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Sony HW40ES wins Editor's Choice

With the CEDIA show now behind us, we've got a better idea of the competitive lay of the land for the fall season...

Now that the older Panasonic AE8000 has dropped to $1,999 there are two major home theater models duking it out at the $2500 price point -- the Sony VPL-HW40ES just released earlier this summer and the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB, which was released last fall, but which now features a mid-life kicker with a firmware upgrade that noticeably improves detail definition. After viewing the upgraded 5030UB, we conclude a couple of things. First, the firmware upgrade is well worth the time to seek out for any current owner of the 6030, 5030 or 4030 models. It very noticeably improves detail resolution, and it is highly unusual to see a projector firmware upgrade have such an obvious impact on image quality. Prior to the upgrade the 5030 could not match the Sony HW40's sharpness and detail resolution. Now that gap has been closed and the two projectors are almost indistinguishable when it comes to image sharpness.

At the same time, the HW40ES displays an analog-like purity and clarity that the 5030UB does not quite match. It has an advantage in overall contrast and image depth due to the reflective SXRD technology used in the light engine. The Epson 5030UB will achieve a deeper black level in dark scenes due to its auto iris (which the HW40ES does not have), but the black levels of the HW40ES are sufficient to give the image ample snap and sparkle. Fan noise is not loud on the 5030UB by any means, but when running in full power mode the unit's whisper is noticeable during a movie's quiet interludes, whereas fan noise on the HW40ES is almost non-existent. When the 5030 is in eco-mode, it is pretty much silent as well.

The 5030UB has somewhat more range in zoom and lens shift than does the HW40ES, and this may be a vital decision factor -- there will be some situations in which the 5030UB can fit the requirements for screen size, location, and throw distance while the HW40ES cannot.

Nevertheless, the Sony VPL-HW40ES is a truly elegant projector for its $2,499 price, and its three year warranty trumps the 5030UB's two-year coverage to sweeten the pot a bit more. We are happy to give the Sony HW40ES our 2014 Editor's Choice Award for projectors in this price class.

Evan Powell
Editor






.

Comments (11) Post a Comment
ROBERT HAR Posted Oct 4, 2014 5:50 AM PST
Another point if you want RF 3d which is by far the best way to go. You have to spend $200 extra to make the sony work with RF glasses. Plus buy the glasses. Also the Epson will be brighter in its best 3d dynamic mode for those with large screens. Both projectors produce killer images. If the Sony ever drops back to $1999 it is by far the better deal.
Joe Smith Posted Oct 4, 2014 9:18 AM PST
Yes the Sony 40ES has gotten excellent reviews I want to ask Even if the 40ES can be considered a poor man's Sony 55, which it seems it is The 40 is cheaper and better value than the 55
Frank Fiore Posted Oct 4, 2014 10:10 AM PST
This is my third projector in this price range, and the Sony is exceptional. The black levels are amazingly dark and the skin tones natural.

On my EPSON, the effects of auto-iris was always distracting, like my experiences with rainbow effect on DLPs, and therefore I left it disabled. The Sony is able to provide great black level performance without depending an an auto-iris, and to my eyes the Sony's picture looks more stable and natural because of it. Since the light output isn't being rapidly changed to improve black level performance, I perceive the contrast in each frame to be higher. I'm curious, does anyone else dislike auto-irises as well?

One last thing, which is more specific to my installation, in my room the project is ceiling mounted directly over my head. The fan noise of the EPSON (31db) was distracting and resulted in my turning up the volume. The Sony (22db) is quiet enough, I'm not exaggerating, that I have to look to see if it's on after I hit the power button.
J. Adkins Posted Oct 4, 2014 1:55 PM PST
You have given several "Editors Choice" awards so far this year:

Sony VPL-HW40ES Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema LS10000 Sony VPL-VW600ES

Seems like a shoot out might clarify your intentions.
Evan Powell, Editor Posted Oct 4, 2014 2:06 PM PST
J. Adkins, we give Editor's Choice Awards in different price categories. Those three you mentioned are all radically different in price, so they do not compete with one another. We also give them annually, so the Epson 5030 won last year, but the Sony hW40ES won this year. So you will see them both listed as Editor's Choice 2013 and 2014 respectively.
fastoil Posted Oct 4, 2014 4:05 PM PST
When is Panasonic going to come out with a new home theater projector?
Tony Posted Oct 6, 2014 6:10 AM PST
Great comparison Evan! This was exactly what I was waiting for. Two questions though.

1) The #1 thing keeping me from buying the Epson was the slight image quality degradation during gaming in fast mode. Did the firmware update address this?

2) Has Sony changed its MSRP or is the commenter below referring to street pricing?

Thanks!

PS I'm also curious about when Epson will release their next projector.
Scott Hastings Posted Oct 7, 2014 6:53 AM PST
So no new $2000-$3000 projectors for the rest of the year? Pretty slim pickings seeing as the Sony came out months ago and the only other one this year is the BenQ. 2 projectors, wow seems like everyone is getting out of this game.
Wes Cooper Posted Oct 7, 2014 4:32 PM PST
So, a simple question: I will be placing my future projector in a completely blackened, basement home theatre. My screen will be large - 150" 16:9. I am wondering which projector will give me the best picture all things considered - black level, brightness (which is really most important to me) color, shadow detail, and sharpness. I am undecided over the Epson 5030UB or the Sony 40ES. It appears that the Epson is brighter overall, but the Sony is brighter in best mode. So which will work best on a 150" screen, light-controlled room? Anyone have any thoughts? Thanks.
Joe Smith Posted Oct 8, 2014 7:38 AM PST
Both the Sony and Epson you mentioned are excellent choices. It is so close that it will hard to pick. Supposedly the Sony looks sharper but Epson has better blacks

also, if your room is all dark, JVC is probably the best choice
ctgottapee Posted Oct 15, 2014 10:14 PM PST
The problem with the Sony though is it has terrible digital noise. It may be sharper, but you only get that if you an deal with a lot of noise. I ended up returning it.

And as noted, it's black levels are just ok and you will notice if you have previously had an auto-iris or good black level pj.

Probably the most impressive thing to me was it's silent in eco mode, barely a whisper.

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