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Sony VPL-HW40ES Projector Sony VPL-HW40ES
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Street Price: $2,499
3D: Full HD 3D
Lumens:1700
Weight: 22.1 lbs
Resolution:1920x1080
Aspect Ratio:16:9
Technology:SXRD
Lens:1.6x manual
Lens Shift:H + V
Lamp Life:2,000 Hrs
5,000 (eco)
Lamp Cost:n/a
Warranty:3 year
Connectors:  Component, RGB, HDMI (x2), RS232
Video Formats:  480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p/60, 1080p/24, 1080p/50

Sony VPL-HW40ES
1080p SXRD Projector Review

Bill Livolsi, June 13, 2014

Sony has been making high-quality home theater projectors for years. Sony's SXRD technology, which is their implementation of LCoS, produces projectors with high contrast ratios and impressive HD performance. Until now, though, those projectors have all carried price tags of at least $3000, putting them out of reach for many potential buyers.

Sony has just released the VPL-HW40ES, a 1080p SXRD home theater projector. At $2,499, it is the most affordable Sony home theater projector on record. It contains many of the best-loved features of more expensive Sony home theater machines, such as Reality Creation, MotionFlow, and a 1.6:1 zoom lens with H/V lens shift. It makes HD film and video look beautiful. And despite the lack of an automatic iris, contrast and dynamic range on the HW40ES are neck and neck with its competition.

Update 6/16/14: Added missing information on HW40ES lens shift range.

The Viewing Experience

The first time you turn it on, the HW40ES starts up in Cinema Film 1 mode. Cinema Film 1 looks great, especially for such a bright image mode, and is suitable for film and video when ambient light is present. But at just over 1400 lumens, Cinema Film 1 could light up a 160" diagonal 1.0 gain screen at over 16 foot Lamberts, so it's not meant for home theater at normal screen sizes.

It's not difficult to calibrate Cinema Film 1, but those who want to, in the words of the great huckster Ron Popeil, "set it and forget it" can use Reference mode. Reference mode gives you a picture that hews close to the Rec. 709 color gamut and a smooth, even 6500K grayscale at its factory settings, without any work on your part. On our test sample, Reference mode is still over 1100 lumens, so you give up some light output compared to Cinema Film 1 but get a more accurate picture.

The HW40's picture stands out due to the sheer amount of detail it includes. This is at least partially due to Sony's Reality Creation system, a feature we last saw on their VW600ES 4K projector. And while detail enhancement systems are nothing new, Sony's system is one of the best available. It helps take an already-sharp projector like the HW40ES and turn it into something more.

Review Contents: The Viewing Experience Setup and Configuration Key Features Performance
  Limitations Shootout vs Epson 5030

Reader Comments(26 comments)

Posted Dec 16, 2014 5:32:23 PM

By Myron Oleson

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We have a 155" diagonal screen with the projector on a rear shelf above the seating area. The throw distance is 23'. It is a light controlled dedicated theater. Will the Sony have enough horsepower to light up my screen? Currently using an 8 year old Panasonic PT-AX100U.

Posted Dec 11, 2014 12:08:29 PM

By Evan Powell, Editor

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Mike -- if you do not use lens shift, then the projector would need to be placed at the same height as the center of the screen. Typically that is not practical since people don't want a projector hanging in the middle of the room. Lens shift allows the projector to be mounted closer to the ceiling, and the image is directed downward onto the screen. There is very little compromise of the image when you do that. We normally try to avoid using keystone adjustments, but lens shift is well worth it.

Posted Dec 11, 2014 11:18:09 AM

By mike

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if I want to ceiling mount the projector, such that I do not need to use keystone or lens shift, what is the vertical offset from lens center for 133" screen ?

Posted Dec 9, 2014 6:39:23 AM

By Zelenycaj

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Yes, i had the same (trapezoid) problem: projector was slightly tilted. I corrected its position and now no trapezoid tragedy:)

Posted Dec 8, 2014 12:58:16 PM

By Bill Livolsi

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Terry and paul - A trapezoidal image indicates that the system is not perfectly square. Either your projector or your screen is tilted and must be corrected.

DO NOT use keystone correction, as this will hide the issue but also ruin the 1:1 pixel match for 1080p content, resulting in less detail and worse performance.

Posted Dec 5, 2014 12:42:24 AM

By paul

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I have the same problem as Terry with the trapezoid effect. My HT setup is almost identical to Terry's.Very disappointed atm.

Posted Nov 29, 2014 5:42:38 PM

By Tim from Brisbane

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Hi Terry, just a quick question, you have got your projector mounted upside down and in ceiling mode, right? Cheers, Tim

Posted Nov 23, 2014 11:08:43 AM

By Terry

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I've mounted this projector from the ceiling and about 12.5 feet from the 110" screen. I've noticed that the picture displays as a trapezoid. No problem, on my previous projector I configured the Keystone to correct. While the Sony has a V-Keystone adjustment, it barely makes a difference. I maxed out the setting to -30 and the picture is still a severe trapezoid. I went out and purchased a 2' projector mount pole extension which helped a little but still not happy with the trapezoid. Very upset.

Posted Oct 26, 2014 4:18:54 AM

By John Frangos

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I am in the market to replace my 5 year old Infocus X10 and have come down to the BenQ 7500, the Epson 5030 and the Sony 40ES. I recently previewed the BenQ but was frankly disappointed in its ability with dark scenes (Deathly Hallows-Part II which is a dark movie). I expect to preview the SONY in the next few weeks. My current setup is a light controlled room in which the lens is about 17.5 feet away from an 110" Da-Lite HCCV gray screen with 1.1 gain. Any comments on my setup and screen with this projector?

Posted Oct 10, 2014 9:55:19 PM

By Olivier

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Thanks for this great review. One quick question though. What is the latest firmware for the Epson and where can I download it?

Posted Oct 7, 2014 4:53:36 PM

By Xidane

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i had a vplhw30es for last years, I sold it and getting a sony vplhw40es now, I dont want to pay 1000 more for 55es, i rather save money and get a new 4k next year. i love sony product black level on sony 40es is awsome i am not a big fan of auto iris some how it reduces little details. if you are buying 40es its a really sharp projector.

Posted Oct 7, 2014 1:42:38 PM

By Bruce

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no info about 3D performance / specs? How the glasses sync up, etc? How does it look with 3D video?

Posted Jul 25, 2014 11:28:18 PM

By skater

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For Arun Sharma: I'm sure that the 40 slaughters the Epson 3020 on black levels and screen door effect. The 3010 has moderate SDE and very mediocre black levels, and the 40 is reported to have very good (although not class leading) black levels and very little screen door effect. The 40 is closer in stature with the Epson 5030, which has somewhat better black levels, but more screen door effect and Epson's lower build quality/panel alignment (although an incredible return policy within the first 2 years).

Posted Jul 23, 2014 11:55:12 AM

By paul

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What is the difference between the:

sony vpl hw40es sony vpl hw40esv

Thanks.

Posted Jul 21, 2014 12:02:22 PM

By Samir

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You would need a Home Theater (Audio) system that can accept the hdmi input from Tata Sky or other devices like DVD/apple tv. The output hdmi can be fed to the projector.

Posted Jul 14, 2014 11:21:18 AM

By Bill Livolsi

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Thanks to everyone for reading.

cortexca: This is an option we are aware of, but we did not test. The emitter plugs into the RJ-45 port. I know that Sony sells a compatible emitter, but I'm not sure about compatibility for other brands.

Stephen: the big difference is the iris. You get higher contrast out of the HW50/HW55, but lumen output is reduced.

Posted Jul 12, 2014 9:40:27 PM

By Stephen

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Bill, I am wondering about your opinion on the 40ES vs. 50ES vs. 55ES? Looking at some of the online retailers that sell all 3, the 50ES seems to be about $800 more than the 40ES and the 55ES seems to be another $150 ove the 50ES.

Comparing your reviews, it looks like Cinema Film 1 mode on the 40ES is 1,431 lumens, and on the 50ES it's only 931 lumens. That seems like a HUGE difference in supposedly somewhat similar projectors (ie the 40ES is 55% brighter than the 50ES in the same mode). I didn't see a review from you on the 55ES, but other reviews have put it at close to 1000 lumens, which is in line with the 50ES. I'm just wondering why the big difference in your results, and what the expected differences between the 40ES and 50/55ES should be?

Posted Jul 12, 2014 8:53:25 PM

By Jeremy

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I was wondering if the projector supports picture in picture or has that sort of function? If so are there limits on this; for example it will only work between the two hdmi sources,but not with the other sources etc?

Posted Jul 11, 2014 9:33:01 PM

By Rohan Taid

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Can it be join to dishtv or tatasky

Posted Jul 10, 2014 12:27:42 AM

By cortexca

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Bill, I bought the Sony and can't find any references in the manual or online to how to use an external 3D RF Emitter. Might you know where I could locate guidance on this?

Posted Jul 8, 2014 2:34:24 AM

By Maarten

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any words on noise in the HW40 picture?

i've seen the 40 alongside the 55 and saw quite a lot of digital noise (not sure how to call the phenomenon) while demoing the close up of Sam's face in the new Tron movie, the scene just befor the lightcycle-duel.

The 55 performed flawless here.

Posted Jul 6, 2014 9:19:44 AM

By Cyber

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Does this PJ support Samsung and Panasonic glasses? Thanks!

Posted Jul 3, 2014 1:31:47 PM

By Arun Sharma

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How would you guys compare this to the Epson 3020?

Posted Jun 24, 2014 11:50:22 AM

By DavidK442

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Very enticing to see a Sony projector at this price point. Besides the absent iris and limited user presets, I wonder if there are any other compromises in the HW40ES verses the HW55ES? I hazard a guess that the difference in manufacturing cost is very minimal and that the real price cut comes from Sony's desire to hit a price point; and willingness to slash margins to do so. Can I request an HW40ES but with the $50 upgrade iris option. :)

Posted Jun 16, 2014 9:42:08 AM

By Bill Livolsi

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AV_Integrated: good catch. That information was in an earlier draft but somehow got removed before publication. I've added it to the review.

In short: the 5030UB has a total range of three image heights and two image widths. The HW40ES has a range of 2.4 heights and 1.5 widths. That range is evenly split. Using your hypothetical 50" tall screen, you could shift the image vertically so that the bottom edge of the image is 10" above the centerline of the lens.

3D was tested and we saw less flicker on the 5030UB, but neither projector is terribly flicker-prone. It's just a difference that we thought was worth noting, especially since flicker drives some people absolutely nuts.

Posted Jun 14, 2014 2:43:09 PM

By AV_Integrated

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What is the actual lens shift range that you found? Looking at the review you pretty much leave it as 'anywhere', but that's not really telling much.

Call it a 50" tall screen - how much above the top of the screen can the projector be placed? 10% of screen height? 40%? And, then how far down can it go under the screen? That same 10% or 40%?

I'm a big fan of lens shift in the ease of setup, and the review is great, but would like some more detail on that.

As well, was 3D performance actually tested? There's a very specific call out in the 5030 vs. 40ES comparison saying that the 5030 IS better... But, if 3D wasn't actually tested on both units, then is that just a 'on paper' comparison? It would be nice to know as the 40ES seems to natively do as good, or better than the 5030 does with a dynamic iris, at a lower cost, and with less noise. The Epson being a long time reigning champion at this price point, finally getting a dose of LCoS at a similar price point.

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