Sony VPL-HW30AES 1080p Three-Chip LCoS 3D Projector


Design of the Sony VPL-HW30AES 3D Projector

The VPL-HW30AES comes in a case that is distinctly Sony. Their SXRD models have always had a design that is unique and instantly recognizable as a Sony product. This one is basically a square with beveled corners and an arched top. The lens is front and center with louvered vents in the corners that expel heat from the lamp. The intake is around back which is nice because you don’t need much rear wall clearance when mounting the projector. The fan is almost imperceptible when running. Even in my super-quiet room, I could barely tell it was on. On the high lamp mode the noise increases a tiny bit but it’s still the quietest projector I’ve ever tested. On the bottom are two leveling feet with a wide rubber strip supporting the chassis in back.

Up top, the only controls are the two lens shift dials. With 65 percent (screen height) of vertical lens shift available, the HW30 can work in a variety of positions both above and below the screen. Zoom and focus are accomplished with rings around the lens barrel. On the right side are basic controls for turning the power on and off, switching inputs and accessing the menus. Below that is the jack panel with its two HDMI, one component, and one VGA input. This is the first projector I’ve encountered that forgoes composite and S-video inputs – no loss there. For control, RS-232 and IR are provided. One jack I did not see was a 12-volt trigger. This is normally used to activate an anamorphic lens or a retractable screen. Omitting this means you’ll have to operate the lens or screen yourself rather than automatically. The final jack is an RJ45 connector for the 3D sync emitter. This device is about the size of a large pen and must be placed below or above your screen. You then run a standard Ethernet cable between the projector and the emitter. Since the sync is achieved via infrared, you must sit in line-of-sight with the emitter. I found if I tilted my head up enough, I could break the connection. I hope Sony and other manufacturers will consider using RF for future products as Optoma has with their current line of 3D projectors.

The menu system is well thought out and similar to past Sony projectors I’ve worked with. All the image adjustments are contained in the first two sections, Picture and Advanced Picture. This includes the iris controls which Sony calls Cinema Black Pro. There are two Auto settings, a manual aperture, and Off. Though I calibrated with the iris off, I found the Auto 1 option worked quite well at increasing the perceived contrast of actual content without being visible in its operation. Sony is one of the best in the business with its iris implementation and the HW30 was no exception. Also available is Motionflow, Sony’s version of frame interpolation, with three choices, High, Low and Off. Though the High and Low settings work as intended with no noticeable artifacts, I preferred to leave this off with one exception detailed in the In Use section. Color Space (gamut) presets number four with Wide 1 being the best starting point for calibration.

The next section, Screen, is where you’ll find all the aspect ratio choices. It was not immediately obvious whether the HW30 would support an anamorphic lens or not. The main aspect choices are 4:3, 16:9 or Zoom but a separate option, Vertical Size, can be used to stretch the image vertically and eliminate the black bars on 2.35:1 content. You’ll have to move the lens into place manually since there’s no 12v trigger. Additional choices let you dial in overscan or view images without scaling.

The Function menu has all the options for 3D viewing. You can choose your format or do as I did and leave it on Auto. The HW30 does offer a 2D to 3D conversion feature. The manual states this will have varying effects depending on content. You can adjust the depth of the conversion to five different levels. It doesn’t really add dimension as much as place objects on multiple flat planes. Some viewers may like it; I did not. One control that piqued my interest here was the 3D Glasses Brightness slider. The most significant penalty for going 3D with any display is the loss of light output. Turning up this control to Max improved the image markedly with no penalties. Kudos to Sony for including this; it’s something that should be on every 3D TV and projector. If you use other Sony components with HDMI CEC, you can add the HW30 to the chain with options in the HDMI Control section.

The Installation menu has options for placement, keystone (which should never be used since it cuts resolution), and image masking. There is also a Panel Alignment that lets you tweak the convergence of the three SXRD panels. This is a great tool and only Sony has a system that allows changes of less than a single pixel. There is no multi-zone adjustment like on the CRTs of old but it still allows you to achieve nearly perfect convergence which translates to sharper images with better edge-to-edge uniformity. The final menu is labeled Information and simply displays the model and serial number and all signal info. This is always useful when setting up a system and optimizing your sources.

The remote is a typical Sony wand with full backlighting and nice feel in the hand. I had to point it directly at the screen to execute commands; lazy waving of the handset produced less consistent results. Given its extreme length, I wish Sony had included discrete input keys instead of the single Input button. There are discretes for the picture modes and also rockers for adjusting Sharpness, Brightness and Contrasts. Another set of keys toggles Gamma presets, Color Temp, aspect ratio, Motionflow and other image parameters. I had no real issues with the remote except for its large size. Either make it smaller or give me more buttons!