Winner: Best in Class ($2000-$3500): Sony VPL-HW55ES

The Sony VPL-HW55ES Home Theater Projector wins a Best In Class award for the second year in a row. Great Projector!

The Sony VPL-HW55ES: Why It Won

Sony’s VPL-HW55ES receives a Best In Class Award, sharing it with the Epson HC5030UB/PC6030UB   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 “dead on the money” interestingly, as the less expensive (but newer) HW40ES.  Of course the differences could be nothing more than lamp variation.

In a dedicated theater, the VPL-HW55ES is plenty bright, easily handling a 150″ diagonal screen if you could find room for one.  If you are more media room/living room, and have to deal with ambient light, then consider the runner-up – the HW40ES which is even brighter (and less money!)

3D could be a bit better, even beyond the crosstalk that is expected on all but DLP projectors.  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.   Sadly for about a year, it wasn’t available in the US.  Since last year’s report, I’m pleased to advise that XPAND who makes that emitter, is shipping the emitter. The $200 list price probably won’t break anyone buying a $3500ish projector, so consider going RF to be highly recommended.

Warranty is excellent with a three year parts and labor warranty, however there is no replacement or loaner program.

The Sony VPL-HW55ES is only available in a black finish in the US, but it is available in white in some parts of the world. Of course black is ideal in a theater with dark surfaces.  When it comes to this Sony’s picture quality, there’s very little difference between this Sony and the Epsons that share this award.  In 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, but the Epson’s significantly lower price (roughly $1000 less for the HC5030UB, make them the better value proposition.  If the difference in price doesn’t matter, issues such as dealing with ambient light should help you decide which.

The Sony can deliver its best picture on a larger screen than the Epson can, but either has no problem with a 120″ diagonal screen.  The Epson can deliver a brighter image, though if you are dealing with ambient light.  No wonder, two years in a row, I couldn’t pick one over the other for the top award in this price range.

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