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Sony VPL-HW45ES Projector: Summary

Posted on August 27, 2016 by Art Feierman
SONY VPL-HW45ES HOME THEATER PROJECTOR:  SUMMARY PAGE 1 The VPL-HW45ES is only slightly improved over the older HW40ES, but it sells for 20% less. That is, in the US, $500 less at $1999.  And that alone, folks, makes it a much better value that its predecessor.
Hot Product Award graphic

This is our top regular award for projectors. In addition we offer additional awards in our special reports

There are no major changes, other than the price, and that Sony has gotten rid of a lot of "legacy" inputs (such as analog computer, composite video, etc.) instead relying primarily on its two HDMI inputs. That's OK, that will work for most folks, and for the rest, a good switching AV receiver will handle "gobs" of different types of inputs. The VPL-HW45ES easily earned one of our  Hot Product Awards.

Take your pick: The $1999 list price Sony VPL-HW45ES is offered in white or black finishes

I am pleased to report as I publish this review today, that the Sony VPL-HW45ES also is receiving one of our top awards, from our new 2016 Best Home Theater Projectors Report, (which as I write this, is also being completed). The report will be published in sections starting just a couple days after this review goes live. In our report, the VPL-HW45ES competes in our $1000 - $2000 "Class." Compete may be the wrong word. How about instead:  The VPL-HW45ES Wins our Best In Class - Under $2000 - which goes to the best overall performance. We also give out  Best Value Proposition awards in most classes.
Best in Class: Performance Award for Projectors $1000-2000

Best in Class: Performance Award for Projectors $1000-2000

This summary page will bring together much that is covered within the full review, so should be useful for those of you who just want the "big picture" view for now, without all those pesky details.

The HW45ES Picture - and the Competition

The HW45ES has excellent color right out of the box, so good in its best modes, that one could say it looks as good "out of the box" as many competitors hope to look, after a good calibration.   That's great news for many hard core enthusiasts who don't have their own calibration gear, and who aren't planning to spend hundreds of dollars for a calibration.

But its even better news for the "average" home theater projector consumer, because few would calibrate a sub-$2000 projector, which means by having great color to start, they are maximizing the value.

As we have seen in recent years, across the Sony home theater projector line-up, skin tones are particularly excellent, especially after the really minor changes to the grayscale balance as listed on the calibration page.

True, this projector can't match the black level performance found in the best several projectors that are in the $2000 to $4000 range (including, of course, the Sony HW65ES), and it can't match a couple of Optoma projectors that cost a few hundred less than this Sony either, but at least in the case of the Optoma competition, The Sony's color and well balanced gamma and contrast, are a whole lot more natural looking than the Optomas that I'm thinking of.

I rarely prefer a projector with less great black levels, but by comparison to the Sony, the Optoma picture is just too "rough around the edges," while the Sony serves up an elegant picture by comparison.

Sony VPL-HW45ES Picture Examples

It's the combination of the various elements though, where this Sony stands out, creating a projector with a very natural look and feel to the picture.

For years the predecessors of the HW45ES were priced higher, and competed with a pretty much completely different group of projectors.

Mind you DLP projectors are single chip, so no alignment issues due to having 3 panels (or chips), so to some degree, this Sony is using image processing to put back some native sharpness lost by the usual micro mis-alignment.

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Sony HW45ES Brightness

2D Brightness:  With around 1300 lumens calibrated, this Sony is very nicely bright for a "serious" projector for a dedicated home theater.  What's a serious projector?  One an enthusiast will love, which in this case, means at least really good picture quality, including reasonably accurate color, and respectable black level performance.

Maximum brightness: When you need every last lumen, the VPL-HW65ES can put out almost 1800 lumens, but with really good color at  over 1500 lumens.  Between Bright Cinema and Bright TV, Bright Cinema measures brighter, but has less pop - that is, a touch more natural.  Bright TV despite the lower lumens has other settings going for it, that make it slightly favored when dealing with a chunk of ambient light.

The MEDIA ROOM:  Or a well planned living room, den, family room - one with respectable control of ambient light, and likely very good to excellent control in the evenings, is where you need some additional brightness, compared to the proverbial man "cave."

This Sony is not what I define as a Bright Room projector.  For the most part, I think of those with at least 3000, maybe 4000 lumens or more.  Those projectors can do respectable work in most rooms that an LCDTV works well in.

So, don't plan on putting this Sony in a room that is by definition almost always moderately to pretty bright. Besides, when you have huge amounts of ambient light that tends to destroy the more subtle advantages of an excellent projector such as this one, in terms of color handling, and more.

3D Brightness

All those lumens also provide reasonable brightness when viewing 3D.  On a typical 100" diagonal screen you get reasonable brightness, more than many projectors can say.  At my full 124" diagonal screen size, 3D is a bit on the dim side.  Most of us hard core 3D fans will be ok with that size (but wishing for more brightness).  But I have other friends who I can count on saying - if I tried to show them a movie in 3D at the full 124" diagonal, that they would not want to watch it in 3D because of the brightness. (Picky, Picky!)

They don't know what they are missing!

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