Sony BRAVIA VPL-HW15 HD Projector

Published: 26th February 2010
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Sony's latest innovation with High Definition technology is the creation of the Sony BRAVIA VPL-HW15 full HD projector that features a contrast ratio of 60,000:1 with Advanced Iris 3 technology. The projector showcases Sony's proprietary LCoS-inspired SXRD technology.



Design

There must be something going on in the minds of Sony's designers when they made a revolutionary design choices change with the new BRAVIA VPL-HW15 projector. Unlike other projectors, the BRAVIA's angular chassis is long, rather than wide, and with some curves which makes it like a design picked out from some sci-fi illustration of space crafts.



The input ports are all placed along the lower left of the projector. They include two for HDMI, a component, a composite, a VGA and an S-Video port. Having these ports at the lower left of the projector this way actually allows users to see all the messy cables.



The projector also has an RS-232C connection which allows operation of the projector using a home theater automation controller. While BRAVIA Sync will let users control all BRAVIA devices with its remote control, the RS-232C will allow connections with other non BRAVIA devices as well, as long as it is compliant.



Setting up and calibrating the Sony BRAVIA VPL-HW15

Setting up the system is really easy. Purchase comes with an 80-page manual that is filled with illustrations and relevant instructions. The easiest instructions are not spared from good illustrations, such as planting the battery into the remote control. There are also a handful of words accompanying the illustrations, giving a most detailed step-by-step set up and calibration for a new user.



There are three sensible preset options, Dynamic, Standard and Cinema. Within these is a Cinema Black Pro sub-menu where users may adjust the aggressiveness of the projector's automatic iris adjustment function, or switch the lamp between low and high modes. These options can be easily navigated through a complete menu, even if the menu does not sport an impressive interface design.



Features

This projector has many features and here is a summary of only those that is more distinguished than other HD projector in the market.



Sony BRAVIA VPL-HW15 features a 1080p Full HD SXRD Panel technology. What this means is that Sony has three 1920 x 1080 SXRD panels in this machine, which allows a consistently superior image quality production across the entire screen. The three panels represent each of the basic colors of RGB (one each), which formulates to a total of over 6.2 million pixels, more than twice as many as the 2.8 million pixels on average for 720p HD projectors. SXRD minimizes the space between pixels for smooth and dot-less pictures.



The Advanced Iris 3 contrast technology brings the contrast ratio up to 60,000:1, waking up details in darker sequence and preventing washed out effects on bright scenes. The Advanced Iris 3 contrast enhancement is very similar to the human eye, responding dynamically to the level of light in each scene and selecting the optimum contrast.



BRAVIA ENGINE 2 is a unique function that delivers vibrant colors and exceptional image quality. There are eight separate stages to complete an image enhancement that is carried out in real time. Each has a specialized function, and combined together, they generate the best possible images.



There is a panel alignment function, allowing users to select the red or blue to make adjustments based on green, or to adjust the horizontal and vertical direction by shifting a full image of each color. This way, it achieves the exact color registration of the projected images.



Meanwhile, the Arc-F Lens 1.6x means the all range crisp focus function that delivers spectacularly sharp images for full 1080p HD throughout the screen equally.



BRAVIA Sync is a one-touch access to control functionality over other BRAVIA Sync compatible equipment using the projector's remote and on-screen display. This means that if you have any of Sony's BRAVIA equipments, you only need one single remote control from the projector and be able to make adjustments on all these devices.



x.v.Color technology is a restricted technology, compliant only to x.v.Color capable video resources, such as selected Sony camcorders. It delivers 1.8x viewable colors from the existing RGB color standard for more natural, life-like images.



Performance

Sony BRAVIA VPL-HW15 is a LCoS-based projector. The LCoS technology allows the projector to produce silky-smooth film-like picture without a hint of pixelation, deep black levels and silent operations. There is a bright cinema mode, high contrast, and more accurate color representation than its predecessor, the HW10 model.



Tones are generally good, and skin tones look natural. The projection is also very sharp, so much that even tiny details are evident, yet does not look forced or distracting. However, the auto iris system may cause some sudden brightness and shift the image's color saturation on very rare occasions. Turning it off may solve this problem with a compromise of a little black level depth. Settings is very important, and done wrongly may cause some skin tones to have some slight green tinge to them during dark scenes.



Within the Expert's setting menu is the MPEG noise reduction facility, and users may opt to boost the projector's black levels. However, once done the projector may force shadow details out of the picture. Users should also beware of going too heavy on contrast and color, or leaving the gamma set too high, as these can create noise to the picture and a bleach-out effect for bright areas. Having said this, an average user best stays with the basic Cinema mode most of the time.



The HD projector is surprisingly quiet. In Low Lamp, the noise level is almost negligible, and even in High Lamp mode, users do not get distracted, unless sitting very near to the projector when the room is filled with total silence.



Pros and Cons

Sony BRAVIA VPL-HW15 is probably the least expensive LCoS projector in the market with the least compromise in quality too. It features a 60,000:1 contrast ratio, quiet operations and a flexible 1.6:1 zoom lens with vertical and horizontal shift.



The projector only needs 1,000 lumens to create a bright cinema effect. This means that the projector has the advantage of being a versatile, flexible projector that can be used in almost any viewing environment. Colors are vibrant and accurate with deep, inky black.



One downside of this projector is that the focusing and zooming functions are done manually with its lens ring. Since there is no powered lens, it also would not provide an anamorphic mode. For a company dealing with all sorts of video formats and aspect ratios day and night, this will be a true hassle.



Another downside is that the BRAVIA Sync works too well. Users may experience other devices turning off as well when the intention was just to turn off the projector with the remote control, even with non-Sony devices. Or, it could be the RS-232C compliance's working as well.



There is also no frame interpolation for this projector. While users may appreciate the smoothness during the delivery of a 24p film, others may prefer to have a more "natural" experience with some judder to make it seem less artificial.



Conclusion

This Sony projector is an outstanding projector in terms of image quality. It may be Sony's lowest-price 1080p projector, rather competitive for a LCoS technology projector, yet Sony made few compromises regarding image quality and feature set.



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