Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-HW65ES Home Theater Projector Review

The “Evolution is Upon Us.” Sony’s VPL-HW65ES offers a number of improvements over the HW55ES – its rather excellent predecessor – which was a Best In Class award winner in last year’s Best Home Theater Projectors report.  This projector is an evolutionary advance – nothing truly revolutionary about it.

Although the VPL-HW65ES officially lists for $3999, we treat it as an under $3500 projector, because we try to position projectors based on street pricing, not on list.  It will be included in our $2000 – $3500 price class in our annual Best Projectors Report.  Although there doesn’t seem to be much discounting, the HW65ES comes with a spare lamp which we factor in.

Sony VPL-HW65ES Projector - Overview

The HW65ES is available in very dark case in the US, but also is available in white in the EU and some other parts of the world.  I have an inquiry in to Sony to find out whether white will be available here.

This Sony is an LCoS projector, using 3 panels.  Note that Sony calls their LCoS panels SXRD, a term you’ve probably heard before.

Although it wasn’t always the case, today’s Sony home theater projectors – the HW65ES being an excellent example, tend to come right out of the box with almost perfect color.  It almost frustrates Mike, our calibrator, that it’s not even worth his time to calibrate the individual primary and secondary colors (the CMS), because some modes are so “right on.”

Sony’s HW65ES is a dedicated home theater projector, there are certainly brighter projectors out there if you are trying to find a projector for more of a living room type environment – that list includes the less expensive VPL-HW40ES.  That said, it is reasonably bright, claiming 1800 lumens, a 100 lumen bump compared to the older HW55ES it replaces.  (That HW40ES is rated 2000 lumens, so it’s not a big difference.  I would say primarily the 1800 lumens is so that the HW65ES can do reasonably bright 3D, rather than so that it can work in less than serious home theater/cave environments.  Still, if you have a reasonably good media room, living room, etc., and paired with the right screen, the VPL-HW65ES can play reasonably well in those brighter, rooms, but bring the enhanced black level performance that the lower cost HW40ES lacks, when it comes to, for example, watching movies in those other rooms when fully darkened.

The VPL-HW65ES Projector has a manual zoom lens, and a healthy amount of lens shift (more on the details on this review’s Hardware Tour pages).

I should mention right now, Sony’s warranty is better than most – 3 years parts and labor.  We have a  warranty page, which discusses how that stacks up to the competition.

Speaking of the Competition?

What projectors compete with the HW65ES?  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 just slightly more expensive DLA-RS400, and the virtually identical X5000, (sold by two different JVC divisions).

There are a couple of old Optoma DLP projectors still around in the price as well, for DLP lovers (the HD91 has been upgraded to the HD91+).  BenQ has their aging W7500, a DLP projector with fast color wheel, and a dynamic iris, my favorite of the sub $5000 DLP projectors.

There are some other lower cost alternatives, but none are really serious competition.  The more expensive competition is lead by Sony’s own other projectors and other more expensive JVCs and also Epson’s laser projectors – the LS9600 and LS10000.  The LS10000 like the other JVCs and Sony’s is a good deal more expensive, so not truly direct competition, but the LS9600e, while still more money, I would say is direct competition by virtual of that extra upfront cost is going to the laser light engine, so there are no pricy lamps to replace.  That said, on the  long term this Sony will still cost less than the Epson laser projectors.

But I digress, let’s get serious about this review!

Sony VPL-HW65ES Highlights

  • When calibrated, brighter than most
  • Very good brightness in brighter modes  (for handling some ambient light)
  • Multiple 2D and 3D picture modes (most with really good color)
  • 3D upgraded to RF (HW55ES was IR), but no 3D glasses included any more (that’s ok, you can buy good 3D glasses these days for under $20)
  • Full color management system (CMS) for excellent calibration
  • Very good lamp life (6000 hours in eco mode)
  • Large, backlit remote, with easy navigating menus
  • 12 volt screen trigger
  • Wireless HDMI option
  • Reality Creation – dynamic detail enhancement for extremely crisp looking image
  • Great warranty