Sharpness and Image Noise
I normally discuss these two aspects of performance in separate sections, but this time it seemed appropriate to combine them.
In this player I’ve got an assortment of images to demonstrate the Sony’s overall sharpness. Reality Creation, Sony's "smart" sharpness and detail enhancement features was set to 20 for all of the images in the player, except for the Secretary images from The Fifth Element, which show RC Off vs. On, and settings on minimum, 20, and 50. Those "Secretary images were taken with the older HW40ES when reviewed. The HW45ES should perform the same as you adjust RC. When viewing those, look at skin texture, and also the background noise in the purple and blue areas. The differences are definitely noticeable!
Reality Creation is effective at sharpening the image, although as with most heavy processing, the more you use it, the more artifacts. While for the price, this Sony does a great job, I don't think the HW45ES's Reality Creation alone, is a match for some of the pixel shifting projectors that also have detail enhancement equivalents. Still, since the least expensive of those (the Epson 5040UB) costs 50% more - $2999, (and t's the only pixel shifter under $3999) that seems more than fair.
I will suggest that this is an area where Sony’s HW65ES may do a better job, although they were here many months apart, so I'm mostly going on subjective impression. It may be the higher end Sony, at the least, has more flexibility to come up with both a sharp looking image without as much image noise. BTW, Sony’s Noise control as part of RC on the HW45ES doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference.
I should mention that as the HW45ES is a 3 chip projector, there is inherent misconvergence. I used Sony's digital alignment function to compensate. It takes just a few minutes to run. Just follow the instructions! Easy.
Bottom Line on Sharpness: (or rather perceived detail and sharpness). The Sony looks crisp, and very sharp, but at the trade-off of a little hardness in close ups of faces with the Reality Creation engine on its default of 20. At 10 it still looks similar. Turning it off softens the faces, but at the same time, the difference in perceived sharpness between a setting of 20 on RC, and turning RC off, is pretty significant. Again, keeping in mind that the Epson 5040UB is a whole lot more expensive, it has the advantage. Both can be a bit hard if you use the effects more than a little, but I believe that the Epson can achieve more perceived sharpness using pixel shifting and it's Image Presets, than the Sony can, thanks to both the firmware, and the pixel shifting, with less visible artifacts.