Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-HW40ES Projector Review – Hardware Tour 1

SONY VPL-HW40ES PROJECTOR – HARDWARE TOUR 1: Layout, Control Panel, Inputs and Connectors, Thoughts on MHL (or lack thereof)

Sony VPL-HW40ES Layout

The Sony VPL-HW40ES is one of a long list of Sony projectors we have reviewed over the past few years that are almost identical from a physical hardware standpoint.  I could, for example, pretty much have pasted in here the HW55ES, the HW50ES, the HW30ES, with only a minor change or two.  Still, to make sure Sony didn’t sneak anything in that’s new, that I overlooked, I have written these Hardware pages from scratch, with the VPL-HW40ES sitting about 3 feet away from me.  Let’s get started.

The Sony is finished in a combination of shiny black finish and dark gray matte finish.  Overall, the projector is sculpted, and I would say both clean looking and attractive.  In the US it seems to only be available in this black finish, although a white version may be available elsewhere in the world.  Overall, unless the objection is about physical size, this Sony should do well in terms of the spouse/partner factor, in that it should not offend.  (There are a few rather ugly projectors out there, and many just box looking boring ones.)

From the front of Sony’s VPL-HW40ES home theater projector:  Sony’s lens is a 1.6:1 manual zoom lens, it is mostly recessed.  Controls for focus and zoom are on the lens barrel.  Also of note on the front is the forward facing IR sensor for the remote control.  It can be found on the bottom right (if facing the projector).  It’s hard to spot, but it is there.

Underneath the front are two screw thread adjustable front feet, and I should note that there are also two adjustable rear feet.

Exhaust and intakes for cooling can be found wrapping around the front left and right and continuing a few inches into both sides of the projector.

One side (the right side if looking facing the front) has nothing going on, as is also the case for the rear of the HW40ES.

It’s the other (left) side that’s busy – both the small control panel, and all the inputs and connectors are located on that side.  The control panel is mid-way up, the connector area is near the bottom and recessed.

The top of the HW40ES has only two controls (and a nice Sony logo).  They are small dials for the healthy amount of both vertical and horizontal lens shift.  You will find information about lens throw distances and lens shift numbers toward the end of the hardware section.

The HW40ES comes with a full sized remote control with a nice backlight, also covered on the next page.

Sony VPL-HW40ES Control Panel

Sony’s control panel is almost invisible.  It consists of just four items in a row.  From closest to the front:  Power switch (once for on, press twice to power down), Source (let’s you toggle between sources), Menu – which brings up the main navigation menu, and finally Sony’s mini-joystick (or you might call it a disk-pad) navigation control.   To work the min-joystick just rock it up down left or right for the equivalent of using separate up/down/left/right arrow buttons as found on most control panels.  Also, pressing the mini-joystick straight in, accomplishes the usual Enter button functionality.

This control panel is the same as we’ve seen on many recent Sony projectors.  It works well enough, and is not physically obvious.  Fortunately most users rely almost completely on the remote control, so don’t care.  As a reviewer, I often use the control panels directly (the projectors I’m working with are never ceiling mounted), so I prefer those with a bit more functionality, but that’s simply pointing out something that isn’t really an issue for almost anyone.

Click Image to Enlarge

Sony VPL-HW40ES Inputs and Connectors

The HW40ES may be Sony’s new entry level home theater projector, but it’s still reasonably well endowed, connections an input wise.   We’ll start this tour of the connectors on the left side, from the very back.

First up, recessed, and below the other controls virtually at the back, is the power receptacle.  Above and to the right are the two HDMI inputs.  Note, neither of them support MHL (“mobile HDMI”) which would allow, for example plugging in a Roku stick or perhaps a capable android tablet.   I’m mentioning MHL now, as it’s showing up in many sub $1000 projectors and some above that price.  It’s still rare in the $2000 plus range, but that may not be true in a other 6 months or a year.

But getting back to the HW40ES, next after the pair of HDMI inputs is a DB15 connector labeled as Input A.  This is the usual analog computer input (aka from the old days “a VGA input”), which can handle a computer source, or be used for component video instead.

Of course next over are three color coded RCA jacks – Green, Blue, and Red as the primary component video input.  Note that while most folks today use HDMI, Older home theaters more than 5 or 6 years old were wired with component video cable before HDMI became widely used.

An RJ45 (best known as an Ethernet connector) is next, but it’s there for an external 3D emitter.  This is interesting as Sony doesn’t make a 3D emitter, we looked into this when we reviewed the HW55ES.  Sony apparently OEM’s the emitter from XPAND, and it is available in some parts of the world.  Soon you will be able buy one under the XPAND brand that will work.   We have a lot more info as to what’s going on with the RF for the Sony, in our  Special Features page inside the 3D discussion.

Next is an IR input, and finally, there’s a DB9 connector – which is the usual RS232 serial port, suitable for “old school” command and control of the projector.

Some quick thoughts on MHL

I’m going to ramble about why MHL might make sense in projectors of this class.  Because there really is no downside, only upside, I can tell you that I’ve definitely suggested to companies like Sony, Epson, Optoma, etc, that adding MHL support as a standard feature in the more expensive, more serious home theater projectors would be a smart thing to do.

Just think, if the projector also had some wireless audio out, some people would only need MHL, and not have to wire to wherever satellite/cable boxes and players are.

Still, not having MHL isn’t really a problem.  For example I use Sony Playstations as my primary Blu-ray players.  I can do Netfix and other online content through the PS3’s network, rather than say a Roku stick.  Also since most home projectors lack speakers, to properly implement MHL, the projector really needs to have a digital audio or other audio output so to be able to send the audio to whatever sound system you are using.