While this projector offers multiple tweaks for colour temperature, gamma and noise reduction, you really don't need to work too hard to get a great-looking image.
Regardless of your views on 3D, the VPL-HW30ES is a fine 2D projector. It's capable of deep, convincing blacks with tangible shadow detail. Unlike rival D-ILA technology, SXRD relies on a dynamic iris to deliver deep contrast. Here the Advanced Iris system has a couple of auto modes, which adjust to scene content; sensitivity is variable. I wasn't particularly aware of the iris opening or closing during my audition. Alternatively, you can manually set and fix it to taste.
The VPL-HW30ES is all about eye candy. Arthouse animation Chico & Rita looks simply ravishing, displaying vibrant reds rather than washed-out oranges. Colours really pop from the screen.
There are no fewer than nine picture presets available, including a trio of Cinema modes designed to emulate the characteristics of 'real film', 'digital cinema' and 'pro monitors.' There are also modes dedicated to 3D gaming and still photography. Investigate them at your leisure, because differences can be subtle.
Motion resolution is good, provided you engage Sony's proprietary fast framerate technology. The VPL-HW30ES offers two MotionFlow processing modes, Low and High.
With MotionFlow off, the moving picture resolution of the unit falls from 1080 lines to approximately 750 (when motion is locked at 6.5 pixels per frame). The good news is that horizontal panning judder is inherently low.
Switch the Motion Enhancer to Low and definition creeps up to around 950 lines. The process creates some slight artefacts around moving objects, but nothing to write home about. We'd regard either setting as fine for watching movies.
Give the High setting a wide berth though, unless you're watching ice hockey... or maybe curling. The resulting sheen removes all traces of cinematic texture.
In 3D mode, the VPL-HW30ES is nearly as impressive. The 240Hz panel is fast, but there's still some double imaging visible on traditionally troublesome Blu-ray discs.
Thankfully, the quality of 3D authoring is evolving rapidly and as a consequence discs seem less susceptible to crosstalk. Resident Evil: Afterlife and Tangled (an interesting double bill at the best of times) offer stunning depth and clarity. RE: Afterlife consistently uses rain and water to emphasise depth, which is far more effective on a large screen than when viewed on 3D TV. The credit sequence in particular is stunning; you really will feel caught in the downpour.
The VPL-HW30ES is equally entertaining when fed by a console. Sony has a small but perfectly formed selection of 3D titles now for the PS3, and they're quite a hoot in Gigantovision. Fast-moving games are next to impossible to spot crosstalk on, so you can just relax and play.
Perhaps predictably, Sony has also invested this projector with the ability to dimensionalise 2D content, using algorithms borrowed from its Bravia TV line. However, we hereby deem this feature to be pointless and refuse to comment on it further.
The Big S has delivered a barnstorming big-screen projector with the VPL-HW30ES. Not only is it good enough to convert the fiercest 3D cynics, it's also a darn fine 2D projector in its own right.
While it may not be perfect – the lack of a 12V trigger particularly rankles and we'd rather the transmitter was back integrated with the lens assembly – this remains a compelling argument for bringing big-screen 3D home.
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