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Sony VPL-HW40ES: Picture Quality

John Archer

By John Archer



  • Recommended by TR


Our Score:


The HW40ES continues Sony’s strong run of projector form this year despite its relative affordability. Particularly impressive is the way its pictures are sharp enough to effortlessly bring forth the maximum impact from high quality Blu-rays. Softness and noise are not an issue so long as you tame the resolution part of the Reality Creation system and set the lamp to its low output mode, and the amount of detail on show stands as testament to both the quality of the latest generation of SXRD chips Sony has developed and the HW40ES’s lens system.

What’s more, the HW40ES’s deft touch with fine detail even extends to dark scenes, as the projector resolves much more of the subtle greyscale and shadow detailing information dark scenes need to look believable than we’d expect to see on a sub-£2k projector.

Also hugely impressive for its price point is the HW40ES’s colour response. Tones across the board achieve that tricky balance between dynamic intensity and believability, with no tones looking over-dominant, and no tendency towards general over-saturation – so long, at any rate, as you don’t try and use one of the projector’s most aggressive picture presets or the higher power echelons of the Reality Creation processing options.

The HW40ES’s colour strengths also form part of its excellent detail response, for the projector is able to resolve subtle colour changes and blends that often tend to be lost by affordable projectors.

Another excellent string to the HW40ES’s bow is its motion handling. We already noted in the feature section that its motion processing systems are cleverer than most, but actually the HW40ES is very good at leaving motion looking free of unnecessary judder even without any processing in play.

Studying colours in dark scenes yields rewards too. The HW40ES manages to hold on to a surprising amount of brightness when showing dark scenes for a projector that relies on a dynamic contrast system (which closes and opens an iris to vary the amount of light the being allowed through the lens) to deliver its widest contrast range. And this fact means it’s also able to deliver more natural, punchy colours in dark scenes than you usually get at the affordable end of the projector market.


There is really only one flaw in the HW40ES’s picture makeup: its black level response is only fair to good rather than excellent like almost everything else. This means there’s always a bit of greyness hanging over very dark scenes no matter what picture settings you employ. This greyness isn’t, to be clear, severe by any means, and so as noted earlier doesn’t obscure shadow details. Nor does it lead to any significant colour tone deterioration during dark scenes. But it does make dark scenes just a little less convincing than bright ones, and is the single most compelling reason to save up for the step-up £2,800 Sony VPL-HW55ES.

socratesatgmail .

May 24, 2014, 7:49 pm

I took the plunge an upgraded my 7 yr old SIM2 Domino35 DLP projector combined with a Darblett unit for this Sony projector. I agree with the review points above and the quietness of this projector even at full power should not be ignored easily. The backlit control unit is a dream to use with all the important choices easily available. Believe it or not adding the Darblet unit between the blu-ray player and the Sony does add a subtle improvement to the already excellent images - especially if the Darblet is set lowish at 20%. This improvement is better than simply increasing the reality creation setting which is best keep low. My screen is 176" and the image remains bright and vibrant.

gar levir

July 4, 2014, 2:06 am

I just got the VPL-HW40ES. I use a playstation 4 to play blu-rays. Can I use the PS4 to watch 3D movies? do I need to buy glasses? which ones? any other equipment? Sorry or all the questions but this seems like a page for people who know their 3d on the 40ES and i'd love to get advice. thanks!

socratesatgmail .

July 28, 2014, 9:33 pm

Sorry for the delay gar. The glasses you need are the Sony TDG-PJ1. However if you wear ordinary glasses you might find the overall combination weight a bit heavy. However the 3D is excellent and when this is the case there is no denying that it is impressive. The glasses are expensive £90 - £100 each. Its possible you could go down the external transmitter route and get cheaper glasses but I don't know how good they would be.

socratesatgmail .

July 28, 2014, 9:44 pm

The other piece of equipment worth thinking about is the Etekcity® 4 Port HDMI Intelligent Switch
Switcher Selector with Audio, IR wireless remote, AC power
Adapter, Supports 3D 1080P, Toslink, Coaxial, 3.5mm AUX

I have a Blu ray
player, XBOX360 and Humax Digital tv HD sat box. I output these to the projector and the audio via toslink(optical) to a yamaha soundbar.
Before I purchased this unit I had to keep changing over the
HDMI and audio out toslink cablse. This unit takes all the HDMI cables and sends just one video output to the projector. It cleverly takes the audio from the individual HDMI cables and outputs it separately in my case throught a toslink (optical) cable to my soundbar. This saves constantly changing cables which damages the ports and leads to loose connections over time. Now depending which source I want to watch I just use the Etekcity remote to chose from one of the 4 HDMI inputs. Happy days.

socratesatgmail .

July 28, 2014, 9:45 pm

check posts gar


May 2, 2015, 9:05 pm

The review is mistaken when it mentions the Sony using an iris, the HW40 has no iris, it achieves everything natively with no help whatsoever from an iris.

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