Sony VPL-HW50ES Home Theater Projector Review

How does this Sony VPL-HW50ES compare to other 1080p home theater projectors on the market?

Take a quick look at how I perceive this Sony HW50ES relative to a few of the other top players.  This Sony is one of the first projectors we’re reviewing in this year’s crop. The fall season, following the CEDIA and IFA shows is when most manufacturers bring out new models. As such, some projectors we have yet to see, we’d like to compare. In cases like that, the comparison will show up in the later projector’s reviews.

Sony VPL-HW50ES vs. Epson Pro Cinema 6010/6020 and Home Cinema 5010/5020

We haven’t received the new Epson 6020 or 5020 projectors yet, so we’ll focus on how the HW50ES compares to last year’s Epsons, the Home Cinema 5010 and very similar Pro Cinema 6010.  Both Epsons cost less.  The Home Cinema 5010, like the Sony VPL-HW50ES, is available online, while the Pro Cinema 6010 is only available from authorized local dealers.  The HW50ES is also sold by local authorized dealers.

All are 3D capable, have two HDMI inputs, manual zoom lenses, lots of lens shift.  The Epson’s 2.1:1 zoom offers almost twice the placement flexibility of the Sony’s 1.6:1.  Both however, have about the same minimum placement distance from a particular screen.  The Epsons though can be placed farther away.  If rear shelf mounting is your thing, then the Epson is more likely to work for you.  The Epsons also offer picture-in-picture, which the Sony lacks.  Both have panel alignment features including auto modes, but manually, the Sony is far more sophisticated.  It’s a small thing but worth a mention.

Both have extensive image and color controls.  Based on Mike’s experiences calibrating both, he would say that the Sony calibrates easier.

Both Epson and Sony projectors offer up some really good quality 3D, and have 2D to 3D conversion.

Black levels are pretty much a tie in 2D, while the Sony wins handily in 3D black levels.  That’s because Epson doesn’t let you use their dynamic iris in 3D.  The new generation of Home and Pro Cinema Epsons coming early Nov. 2012, do allow their irises and other dynamic features to work in 3D leveling that playing field.

You will find that when it comes to shadow detail and black levels, which looks better can vary from scene to scene.  Comparable certainly.

Both have very good smooth motion (CFI).  If you run into a really difficult pan, the Sony will have a touch more judder than the Epson, but both do well overall.

That’s about it but for brightness and warranty. Both are excellent dedicated home theater / cave projectors.  For the movie fan, the roughly 1000 calibrated lumens of the Sony means huge screens are possible.  The Epson is in the mid-six hundreds.  That’s still very respectable (and above average for calibrated brightness). So very capable with 120 inch diagonal screen sizes.

Put these projectors in a family room, then the Epsons have the advantage of about 1/3 more brightness in their brightest modes for when there’s more ambient light, possibly white walls, and other less desirable aspects.

Warranties:  Epson 6010/6020 will have 3 years, with 3 years of replacement.  With the Sony, you get 3 years with a 90 day replacement.  The Home Cinema 5010 / 5020, comes with a 2 year warranty, and two years of replacement.

Finally that brings us to price.  The Sony is the most expensive of the three assuming they hold to their MAP prices.

Sony VPL-HW50ES:  $3999 with 2 pair of 3D glasses, spare lamp

Epson Pro Cinema 6010 $3499 with 2 pair of 3D glasses, and a ceiling mount, spare lamp.

Epson Home Cinema 5010 $2699 with 2 pair of 3D glasses

OK figure a lamp’s worth about $300.  They all come with the glasses.  Only the Epson 5010 and Sony HW50 are available online.

From a price standpoint, online shoppers are looking at a net $1000 difference between those two, and the one year difference in warranty.  After that, it’s the brighter calibrated projector vs. the brighter overall projector.  The Sony gets the slight edge in color, and one significant advantage - its new Reality Creation – dynamic detail enhancement has a distinct edge over Epson’s Super-Resolution.

Both versions of the Epsons, and the Sony, are excellent. Figuring the forthcoming Epson 5020 and 6020, will be very similar, with a few enhancements of their own.  We should be reviewing one in October, so look to its Competitor’s page for how it specifically stacks up with the Sony VPL-HW50 projector.

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