Yet more good news concerns the HW10’s colour handling. Tones across the colour spectrum are impressively believable – especially when considered against the rather pallid efforts of the VPL-VW40 model that marks Sony’s previous entry-level SXRD option.
It doesn’t harm the colour situation, either, that the HW10’s extremely fine pixel density allows colour blends to appear with the sort of satisfying subtlety that helps objects in pictures look more three-dimensional and solid.
The single biggest surprise with the HW10’s pictures, though, is how good its black levels are. This has tended to be a weakness with previous value-oriented SXRD projectors, but the HW10 presents a really natural contrast range ranging from vivid peak whites down to more than decent blacks. What’s more, those blacks look stable despite the machinations of the dynamic iris, and even manage to retain solid amounts of shadow detail for the majority of the time.
It’s worth noting that the best black level results are achieved with the Auto iris system set to level 2 and the lamp output set to low. But at the same time my personal feeling is that the best iris settings for the picture overall are to have the lamp set to high and the iris set to level 1, since this puts a bit more ‘punch’ into proceedings.
More good news about the HW10 concerns its running noise. For even with the lamp output set to high we hardly ever noticed the sound of its cooling fans. And even when we did pick the sound up, it is so low-level as to be almost soothing.
There are, inevitably, reasons why the HW10 costs less than a third as much as the VPL-VW80 . For instance, the cheaper model’s pictures aren’t as bright, its black levels aren’t as deep, and its colours are slightly less vibrant. But with regard to the VW80’s MotionFlow functionality, we really didn’t find ourselves missing it all that much, to be honest. And for me, even the differences in brightness, contrast and colours aren’t as acute as the £3,500 price difference might imply.
More tellingly, perhaps, the HW10’s colours also aren’t as richly saturated as those of one or two similarly priced DLP projectors. DLP projectors can also deliver slightly deeper black levels, especially when an image contains a combination of dark and bright content (a scenario which causes noticeable crushing in the HW10’s black level range). But the HW10 has the edge over DLP when it comes to clarity and running noise, and most tellingly of all it doesn’t suffer with DLP’s rainbow effect noise.
With JVC currently refusing to move significantly under £2,700 with its outstanding D-ILA technology, we’ve long felt that there’s a real chance for Sony’s rival SXRD system to make inroads at the budget end of the market. And happily, with the HW10 Sony has finally delivered an affordable budget SXRD option that has enough quality to grab that budget market chance with both hands.