Based on Sony’s VPL-VWPRO1 2D front projector, the VPL-HW30ES adds 3D capability, but requires the use of an outboard infrared synchronizing emitter for the active shutter 3D glasses, as opposed to onboard IR 3D sync emitter capability, such as found on the Sharp XV-Z17000 and the forthcoming Panasonic PT-AE7000U.
The imaging panels are of the LCoS variety (Sony calls them SXRD), and the projector is equipped with a 200W high pressure lamp which provides enough light output to handle a wide range of screen sizes.
Consider this projector if: You’re looking for a reasonably priced 3D front projector from a company that has a long and established history in the front projector business.
Look elsewhere if: You’re doing the install yourself, as the outboard 3D sync emitter needs to be placed in a location near the front projection screen, which may require the services of a custom installer to route the IR sync cable in the room.
• Overall picture quality (HD): 9
• Features: 8
• Connectivity: 7
• User interface: 8
• Value: 8
Obviously, the projector’s 3D capability is the main differentiating feature compared to the prior 2D version (itself a very good performer). Equipped with Sony’s own SXRD (liquid crystal on silicon-type) imaging panels, the VPL-HW30ES carries a suggested list price that’s only $200 more than that of its 2D predecessor.
Out-of-the-box, the projector can only display 2D images. To get the 3D experience, you’ll need to connect an outboard 3D infrared synchronizing emitter (model number TMR-PJ1) as well as Sony’s active shutter 3D front projection glasses (model number TDG-PJ1). The emitter is essentially the same type that Sony offered for use with some of their first generation 3D flat panels last year. Fortunately, Sony offers a bundled version of the projector (VPL-HW30AES) that ships with two pairs of glasses, the IR sync emitter and a USB charger, where the bundled version costs $300 more than the standalone model.
The active shutter glasses are almost identical-looking to the ones offered with Sony’s current 3D flat panel models, but they have an integrated filter in the lens that’s optimized for front projection, as well as a matte interior finish that is said to reduce reflections in a darkened home theater environment. The glasses are rechargeable, and a label indicates that they feature a lithium ion battery, said to have a longer use time between recharges as well as faster recharge times than other rechargeable battery types (a 30 minute charge provides up to 30 hours of usage).
The projector also features 2D-to-3D upconversion, and has a 3D depth control feature that allows adjustment of the principal 3D focal plane both forward and backward (not all people see 3D the same way, so having a 3D depth control can benefit some viewers). There’s one very odd quirk about the 2D-to-3D upconversion feature, as after an hour of viewing in simulated 3D, the projector reverts back to 2D. The owner’s manual provides no explanation as to why the 3D simulator function quits after only an hour, just that it does.
There’s also a very extensive array of picture adjustments as well as a number of user memories, which allows for fine-tuning the picture to accommodate different types of images or viewing conditions. As with virtually all other projectors these days, there are two lamp output modes. When the Sony is in 3D mode, it automatically switches to the higher light output mode as well as disabling the automatic iris, as the 3D effect coupled with the light attenuation of the 3D glasses requires the projector to put out the brightest image possible.
Unfortunately, the VPL-HW30ES doesn’t support an external anamorphic lens setup for widescreen (2.40:1) viewing. The projector sports manual vertical and horizontal lens shift for placement flexibility, but as with some other projectors, the controls themselves are kind of loosey-goosey and not terribly precise in terms of granularity of adjustment. Still, compared with bare-bones projectors, having the lens shift controls is a plus.