Imaging Devices

Sony VPL-HW50ES – Sony’s Best Home Cinema Projector

2/23/2013 5:34:30 PM

Sony’s best home cinema projector improves significantly 3D playback.

Description: Sony VPL-HW50ES


We are fans of Sony's Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD) Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) technology. Instead of using normal LCD technology where light passes through internal screens, SXRD uses reflective LCD panels which increase contrast and color accuracy. We were so excited to see Sony's new high-ranking 3D projector, the VPL-HW50ES, which is designed to attract true home cinema enthusiasts.

Keeping the same large case of other previous projectors, including a lens placed at the center and side-facing inputs, the VPL-HW50ES is a great looking set of kit. It’s available in black, but we think that the shiny white model that Sony sent us for this review looks fine. Being large, but it isn’t too bulky and can still be mounted to the ceiling with the appropriate bracket.

All ports are hidden below the outer edge of the projector. You get two HDMI inputs, as well as VGA and component video. It also has ports for the optional 3D synchronization and the infrared remote control receiver. They are useful supplements for serious home cinema setups where the projector is placed separately, but they won’t be needed for most living room setups.

In order to set up, you need to come to the projector because you have to control the lens manually, which slightly disappoints for a high-ranking projector. Optical zoom is also limited to 1.6x which isn’t good compared with Panasonic's high-ranking projectors which have greater levels of zoom, as well as mechanical zoom and focus controls. The horizontal lens adjustment is limited to +/-25%, but the vertical adjustment is +/-71%, which is more forgiving.

Once you've focused the lens, you can control everything from your comfortable sofa, thanks to the comprehensive remote control, which is backlit to make it easier to do in the dark. It has all important features you expected, including input selection, picture presets, aspect ratios, color, gamma, brightness, sharpness and contrast controls.

The interface on the screen is easy to use, with the image quality settings placed in one main menu and the more advanced features hidden in submenus. It doesn't cover the whole screen, which makes it easier to adjust picture quality with live previews when you enable or disable each setting. There are lots of presets to use as a starting point, including two Cinema modes, TV, Reference, Photo, Game and a fully customizable user mode. There are also Bright Cinema and Bright TV modes aimed for when you can’t draw the curtains or turn off the lights. Both work well, but you will for sure get better results in a dark room.

Reality check

Image quality is superb, partially thanks to Sony's Reality Creation image processing engine. Sony says it creates sharp and lively Full HD images, and we think it works wonderfully, adding extra sharpness and detail to scenes. It doesn’t create extra noise or unwanted side effects, and we couldn’t find any reason to switch it off throughout our testing.

Description: Image quality is superb.

Image quality is superb.

Dark scenes benefit immensely from Reality Creation, bringing shadow detail that might be missed on projectors at the same price from other manufacturers. It does this without raising the brightness, keeping colors and contrast accurate and avoiding unwanted color fade-out. The Auto Iris function proved helpful here, working quickly and without becoming obtrusive. In general, colors are bold but still natural, helped by the extra brightness from the 1,700 lumen lamp.

Fast motion seems to be good as well, whether you are watching 24p Blu-rays or playing 60fps games. We couldn't notice any signs of ghosting, even during the most intense action sequences, and the film grain was always preserved, even when we changed the motion enhancement features. We saw some small halo-type artefacts, but they were only visible if you looked at them closely; you wouldn’t notice them on a 70-inch screen from six feet away.

Previous Sony projectors used to have crosstalk when playing 3D content. Fortunately, the VPL-HW50ES shows no sign of any similar problems. All 3D films look great, with no visible ghosting, no shaking from the active 3D glasses and very bright colors. We preferred the Cinema 2 image preset for watching 3D video, as pictures looked slightly brighter and colors were more vivid, eliminating the blurring effects of the 3D glasses.

There is an external emitter input for the active shutter glasses in case you manage to block the internal one during the installation, but we had no problems in an average-sized living room. There is no accompanying external emitter available, so if you need one, it will cost you $38, and $44 for each per extra pair of glasses. Sony has decided not to add speakers to the HW50ES, as the projector is designed for high-ranking home cinema systems. This projector is quiet, rarely becoming louder than a whisper when watching films. It also remains cool, even after some hours.

The VPL-HW50ES produced some excellent images. It is nice to see mechanical lens adjustment, but it's user-friendly and it looks wonderful, too. It’s a great projector for a high-ranking home cinema system.


·         Price: $4,395 incl. VAT

·         Website:

·         Ranking: 5/5



·         Natural resolution: 1,920x1,080

·         Contrast ratio: 100.000:1 (dynamic)

·         Rated brightness: 1700 ANSI lumen

·         Lamp cost (economy): $0.14 ($0.09) incl. VAT

·         Size: 179x407x464mm, 9.6kg

·         Power consumption: 1w standby, 259W on

·         Warranty: three-year RTB (lamp one year)

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