Sony VPL-HW45ES Full HD home cinema projector review

Inside CI 4 Rating

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posted on Wednesday, 17th August 2016 by Steve May

projectors  home cinema  Sony 


Sony has enjoyed considerable success with its Full HD projectors. This model, which supersedes the VPL-VH40ES, manages to squeeze yet more performance from what is now a familiar design, thanks to an uprated lamp. Lacking a dynamic iris, this model sits below the brand’s VPL-HW65ES model. But is it better overall value?

Sony VPL-HW45 Full HD projector: Build quality and features
The VPL-HW45 cuts a familiar pose. It uses the same 1080p chassis we’ve seen from Sony for the past few years. This isn't a cause for overmuch concern, in so much as it's a nicely made unit. Measuring 404.7 x 179.2 x 463.9mm (w/h/d) it can be accomodated in most rooms without attracting over much attention to itself, and those aerodynamic curves soften the silhouette. The projector weighs a substantial 9kg. The finish on our sample is a gloss white but there’s also a black edition; the lens assembly sits dead centre. 

Vplhw 45es _side _ Crop (1)

Vplhw 45es _rear _160229_06-Mid

Inputs and power are ranged down the right hand flank, which could be a little intrusive from an install point of view.  There are two HDMI inputs, plus USB for firmware update support. There’s also an IR input and PC control, but no 12v trigger which could be considered an omission for a dedicated theatre room product.

Setup is a manual affair using zoom and focus rings (there’s no remote control luxury here). We get 1.6x of zoom, while the lens is f2.52 – f3.02. There’s horizontal lens shift of up to 25 per cent and a generous 71 per cent vertical adjustment. 

Cooling air is sucked in from the rear and front left and vented out right front. To minimise operational noise, opt for one of the Cinema Film settings; here the projector is restricted to a low murmur, which is easily disguised by an accompanying sound system. 

The projector is rated at 1800 lumens, a modest improvement over its predecessor. While this means it can work reasonably well with low levels of ambient light, the HW45 isn’t what I’d describe as a media room product, even in its Bright Cinema/Bright TV mode. This projector is most definitely a cinema room offering – which rather puts it in a difficult position as bigger theatres, and the custom install business, begins to transition to 4K. Currently, budgets largely decide if a project has a 4K or HD projector. That’s likely to change very quickly as greater hardware choice becomes available.

Lamp life is quoted at 6000 hours in Eco mode. The projector supports Active shutter 3D, and has an integrated RF emitter.

Sony VPL-HW45 Full HD projector: Performance
One of the things that’s consistently impressed with Sony projectors is that they look great straight from the box. Here the available image presets comprise Cinema Film 1 and 2, Reference, TV, Photo, Game, Bright Cinema, Bright TV and User (which until you change it, is the same as Reference). Good news for gamers, Sony now also offers input lag reduction.  

Sony’s Reality Creation image processing is on hand to extrapolate extra detail and nuance from any signal (which I rather like), and there's a full complement of image tweaks.

The Expert settings menu opens up gamma correction and colour space adjustment – most installers will opt to leave the latter on BT.709. 

Motionflow Superman

Expert Settings Ray (1)

Sony’s Motion Flow technology is available to manage motion resolution, and it has a variable impact. For movie presentations, True Cinema is a fairly benign option, as it maintains the original 24fps frame rate. Resolution patterns measured at 6.5ppf confirm that the setting doesn’t retain detail (subjectively it drops to around 650 lines), but horizontal pans are judder free.

Alternatively, use the Smooth Low setting. This preserves more detail, but doesn’t impose too many artefacts. It’s a good option for live sports. Smooth High should be avoided as it introduces more artefacts. Neither Combination or Impulse are recommended as they introduce heavy levels of flicker.

Star Wars The Forces Awakens (Blu-ray) is a real crowd pleaser when it comes to image quality.  When Finn lands on the desert planet Jakku following his tie fighter escape, the rich expanse of the desert contrasts vividly with his monochromatic stormtrooper armour.  Kylo Ren’s hoodie and dark tunic ensemble also offers plenty of scope for shadow detail. 

Sony claims improvements over the VPL-HW40ES in terms of contrast and detail. Certainly, black level performance is good. There's shadow detail where you need it to be – when the Martha's pearls clatter down the drain in Batman V Superman (Blu-ray), you can see clear detail in the grate. When a young Bruce is encircled by bats and lifted upwards, the walls of the Batcave hole are clearly evident behind the flapping textured batwings.  

The projector is cinematic in the best sense. When Bruce battles his way into Metropolis during the Superman/Zod fight, the onscreen destruction has tangible weight. As buildings are sliced by a scythe-like ship, the destruction is believable. When Bruce saves that small girl from falling masonry, you'll instinctively want to brush away the brick dust. 

Colour fidelity is good too. The blue of the Indian ocean around the submerged world engine looks enticing, while Kryptonite has a lovely emerald glint. 

Lens Shift Crop

Sony VPL-HW45 Full HD projector: Verdict
What we have here is a solid update on a popular Full HD line. Considering the UHP lamp light source, black level performance is good enough. Image quality is high – the projector delivers plenty of fine detail and a strong colour performance. A good buy then that's certain to satisfy. 

The VPL-HW45ES is available now.
Price: £1850
Distribution is via Marata Vision. For more stories about Marata Vision’s product portfolio, 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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