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It’s been a long, competitive year since we last saw a new SXRD projector from Sony, so we can’t help but wonder as we take delivery of the brand’s new VPL-HW20 model if Sony has brought its in-house projection tech forward enough to keep up with the best of the LCD and DLP Joneses.
Aesthetically the HW20 gives no clues that might help answer this question. For it’s almost identical in size, shape and colour to the HW15 model it replaces. Perhaps the finish is a touch glossier, and possibly the slanted-down section above the lens is a little less severe. But these are, obviously, minor points.
Just as well, then, that the design the HW20 lifts from its predecessor is an attractive one.
The only pity is that Sony has persisted with its policy of side-mounting its projector connections rather than placing them to the rear as most installation specialists would almost certainly prefer. JVC has finally made this switch with its latest D-ILA projectors, so it would have been nice if Sony could have made the move too.
The HW20’s connections are identical to those of the HW15, meaning you get two HDMIs, a component video input, a D-Sub PC input, an RS-232 control port, and last – and certainly least – S-Video and composite video inputs. This is satisfactory enough in the context of the general projector market, though in an ideal world we wouldn’t have minded a third HDMI sneaking on there.
It’s when we turn our attention to the HW20’s claimed specifications that we start to get into how it differs from its predecessor. For instance, the HW20 boasts 1,300 ANSI Lumens versus the 1,000 ANSI Lumens of the HW15. This represents a startling 30 per cent brightness increase – quite a leap for just one product generation. Sony has achieved this by introducing both a new SXRD panel design and a new optical unit into the HW20’s chassis.
The new SXRD panel and optics have also had a positive impact on the HW20’s contrast. For it promises 80,000:1 versus the 60,000:1 of the HW15 – another substantial single-gen jump.
In these days where JVC can claim a native contrast ratio of 50,000:1 for even its entry-level D-ILA projector, we’re duty-bound to point out that the HW20’s measured 80,000:1 ratio is a dynamic one, achieved via an automatic iris arrangement, rather than a native one. In other words, the greatest black level depths of the HW20 will only be achieved by sacrificing some of that new-found brightness.
This doesn’t by any means imply that the HW20 won’t be capable of delivering a strong contrast performance, though; really we’re just warning you that you need to be careful with how you treat quoted contrast ratios.
Given the potential issues that can surround dynamic iris systems (brightness instability, excessive brightness loss, operating noise), Sony has sensibly given you quite a bit of control over how the VW20’s iris works. On the ‘auto’ side, there are two settings: a standard one that emphasizes contrast, and a second auto mode that reduces the iris ‘starting point’ to reduce contrast but increase brightness stability.