The mid-range projector market is mostly dominated by three brands: Sony, JVC, and Epson. With JVC starting at $4,000 and Epson moving the 5040UB to $2,700, it leaves the Sony VPL-HW45ES as the only $2,000 projector from those companies. It offers wonderful black levels with a great contrast ratio, accurate colors, flexibility for installation, and plenty of light output for a superb on-screen image. For the price, you won’t find a better projector out there today.
Scaled down high-end
The Sony VPL-HW45ES is basically a Sony VPL-HW65ES without lots of the extra features for half the price. Lots of the features that you lose out on are not essential. Do you need more than one white balance preset, or are you just going to use a single one? Is that PC input essential, or are you only using HDMI? Do you have a drop-down screen that needs a 12V trigger, or do you have one in your receiver that works just as well?
Now you don’t get everything from the 65ES. The major loss is the dynamic iris that the 65ES has. At the $2,000 price range, you can’t find a projector with a dynamic iris, so this isn’t a surprise. Overall what you lose from the 65ES are features that you can’t find in this price range, and that many people won’t miss much. What you keep are the SXRD panels that provide great contrast ratios, a flexible menu system with lots of adjustments, and all the essential inputs and features you need.
You have a pair of HDMI 1.4 inputs so all of your non-UltraHD sources are handled. The lens includes a 1.6x zoom range and plenty of horizontal and vertical shift for most install situations. The UHP bulb has plenty of lumens for running a 120” screen or possibly a bit larger. At 120” you could get away with low lamp mode, but going larger will take high lamp mode and cause the 45ES fans to run louder.
Fewer features, fantastic image
In my world, companies would focus more on performance than on features. So often those extra features are not things you really need. My Anthem MRX 1120 is this way, and the Sony VPL-HW45ES is too. Tested with a Stewart Studiotek 100 92” screen, the Sony puts out an image that is bright and clear, with great blacks and accurate colors, along with a low input lag to make gamers happy. At the $2,000 price point, the Sony currently stands alone for value.
With movies, the Sony VPL-HW45ES looks fantastic. The Reference mode on the projector offers a neutral, accurate image that lets Blu-ray content look superb. Watching The Magnificent Seven remake the bold palette stands out on the Sony. Colors are vibrant and rich but not pushed to be unrealistic. The black level of Denzel Washington’s pure black suit are really deep, but still show the textures of the lapel against the jacket. At low lamp mode on my 92” screen I had more than 27-foot lamberts of brightness, far more than you need.