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Sony VPL-HW55ES Projector vs. Epson HC5030UB Projector - 2

Posted on March 29, 2014 by Art Feierman
It's time to turn our attention to overall picture quality!  Both the Sony HW55ES and the Epson HC5030UB (or PC 6030UB) projectors calibrated beautifully.  For years we're used to the Sony's doing that, but until the 5030UB/6030UB, I tended to find the Epson's not quite as "perfect."   But this year's Epson looks great, and the colors look as natural as the Sony's.  (The Sony still has the advantage of a "smoother" image due to LCoS pixels (Sony) being less visible than 3LCD pixels (Epson).  At most seating distances this is probably a subliminal difference, but worth a mention.

Projector Picture Quality Demonstration - Epson vs Sony

As always remember that a huge amount of information and accuracy is lost getting these images off of the projected screen, through software processing and compression, and displayed on your relatively low contrast monitor or LCDTV.  (The original photos are about 9 megabytes, compressed for the web - about 100K - get the idea?)

The player above has the same or nearly the same images from both projectors, for your consideration.  The Epson image is first, and the Sony follows second. Of course exposures are not identical… in most cases the Epson is slightly brighter, which makes a difference.   The process of creating these images degrades both, probably by a significantly greater amount than the real differences between how these two home theater projectors look on the screen.  Consider that it's possible, with compression, etc. one image being more exposed than the other (brighter) could even result in slightly greater (or different) color shifting.

Ultimately both projectors looked really good calibrated, note that even with both being very close to right on, in calibration still leaves visible differences, direct comparisons tend to make both projectors look "a little off."

Calibrated I have to give the Sony the slight advantage in color accuracy, based on viewing. The measured results don't show that advantage when looking at the numbers.  Remember, due to minor lamp variations, no two projectors (of the same model), will even produce identical results.

For brightest modes, The quick-cal of the Epson's Dynamic mode (1487 lumens) I think looks better than the Sony's brightest mode - Photo (1185 lumens), but not quite as good as favorite "brightest mode - Bright Cinema (1044 lumens).

Don't forget, these are mid-point on zoom.  As mentioned on the previous pages, if you are mounting close in, at or near the short end of the zoom range, the Epson becomes relatively much brighter than the Sony.  That plays into our conclusions!

Black Level Performance and Dark Shadow Detail

These two projectors are very close when it comes to black level performance.  I would say that in most scenes there's little to no difference.  I'd say that at times the Epson is a touch better than the Sony, typically on very dark scenes, but on the very darkest scenes, such as the night train above, the Sony has a slight edge.

It's more about the iris action itself.  Epson serves up two settings to choose from, Normal and High Speed.  I favor the high speed setting.  The Sony's iris seems to be slower, between the two Epson settings, but closer to the Normal. These are complex algorithms, so that's over simplifying.

The bottom line though, is that black level performance is close enough between these two projectors that I have to consider any differences to be a non-factor.  Both do a great job on dark shadow detail as well, although neither is quite the best out there.  So, when picking one of these two projectors look to other factors when picking the best one for you.


The Bottom Line: Which to Buy - Epson or Sony Projector?

I really find it hard to believe most folks can go wrong with either of these two.  I consider them the standouts in the $2000 - $3500 street price range.  There are a couple of other really good projectors, including the JVC DLA-X35 and the BenQ W7500, each with their own strengths, but these two stand out.

Of course we're looking at a price differential of $800  or more at the time of this writing, favoring the lower cost Epson 5030UB, after one subtracts out the extras.   And if you want to run RF glasses with the Sony, that will increase the difference a little, as well.  If you choose the Epson Pro Cinema 6030UB, the difference is a little less, but considered still over $600.

So, assuming you aren't buying the Epson solely because the Sony is out of budget, here's how I see your choices, or perhaps your choice if you think like me.

Let's assume that the pricing proposition is the same.  In a dedicated theater like mine, where even the Sony has more than enough brightness for my sports and other lights on viewing, I would end up going with the Sony VPL-HW55ES.

Outside a dedicated theater - perhaps in a pretty good family room, or game room, or media room, etc, where most ambient light is controlled, but, for example, you may have more than a little light for daytime viewing, that will favor the Epson, where a good "bright mode" will be roughly 40-75% brighter depending on placement.  If sports is more your thing than movies, that too favors the Epson.

I think the Sony has a slight edge in sharpness, perhaps more due to Reality Creation over Super-Resolution, but, folks these are 3 panel projectors, and I aligned both.  The Epson out of the box wasn't quite as well converged as the Sony, so that may be the difference.  With a different Sony and Epson, it might come out the other way...

Because I'm an immersion fanatic, I tend to sit closer than all but a few of us.  My normal sit just over 8 feet from eyeball to screen, whether watching at 100" size or 124" size.  That's close.  At that difference the LCoS panels which have far less pixel structure, remain invisible, while the pixel structure of the LCD Epson isn't really noticeable except on credits and some unusual scenes, I do get a sense of the Epson sometimes having a pixel structure, not the Sony.  At 12-15 feet back, I don't see any advantage to the Sony.

Warranty - interesting.  Sony's got a standard 3 years parts and labor, while the Epson comes with 2 years, but with 2 years of rapid replacement program - longer coverage vs. minimal downtime and less warranty hassle.  Best of both worlds - by from your local dealer the Pro Cinema 6030UB with 3 years warranty and 3 years of replacement.

Epson lamps cost less and last longer.  But that is just another minor factor relating to cost of ownership.  Also of note, if you don't really need the brightest mode of the Epson, you can run it in eco mode - making it quieter, and providing a bigger savings in lamp cost.

Placement flexibility - not much of an issue, as you should start off by seeing what will fit in your room.  Any place the Sony can be placed, the Epson can be placed as well, but the Epson can be placed further away, and be placed higher and lower relative to the screen than the Sony.   And finally, if mounting and placing close - around 10 feet from a 100" screen, the Epson gets a big boost in lumens, the Sony does not, compared to the numbers we provide at mid-point on the zoom.

Remote controls and menus - no advantages for either.  Epson though gives you a button for each input, while Sony gives you a button for each preset mode.  Different - equal!

Epson  gives you a choice - need a white projector for your room - 5030UB, need black - 6030UB.  Sony - in the US, black only.

Audible noise favors the Sony at full power, but not by a significant amount.  In eco modes both will be fine for pretty much anyone who's not parking their head 12 inches from the vents, in which case their head will melt from the heat.

If the Epsons really sold for the same price as the Sony, I would have to say that the Sony was the better overall value, but they do sell for less - at least at this time.

If I had to say which projector produced the superior, best possible picture under ideal circumstances, then I would pick the Sony, but by a pretty modest amount.

I consider them both excellent value propositions, but I would rank them this way from a sheer value standpoint:

Winner - Home Cinema 5030UB
Runner-Up:  Sony VPL-HW55ES and Pro Cinema 6030UB

I know it's great when I can scream "This is the best projector out there for the bucks, no contest, buy it!  But that happens not very often.  This isn't one of those times.  These are great projectors for the money.  Buy the one that makes the most sense for your tastes - the mix of the types of content you watch, and how you watch them, your room, and so on.

For those of you who are, or are planning to be addicted to life in your home theater, you might want to also consider that in 3-4 years, you'll be yearning for a reasonably priced 4K projector.  That might persuade you to spend a little less today, saving the rest for that future 4K projector, or maybe even for a better screen today?

Don't forget, there's more info in the individual reviews, and we have made videos of each projector, which include video footage from movies, not just stills.

That's it, it's now up to you to decide!


More Sony, Epson Photos


Captain Pike rom the Star Trek Movie - a great skin tone!


The coolest highway interchange in Shanghai, from Skyfall


Catniss in The Hunger Games - again, natural looking skin tones


From Iron Man 2 - Monaco. Good color balance, looks very nicely right

Home Cinema 5030UB

Black and white commercial - great black levels and impressive contrast. Very nicely sharp.

Home Cinema 5030UB

Daniel Craig as Bond in Casino Royale. Good looking skin tone - indirect sun light.

Home Cinema 5030UB

Sports look great. Vibrant, rich colors, note the good looking red white and blue of the mid-field NFL feature.

Home Cinema 5030UB

The "new" Captain Kirk - Star Trek Movie, detailed, vibrant

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