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Sony VPL-HW55ES Projector: Summary

Posted on December 7, 2013 by Art Feierman
Top Down View of VPL-HW55ES

Top Down View of VPL-HW55ES

The  Sony VPL-HW55ES is a first class projector.  For the price, it delivers serious performance, and a killer picture.  

For all of you who haven't read much of the interior of this review, this Sony projector is a modest update from last year's HW50ES.  While the hardware make look the same, there are real improvements in several areas in terms of picture quality.  With a price point of $3999 which includes 2 pair of 3D glasses (the older IR type), and a spare lamp, we figure this is a $3500 projector and like last year's version, consider it as being at the top of our $2000-$3500 price class.

Black level performance has been improved from what was already very good for the price, brightness is about the same.   The optics and general hardware seem to be generally identical to last year's.  A white and a dark gray-blue/black version are available, so you can choose the projector case "color" that best fits your room.  The image player below will let you enlarge and manually rotate through a variety of images showing off the VPL-HW55ES's abilities.  (As always, take them with a grain of salt - there's much processing, and compression going on, that degrades these images you see compared to the original image on the screen, not to mention the limits of the quality of our computer displays when viewing).

More Sony VPL-HW55ES Image Examples

VPL-HW55ES Summary: General

Great projector!

It's the picture quality overall.  I can't think of a projector to roll through here this year, except the far more expensive 4K Sony VW600ES that has as good color right out of the box - if it even did.  Of course, anyone spending on a $15,000 projector like the 600ES, can easily afford hundreds of dollars for a calibration.

At a net of $3500, though, the HW55ES  probably isn't going to get calibrated by most owners, so the great out of the box color is a truly wonderful thing for those folks.

Brightness, is exceptional in "best" mode, over 950 lumens at mid point on the zoom lens.  That's brighter than any serious competitors.

I will say this:  Of the projectors we count in the $2000 to $3500 price range (net), if money was not an object, this Sony projector would be my current first choice over the Epsons and the JVC X35, as well as "the field."  I do generally believe that the Epson UBs are a better value for those on a budget, and I just might end up liking the JVC DLA-X500R, better, but that JVC is at least $1000 more, really closer to $1500 more, and more directly competes with the more expensive Sony VW95ES.

Click Image to Enlarge

Sony HW55ES Brightness

2D Brightness:  With almost 1000 lumens calibrated, this is the brightest serious projector in its class, when considering projectors when performing at their best.    What's a serious projector?  One an enthusiast will love, which in this case, means at least really good picture quality, including reasonably accurate color, black level performance that's at least "ultra-high contrast", and no serious issues.

In fact with all that brightness, some folk with smaller screens, typically less than 100" diagonal, or those with high gain screens, may find this Sony to be too bright, in calibrated mode, when viewing in a darkened theater.  No problem.  Sony's dynamic iris solution is ideal for handling that.  In normal auto operation bright scenes are as bright as without the iris on, but you can lower the maximum brightness of the iris, and still allow the iris to operate dynamically for those great blacks.  Thus you can easily make the projector less than half that bright, or anywhere in between.

Maximum brightness:  Now then, there are times you want all the lumens.  The HW55ES doesn't have that many more good looking lumens under the hood, but the 1300 lumen range is still a easily visible increase in brightness over "best" mode.  Of the brightest modes (if not adjusted), I prefer Bright Cinema over Bright TV or Game mode, even for my sports viewing.

It's your call, choose the "brightest" mode you like best.  It's when you want to be a perfectionist that you select the "best" mode (Reference), or if you haven't calibrated, try our settings .


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