Review: Sony VPL-HW55ES Home Theater Projector

SONY VPL-HW55ES PROJECTOR:  SPECIAL FEATURES: PAGE 2

TWO TYPES OF 3D GLASSES FOR THIS SONY

Here’s the scoop.  Sony is providing two pair of 3D glasses with the projector.  They are infra-red type glasses, as was typical until really the last year or so.  Most companies have been moving to using RF (radio frequency).  In this case, Sony’s at the “half-way” point.  IR glasses are free, and the IR emitter is built into the projector.

People may not look great wearing 3D glasses like these Sony's, but 3D does look great!

People may not look great wearing 3D glasses like these Sony’s, but 3D does look great on this Sony projector!

The newer glasses, the RF types however are optional, and need an external emitter (TMR-RF1), also optional.  The newer, lighter RF glasses (TDG-BT500A) are lighter and likely more comfortable but we didn’t have the ability to compare them side by side.   That said, as other companies have done the same thing, we have been able to compare older IR and newer RF glasses before, just not Sony.   RF is the way to go, and there’s a huge benefit if you do.  Their RF glasses are compatible with other projectors, and some LCDTVs.  While projector manufacturers set their glasses prices pretty high, there are some very low cost ones.  There are inexpensive Samsung glasses that I use with the Epsons that will also work with the Sony RF setup.  I know, because I’ve used the Epson glasses with the Sony, with one of Sony’s 4K projectors, the VW6000Es.

Sony Dynamic Iris: Cinema Black Pro

Cinema Black Pro is a sub-menu on the VPL-HW55ES that offers two controls.  One is the lamp power – High or Low (Eco – as most projectors call their low lamp modes).

The other is Sony’s dynamic iris.  For this year, Sony has increased the contrast claim for this projector, and with it blacker blacks.  Whether that’s all changes to the iris, or there are other factors as well, doesn’t really matter.  Blacks are better than on the HW50ES.

What makes Sony’s iris configuration both interesting, and especially flexible, are the options.

You can set the iris for Auto – which is dynamic mode, or you can set it for Manual  which gives you a slider control with a range from 0 to 100.   For those who find the image when watching a movie in their theater without ambient light who might find the Sony’s roughly 1000 calibrated lumens too bright, setting the iris to manual allows you to lower the overall brightness.  People with smaller screens are more likely to try this.  Of course you would probably first drop down from full power on the lamp.

The VPL-HW55ES offers up excellent black level performance, superior to most sub-$5000 projectors

The VPL-HW55ES offers up excellent black level performance, superior to most sub-$5000 projectors

Now it gets interesting, because there is one other mode.  That one is called Auto Limited.  This  mode limits the maximum the iris is open, to what you set in the Manual area.   From there, the  iris is dynamic.  In other words it works just like normal, except you’ve managed to lower your overall brightness.  A very nice touch for those folks with smaller screens or very high gain ones.

Iris action itself is very smooth.  I’ve rarely noticed (except on movie credits and the like), except when really trying to spot its action.  I’d say it’s on par in smoothness with Epson’s dynamic iris action which is very good.   JVC doesn’t have a dynamic iris on its competing projector, although their higher end projectors now have one.

Great blacks are important, most projectors (even ones a fraction the price of this Sony), can look great on bright scenes.  It’s the handling of very dark scenes that separate great projectors from the rest.  And while the difference may not be “night and day”, it most certainly be the difference between “night and dusk.”

SONY Wireless HDMI Option

The concept of wireless HDMI is a great one.  If you are installing a projector, such as ceiling mounting, you do have to get your power to the projector.  But you also have to get your sources there.  Today, HDMI is the standard.  The issue is that whether your projector, if permanently placed, is ceiling mounted, or on a high rear shelf, you also have to get your sources hooked up.    Unfortunately they are usually not near by.  Most folks will want to run the wires through the wall, and that means a lot of installation and cable running.  By comparison, getting power to the projector is simple and closer.   Thus, having a wireless HDMI solution can mean not opening up a couple of walls to run wire, not spending many hundreds of dollars to installers for doing that.

Sony's optional wireless HDMI module. The receiver side plugs right into one of the HDMI inputs, just as a 3rd party solution would.

Sony’s optional wireless HDMI module. The receiver side plugs right into one of the HDMI inputs, just as a 3rd party solution would.

We did not have the opportunity to test the Sony IFU-WH1 wireless HDMI rig with its multiple HDMI inputs, but we have reviewed several stand alone ones, and also one similar solution from another projector company – in that case Epson.  In all cases, the signal has appeared clean under normal use (reasonable distances).  (I even just received another one, this time from DVDO, to review.)

But there are limitations.   For those of you used to the time it takes to get your projector or TV to start up a Blu-ray disk, for example, the source keeps changing resolutions and settings. Add to that HDCP – the Blu-ray copy protection scheme, which really slows such things down, and we are used to flashes, or messages, repeatedly, and it may often take 4 to 10+ seconds to get a real image on the screen, where that HDCP is in use.  At least we see the flashes, the messages, etc., when hard wired.  With wireless HDMI, things move slowly enough that you don’t get all those intermediate things happening.  Mostly, I’ve found, you see about nothing, until the the image appears.  Thus, it’s the inconvenience of waiting, without the usual things happening that tell you that it’s working.  In other words after 5 or 7 seconds you start wondering.   Well, my experience is that it will work, and it won’t really take longer, you just won’t know exactly what’s going on.   Like most wireless HDMI offerings, the Sony’s is lossless, the picture quality should be identical to using a good quality, expensive cable.

So, the Wireless HDMI is a great additional feature for the Sony VPL-HW55ES.  Most folks probably don’t need it, but if wireless HDMI beats opening up more walls, and more installer expense, it’s a great thing to have.  And since it’s optional, you aren’t really paying for it if you don’t need it.

Sony Motion Enhancer - Creative Frame Interpolation

Motion Enhancer control is found on the Motionflow sub-menu off of the main Picture menu.  It is one of two features there, the other being Film Projection, which is the 3:2 pull-down feature (when On), and does 24 fps, when off.

Selecting Motion Enhancer gives you three choices, Off, Low, and High.  This is your creative frame interpolation (CFI) otherwise referred to as “smooth motion”.

Overall, CFI which I don’t use with movies, is very smooth, artifacts around moving objects are very hard to spot, even in the high setting.

The Sony projector has 240 frame per second capabilities, that allows a lot of creativity when working with 30 or 60 fps source material.  Black frames can be inserted or new frames that fall between original ones that interpolate the motion.

Overall, I’d say this is one of the better CFI’s around.  CFI is a nice touch to have. I will use it if I remember, for my sports.  Some folks will think it more important than I do.  I figure if a projector has it, and it works well, it’s one of those pluses.   From there the user decides whether they like it or not.  Although it works very well, if this Sony VPL-HW55ES projector didn’t have Motion Enhancer, it wouldn’t affect my favorable opinion of this projector.

 

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News And Comments

  • me

    I called Sony to get the TMR-RF1 3D emitter – after a one hour phone
    call Sony said that they no longer make the TMR-RF1 and no U.S. dealers
    even have them in stock. wait it gets ever better….. Sony could not
    even tell me if 3rd party RF emitters will even work

    • firedrake911

      Interesting. I will contact Sony to verify. I’ve used the new glasses with the VW600ES but that one has the emitter built in. -art

      • firedrake911

        Hi again, I’m told that Sony doesn’t sell the emitter in the US, but does in some parts of the world. The emitter is an OEM product. It is made by XPanD, and works with a variety of glasses. Good hunting. -art