Sony BRAVIA VPL-HW10 SXRD Projector

Price: $3,500 At A Glance: Price-leading contrast performance • Smooth, film-like images • Limited features

Sony Brings SXRD to the Masses

Sony turned the high-end projector world on its ear with the introduction of the VPL-VW100 SXRD projector. The VPL-VW100 offered resolution and performance far beyond other projectors at or near its price point. Sony has continued to push that envelope with more and more SXRD offerings at lower price points. The latest is the VPL-HW10, which is the lowest-priced SXRD projector yet at $3,500. It brings the high resolution and high contrast of SXRD to the budget market.

The VPL-HW10 borrows heavily from the popular VPL-VW60, with the same triple-SXRD panels and improved dynamic iris design. If you’ve dreamt about owning one of Sony’s great projectors but couldn’t justify the price, here’s your chance.

The VPL-HW10 is the first SXRD projector in Sony’s BRAVIA line. The case is a bit different than those of the previous SXRD designs; it has an elegant look that suggests a much higher price point. At first glance, the chassis looks like the typical gloss-black plastic design, but if you get it in enough light, you’ll notice a subtle purplish flake high-gloss finish. The projector has very nice curves, and nothing about the design looks cheap.

The top panel has two manual lens shift adjustments, one for vertical and one for horizontal. Rather than the standard back-panel placement, Sony put the inputs on the right side of the chassis, along with the Power and Menu buttons. There you’ll also find two HDMI 1.3 ports, an RGB input, and one component video, one S-video, and one composite video connection. It also has an RS-232 connection for remote control systems and custom integration.

The chassis flanks the lens assembly on both sides, and the manual zoom and focus controls are located at the lens. It appears that Sony cut back on the powered lens features to cut overall design costs. Considering that this projector is in the same price range as Sony’s previous LCD projectors, I’m not surprised that it had to cut a few corners to deliver SXRD technology at this price.

That isn’t to say that Sony totally skimped on the features set, though. The VPL-HW10 features Sony’s newest dynamic iris implementation and Real Color Processing (RCP). Sony has been refining its dynamic iris solution for quite a few years, and it’s one of the superior solutions out there.

Setup was a breeze thanks to the VPL-HW10’s simple menu system and easy-to-understand labeling. Sony doesn’t include a bunch of weird names for its picture adjustments, and the menus are divided into basic settings and an advanced setup menu.

Sony includes a few preset picture modes, or you can set up your own image and save it to one of three different user memories. This makes it easy to set up the projector for different viewing environments. It even includes a panel-alignment feature to converge the three SXRD panels. You can choose the color you want to adjust by using two different internal crosshatch test patterns. Just be sure to turn this feature off once you’ve dialed in your convergence, since it will affect overall resolution if you leave it on.

The iris system has several operating modes that let you tailor its operation to your viewing preferences. I used the Auto 1 setting in the Recommended mode. This seemed to achieve the best overall contrast levels, although there wasn’t a huge visible difference between Auto 1 and Auto 2. If you don’t like the dynamic iris, you can simply turn the iris to manual and dial it in to your taste. This is a good way to tailor the overall image brightness to your room while still managing a decent contrast ratio. However, you won’t get the same overall contrast performance that the dynamic modes provide.

The Expert menu includes video-processing features, such as noise reduction and forced deinterlacing modes. It also has a gamma-correction feature that I didn’t care for. I left it off.

Sony lets you dial in the gray scale using the standard cuts and gains for the three primary colors. With these controls, I dialed in the gray scale/color tracking to near perfection. If you want to make the most of this projector’s image potential, I recommend that you have a calibration done.

Color management was a different issue. The Sony offers two color modes, Normal and Wide. Normal is slightly undersaturated in relation to the Rec. 709 color gamut, and it left me wanting with the primaries. Greens and reds looked a bit anemic overall, and the image lacked the striking colors I’ve seen from some of Sony’s other projectors. The Wide mode pushed the color coordinates out past the standard color points for HD video signals—but not as far as some other popular projectors do. The luminance values were also better than they were in Normal mode, which gave colors a more pleasing look overall.

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