Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
Sony's newest 1080p projector, the Bravia VPL-HW10, is now available, and it is easily the finest projector from Sony we've yet seen. The HW10 is brighter than previous models by a decent margin, has excellent contrast, open midtones, a sharp picture, and good placement flexibility. The Sony VPL-HW10 delivers a vibrant, dynamic picture, and it is a very competitive projector among the new 1080p resolution products coming to market this fall.
ANSI lumens: 1000
Contrast (full on/off): 30,000:1
Light Engine: 1920x1080, native 16:9, 0.6" three-panel SXRD (LCOS) with 200W lamp.
Video Compatibility: 1080p/60/50/24, 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i.
Connection Panel: Two HDMI 1.3 ports, one YPbPr component input, one VGA port, s-video, component video, one RS-232C port.
Lens and Throw Distance: 1.6x manual zoom/focus lens with manual vertical and horizontal lens shift. Throws a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 10' 1" to 16' 2".
Lamp Life: Not specified.
Replacement lamp price: $369.
Warranty: One year.
High Lumen Output. Unlike previous Sony 1080p projectors, the HW10 is a powerhouse in video optimized mode at 697 ANSI lumens. In a light-controlled room, that is enough light to power more or less any screen size you choose. In fact, on screens of 120" or less, it can be too much light and may lead to eye strain unless you tone it down a bit. Fortunately, low lamp mode on the HW10 drops lumen output 32% to 477 lumens, which is still plenty of light for many screens in light-controlled rooms.
The HW10 has a 1.6:1 zoom lens which delivers the maximum amount of light at its widest angle setting. When at maximum telephoto (yielding the smallest image at a given distance), the HW10 loses 22% of its lumen output. For example, its 697 video optimized lumens drop to 547 lumens, and its 477 lumens in low lamp mode drop to 372 lumens. This is still brighter than most competing models when using their low lamp modes and the long ends of their zoom lenses.
The HW10 has two brighter modes - Standard at 711 lumens and Dynamic at 747 lumens. However, these modes take a serious hit in color accuracy and do not deliver much of an increase in lumen output, so they don't represent an attractive alternative to the video optimized mode.
High Contrast. In measuring our test unit, the HW10 registered 416:1 ANSI contrast, which is the highest ANSI number we've see so far on an LCOS projector. Sony's big improvement in SXRD ANSI contrast keeps it fully competitive and comparable to the improvements made by LCD manufacturers. (By comparison, the Mitsubishi HC7000 measured 409:1, and the Panasonic AE3000 measured 443:1.) The HW10 displays solid deep blacks, nuanced shadow detail, and excellent overall "pop" and three-dimensionality.
The HW10 has an auto iris which is enabled by default. The iris adjusts quickly enough that we did not see any transitions, though the effects of the iris are clear. In dark scenes, black levels drop significantly. The high contrast makes the HW10's picture particularly eye-popping when viewed in a dark environment.
Good color after calibration. On our test unit, the Medium color temperature was reasonably well-balanced at its factory defaults, though there was room for improvement. After some calibration, the HW10 produced accurate, natural color with excellent saturation. Our calibration came very close to the 6500K standard across most of the gray scale. The HW10 has three user-programmable color modes, so you can set up one for black and white movies, one for color films, and one for HD sports or video games.
Sharp Picture. Sharpness and clarity of image is imperative in a high definition projector, and the HW10 does a fine job of maintaining fine detail. The HW10 is comparable in image sharpness to several other recently released 1080p projectors, such as the Samsung SP-A800B and Panasonic AE3000. As far as sharpness is concerned, the Mitsubishi HC7000 and HC6500 stand out as slightly sharper than the rest of the 1080p competition so far this fall. However, the HW10 and the other 1080p projectors are certainly competitive in this regard.
Quiet Operation. The HW10 uses a quiet exhaust fan, and the projector is nearly silent during operation, even in high lamp mode.
Placement Flexibility. The HW10 has a 1.6:1 manual zoom lens and both vertical and horizontal lens shift. Vertical lens shift has a range of 2.4 picture heights, while horizontal shift has a range of .38 picture widths. This allows enough flexibility for a ceiling or rear shelf mount in most rooms.
No Visible Pixelation. The HW10 is an SXRD projector, which is Sony's version of LCOS. One advantage of this technology is a lack of visible pixelation. Even standing inches from the screen, the HW10 has no pixelation to speak of. While visible pixelation is rarely a concern with 1080p projectors, the HW10 is exceptional in this regard.
LimitationsImage noise. During comparative testing, the HW10 has incrementally more image noise than some of the LCD competition in the same price bracket. However, the HW10 has very good noise reduction onboard, which reduces the amount of visible noise without adversely affecting image sharpness. However, completely eliminating noise is an impossibility.
Lens Not Powered. Several competing models have powered zoom, focus, and lens shift, while the HW10 has manual controls on all three. Most people will not be affected by this omission, though a 1.6:1 lens does open up the possibility of using the lens's zoom to display 2.35:1 movies in large format without the use of an anamorphic lens. For those who wish to set up a 2.35 screen and use the zoom to accommodate it, a powered zoom and lens shift would have been helpful.
No Frame Interpolation. Several 1080p projectors coming to market this season feature some form of frame interpolation, a technology designed to show video and film at a higher frame rate by creating interim frames. The technology serves to greatly reduce or eliminate judder. The HW10 lacks this feature.
The HW10 is one of the strongest home theater projectors we've yet seen from Sony, and is a great option for large screen 1080p projection in a light-controlled room. With 697 usable lumens and strong contrast performance, the HW10 can be used with screens up to 150" diagonal and beyond. Sony's HW10 brings together the brightness and contrast performance needed for large screen home theater with good placement flexibility, quiet operation, and natural, vibrant color.
In our experience, Sony home theater projectors tend to cost more than competing units will similar performance and features. Part of what buyers pay for is the brand name. However, this can be justified. Sony has a solid reputation for excellent customer service and support, and our direct experience with Sony support has been outstanding. Sony's projectors typically have excellent picture quality, and the HW10 is no exception. The HW10 lacks some of the features available on other 1080p projectors released this fall, and it costs somewhat more; as a result we are unable to assign it five stars for value. But it certainly does merit five stars for performance. Those who go for the HW10 will be enjoying a terrific picture with the confidence they've bought from a vendor with an exceptional commitment to service and support.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Sony VPL-HW10 projector page.