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Sony BRAVIA VPL-HW15 Projector Sony BRAVIA VPL-HW15
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Street Price: n/a
Contrast:60,000:1
Lumens:1000
Weight: 22.0 lbs
Resolution:1920x1080
Aspect Ratio:16:9
Technology:SXRD
Lens:1.51x manual
Lens Shift:H + V
Lamp Life:n/a
Lamp Cost:n/a
Warranty:2 year
Connectors:  S-Video, Composite, RGB (x2), HDMI (x2), RS232
Video Formats:  480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p/60, 1080p/24, 1080p/50, 576i, 576p

Sony BRAVIA VPL-HW15
1080p SXRD Home Theater Projector

Bill Livolsi, September 9, 2009

Sony's newest projector, the Sony HW15, was just announced today at the CEDIA expo. This 1080p SXRD projector, which is Sony's implementation of LCOS, features a 60,000:1 contrast ratio, whisper-quiet operation, and a flexible 1.6:1 zoom lens with vertical and horizontal shift. Most importantly, it has a great picture, with bright highlights, inky deep blacks, and vibrant color.

The HW15 succeeds Sony's HW10, which we reviewed in November of last year. While the spec sheets look similar, the HW15 does have some improvements which should make it even more attractive to the home theater enthusiast. Most notably, brightness has been increased in Cinema mode by 20%, on/off contrast has been improved with deeper blacks and brighter highlights, and the price has been lowered, making it the least expensive 1080p LCOS projector ever released. You can expect to find the HW15 very soon for $3000 retail.

Advantages

Lumen output. The HW15 is rated at 1,000 lumens, as was its predecessor, the HW10. In Cinema mode, using high lamp and the lens's widest angle setting, our test sample measured 830 ANSI lumens. This is a modest boost from the HW10, which already had a very bright Cinema mode at 697 lumens. This gives the HW15 one of the brightest Cinema modes we've seen, and makes it a versatile, flexible projector for use in almost any viewing environment.

Low lamp mode introduces a significant drop of 30%, so Cinema mode is reduced to 575 lumens. This setting still produces enough light for a 150" screen in a light-controlled room. If you find high lamp mode to be too bright for your room, which is quite likely if you have good light control, low lamp mode can help curtail lumen output to a more reasonable level.

The HW15, like the HW10, has a 1.6:1 manual zoom lens. This lens transmits the maximum amount of light when using the wide angle setting, or the largest possible image at a given distance. Using the telephoto end of the zoom lens introduces a drop in lumen output of 22%. In a worst-case scenario, when using Cinema mode with the low lamp setting and the telephoto end of the zoom lens, the HW15 measures 443 lumens. This is still more than enough light for a 120" diagonal 16:9 screen in a light-controlled room, so the bottom line on the HW15 is that it's bright enough for just about any traditional home theater application. The high maximum light output also means you could use the projector to watch HD sports or play video games with the room lights turned up and still have a fairly pleasant picture.

Contrast. The HW15 is rated at 60,000:1 on/off contrast, while the HW10 is rated 30,000:1. There is indeed an increase in apparent contrast when compared to the older model, but it does not appear to be two-fold. Even though there has been a clear increase in on/off contrast, ANSI contrast is about the same. The HW10 measured 416:1, which is the highest ANSI contrast we've measured on any LCOS projector, while the HW15 measured 409:1. This is functionally irrelevant, and one can say that the HW10 and HW15 have identical ANSI contrast.

The projector's auto iris is effective, and significantly boosts on/off contrast in typical use. However, its adjustments can sometimes be seen with the naked eye, and it is one of those phenomena that, once seen, cannot be unseen. If the action of the auto-iris bothers you, the automatic adjustment can be disabled, and it can then be adjusted manually on a scale from 0 to 100. Closing the iris completely reduces lumen output by 87%, so it is an effective way to curtail lumen output if you are using low lamp mode and still find the image too bright for your liking.

Color. The HW15 has fairly accurate color straight out of the box. The "Medium" color temperature setting tracked closer to the ideal 6500 Kelvin white balance than the default "Warm." For videophiles, the HW15 includes several custom color temperature settings which can be fine-tuned to your specific preferences and saved. Each custom setting has one of the existing presets as a baseline, so (for example) you can start from "Medium" color temperature and work towards your goal. This makes adjusting color balance much less arduous. The controls are intuitive and responsive, so tuning the HW15 is a snap. When placed next to the Samsung A900, which has reference-quality color when calibrated correctly, it was often difficult to see a difference between the two projectors in terms of color accuracy. For a projector at its price point, the Sony HW15 does an excellent job.

No visible pixelation. The HW15 has no visible pixelation - not even a hint. Even when standing with your nose to the screen, it is difficult to discern any sort of inter-pixel gap or screen door effect. This inherent smoothness makes the HW15 a good choice for very large image sizes, as the audience will not see any pixelation. While 1080p projectors usually have images which are nearly free of pixelation, the HW15 is outstanding even among its peers.

Placement Flexibility. The HW15 has a 1.6:1 manual zoom lens with vertical and horizontal lens shift, making it simple to install and position. Horizontal lens shift has a range of 1.6 screen widths (a shift of 30% in either direction), while vertical shift allows for a total range of two image heights. This allows the image to be placed completely above or completely below the centerline of the lens, making it easy to mount the projector on a coffee table, rear shelf, or ceiling mount. One thing to note is that the extreme edges of the vertical and horizontal shift cannot be used simultaneously. Think of the lens shift range as an oval, rather than a rectangle -- the more horizontal shift you use, the less vertical you can apply, and vice versa.

Quiet Operation. Fan noise on the HW15 is almost nonexistent. The projector only produces 22dB of audible noise in high lamp mode, and even less in low lamp. Even using high altitude mode, the projector did not get loud enough to engage the sensor on our sound pressure level meter. Unless you position the projector directly next to your ear, chances are very good that you'll never hear it in operation.

Inexpensive. At $3000, the HW15 is the lowest-cost 1080p LCOS machine yet released. This new price point opens up the benefits of LCOS performance (excellent black level, no visible pixelation, and extra-quiet operation) to many more consumers who may have previously been too budget-conscious to consider the technology.

Panel alignment feature. One of the little-acknowledged truths of projectors is that any multi-panel light engine may be susceptible to alignment problems. LCOS, LCD, and 3-chip DLP projectors, each of which use three panels to create an image, can sometimes have issues with imperfect alignment, resulting in color shift across part or all of the image. The easiest way to check alignment is to display a white-on-black crosshatch pattern and inspect the individual bright lines. If you see any colored pixels around the edges of the white pixels, this could be an alignment problem.

With most projectors, there is no way to fix this issue - you can either send it back to the manufacturer and hope that it's covered under warranty, or you can buy a new projector and hope for the best. The HW15, though, has a feature which allows the user to adjust the alignment of the LCOS panels, which should correct for any mild panel misalignment issues you come across.

Limitations

No frame interpolation. Frame interpolation is a feature of interest to many people these days. Some people enjoy the reduction of judder associated with 24p film content, while others feel that it detracts from the "purity" of the image or that it looks artificial. Personally, I like to keep my options open, so I appreciate it when a projector includes an optional frame interpolation system, even if I do not plan to use it myself. The HW15 does not offer this, so if you want your next projector to incorporate such a feature, you're out of luck.

Lens not powered. The HW15 has a manual zoom and focus lens, which makes it more difficult to adjust the projector. 1080p projectors represent the pinnacle of home theater, and bring an exceptional amount of detail and clarity to the screen. Other projectors in this price range often have powered zoom/focus lenses, which make it much easier to obtain perfect focus.

Cumbersome remote. The HW15 uses a larger remote control than the HW10 did. The remote has all of the typical adjustments, as well as some odd choices, such as brightness and contrast. These seem like the type of controls which, once adjusted, one would want to avoid accidentally changing; direct-access buttons on the remote seem counterproductive. Furthermore, the remote uses a bright blue backlight which can momentarily ruin your vision if you're not careful.

BRAVIA Sync. The HW15 has a feature known as BRAVIA sync, which allows HDMI devices to "talk" to one another. We discovered this when we turned off the power to the HW15 and found that our Panasonic Blu-Ray player had shut itself down as well. It turns out that we had inadvertently discovered BRAVIA Sync, and we can independently confirm that it functions quite well, even with non-Sony devices. This is more of a quirk than a limitation, and many people might even think of it as an advantage. The only reason we're listing it as a disadvantage is that we can't seem to find a way to turn it off.

Conclusion

Sony's new HW15 is their lowest-priced 1080p projector yet released. Despite the price, Sony has made few compromises regarding image quality and feature set. The HW15 improves upon the HW10 in several ways. It brings the best features of LCOS, like a silky-smooth film-like picture, deep black levels, and silent operation down to a price point that's accessible to more consumers.

Last year, in reference to the Sony HW10, we said it was "easily the finest projector from Sony we've yet seen." This year, we find ourselves in the pleasant position of having to make such a declaration once again. Sony have truly outdone themselves, taking a great projector and making it better - brighter in cinema mode, higher in contrast, and more accurate in its representation of color. It does all of these things, and yet manages to cost less than the HW10 did at launch. We give the Sony VPL-HW15 our Highly Rated award without reservation.

Reader Comments(26 comments)

Posted Dec 3, 2014 8:11:28 PM

By aaron

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THE convergence tool is a gift from the gods...

Posted Feb 20, 2012 9:37:03 AM

By Damian

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Please confirm how and what is need to make this 3d? Also does anyone have any calibration for this? Thanks

Posted Jan 22, 2012 11:41:10 AM

By ashksr

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Sony HW 15 is capable of projecting 3D

Posted Jun 28, 2010 12:54:55 PM

By Kocal

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I would like to know if I used a diagonally 130``screen would I lose picture clarity and high definition image output on this machine.

Posted Jun 24, 2010 3:20:57 AM

By Shaun Leonard.

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I've just bought one of these, and had the devil's own getting the grey scale right. The So called "medium" colour temprature was, on mine at least, hardly anything like it, the image being sepia brown tinted, rather than a neutral grey scale. The "low" temp was obviously worse, and the high temp a strange surreal magenta blue tint. I do not know if they are all like that or not. I'd like to see projector central examine grey scale issues a lot more closely. If one projects a black and white image, then it should be exactly that, not sepia coloured or blue tinted in any way at all. Projector reviewers seem to be obsessed with black levels, but totally unconcerned with grey scale, but unless this is correct it is impossible to create a colour image of any accuracy.

Why not show some samples of black and white films or still photos in your reviews so we can get an impression of how accurate the projector's grey scale really is, so we can have some confidence in the colour image built on the top of that ?

Just about every projector I've seen/owned has rubbish default greyscales. A digital neutral test sample still picture is easy to create. Scan in a photograph and use an art package to completely desaturate the colours, or convert to 256 greys and back again to remove any bias caused by the scanner. On some units turning the "color" control to 0 should remove any bias too. Such pictures certainly should not be sepia coloured!!

This unit does produce some fantastic pictures however, once set up.

Posted Apr 18, 2010 5:37:22 PM

By charles

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Ernie,

Yes Sony makes some very good products but their support only can read the manual. For you HW-15 projector there should be a minimum and maximum throw distance from the projector to the screen. There are charts in the manual. Off the top of my head it seems like around 15' would be OK but best to check the manual. Make sure you use the correct chart as there is one for 4:3 screens and 16:9 screens. First you look up the screen size and the chart will show the maximum and minimum distances the projector can be placed from the screen.

Charles

Posted Mar 31, 2010 5:09:24 PM

By David Chaiton

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At the outset I apologize because I am not technically minded and my comments may therefore be wholly appropriate, even stupid. However, taking that risk in the hope that someone out there knows what I'm talking about, I own a Sony VP Vwl 100 (I may have that model wrong but I'll describe it) about 4 years old. It gets average use and currently has 1700 hours approx. on its 2nd lens. This was marketed, along with the much more expensive model 0004 sxrd as the cheaper of the 2 in the class of projectors thus described. I believe I paid about $6500 for it. It was a 1080p projector and worked just great, that is until recently, when I noticed that the convergence was out of whack. I called my local serviceman, who has ISF training, to determine the problem. He couldn't find any adjustment for convergence so instead of poking around, he took it to Sony Canada. 2 days later they told me that this model has some sort of fixed box to control convergence, that mine was "broken" and would cost $5500 plus labour to replace! That's about what I paid for the whole projector when it was new! I couldn't believe it. On the subsequent visit, the manager agreed to reduce the parts fee to $2500. Although anyone would appreciate the savings, it reinforces the difficulty I have in believing that any part should or does cost nearly as much as the machine. It''s becoming clear, now that I have read this article and the mention of a number of new Sony projectors from last year and this, that this is the strategy that Sony has adopted to rid themselves of excess inventory in order to sell new equipment each year. Who would pay that much for a convergence control rather than just a little more for an entirely new, and improved, machine? This is a rip-off! Has anyone experienced something like this before? Fortunately, I'm a lawyer and I think I would rather enjoy doing battle with that group of corporate crooks.

Posted Feb 24, 2010 10:04:37 PM

By rnie Katler

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Very helpful review of the Sony Bravia HW15. I have a 106" diagonal Da-Lite Cinema Vision screen(1.3 gain) My theater room from screen to back wall is 16" 6" and if I mounted the projector near the back wall my throw distance would be about 15'. I can mount behind the rear wall and project through a portal and that would add another 18-20" AND it is already pre-wired in that room with an HDMI cable(we just finished a 5 year remodel). I am trying to find out which one of the two distances would be the best. Sony was not helpful when I called. Thanks in advance, Ernie

Posted Feb 13, 2010 2:05:02 PM

By jon hoffman

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i have an anamorphic lens from my nec 1100. does this unit have an amamorphic seetting like the mitsu. hc 6800 does so i could use my lens?

Posted Feb 6, 2010 10:51:37 AM

By tsviking

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Thinking about the purchase of a new projector. Wondering if the HW15 is enough of an upgrade to the VW50 I currently own to merit the purchase.

Posted Jan 27, 2010 9:07:49 AM

By janice Fenk

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I am also wondering if the Sony HW15 can project 3D. Any info is appreciated!

Posted Jan 15, 2010 9:03:13 PM

By Mohan

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Hi, Can we connect Cable TV to this and watch TV programmes? Does it have PIP? ay link for its spec? -mohan

Posted Dec 1, 2009 2:08:03 PM

By darlene

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Liked your review very much except that I need to know how this Sony VPL-HW15 compares specifically to the Mitsubishi HC7000. Which one to rate higher, why and which will be valued more (hold its value) a few years from now? THANKS for your response. Darlene

Posted Nov 10, 2009 3:39:39 PM

By Crescent DeCiantis

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Why is there no star rating for this projector? How does it compare to the JVC rs25 especially for shadow detail?

Posted Oct 25, 2009 11:31:59 PM

By FP Guy

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Well Doniz, this projector is for people who have fixed screens and just have to dial it in and bingo your good to go. If you want the auto feature you will have to fork over some more $$ for the VPL-VW85. ;)

Posted Oct 7, 2009 8:33:11 AM

By Chris PC

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Looks good. I liked the HW10 when I saw it in action, but when I was shopping for one, the price in Canada jumped from x with a free Blu-Ray player in 2008 to 1.34x and no free Blu-Ray player in 2009...so, no purchase by me. Hopefully the new lower MSRP will translate to a selling price that is more realistic up here.

You state the measured ANSI contrast, and mention the ON/OFF contrast but no mention of measurements for ON/OFF or black level. Did you measure the ON/OFF and black level of the HW15? How do they compare with the HW10?

Posted Oct 4, 2009 8:17:34 AM

By logan ross

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could you identify what screen and screen size you used for this review?

Posted Sep 24, 2009 5:59:08 AM

By Vic

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I have the same question...if we are about to get a new 1080P projector, what is the best option: Panasonic AE3000U or Sony BRAVIA VPL-HW15? I have noticed that Panasonic AE3000U is now cheaper +/- $2,300 USD...?

Posted Sep 18, 2009 11:25:29 AM

By the count

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@AMD since it does't have a powered lens, it won't provide anamorphic mode. admittedly, that feature would make this machine way more interesting.

Posted Sep 17, 2009 10:18:36 AM

By Nick

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I am also interested in how it compares to the Panasonic AE3000U.

Posted Sep 14, 2009 4:14:37 PM

By Mr. Bill

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I am looking to purchase a front projector. I am looking to spend about $2000, I was looking at the Mitsubishi HC3800, is this a good projector ? I will be using either a 92 or 100inch screen. Looking for recommendations for projector, screen, receiver and speakers. Thanks in advance.

Posted Sep 14, 2009 8:09:48 AM

By AMD

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The review does not comment about on board anamorphic mode. I read in another review that is does not have anamorphic mode and one would need to external video processor to achieve that. Is that true?

Posted Sep 12, 2009 10:02:40 PM

By Doniz

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Ecellent point, Klaus! Is this sucker sharp or not all that sharp?

Too bad about the MANUAL ZOOM & FOCUS, that killed it for me right there. We screen all sorts of video formats and aspect ratios all day (post & edit), and there is no way I want someone to physically have to climb to the PJ to do this. No way.

Posted Sep 11, 2009 4:06:59 AM

By Steven

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How does it compare to the Panasonic AE3000U?

Posted Sep 10, 2009 2:40:06 AM

By Klaus

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I wonder why you didn't mention sharpness as you do on most other projectors. This is important, knowing that it was the one weakness of the HW10 that kept most videophiles from purchasing it.

Greets, Klaus

Posted Sep 9, 2009 7:11:48 PM

By Dipankar Demazumder

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Dear Sir, I really enjoy reading your articles They are usually very analytically informative. I have one question regardung this Sony HW15. Does this Sony HW 15 is capable of projecting 3D images and/or movies?

Sincerely Dipankar

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