Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-HW45ES Projector Review – Performance 1

SONY VPL-HW45ES PROJECTOR – PERFORMANCE 1: Brightness/Color Temp (Pre- and Post-Calibration), Affect of Lens Position, Eco mode, on Brightness

Sony VPL-HW45ES Brightness

Sony VPL-HW45ES Projector – Brightness by Mode, Mid-zoom (at 100 IRE)
Mode Brightness (Lumens) Color Temp at 100 IRE
Reference 1385 6623
TV 1674 7935
Cinema Film 1 1354 6625
Cinema Film 2 1354 6625
Game 1710 7260
Photo 1393 6008
Bright Cinema 1674 7207
Bright TV 1460 7817
User 1392 6616

Overall, brightness of the HW45ES is measuring a few percent below the older HW40ES.  Since they are supposed to be similarly bright, we attribute that more to variations in gear, as explained below.

No matter, this is your basic light canon – an expression I use for projectors capable of 1500 lumens with at least respectable color.  Remember, our measurements are with the zoom at mid-point, so there are extra lumens when the lens is set to full wide angle (closest placement).  The HW45ES pretty much just makes the cut, but that translates into:

  • Plenty of brightness for larger screens (up to 150″ diagonal) for standard 1080i, 1080p viewing
  • Good brightness for 3D – 100″ diagonal provides acceptable brightness, while 120″ diagonal 3D with a typical screen is likely going to be on the dim side, but watchable by most.

Eric measured each of the modes, measuring lumens, and the color temperature at 100 IRE (white) as seen in the chart above.  As mentioned, Eric is our new calibrator, replacing Mike who calibrated the home theater projectors we reviewed for almost a decade. I’m mentioning this, as that means the gear has changed.  Seems every time  that happens, we find our measurements changing as well.  Last time Mike had replaced all his gear with newer gear, we found that the new stuff was measuring over 10% higher than the old gear (which in turn was bringing up results typically about 6% below other reviewers.  

Now our first two passes with Eric’s signal generator, etc., are measuring more than 13% below Mike’s, so here’s how we are handling:  The numbers in this review started out with Eric’s measurements, but have been increased by almost 11%.  That 11% reflects the difference between his gear and my own light meter. My meter in turn is about 3% below what Mike’s was. By adjusting to my meter (Ron uses the same meter), we’re close enough to be pretty consistent.   Eric is getting a new meter like mine, so we’re “all on the same page.” But that’s not sorted out yet.   These reported numbers are close enough – for relative comparisons with other projectors reviewed in the last 2-3 years.  As you can see, most of the modes are similar in brightness, well, within about three hundred lumens – about 20%.  We measure, as noted, with the zoom lens set to mid-point.  Interestingly the Sony’s optics produce almost as many lumens at mid-point as in full wide angle.  Most projectors with similar lenses get an extra 10 to 15% more brightness, an advantage if its convenient to mount your projector relatively close.

Here (below) is a sampling of the color temperature range across different brightness levels, pre calibration, for Reference mode, which we noted is essentially the same as Cinema Film 1 and User.  It exhibits a slight shift from a touch of extra warmth in the darker ranges to a just about on the money in the brighter ranges.

Reference Mode – Pre Calibration – different IRE levels – full lamp
IRE Color Temp
100 6623K
80 6512K
50 6482K
30 6303K

Effect of Lens Zoom on Brightness


Effect of zoom setting on lumen output (Game mode):
Zoom out 1756
Mid-zoom 1710
Zoom in 1593

This table above shows the effect of the lenses zoom on brightness.  Switching from mid-zoom to full wide angle (the projector placed as close as possible to the screen) only adds about 3% more brightness.  Going to full telephoto drops brightness about 7% from mid-point and almost exactly 10% from wide angle.

I must admit, having a 1.6:1 zoom that only loses 10% brightness from wide angle to telephoto, is pretty rare. The optics may suffer from a bit too much blooming, but Sony’s attention to brightness through the zoom range, is plus for anyone who wants to place close to as far back as they can.  Kudos for that!  The amount of brightness change from wide to telephoto is a lot less than on most projectors with zooms with similar adjustment to this 1.6:1 lens.

Sony VPL-HW45ES Brightness: Calibrated - Reference vs Bright Cinema

Color Temp over IRE Range (Post calibration):
Reference/User Bright Cinema
20 IRE 6332K 6385K
30 IRE 6438K 6455K
40 IRE 6555K 6522K
50 IRE 6518K 6548K
60 IRE 6523K 6523K
70 IRE 6464K 6523K
80 IRE 6439K 6467K
90 IRE 6483K 6431K
100 IRE 6486K 6400K
Average gamma 2.17 2.01

After adjusting for meter variation, post calibration brightness (based on Reference mode)  measured 1335 lumens.   Not surprising, Eric’s calibration of Bright Cinema effectively reduced it’s brightness to being essentially identical to calibrated Reference.  Bright Cinema is still more saturated, and has a lower default gamma, characteristics desired in a mode designed for dealing with more than minimal ambient light.

We did not calibrate low power mode, but it should work out to less than 1000 lumens calibrated in Low lamp.   As discussed below, the color temp balance in Eco is not the same as at full power.  Therefore, while this Sony VPL-HW45ES was relatively close to perfect out of the box in terms of color, that is definitely not the case for the Sony’s Eco mode.

Sony VPL-HW45ES Brightness: Calibrated, Eco-mode

Brightness (Game mode) – Full power vs.  Eco
High Power 1711 lumens
Low (eco) Power 1049 lumens

To drop the projector into Low Power aka “eco-mode” the setting is found in Cinema Black Pro, on the main menu.  The choices are simple:  High, and Low.

Switching to Low reduced brightness by between 38 and 39%, more than most and consistent with the older HW45ES.  Sometimes when we see projectors dropping down over 35% we find lamp flicker to be more common.  I briefly detected some flicker (when pausing for a photo), but the flicker was so slight, that it wasn’t noticeable when viewing the movie.

The HW45ES, by virtue of only minor improvements, compared to its predecessor, but thanks to a 20% lower price, is a rather awesome projector for the money.  In the past, I felt that for an extra $1000 the step up from HW40ES to HW55ES was worth the difference.  Now with the HW45ES at a lower price, and the HW65ES more expensive than the HW55ES, the official spread has doubled to $2000.  I now consider the HW45ES, overall, the better value compared to the HW65ES, although, people will choose them for different strengths, and budgets.

As noted, HW45ES claims a very impressive 6000 hours in “Eco-mode” (aka Low lamp), but things start getting expensive if running the projector at full power.  Sony hasn’t shared a full lamp rating, but o the older one it was 2000 hours, so let’s assume 2500 hours.  Sony has a list price for their lamp, at $369.  A little more than some competitors, less than a few others.  Some competitors are as inexpensive as $199.

A reminder:  Lamp based projectors do not calibrate the same in full power and eco-modes.  Therefore, in theory, if you plan to switch back and forth, you would want both calibrated.  We don’t do that, but I can tell you Eric reports from when he was calibrating the VPL-HW45ES,  that the out of the box color, grayscale, etc., definitely isn’t as good in “eco-mode” as at full lamp. Since the Sony is relatively quiet, we definitely favor calibrating at full power, unless your screen is very small, or you are seriously fan noise adverse.  If you are calibrating, try to have at least 100 hours on your lamp, because lamps shift color (and brightness) a fair amount over the first hundred – or couple hundred, hours.