While the arrival of 3D has delivered its fair share of AV disappointments, none have felt keener than Sony’s VPL-VW90ES. This premium-priced (£5k plus) 3D projector had looked great in demos we’d seen at various shows, but the final sample that arrived in our test room suffered extensively with 3D crosstalk noise. It was a damn shame.
Perhaps stung by the fairly widespread criticism of the VW90ES, Sony has gone into overdrive to put things right with its new VPL-HW30ES. For a start - and most importantly given how competitive things are suddenly getting in the 3D projection arena - the HW30ES is much cheaper than the VW90ES. We’ve found it for under three grand, in fact, crucially making it cheaper than the JVC X3, and putting it in the same price ballpark as the upcoming Panasonic PT-AT5000 (though bear in mind that the 3D transmitter and 3D glasses aren't included as standard; you'll need to add around £200 for a package of a transmitter plus two glasses.)
Next on the improvements list is the development of a new fast-response SXRD chipset that can be driven at 240Hz - a super-fast refresh rate with the potential to knock crosstalk on the head provided it syncs up with the glasses OK.
The faster-driven chipset isn’t the only innovation Sony has introduced for the HW30ES’s 3D playback, either. There’s also new Dynamic Lamp Control technology, whereby the lamp can adjust its light output depending on whether the shutter on the glasses is open or closed. As in, when the shutter is open the lamp power is boosted, and when the shutter is closed, the lamp power is reduced. This should lead to 3D images looking brighter and more dynamic, without making the projector less efficient overall.
This is actually pretty impressive technology when you think about just how fast the lamp’s brightness output is having to adjust to keep up with the shuttering of the glasses. Finding a way of keeping the lamp stable under such circumstances couldn’t have been easy.
The HW30ES’s design is attractive. It has essentially the same aesthetically-pleasing elliptical body shape as all the other SXRD projectors we’ve seen from Sony, and sports a rich, glossy black finish. The only thing about its design we don’t like so much is the placement of all its connections down the side, rather than on its rear. This will potentially make cable management much trickier for anyone wanting to set the projector up in a permanent installation, especially if you’re thinking of ceiling mounting it.
The roster of connections meets our basic expectations. There are two v1.4 HDMIs, a component video input, a D-Sub PC port, an RS-232 hard remote port, an IR extender port, and a Ethernet port, which is where you connect the projector’s 3D transmitter. We’ll go into this more in a moment, but in the meantime the only negative comment we have about the HW30ES’s connections is that they don’t include a 12V trigger output. Panasonic’s upcoming AT5000, by comparison, will have two 12V trigger ports, as well as an extra HDMI.