Sony VPL-HW15 review

5 stars
£1,995
Sony’s latest SXRD projector finds its proprietary tech matching rivals stride for stride

With rival DLP and LCD projection technologies both notching up some impressive results in recent weeks, there’s real pressure resting on the shoulders of Sony’s latest SXRD projector, the VPL-HW15.

But as further proof that there’s never been a better time to buy a projector, the HW15 soon shows that SXRD has no intention of lagging behind.

Angles in all the right places

Although the HW15 joins with other SXRD projectors in being rather large by today’s standards, it wears its bulk mightily well. Its shape, like a slightly angular oval, is very easy on the eye, for starters.

Plus its glossy dark finish looks opulent, and its build quality feels surprisingly high-end for a sub-£2k projector.

The HW15 ticks all the key specification boxes too. Its connections, for instance, include two HDMIs, while it’s resolution is a full HD 1920x1080 and its claimed dynamic contrast ratio is a promising 60,000:1.

Shift and lift

The projector also has everything it needs to be really easy to set up. Simple vertical and horizontal image shift wheels and a healthy 1.6x zoom work together to ensure that you can get a perfectly geometrical image in all but the most awkward of room designs without resorting to the horrors of that digital distortion system known as keystone correction.

Some might feel that the HW15 is actually a touch too easy to set up, thanks to its lack of some of the more sophisticated picture adjustments found on one or two rivals. The lack of any really extensive colour fine-tuning is likely to prove particularly irksome to die-hard tweakers. But at the same time, you really do have to remember that the HW15 only costs £1995.

Plug and play – kind of…

Furthermore, the HW15 does provide some of the more sensible picture presets around, making extensive tweaking arguably unnecessary.

In fact, with some of the projector’s features proving capable of actually royally messing picture quality up, we’d advise novices not to get serious about tweaking at all unless they’re willing to learn fast.

If you do feel up to the challenge, the only features really worth tinkering with are a clever system that lets you adjust the level of standard and mosquito noise reduction in relation to each other, a seven-level gamma adjustment, and the auto iris adjustment.

Night vision

The auto iris adjustment is particularly important, for if you leave it set to one of its more aggressive settings, the picture’s brightness can leap about during dark scenes in a really quite distracting fashion.

Provided you avoid this, though, the HW15 actually significantly improves on Sony’s previous entry-level SXRD projectors when it comes to contrast, with deeper, more believable black colours, and far less of the green tinge sometimes noticed in the past.

What’s more, this enhanced dark scene performance doesn’t cost as much in terms of lost shadow detail and reduced brightness as it has with previous cheap SXRD models.

Review continues after the break…

True colours

The HW15 also moves SXRD forward nicely in the colour department, producing richer and generally more natural saturations, together with subtle, stripe-free blends and plenty of dynamism. LCD and especially DLP still hold a minor edge over SXRD when it comes to colour dynamism, but the HW15 closes the gap substantially.

At the same time, it underlines an established SXRD strength, as high-definition sources are reproduced with frequently breathtaking levels of detail and clarity. What’s more, this clarity doesn’t appear forced at all, which is to say that the picture doesn’t look bitty or noisy.

Smooth operator

The HW15’s run of goodness continues with its reproduction of motion, as it does a solid – though not quite inspired – job of reining in judder, despite only having Sony’s relatively old Bravia Engine 2 processing system.

The HW15 scores points for running unexpectedly quietly, too, considering the leap in brightness and colour saturation it delivers over its predecessors. In fact, switch its lamp to its lowest output level, and you’ll really struggle to hear it – even if you’re watching a silent movie.

says

Sony VPL-HW15

A strong and quiet performer that’s superb value and ideal for those who like to tweak their picture
Sony VPL-HW15 review
5 stars
£1,995
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