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Sony VPL-HW10 review: Sony VPL-HW10

Sony VPL-HW10

Kevin Miller
6 min read

Sony may have canned its line of SXRD-based rear-projection HDTVs in favor of flat-panel LCDs, but the technology is going strong among front projectors. The VPL-HW10 is the company's lowest-priced SXRD projector yet. It starts the updated three-model SXRD line just below the VPL-VW70, which will replace last year's "Pearl" or VPL-VW60, and the high-end VPL-VW200, which stays in the lineup from last year. Despite the relatively low price, the VPL-HW10 is a very good performer, with more accurate color than last year's VPL-VW60 and those deep black levels we've come to expect from SXRD. Among projectors we've reviewed, this entry-level Sony has become the unit to beat in the sub-$4000 price range.

7.5

Sony VPL-HW10

The Good

Reproduces deep, clean blacks with solid shadow detail; reasonably accurate color; excellent feature package including horizontal and vertical lens shift; sleek styling.

The Bad

Red and green are somewhat inaccurate; zoom, focus and lens shift are manual, not electronic; not bright enough to drive very large screens.

The Bottom Line

Sony's VPL-VW10, the company's least expensive SXRD projector yet, proves itself a very good performer for the price, and therefore an excellent value.

Design
A black glossy finish highlights the VPL-HW10's sexy-looking design. It shares the same look as the company's more expensive SXRD models--the main thing that changes is size, as the more expensive models become progressively larger. The look consists of appealing curves with a rounded top and the lens centered on the chassis, which gives a very symmetrical design. All of the connections including the AC power, and the On/Off, Menu, Input, and the four-way arrow keys for menu navigation are on the right side of the projector when floor mounted, and the left side if flipped upside down for ceiling-mounted configurations.

Sony's remote control is well laid-out and designed. It's fully backlit, which makes tweaking in a darkened room easier. The clicker has direct access keys to all the picture modes, as well as the brightness and contrast controls. The menu and directional rocker buttons are all located slightly north of the center of the remote, which makes one-handed operation quite easy.

Features
There are many useful features on this projector and, as always, some that need to be avoided for the best possible performance. Both horizontal as well as vertical lens shifts are available, which helps greatly in aligning the projector properly to the screen. Unfortunately, these controls are manual at the projector rather than electronic from the remote. The same goes for the Zoom and Focus features. For electronic versions of these features, you will need to step up to the more expensive VPL-VW70.

Perhaps one of the coolest features that helps improve picture quality is called Panel Adjust. This feature, which first appeared on the high-end VPL-VW200, allows you to correct minor panel alignment problems with red and blue horizontal and vertical controls that work mainly on the center of the picture. Both red and blue were off horizontally on my review sample, so adjustment tightened up the alignment and improved the sharpness of the picture.

Dynamic, Standard, Cinema, and three User Picture Modes give you a lot of flexibility in fine-tuning the picture. Selectable color temperatures include High, Middle, Low, and Custom, the latter with controls for calibration of the grayscale.

There's also a color management system called RCP, which is billed as a utility for correcting the primary and secondary colors. Unfortunately, as I've found with past Sony projectors, this is still essentially a broken feature. I selected the Normal color space in the Expert Setting menu, and attempted to correct the red primary with RCP. While I was able to get red closer to the ATSC specification, doing so adversely affected color decoding. As a result, I must recommend you leave RCP off.

The Cinema Black Pro menu has the Iris controls and a Lamp setting of either High or Normal. I used High myself, and I suspect most installations will need to as well since the VPL-HW10 is not a high light output projector. I measured 11 footlamberts on my 80-inch wide Stewart Filmscreen Grayhawk RS screen, which is on the low side for such a small screen. I also selected Manual for the Iris setting and left it at 50 in the middle of the range. This setting produced good blacks and a stable picture with white and black levels remaining correct. If you select an Auto Iris setting, these parameters will change depending on how bright or dark the content of the picture is. Unfortunately, I have not seen an Auto Iris feature that is fast enough so the eye can't see these changes with regular program material, and this Sony is no exception.

Connectivity is reasonably generous for an entry-level projector. The VPL-HW10 has two HDMI inputs, one set of component video inputs, a 15-pin VGA style RGB input, one S-Video, and one composite video input. I was pleased to also find an RS-232 control port, a feature that answers custom installer's needs to program a component's functions into a sophisticated touch-panel remote control system, such as Crestron or AMX.

Performance
The VPL-HW10 delivered very good overall picture quality, with deep black levels and relatively accurate color. That said, primary colors could have been a bit better, and we noticed some artifacts with 1080i sources, but given its price this projector is superb. It easily outperforms the somewhat less expensive Sanyo PLV-Z2000, for example.

During the setup phase, I settled on using the Standard picture mode for my evaluation. I started with the Low color temperature, which measured so close to the broadcast standard that I suspect Sony may have precalibrated my review sample. In any case, the bottom end was still off, so I corrected that by using the Custom color temperatures with their grayscale controls. I also used the Normal color space setting, as it came much closer to the ATSC specifications for the primary colors of red, green, and blue than the Wide setting. Unfortunately, red and green are still significantly off, and there is no way to correct them. For my full picture settings, check out the bottom of this blog post.

Overall color is better than average though, as the primaries still are closer than with most projectors in this price range. Color decoding was excellent, and grayscale tracking was also solid. The result was nicely saturated colors with highly natural skin tone rendition. Primary colors looked relatively good. For example, leaves and grass looked realistic rather than hyperrealistic or neon-looking, which is how most competing projectors make these natural objects look.

Blacks were compelling and deep as we expect from SXRD. There was also precious little noise in very dark material. Video processing was reasonably good, and the unit passed both film and video deinterlacing tests. I did notice some jaggies on the video-based test, so processing wasn't perfect by any means. As usual, I recommend leaving the company's DRC processing turned off for most high-quality sources.

Chapter 8 of the amazing Blu-ray transfer of Kung Fu Hustle is great for evaluating black level performance as well as a display's handling of fast motion. In a fight scene that takes place at night in the courtyard of an apartment complex, clarity of detail was excellent, and fast motion was smooth. Shadow detail was also very good, which is a testament to the VPL-HW10's good black level performance.

One of the toughest black level tests I know of is the beginning of Disc Two of Planet Earth, which begins with sky divers jumping into huge caves. Once the camera gets into the depths of some of these caves there are some extremely challenging scenes with virtually all black surrounding the close-up of cave animals and other objects. This is where you would be able to see real issues with black level performance, and the Sony passed this test with flying colors. So to speak.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 6250/6550 Good
After color temp 6500/6575 Good
Before grayscale variation +/- 65 Good
After grayscale variation +/- 132 Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.616/0.33 Average
Color of green 0.297/0.564 Average
Color of blue 0.148/0.057 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

How we test TVs

7.5

Sony VPL-HW10

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7
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