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Sony VPL-HW55ES Projector - Summary 2

Posted on December 8, 2013 by Art Feierman

Picture Quality

Projector Reviews Hot Product AwardI'm sold on the picture the Sony puts on the screen.  It's accurate, it's natural, it's believable.  When it comes to that subjective description "film-like", there are many folk that might say DLP projectors are more film-like, but that's almost besides the point in this case, because there really isn't much to choose from in DLP's that can compete in general.  Oh, there are some outstanding, but far more expensive DLP projectors, but there's little to consider around $3500 that measure up.

The VPL-HW55ES is available in the US, only in the dark finish

The VPL-HW55ES is available in the US, only in the dark finish

I don't think you will find a projector that calibrates any better than this Sony, so accuracy isn't an issue.  There's plenty to tweak, if you prefer, such as lots of gamma modes.  In fact this is an exceptionally fun projector, if you like to fiddle, and see what everything does.

My favorite picture enhancement feature is definitely Reality Creation, Sony's dynamic detail enhancement control.  It lets you go from Off (which would be the most film-like, and the softest image), to varying levels of crispness and perceived sharpness increases.  It's well behaved, and the most effective I've seen. Old style sharpness controls are just a disaster by comparison.  LCoS projectors are oft accused of being too soft compared to single chip DLP projectors.  Put up a setting of 20 on Reality Creation, and it will look as crisp as those DLP's and likely with far less visible noise.  Go higher for some content.  50 is reasonable for my football viewing!

I'm not putting down Sony's implementation of two other features in particular, CFI and the Dynamic iris, both which work very well.  But, I consider a dynamic iris (JVC excepted) to be essential these days.  Sony's CFI for smooth motion is very good.  on Low some you can watch a movie, although I rarely will.  Even High seems relatively free of artifacts around the "fast moving objects."

3D Performance

The key issues when considering 3D are brightness, crosstalk, and general picture quality.  Sony provides their "older" IR glasses with the projector, but has optional RF ones.

I did not get to check out the new RF (radio frequency) 3D glasses with this projector, but I did get to use them with the VW600ES (their 4K, $15,000 projector).  You'll also need the optional RF emitter that plugs into the projector's input area.  The HW55ES comes with 2 pair of the older IR glasses instead (that emitter is built in).  Since I haven't tried both pair on the same projector, I'll have to assume, as is the case with other companies who have moved to RF glasses, that, the newer ones produce a brighter image.  (That's not due to being RF, but being newer, improved along with the projector's 3D processing.)   My point is, that my comments on 3D brightness are for the IR glasses, and I'd expect the newer ones to help out where brightness in 3D is an issue.

And that means larger 3D viewing.  I like bright 3D, or, I should say I am more critical than most when it comes to how much brightness is acceptable.  I also take into consideration that we 3D fanatics are more forgiving about how little brightness we will put up with.  Friends and family of owners, aren't as into things as much as we are, and would be more likely to complain about 3D brightness than the average projector owner.  We want our recommendations to produce a bright enough image for both you and those who will be joining you.

The Sony VPL-HW55ES In Your Room


With a good screen like the Stewart Studiotek 130 that I use, (it's a screen with modest 1.3 gain), a 150" diagonal screen is doable, if you have the right room!   I watch all widescreen movies on my screen that is 124" diagonal, and never feel the need for a single extra lumen when I'm watching even the darkest scenes of a movie in my theater.  3D brightness is, of course a bit more challenging, but as I said on the previous page, I can watch 3D at that size, but prefer a bit smaller, and I would use Bright Cinema in 3D, not my calibrated mode.

Audible noise should not be an issue, even at full power.  At least it's quieter than most of the competition running at full power.  In Low power mode it's really quiet.



Sony VPL-HW55ES: The Bottom Line

If the Sony VPL-HW55ES fits nicely into your budget, you are due for a real treat.  Overall, as I have said earlier, it's my favorite, so far, in the price range.  It's the brightest projector calibrated, so the one best capable of large screens while having a great image, and it offers overall picture quality at its price that can't be beat.

Reality Creation allows this Sony to look exceptionally sharp, with barely an artifact, which addresses one of the complaints about 3 chip projectors compared to single chip DLPs.  To me, that feature  with its range of adjustment, is far more valuable that features like CFI, or, on Brilliant Color found on DLP projectors.

Speaking of 3 chip projectors, panel convergence issues are handled beautifully by the Sony's panel alignment feature, which takes just a couple of minutes, one time!  It's simple and intuitive!  The 3 year warranty is about as long as you can find and better than most (but not all) of the competition.

Is there anything not to like?  I find only two significant things worthy of noting here, and neither is a flaw.  First, if you are one who wants to go widescreen, there's no lens memory, and it doesn't make sense to most, to go anamorphic lens at this price point.  That will eliminate a small group of potential owners.

The only other thing would be brightness in a family/living/bonus room, or other room where ambient light isn't fully controlled.  That is to say, it would be great if it had 2500 or 3000 or more lumens to tackle such rooms.  But I'm mentioning something where there's no really great alternative.  Short of five figure 3 chip DLP projectors, you won't find any  projectors around this picture quality or better, that can even double this projector's usable brightness.

One thing I really like about this Sony:  It is truly equally at home as a projector for viewing movies in the dark, and viewing HDTV, and especially sports, in brighter circumstances!

In this Sony's price range range, there are 2 or 3 other excellent "short list" projectors , and your situation certainly may make one of those your best choice.   For example, in a family room, you may decide you really do need maximum lumens in brightest mode for daytime viewing.  That said, I'll put this one at the top of my own short list, just above the somewhat less expensive Epson UB projectors (my close 2nd), and JVC's X35, which I also like but prefer the Sony for several reasons discussed on the Comparison page (competitors).

The HW55ES may not be all new for this year, but the improvements do add up to an even better projector, a tougher competitor, and better value than last year's version.  Tastefully done!

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