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Sony VPL-HW30ES - Review Summary

Posted on October 11, 2011 by Art Feierman

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.

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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.

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