Sony VPL-HW50ES Home Theater Projector Review

One more time, with enthusiasm: Sony’s VPL-HW50ES is a $3999 3 panel (chip) LCoS – SXRD as Sony refers to it – projector that is designed for a home theater environment. It has more than enough brightness to handle some very nice sized screens, up to 150″ diagonal in a dedicated home theater or a room with darker surfaces and proper lighting control.  The HW50ES offers 3D capability as well as 2D. Your roughly four thousand dollars gets you two pair of 3D glasses, and also a spare lamp, with the projector.

Below we summarize key items written about in the previous pages of the review. Consult those pages for more details, including even our calibration settings.

Sony VPL-HW50ES Projector - The Bottom Line

I mentioned a year ago, with the HW30ES that while I tend to find that I really like Sony projectors, I have yet to own one.  I can start my summary of the VPL-HW50ES by saying that if I was shopping for a sub $5000 projector for my theater at this time, I believe it would be my top choice.  True, I have the updated Epsons  coming in, and then this year’s minor improvements to the lowest cost JVC, but based on what I know about those projectors predecessors, this Sony may very well be the pick of the litter even against those companies’ newer projectors.  We shall see.

In the case of Sony’s VPL-HW50ES, you will have to decide if it’s the best match for you.  Keep in mind, that even if it is the “best” under $5000 projector, it may not be the best for you.  That said, I suspect this is going to be at least one of the best, if it’s in your budget.

Serving up our Hot Product Award for the VPL-HW50ES

I didn’t even have to ponder whether this Sony VPL-HW50ES would receive a Hot Product Award.  From what I knew going in (price, features, CEDIA demos), it seemed like it was obvious. An hour of viewing in my theater confirmed it.

If you are placing this projector in a theater/cave, this projector is designed for the job.

On the other hand, in brighter “media rooms” family rooms, living rooms, and bonus rooms, the arguments for this Sony, are not quite as strong, but this is a projector with enough horsepower to be considered in those brighter (not too bright) environments.  It certainly would be capable in my old house on a 128″ diagonal screen with a two story living room, sporting rust colored walls, and the right screen for the job. My last room was definitely not a dedicated theater environment

With that said, let’s revisit a few topics, for those who skipped the interior pages of this review.

VPL-HW50ES Brightness: The VPL-HW50ES calibrated is much brighter than most $3000 to $10,000 projector.s Post calibration it measured a whopping just over 992 lumens in “best” (measured with zoom at mid-point!) At its very brightest, the projector reaches to almost 1300 lumens, but notably puts a great looking image on the screen in the 1100-1200 lumen range.  Although the Sony’s brightest modes (Bright TV, Bright Cinema), are a little cool in color temp, overall, they look great.  For comparison, Epson’s Dynamic mode may be significantly brighter (think almost 2000 lumens the way we measure), there’s no comparison in color – the Epson’s strong on greens, the Sony strong on looking good.  By the time you go to other Epson modes that do have really good color, the Epson’s no longer significantly brighter, only slightly.  So for really good bright color, this Sony is really good.

I can’t think of any other quality projector not costing far more, that can match the calibrated brightness of the HW50 projector.

VPL-HW50ES 3D Performance: (If you have no curiosity or interest in 3D, skip down please!)

3D is unusually clean. You can spot crosstalk but if you have the glasses in settings of 1, 2, and maybe, in those settings if you notice crosstalk it’s probably inherent to the content, not the projector.   At the brightest – the #4 setting, the Sony is still very good, for example, better than anything I’ve seen JVC be able to do with any of their projectors in 3D to date.  In the perennial battle between

The amount of 3D brightness on settings 3 and 4 (I mostly use 3), really impresses me.  It definitely held it’s own against last year’s Epson 5010 (though that projector has almost 1000 hours on its lamp, which takes a brightness toll).  This Sony VPL-HW50ES is reasonably bright on a 100″ diagonal screen, something only a few projectors can claim.  I am able to watch at about 125″ diagonal image in 3D, with brightness “acceptable” though I’d like more, it’s still better than most 3D theaters!

Also important, when viewing in the brightest modes for 3D, I can’t think of a projector competing  with the VPL-HW50ES, that looks better good color wise, including those Epsons and JVCs out there.

Really impressive 3D, is the bottom line. For 3D fans, it looks like a slugfest between this Sony, and the competing Epsons for top honors around the price point, the rest are probably “left in the dust.”

Before it gets forgotten, regarding the Sony 3D glasses: People, your Sony’s going in a home theater. That means more than two people are watching sometimes. There are 3rd party glasses (untested) as well as the Sony’s, available.  Remember, you do get two pair with this Sony projector. No emitter needed for 3D, but they offer an optional one if you have a really large room and should need more range.

Sony 3D glasses for this projector are NOT compatible with those provided with Sony LCDTVs.

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