Sony VPL-HW45ES – Picture Quality
Initially, black levels didn’t look very satisfying. There’s a grey look to parts of the picture that should look black. The High lamp mode also appears to increase noise levels in the picture and adds a curious yellow tinge to colour tones. Fortunately, the VPL-HW45ES’s pictures move from being slightly disappointing to gorgeous the moment you switch the lamp to Low.
At this point the superlative contrast performance introduced with the VPL-HW40ES returns. Exceptionally rich, deep black colours share the frame with bold, punchy whites, vibrant and dynamic colours. Best of all, shadow detailing is extremely impressive for such an affordable projector.
Related: Best Home Cinema Product 2016
At the VPL-HW45ES’s price, I’d typically expect to see significant detail in dark pictures becoming crushed out of the picture, as the projector removes light in order to deliver a convincing black colour. But this just isn’t the case. Dark scenes look natural and full of depth, helping them sit more consistently alongside accompanying bright scenes.
The projector even manages to achieve its exceptional contrast without its dynamic light-control features causing the image to look distractingly flickery.
The level of detail the VPL-HW45ES ekes out of HD sources is simply stunning. I was able to see subtleties of colour, shade and texture that I can’t recall ever seeing before at this level.
You can add extreme sharpness to the mix if you use the Super Resolution processing option, but I think this makes the picture feel a little forced. A more effective way of adding sharpness – as well as a more tangible sense of depth and space – is the Reality Creation system. I generally opted to leave switched on, but die-hard image purists will prefer to leave this feature off.
With the Low lamp setting doing away with the slight yellow dominance of High lamp mode, the VPL-HW45ES also provides dazzling colour performance. Its strong black levels provide an excellent foundation for the rest of the colour palette. The lack of low-contrast greyness relative to other similarly affordable projectors also lets colours enjoy a more natural look.
There’s plenty of tonal subtlety on offer too. There’s no need to worry about vibrant content – even computer animation – starting to look one-dimensional and plasticky.
Gamers will be ecstatic to learn that, using its low latency mode, the VPL-HW45ES takes just 15ms to render its images. This is an incredibly low figure by projector standards, which makes it impossible to blame the projector for any deaths or other gaming fails.
It’s difficult to find anything negative to say about the VPL-HW45ES’s pictures at all once you’ve made a few minor tweaks to its picture settings.
The best I can manage is that pictures don’t look quite as bright as they ideally might once they’ve been tweaked to optimise black levels and contrast.