Talk about extremes. Just a couple of weeks after spending quality time with Sony's five grand VPL-VW80 projector, we now find ourselves sharing our test room with Sony's VPL-HW10 - a relative snip at just £1695. The question is, will the performance differences between these two projectors prove as extreme as their prices?
The HW10 starts well by looking pretty much as attractive as the VW80. Its ‘cosmic black' body looks sturdy and - thanks to a glossy finish and some appealing curves - really very pretty. It isn't quite as monumental, for want of a better word, as the VW80, but at the same time its size, weight and build quality are of a higher order than you usually get at the sub-£2k end of the market.
It's well connected, too. Two CEC-enabled v1.3 HDMI inputs lead the way, which can receive the x.v.Colour and Deep Colour formats, and there's fine support from a component video port, a D-Sub PC port, and an RS-232 port for system integration.
Inside the HW10 beats a heart made from Sony's SXRD technology - a derivation of Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) that has JVC's outstanding D-ILA technology as its closest technological rival.
One of SXRD's most stand-out features is the density of its pixel structure, so it comes as no surprise to find the HW10 sporting a Full HD resolution of 1920x1080. Also catching our eye is a striking claimed contrast range - for the sub-£2k price point - of 30,000:1, achieved via a dynamic iris arrangement that adjusts the amount of light the projector emits based on an analysis of the image content to be shown. And so, for instance, if a dark scene is detected, the HW10 will close the iris down to reduce the amount of light being emitted and thus, hopefully, produce a more convincing representation of black.
As regular readers will know, there are two potential downsides to this sort of dynamic iris system: reduced brightness and the potential for scenes to shift their general brightness levels with distracting abruptness. But hopefully the HW10 will have the reaction speed and subtlety to avoid both of these pitfalls.
Setting the HW10 up proves impressively easy for a number of reasons. For starters, the projector's zoom ratio is a respectable 1.6x, helping it adapt to a reasonable range of room sizes. It also ships with both vertical and horizontal lens-shifting ‘wheels' to help you get the picture positioned correctly on your screen even if the projector is set to the side of or above/below the centre of your screen.
The HW10's attractive onscreen menu system, meanwhile, is packed with bits and bobs of interest. For starters, there are two different settings for the automatic iris system, one which reduces the light output more severely than the other at the cost of more brightness.