Winner – Best in Class ($2000-$3500): Sony VPL-HW55ES
The Sony VPL-HW55ES: Why It Won
Sony’s VPL-HW55ES receives the other Winner: Best In Class Award. The HW55ES is very bright for a Home Theater projector when calibrated, with an almost perfect 1000 lumens. Black level performance is excellent, rivaling the Epsons, or at least being so close as to not be significant.
When it comes to calibrating the Sony, the final numbers we ended up with weren’t as perfect as some (still excellent), but close enough that its color and overall picture looked as good as any other in the group! And I should note that the Sony had really good color right“ out of the box,” even if not as “on the money” as it’s less expensive sibling.
Since overall, the VPL-HW55ES s a very bright theater projector, but less bright and less suitable than the HW40ES, I’ll say no more about that. Consider the HW55ES for your theater, but if your room doesn’t have full lighting control, the HW40ES becomes a lower cost alternative. If I had to pick one area where the Sony can use improvement it is 3D. The Sony has a built in emitter for IR 3D control, but the world is shifting to, for very good reasons, RF control. When we first reviewed the Sony we talked about the optional RF emitter that Sony listed on its spec page, which would work with RF 3D glasses. Please understand, I had been using Sony’s RF glasses when I reviewed their $15K VW600ES, so I chalked up experience with them. The only problem was you really couldn’t buy that external emitter that was needed for the HW55ES, as many readers pointed out to me. As I write this, XPAND who makes that emitter, is finally packaging it with a cable that works with the Sony. OK, almost a year late, but if you don’t mind the extra bucks I strongly recommend.
A three year warranty accompanies this Sony. There’s no replacement or loaner program.
I like that the Sony is finished in black, (it is available in white in some parts of the world, but not the US), making it near invisible in a dedicated home theater with a black ceiling. When it comes to actual picture quality, there’s very little difference between this Sony and the Epsons that share this award. n a dedicated theater type setup, the Sony is simply as good as it gets for the money, but it is less competitive in brighter rooms. The Sony has to be considered the more elegant projector compared to the Epsons that tied it, while the Epson’s significantly lower price make them the better value proposition, but both are great choices.