For your hard earned money you get a projector rated by Sony at 1700 lumens. It has a 1.60:1 manual zoom lens, and lots of lens shift. The projector uses 3 LCoS Panels, which Sony calls SXRD. It’s a mid sized home theater projector, typical or slightly larger than most of the competition. In the US it is, to my knowledge, only available in a black (really dark gray) case, although if like the HW55ES there may be a white version available in other countries.
Sony has been a serious competitor in the $3500 and up price ranges, but didn’t have anything priced lower until now. Leading up to the release of the HW40ES, Sony has been offering four home theater projectors. There’s the VPL-HW55ES, a $3999 projector, which the HW40ES closely resembles. In fact the HW40ES is pretty much a “stripped down” version. Then there’s the $5999 VPL-VW95ES, which, at this point, is due for replacement. Sony’s other two projectors are downright exciting – the $14999 VPL-VW600ES – a true 4K projector, and the VPL-VW1100ES, Sony’s flagship – also 4K, for $27999. (Note that both of those come with a media server, and a Sony Android tablet for control for their prices).
But, for the most part Sony has been priced too high to have a fairly high volume selling projector. At $2499 though, while it still won’t match the unit sales of projectors around $1000, it is at a price where there is serious volume.
The VPL-HW40ES is similar too, but is a lower cost less featured HW55ES. What’s different? Most importantly, the HW40ES lacks a Dynamic Iris, thus affecting black level performance. Nor does it offer manual iris options.
The HW40ES, has one advantage over its big brother: It is brighter! It also has a lot less of other controls. It’s more of a plug and play projector. True, there’s a full CMS for calibrating individual colors, but when it comes to grayscale, there are only four modes, and only one of them has adjustments. According to Mike, our calibrator though, the one that is adjustable – Color Space 5, won’t calibrate well enough to rival the preset BT.709 setting.
There’s no custom gamma, and limited preset gamma choices, and so on. There are less menu options in most areas and less choices, in other words, for those that like to tweak their projectors, play with settings, compare, this projector won’t be near as much fun as it’s bigger brother. But, what matters to you - or should, is whether this Sony is right for you, or if you should go for a different projector in the same budget range, or spring for the significantly more expensive HW55ES.
Once you get past all the things that the HW40ES lacks compared to the, then focus on this:
Impressively, the VPL-HW40ES projector comes out of the box about as close to fully calibrated as any home projector we’ve reviewed. It's one of the best projectors around the price, we'll take a close look at all its strengths, as well as pointing out what it lacks.