Sony VPL-HW40ES 1080p projector reviewed

Inside CI 4 Rating

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posted on Sunday, 20th July 2014 by Steve May

Marata Vision  projectors  home cinema 


The VPL-HW40ES is the most affordable model in Sony's Full HD SXRD home theatre line, but you'd be hard pressed to tell that based on its performance. With a sub-£2K retail price, it's considerably cheaper than the step-up VPL-HW55ES, but it delivers a performance that belies the price tag. Sony's HW series has seen several running improvements over the years, principally to improve brightness and contrast, and they now represent extraordinary value for those looking to specify a 1080p projector in a smaller cinema room. Brightness on this model is officially rated at 1700 ANSI lumens. While the projector supports Active Shutter 3D, glasses are not bundled as standard.

Sony VPL-HW40ES projector: Build quality and features
Available in both a gloss black and white finish, this Sony is both a good looker and usefully compact, at 407.4 x 179.2 x 463.9 mm. The turtle-shaped hull remains a perennial crowd-pleaser, with contemporary curves well suited for the residential market. It weighs just 10kg.

The centrally mounted lens is crested by horizontal and vertical lens shift adjustment wheels, while assorted connectivity is ranged along the left hand side. Here you'll find two HDMI inputs, VGA PC and component connections, plus a 3D sync extension, handy should you need to blanket a larger theatre. There's a smattering of on-body menu and power/input controls for those users who don't need ceiling mounting. Flanking the lens are the ventilation exhausts. There is no adjustable iris. Also conspicuous by its absence is a 12v trigger, which unfortunately eliminates the opportunity for low cost synced screen installs. There is however IR minijack and RS232C provision.

Front CropThe supplied backlit remote is clean and uncluttered, with shortcut buttons for aspect ratio, Motion Enhancer, colour space and temperature, 3D mode and Reality Creation detail enhancement.

Initial setup is achieved via the manual horizontal and vertical keystone adjustment; there's an f=18.7 mm to 29.7 mm 1.6x optical zoom lens, able to throw a 120-inch image from around 4m. General operational noise is a reassuringly low 21dB, when in the Eco lamp setting. This allows seats to be positioned relatively close to the projector - good news if you're working within a smaller room space. Fan noise will be easily masked by a resident sound system.


Sony VPL-HW40ES projector: performance
It really doesn't take very long to coax an excellent image from the VPL-HW40ES, and that's without having to waste time on-site with gamma or colour management adjustments. Black level and shadow detail performance can be considered excellent given the price grade of this model and colour vibrancy is high.


AV presets comprise Cinema Film 1, Cinema Film 2, Reference, TV, Photo, Game Bright Cinema, Bright TV and User. Most are extremely well judged.  Cinema Film 2 is the warmer of the two theatrical settings; if you're installing the HW40ES in a room where there's likely to be some ambient light, opt for the Bright Cinema version. In a controlled light environment, Reference would be our go-to preset. It's a little less warm than the CF modes and offers excellent colour fidelity. The TV setting is a tad less contrasty. If the projector is likely to be used with games systems, opt for the low-lag high-brightness Game preset which is extremely effective. The colour space default is BT709.

Route around in the setup menu you'll also find an HDMI dynamic range mode (auto, limited or full), as well as standard CEC control.

Motion handling is generally good, with caveats. The Motionflow settings here comprise Film Projection and Motion Enhancer. The black frame insertion of former injects far too much flicker into the image to be comfortable to watch, while the latter has two image interpolation settings: Low and High.

The Film Projection mode offers the greatest perceived motion image clarity, delivering a full 1080 lines. However it's probably best avoided if you want to avoid callouts from clients who might think the incessant flickering is a fault. On the plus side, there's not too much in the way of motion artefacting on this setting, with horizontal pans smooth and sharp

With Motion Enhancer interpolation on Low, perceived motion resolution is around 950 lines. This is delivered with negligible image artefacting and horizontal panning is smooth. It's a solid choice for watching sports and general entertainment. Unfortunately when the Motion Enhancer is set to High, smudgy artefacts become far more noticeable. When it comes to film content, it could be argued that both types of Motionflow are actually best left off. In this state, motion image resolution is limited to around 800 lines but the picture quality remains wonderfully filmic.

Much of this projector's visual snap can be attributed to Sony's proprietary Reality Correction image processing, which proves extraordinarily effective. It pulls out scads of fine detail from Blu-ray and HD braodcasts alike, ensuring depth and texture, while keeping a lid on noise. Without it, HD images appear considerably softer and less engaging.

The projector's 3D performance is surprisingly good. Crosstalk double imaging isn't intrusive, and there's a good deal of image depth.

3D Sync

Sony VPL-HW40ES projector: verdict
If you're looking to equip a smaller home theatre or media room, then the VPL-HW40ES would seem a natural choice. The brand's projection hardware is always well-built and looks great, but more importantly this model delivers a top-line performance straight from the box, producing images that bristle with detail and colour richness. Even better it requires very little time or effort to set up; the HW40ES is virtually plumb-in and play.

Overall, we think this Sony projector punches well above its weight. It comes highly recommended.

The Sony VPL-HW40ES is available now.
Retail price: £1,850

The Sony VPL-HW40ES is distributed by Marata Vision. For more on Marata Vision's product portfolio and services, visit our partner page here

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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