I’ve heard some reviewers question the sharpness of SXRD projectors in the past. But I take issue with this. For it seems to me that what the HW15 delivers is simply the right amount of sharpness. Which is to say that while there’s more than enough crispness to proceedings to make out tiny details and cinematic grain in good HD material, the effect doesn’t look forced or gritty, leaving you with a much more engaging, less distracting and to my eyes more cinematic ‘finish’ than you get with projectors that emphasise sharpness above all else.
The very natural look to the HW15’s pictures extends to its motion handling, too. There doesn’t seem to be any really obvious heavy-duty attempt to reduce judder, unless the projector’s Bravia Engine 2 processing has a stab at it. But nonetheless, while its pictures certainly aren’t devoid of judder, the amount of it is hardly ever jarring.
Also seldom distracting is the noise made by the HW15’s cooling fans. In Low Lamp mode the noise levels are really negligible, in fact. But even in High Lamp output mode I wouldn’t expect you to be distracted by the HW15’s gentle whir unless you happen to be sat very close to the projector, and/or the bit of film you’re watching is unusually quiet.
Obviously for its money the HW15 isn’t perfect. Its auto iris system, for instance, can sometimes cause quite obvious brightness ‘leaps’ – even to the point of shifting the image’s colour saturation on very rare occasions. So you may find you prefer to leave it deactivated, even though this will cost you a little black level depth.
Some skin tones during darkish scenes, meanwhile, still have a very slightly green tinge to them, and noise levels can become excessive if, as noted earlier, you’re not careful with some of the projector’s settings. I felt, too, that colours don’t burst off the screen with as much vigour as they do with some projectors I’ve seen, such as Epson’s TW5500 LCD projector.
But that Epson projector, of course, costs nearly twice as much as the Sony HW15. Which is rather handy, actually, for it provides me with the perfect opportunity to wrap up by saying that while you can find projectors that do some things a bit better than the HW15, it’s hard to think of any at the same price level that do as many different things as uniformly well.
The first of Sony’s new projectors suggests that SXRD technology is certainly not, as I’d feared, going to be left behind in the mad race for projection domination we’re destined to witness in the coming pre-Christmas weeks. The VPL-HW15 is pretty, considerate, surprisingly affordable, and best of all, really very good. What’s more, it’s got us very keen indeed to get stuck into Sony’s new VW85 SXRD flagship…