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Review: Sony VPL-HW55ES Home Theater Projector

Posted on December 7, 2013 by Art Feierman
This roughly $3500 net Sony home theater projector has a great picture. The VPL-HW55ES wins our HOT PRODUCT Award, and is an overall excellent choice!

Specs Preview

Sony Sony VPL-HW55ES Specs
Price 3999
Technology LCoS
Native Resolution 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness (Manufacturer Claim) 1700
Contrast 120000:1
Zoom Lens Ratio 1.60:1
Lens Shift Yes
Lamp Life 5000 Hours Eco-Mode
Weight 21.5
Warranty 3 Years Parts and Labor

Video Summaries

VIDEO REVIEWS: Check out our short 4-minute overview or the longer 12-minute summary (subscribers only).

Basic Description and Sample Image Quality

The Sony VPL-HW55ES is the direct replacement to one of last year's Best In Class winners, the HW50.  This VPL-HW55ES is another projector that is an evolutionary improvement, and we'll discussed that improved performance later.  Like its predecessor, this Sony projector retails for $3999, but that price includes 2 pair of 3D glasses, and a spare lamp.  Thus, consider this about a $3500 projector (we will include it in the $2000 - $3500 class, in our upcoming home theater comparison report (Feb 2014).

The HW55ES is available in very dark blue-green/black, in the US, but also is available in white in the EU and some other parts of the world.  In anything but a bright room, the US version looks black.  It is an LCoS projector, using 3 panels.  Note that Sony calls their LCoS panels SXRD, a term you've probably seen before.

Essentially, the HW55ES is a dedicated home theater projector, there are brighter projectors out there if you are trying to find a projector for more of a living room type environment, yet it does have pretty good brightness, so those rooms may work for you with the right screen, and one not too large.  Still most of these are heading into theater/caves.

The VPL-HW55ES Projector has a manual zoom lens, and a good deal of lens shift (more on the details on this Sony review's Hardware Tour page).  I should note right now, Sony's warranty is better than most.

What projectors compete with the HW55ES?  There aren't very many projectors in the general price range, but the major direct competition includes, the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB, a less expensive solution, and its almost identical twin, the Pro Cinema 6030UB, which is closer to the Sony's price.  JVC offers a price comparable projector, the DLA-X35, which is also sold by a different JVC division as the DLA-RS46, those both launched a year ago, and not "refreshed" this year.  There are a couple of old Optoma DLP projectors still around in the price as well, for DLP lovers.  There are some other lower cost alternatives, but not really serious competition.  The more expensive competition is lead by Sony's own other projectors and other JVCs - JVC has an updated projector around $1500 more, but there are others, more expensive including the lowest cost Runco projectors.  We'll take a closer look at how the VPL-HW55ES projector compares, in our Competitors page of this review.


Sony VPL-HW55ES earns Hot Product Award

No surprises here, as we considered it's previous version to be about the best there is around the price.  With no all new competing projectors into the price range this year, the award proved to be a slam dunk.

The key reasons are the exceptional picture quality - natural skin tones, extremely good black level performance, and an exceptionally bright calibrated picture, as well as very good placement flexibility.   We explore all of that in depth, in this review.

Sony VPL-HW55ES Highlights

  • Brighter than most calibrated
  • Good brightness in brighter modes  for handling some ambient light
  • Multiple 2D and 3D picture modes (many!)
  • Full color management system (CMS) for excellent calibration
  • Improved lamp life over last year's model,  now excellent
  • Large, backlit remote, with easy navigating menus
  • 12 volt screen trigger
  • Wireless HDMI option
  • 3D with included glasses, can convert 2D content to 3D
  • Reality Creation - dynamic detail enhancement for extremely crisp looking image
  • Great warranty

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