feierman
A summary of the Sony VPL-HW15 projector's pros and cons and capabilities.

Sony VPL-HW15 Projector - The Bottom Line

Newer is better! The VPL-HW15 is better, and $500 less than the older HW10. Don't expect a dramatic improvement, but overall, you do get a little more, for about 15% less dollars

Skin tones are extremely good, bested only by a couple of projectors (the InFocus IN83 comes to mind). That said, I'd say the VPL-HW15 is the equal of my JVC RS20 (though slightly different).

Black levels, while very good, and definitely qualify the Sony as an "ultra-high" contrast projector, make it only "one of the best" under $3000 projectors, but not the best. Higher end projectors like the JVC's still have a very distinct advantage. The lower price point of the Sony is a very good, and probably necessary thing, in competing with JVC's DLA-RS10 (and HD350), which should now be a good $1000+ more. Since they are both LCoS projectors, and similar in many ways, the Sony ends up being roughly comparable, but the advantage, primarily due to blacks, goes to JVC, if you've got the extra money.

The dynamic iris of the VPL-HW15 is very good. In doing some side by sides with other projectors (BenQ, Epson, Optoma) with dynamic irises, it's the smoothest and least noticeable, though the Epson comes close. The BenQ's iris action is definitely more likely to be spottable, and the Optoma solution tends to be annoying enough that I recommend not using it on some of their projectors.

Sharpness is very good, but most DLP projectors (which don't have to worry about aligning 3 panels) have the advantage, as long as they have good optics. As such, the Sony is still "average sharpness" (I only refer to 1080p projectors' sharpness as "average" or "sharper still".)

When it comes to placement flexibility, the Sony is flexible. It's got a zoom lens with a reasonable 1.6:1 zoom ratio, which typically will provide about 5 feet of front to back placement range with typical screen sizes. The lens shift is there, and not bad, but more can be found on many 3LCD and LCoS projectors (including the JVCs).

Although 1.6:1 is a lot more than most DLP's (1.2:1), we are seeing more DLP's competing with 1.5:1 zooms. Still, if I have an objection to the 1.6:1 zoom of the VPL-HW15, it's that the lens is still pretty short throw. While projectors like the Epson's Panasonic's and JVC's, for a 100" diagonal screen, can go from about 10 feet to 20 feet, the Sony only goes out to about 16 feet. For those of you considering shelf mounting in the rear, the Sony won't work in a lot of rooms, so figure out your room depth, and how large a screen will fit, based on placing the Sony back on a shelf. If your room is deep, or your screen size not too large, it probably won't work.

The Sony has a really nice remote control, which combined with a good menu structure, makes navigating your settings rather easy. There are three user savable modes, one based on each of the three standard modes - a good design. Still, I'd prefer to see at least 2 more user modes (a second one based on Cinema, and at least one other).

With a two year warranty, there's nothing to complain about. There are projectors in this price range with only one year, but two is the standard. The thing is, a few competitors offer 3 years, and some, including Epson, provide an overnight replacement program during part or all of their warranty.

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