Sony VPL-HW40ES Picture Quality Summary
Even right out of the box the VPL-HW40ES’es picture will impress you. The unit Sony provided us, after Mike reset it to all its default settings looked almost dead on in terms of color accuracy.
We found the Sony to be one of the sharpest images, with a good sense of detail (whether real or dynamically enhanced). Reality Creation is the best of the dynamic detail enhancement controls we’ve worked with.
Unlike the more expensive HW55ES, though, we did find that when using Reality Creation – on its modest default setting of 20 (out of 100) that it tended to up the image noise you can see in close-ups of faces. A lower setting of 10 offers only minor improvement and turning Reality Creation off, pretty much solves the noise which causes those facial close-ups to be a bit hard looking. For everything else a setting of 20 works very well. Fiddle with it, watch it the way you like it.
Very good, but not exceptional blacks, image is intentionally overexposed
Regarding black levels: On mixed scenes in terms of brightness the HW40ES does very well, no question. It comes down to this, it is those pesky dark scenes, where those other two projectors are a cut above. Remember not only do most movies have some dark scenes, some have lots of them. Even night time content on HDTV, especially picture quality oriented programming such as Discovery HD, SciFy HD, etc., have plenty of those dark scenes.
Overexposed Bond night train scene. Very good black levels for the price, but not the best.
If there’s one relatively serious weakness to the Picture Quality, it is the black level performance. Mind you it’s not bad at all. The VPL-HW40ES holds its own with DLP projectors like the Optoma HD91 and the BenQ W7500, and is far better than less expensive projectors like the BenQ W1070 or W1500, as well as any of the lower priced 3LCD projectors.
But the lack of the iris leaves the HW40ES significantly short of what I consider my two favorite projectors under $3500: The Sony HW55ES and the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB. Both offer significantly better black levels and with them, a truly superior picture on very dark scenes.
Sony VPL-HW40ES Projector - The Bottom Line
Sony’s HW40ES is the first high quality LCoS based projector to grace the homes of projector enthusiasts for under $2500, unless, of course you buy a used projector. It is a refined product with only a reasonable set of limitations compared to its big brother, the HW55ES. If the HW40ES fits your budget perfectly it’s one of the best you can consider. If, on the other hand, your budget has an extra $1000 or so in it, I do favor the HW55ES as a step up, where it counts. As to other good projectors out there, check out our four way shoot out, taking on the BenQ W7500, Epson Home Cinema 5030UB and Optoma HD91.
Everything adds up to giving the Sony VPL-HW40ES one of our Hot Product Awards: Excellent color, very good black level performance, very good dark shadow detail, great out of the box color accuracy, full calibration controls, 3D capable, and plenty of brightness – all at a very reasonable price!
This Sony VPL-HW40ES projector definitely belongs on most people’s short list if it is in their price range!