Friday, March 19, 2010

Sony Bravia VPL-HW15 SXRD 1080P Projector Review

Bigger is not always better, but when it comes to TV’s, it is almost always better. Many of us may enjoy our 40 inch flat screen TV’s. But what if the picture was twice the size? With a front projector, it can be. Up for review today is the Sony Bravia VPL-HWI5.

Sony is known for making good products. The Sony Bravia VPL-HWI5 is no exception. The projector itself is a rather large yet elegant looking gloss black case. The measurements are 16 1/8 x 7 1/8 x 18 3/8 and has a weight of over 22lbs. All of the connections are on the left side and consist of two HDMI, and one each for VGA, composite, S-Video, and component. There is also a connection for controlling the projector via a computer. There are controls on the top to adjust the lens shift up, down, left, and right. There is a control panel on the side opposite of the connections, that consists of buttons for power, input, menu, and navigation buttons for left, right, up, down, and enter. The exhaust vents are on the front corners and front bottom, and intake vents in the rear, with airflow going from rear to front. One of the features that I also like, living in a dusty desert, is the sealed light path. At times, LCD’s can develop dust blobs that can be seen on your screen. But with the Sony’s sealed light path, there’s no way that dust blobs can get on the panels. The Sony has a 1.6x manual zoom lens, which will allow you to have a 100” image from 121 to183 5/8 inches away. This gives you a good amount of installation flexibility. The projector can also be used on a table top, or ceiling mounted.

The Sony used an SXRD which stands for Silicon X-tal Reflective Display. This is Sony’s version of LCoS, which is Liquid Crystal on Silicon. LCoS technology has some qualities that are an improvement of LCD. One of which is the lack of a screen door effect. LCoS also has better native black levels. In addition, the picture tends to be more film-like.

Another unique feature of the Sony Bravia VPL-HWI5 is panel adjustment. Just like LCD projectors, the Sony is a 3 panel system with 1 panel for blue, red and green. These panels are lined up with each other to present the beautiful picture we want to see. But if the panels are not lined up correctly, the color will appear off. On LCD projectors, if this occurs the projector will need to be sent in for adjustment, as they are not user adjustable. On the Sony VPL-HW15, however, they have a pixel adjustment feature that allows adjustment of the color panels in 1/3 pixel adjustments.

The GUI is fairly simple and straight forward. The adjustment screens are fairly simple and well laid out. When you enter the menu, there are screens for Picture, Advanced Picture, Screen, Setup, Function, Installation, and Information. There is quite a bit of adjustments that can be done. The remote control is also fairly well laid out, with backlit buttons for use in a light controlled room.

So, the projector Bravia VPL-HWIS is a well built tank of a projector with some great features. But how does it all come together? The picture is beautiful! One thing that I enjoy about Sony is that they know how to do video very well. I would expect nothing less than Sony, and they delivered.

Out of the box, picture was great. The colors were all very well saturated, and not overly saturated. Lumens were evenly projected corner to corner. Contrast was very good, with the blacks looking just that – black, with great shadow detail. The sharpness was also excellent. With good source material, the image had a lot of depth to it! And synonymous with LCoS technology, the VPL-HW15 picture had zero screen door effect, no matter how close you sat to the screen. The image had a very nice film like look to it, and more elegant looking than I am used to with LCD. I included a few screenshots, which using a digital camera are difficult to give it justice.

With the Sony Bravia VPL-HW15, I was not surprised with its performance. No matter what source material I fed it – DVD, HDTV, Blu-Ray, with film, sports, or even animation, it all looked excellent with a lot of snap! And as I previously mentioned, the pixel adjustment can be preformed for each individual color. Going into the settings, I noticed the panels were of less than a pixel off, and I was able to get it dead on. The picture however did not have a noticeable improvement.

For those of you who are intimidated with adjusting the settings, not wanting to foul anything up, you can rest assured. Picture quality right out of the box was very good. There is always the option of getting it professionally calibrated. But the extra cost may not be worth it for you, based on how well it looks right out of the box. Throwing a 100” 16x9 image from 11 feet away in Cinema mode, in a light controlled room, provided a bright image. It even looked good with a little ambient light. Just keep in mind that while the image is viewable, the more ambient light there is, the more washed out the image can get. Of course, the type of screen used, the amount of ambient light, and location of where the light is coming from can all be a factor to the image quality.

It’s gloss black finish had an elegant look for any décor. There was zero light leakage. And the fan was inaudible, even sitting directly under it. It was also very solidly built. While there are plenty of connections for any type of device, that was one area that I would have liked to see changed. The connections are all on the side of the projector. With it being in my dedicated theater room, I would have preferred to see the connections at the rear instead.

The Sony Bravia VPL-HW15 is a serious projector. It is basically an entry level projector when it comes to LCoS, but there is nothing entry level about the picture it throws. At an MSRP of around $3,000 it gives a big bang for the your buck. If you are in the market for a front projector, I would highly recommend it being on your short list to check out. With a good price, excellent performance, and backed by a 2 year warranty, the Bravia VPL-HW15 is a great product. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at