Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-HW50ES Projector Review – In Process – A First Look!

Greetings, Let’s talk some more, about Sony’s VPL-HW50ES projector.

The HW50ES Projector - Picture Quality is Excellent!

Well, you’ve probably seen some of my previous home theater projector blogs from, and post CEDIA 2012.  If so, you probably think I have led you to believe that one of the most impressive projector values I saw there is Sony’s new HW50ES – it’s full name, of course:  VPL-HW50ES.  If so, you got it right.

I’ve had the VPL-HW50ES here since Tuesday evening, except for the 24 hours away at Mike’s for calibration.  I’ve got 20 hours of viewing so far.

BTW I believe this unit is one of the two used in Sony’s “shoot-out” against the Epson 5010 and the JVC RS65 I believe, (last year’s $11,999 projector with eShift) that they were showing to dealers (and press).

Before I get into this, a note about 4K…  To date, I’ve reviewed exactly 1 4K projector.  That’s the Sony VPL-VW1000ES our Outstanding Product of the year.   All this upscaling to 4K, upverting to 4K, or just plain calling all these other projectors “4K” is simply NOT 4K!

Here’s the simple test. One that all the others fail, including eShift with its physically shifting the pixels a fraction of a pixel diagonally and then firing again.

Imagine true 4K – or perhaps the 4K equivalent of 1080p:  3840×2160.    Now go pick out exactly 4 pixels in a square.   Make the top left one white, the top right red, the bottom left blue, and the bottom right green.

It’s simple.  In true 4K, you end up with exactly that.  white and three discreet colors.   In any other scheme, you end up with a mess, because, folks, instead of 4 pixels, you only have one to work with.  so, depending on the algorithm, you’ll end up with various shades of gray or faint color.

I will blog or video, or write about this in depth.  I really hate the 4K designator, showing up on LCDTVs etc.   I believe I may have used it a couple of times in previous blogs about this projector without constantly defining what real 4K is.

Let’s say all this other stuff, is really ‘detail enhancement’ but that doesn’t sound as sexy as 4K.

Hey we all hate keystone correction as it softens the image and destroys 1:1 pixel mapping for precision viewing.  These are essentially doing the same thing, with different goals in mind.   yes they can give you a much sharper looking image, just remember all that fancy software still has to have an offsetting trade-off.

And that brings us back to the Sony VPL-HW50ES.  Let me start with some basic info obtained since receiving this projector:

Yes, the HW50ES is definitely brighter than the less expensive HW30ES and even the more expensive VPL-VW95ES.   Mike measured best mode (zoom at mid-point, of course) at a massive 992 lumens!

Brightest mode was just shy of 1300 lumens, but for best bright mode, Bright TV measured 1131 lumens.  That may not be in the league of some flame throwers like the Epson and Panasonic projectors, but it is much brighter than any of those comparing calibrated best modes.

Good news.  3D brightness seems to be way up, thanks to apparently glasses, new algorithms, etc.   Note, these glasses are not compatible with Sony 3D LCDTVs to the best of my knowledge.  Glasses are rechargeable and come with a USB connector on one end, and a small plug on the other that goes into the glasses behind a soft cover that you move out of the way to expose the socket.

I did watch 3 Musketeers most of the way through, projecting about 100″ diagonal.  I was very pleased to find the Sony to be reasonably bright at that size. Given, I had the glasses in the second brightest setting, but even there, the Sony looked rather clean in terms of crosstalk.  I will say I was very impressed with the 3D on that setting.  I’ve yet to go “hunting” crosstalk, like so many of you like to do, but I will for the full review.  I did try Monster House for 5 minutes projecting 124″ diagonal 2.35:1.  Definitely could have used a bit more brightness there.  Oh, I can watch it, but I have that group of friends I like to bring in for opinions on such things, and I’m sure two of them have no interest in watching 3D with the brightness at that size (maybe if they will watch with the glasses setting at 4 – brightest.)

The picture looks great.  Even my wife commented.

Black levels are very good.  Better than the Epson 5010/6010?  That’s probably the question many of you want to hear the answer to.  You’ll have to wait.  I could conjecture right now, but I’m saving that for the full review.  I have yet to put the Sony VPL-HW30ES side by side against the Epson HC5010 I have here.  That’s probably going to happen tomorrow night or Monday.

Reality Creation – Sony’s upscaling or upverting – or up  something to “4k”.  All the talk doesn’t matter, it’s not 4K.  What it is, however, is rather stunning dynamic detail/sharpness enhancement.

This I can say about it.  I consider the goals of Reality Creation to be similar to Epson’s Super-Resolution.   That said, unless there’s a real improvement in Super-Resolution on the new 5020 and 6020 Epson projectors, then I think you can count on Sony having the better implementation.

The core difference – you can get more apparent detail/sharpness out of the Sony before artifacts start giving it an artificial look.  In other words you can get a sharper seeming image out of the Sony before you start noticing things you really do not want to be noticing.  Enough said for now.

I’m mostly keeping Reality Creation in the 35 and under settings level.   (out of 100), yet it’s still creating an impressively crisp image.  If I understand correctly (waiting for a white paper), the Sony’s algorithm is smart – not just the usual upscaling type processing, but rather clever.  I believe it uses facial identification, etc.  That is, the Sony projector tends to know what it’s trying to enhance, so that it doesn’t go over the top on things that would be obvious.

Manual zoom and focus – as usual, very little drop between wide-angle and telephoto.  A good amount of vertical and horizontal lens shift. The same or similar (very good) remote control, from last year.

The panning problem detected on some older Sony’s (seen in a pan of the neighborhood in the movie RED, is not there.  It’s a tough pan, but this Sony projector is comparable to other good projectors in this regard.  That’s still a tough pan, for any projector but, for example, the older VPL-VW90ES had a bitch of a time with that scene.  Not so, this VPL-HW50ES projector.

No CMS per se.   No problem.  there are at least 8 “preset” color space modes for the individual colors.  Basically Sony has giving you many choices, instead of a set of controls.

Mike’s commented when calibrating it, that basically there’s no need for the CMS, several of the provided Color Space modes are excellent.  For the calibration he settled on the color space Sony calls BT.709.    Of note, Color Space 1, 2, and Wide 3, are all expanded color spaces.

At the end of the day, Sony’s strengths are overall color/picture quality, and for those that like, an exceptionally detailed and sharp looking image.  Brightness is also a major plus with, really, only the 3LCD projectors able to significantly out muscle the HW50ES when you need maximum brightness, and they can’t do that in their calibrated modes.

If your thing is by far, movies first, dedicated or at least very good light controlled room, this Sony’s going to be really, really tough to beat.  As big a fan as I tend to be of the Epson 5010, I suspect the new 5020’s biggest advantage over this Sony will be the much lower selling price, and the maximum brightness, rather than an advantage in picture quality.   We’ll know, soon enough.

That’s all I have for you right now.   Ah, a thought about 3D movies.  The 3 Musketeers isn’t much of a great movie, but it is a great movie for viewing 3D.  That, Hugo, Tron, Monster House, Alice, and one of Stephen Lowes movies – such as Tahiti 3D Ultimate Wave or Legends of Flight, and my new copy of Avatar 3D (finally) pretty much represent the 3D content I’ll be focusing on in commenting about 3D performance.

OK, give me 4-5 days to do my photo shoots, my side by sides, lots more viewing (football all day tomorrow), and get the full review published, with the other goodies you are waiting for, including how good those black levels are…

Thanks! -art

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