What is the Sony VPL-HW40ES?
When Sony first announced the VPL-HW40ES it raised some eyebrows among projector enthusiasts.
Design and Connections
In this menu you will also find Reality Creation and Cinema Black Pro, which is where you find the main difference with the HW55. There's no dynamic iris on the HW40 and all you'll find in the latter submenu is the Lamp Control, where you can select High or Low. As with the HW55, the projector will automatically go into High lamp mode when projecting a 3D image. Motionflow is where you can set the frame interpolation feature and also select the Film Projection mode, which uses black frame insertion.
The HW40 includes a Colour Temperature setting which includes the industry standard of D65 along with a custom setting which allows access to a two point white balance control for calibration. There is also a menu called RCP (Real Colour Processing) which gives you access to Sony's colour management system (CMS). Here you can calibrate the primary (red, green and blue) and secondary (cyan, magenta and yellow) colours by adjusting Colour (saturation), Hue (tint) and Brightness (luminance).
As with previous Sony projectors we chose the Reference calibrated preset, which defaults to the D65 colour temperature and the BT.709 Colour Space, as well as turning off most of the picture processing features. With Gamma Correction set to off, it measured the same as at 2.2, so we just left it off. We also selected a Lamp Power of Low and turned off all the Reality Creation and Motionflow controls, which just left us to optimise the Contrast and Brightness settings and check that the Sharpness control was set to minimum. You can find our suggested settings here.
As we expected, the HW40 delivered a great performance in our tests, correctly scaling and deinterlacing without any loss of detail, unwanted ringing or creating jaggies. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance was also excellent, whilst in the cadence tests the HW40 correctly detected both the 2:3 and 2:2 without any issues. It also had no problems displaying mixed film material with scrolling video text and was able to reproduce the text without any shredding or blurring.
The HW40 performed just as well in the tests with 1080i content, correctly deinterlacing and displaying both the video and film resolution tests. The projector had no difficulties in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems. In addition, the Sony showed all the video levels up to peak white (255), as well as detail down to video level 17 and there was no clipping in the peaks for the luma channels of the three primary colours.
In general the motion handling on the HW40 was very good but there were occasional losses of detail and smearing with fast movement and camera pans. However, as mentioned, 24p material looked excellent, with movement that was smooth and judder-free. The HW40 includes Motionflow technology which uses frame interpolation to create better motion handling. Whilst we wouldn't recommend using Motionflow with film-based content, it can be useful with fast paced sports action shot on video. We found that the Film Projection mode produced a distracting flicker, something wasn't apparent on the HW55, so would recommend leaving it off.
The HW40 also includes Reality Creation which has filtered down from Sony's 4K projectors and uses dynamic sharpening and contrast adjusting algorithms at a pixel level to give the appearance of a more detailed image. It certainly works and can often be quite effective but with live action material the image can have a slightly processed look, especially where film grain is concerned. However for films shot digitally or with computer animation, Reality Creation worked very well, so to a certain extent it is a matter of personal preference. There are separate controls for Resolution and Noise Filtering, so there's plenty of room for experimentation.
Brightness, Black Levels and Dynamic Range
The big difference between the HW55 and the HW40 is the lack of a dynamic iris or even a manual iris control on the latter projector. In fact there is nothing within the Cinema Black Pro control, except an option to choose whether to set the lamp power to low or high. This isn't necessarily a big deal, there are those who swear by a dynamic iris and those that would never use one but the inability to even manually close the iris means that the dynamic range will be reduced slightly. In effect the native performance of the HW40 is essentially the same as the HW55 with the lens wide open, measuring around 6,000:1.
Whilst the native black levels on the HW40 can't be improved by manually closing the iris, they were still very good, especially considering the overall brightness. Shadows were also nicely rendered and the projector did a great job of maintaining detail in darker scenes. Without being able to do a side-by-side comparison it's hard to tell precisely how the HW40 and HW55 differ but, based upon memory, there was very little to distinguish them. The HW40 certainly has a much better black performance than any of the projectors in its peer group, especially the LCD and DLP models on the market.
Sony VPL-HW40ES Picture Quality 2D
In fact, although we weren't in a position to do a side-by-side comparison, to our eyes the image produced by the HW40 looked almost identical to the HW55. Whilst some might bemoan the lack of a dynamic iris, the native black levels and dynamic range on the HW40 still looked excellent, as did the level of shadow detail. The motion handling was also very good and the projector was extremely quiet, even when in the high lamp mode. The obvious competitor to the HW40 is Epson's TW7200, which is about the same price, and in our opinion the Sony is superior. In fact the HW40 is so good that you have to wonder if there's any point buying a HW55 because you can get almost exactly the same performance for nearly £1,000 less.
We watched quite a bit of content on the HW40 and were never disappointed; with the combination of image accuracy, detail and video processing combining to deliver wonderful big screen pictures. The HW40 could upscale standard definition to great effect and it handled 1080i just as well. However it's with Blu-rays that the Sony really had a chance to shine, handling the 24p content without issue and delivering highly detailed and very film-like images. We watched a number of recently purchased Blu-rays, including Her and Three Days to Kill, both of which looked superb. We also re-watched the 1998 version of Godzilla in anticipation of the big guy's return to our cinema screens and the HW40 handled the older film just as well.
Sony VPL-HW40ES Video Review
Sony VPL-HW40ES Picture Quality 3D
Once again, the HW40 seemed to be exactly the same in terms of its performance when compared to the HW55 and it also held its own against the TW7200, whilst managing to be considerably quieter. The fact that the HW40 doesn't come with any glasses included could be considered a good thing, because we find the type of glasses provided with the HW55 to be too dark and uncomfortable to wear over long periods of time. Whilst the HW40 includes a built-in IR emitter, you could instead buy Sony's optional RF emitter and Sony's RF glasses, which are lighter and superior to the IR variety. Whatever you decide to do, the good news is that if you're a fan of 3D, the HW40 will prove to be a wonderful performer; capable of delivering images that have a pleasing combination of brightness and depth.
- Decent black levels and dynamic range
- Reference greyscale and colour accuracy
- Impressive video processing
- Excellent 2D and 3D performance
- Attractive design and good build quality
- Extremely quiet in operation
- None at this price
Sony VPL-HW40ES 3D Projector Review
The out-of-the-box accuracy was superb and with the included calibration controls meant the HW40 could deliver a reference greyscale and colour gamut performance. The video processing was also excellent, whilst the motion handling, black levels and shadow detail were also very good. As a result the 2D images were excellent and almost indistinguishable from the HW55, even without the dynamic iris. The 3D performance was also excellent, with bright and accurate images that were free of crosstalk. The HW40 was also very quiet, even in its high lamp mode.
The obvious competitor at this price point is Epson's TW7200 but the HW40 is definitely superior and, in all honesty, so good that it could hold its against more expensive projectors including Sony's own HW55. There is simply nothing else to currently compete with the HW40 in the £1,500-2,000 price bracket and you really have to wonder how Sony can be making any money. However if you're in the market for a new projector, the VPL-HW40ES has to be on your short list because, quite frankly, it's a steal!
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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