Sony VPL-HW50ES Projector


Sony VPL-HW50ES Projector In Use

After calibration I watched the VPL-HW50ES on a 122" 2.40 Screen Innovations SolarHD screen, which has a 96" image when viewing 16:9 content. I started out with The Expendables 2 as it had just arrived to view. The movie may not be the best, but the Sony does a great job of revealing everything on the transfer. Text labels lack aliasing and the Sony showed off the pixel structure of the letters, showing that it has a very sharp image. CGI inserted into the film was more visible as it didn't fully match the surroundings, but might be hidden away on smaller or lower quality displays. Zoomed into the screen the light-spill at the top and bottom of the screen wasn't visible as it can be on projectors with a higher black level.

Overall the transfer of The Expendables 2 was very soft, and hiding most fine detail, so I enabled Reality Creation on the 50ES to see if it helped. The noise reduction wasn't necessary but the detail enhancement accented contrast changes and gave me an image that often looked to have more detail. There seemed to be the finest amount of film grain visible but I believe that's more an artifact of Reality Creation than it making the grain more visible. At the default level there would be occasional times that the enhancement went too far, with visible ringing on Stalone's face, but it could be dialed back to reduce that. For a soft transfer like this, I thought that Reality Creation did a good job of seeming to enhance detail, though dialing it back helps to keep it from going too far. Finding the right balance with the Reality Creation controls is the key and it will be different for each movie possibly.

With the newly remastered Lawrence of Arabia Blu-ray, the transfer was near perfect and better served without Reality Creation enabled. Enabling it on a better transfer made the effect look more like edge enhancement with haloing than something adding detail so I left it off. Lawrence of Arabia was a film I never wanted to watch at home, as having seen it in 70mm in theaters the home experience just couldn't compare. With the new transfer (also done by Sony at their ColorWorks facility) and an ultra-wide screen, the home experience could finally compete with the cinema.

Lawrence was simple breathtaking to watch through the Sony. Colors were accurate and true, and small details were very visible. Dark scenes had very good shadow detail that was free of a tint. Enabling Film Resolution on the Sony adds black frames between frames to improve motion resolution and add a more film-like image, but also adds a bit of visible flicker than many will find distracting. I found that the Sony handles motion better than other LCOS projectors, with less apparent blurring even without motion interpolation, but not as well as a DLP still. The higher refresh rate of the SXRD panels compared to LCOS is likely the cause of this improvement, though you may only notice if switching between the two.

Drive is my favorite dark scene test now, with the opening heist sequence featuring not only dark segments, but also dark scenes with highlights that make it harder to cheat by using a dynamic iris or other device. This looked as good as I can remember seeing it on a projector, even compared to displays with higher on/off contrast ratios. Enabling the iris led to darker scenes with better shadow details and was very transparent in operation. The numbers will show that some other projectors can do better contrast ratios, but in practice here I couldn't recall anything looking better.

On Hugo 3D the Sony is plenty bright to provide an image that most people will be happy to watch. The depth here was very good, with scenes of the train station offering a huge amount of depth but still having very good pop due to the brightness of the Sony. In really fast action scenes I would still see breakup in the image as, outside of DLP and plasma, every other technology has issues keeping up with the speed and frame-rate of 3D for me. On Finding Nemo 3D these issues were far less common, with only a couple of them occurring during the film that really bothered me. This was some of the best 3D I've watched at home, and one of the few projectors I can imagine watching on a regular basis.

Football and other sports is an area where the Sony excels. With a 96" screen in a fully lit room, I was able to switch the 50ES into BrightTV mode, drop the contrast from Max to 85 to remove some color clipping, and still get over 40 fL in my room. The resulting image was big and bright as a plasma or LCD would be, only much larger than those can do. Using motion interpolation on low worked great with football, though commercials still looked a bit fake this way. I didn't see artifacts or halos surrounding players as some interpolation systems produce, and wanted to go invite friends over to watch the game with me. I thought that Sony did the best job with sports last year of the projectors I reviewed, and with the high light output of the 50ES it is even better this year.

In usability terms, the Sony 50ES is very well done. Lens shift adjustments are well done for manual ones, but automated ones that would allow for lens memory would be nice to have. The 50ES itself is virtually silent in operation, even in high lamp mode. The remote is very well laid out, with all the necessary buttons being backlit and direct access to Brightness, Contrast and Sharpness controls. The OSD is also very well done with the adjustments being smaller on screen, and black and white, so they don't make it hard to adjust the display correctly.

For performance, the Sony VPL-HW50ES gave me very little to complain about. If I really want to be picky, the black frame insertion of the Film Processing mode introduces a little too much flicker for me, but I just disabled it and still had the proper film cadence on screen. Otherwise the Sony presents a bright, colorful, accurate image that will satisfy even an overly picky cinephile.