I have to begin this review with a spot of bad news – I’m going to be moving apartments by the end of this week. That’s because my tiny studio apartment can’t fully appreciate the magnificence of the Sony VPL-HW55ES projector, and I refuse to compromise when it comes to my reviews. All joking aside, The VPL-HW55ES is Sony’s behemoth home theater projector, and it’s an absolutely stunning one at that.
Build Quality & Design
One thing to know about the VPL-HW55ES is that once it’s set up, it’s not going anywhere. This massive beast isn’t portable at all, so if you’re looking to carry this along to a friend’s place for movie night, think again. And since it’s so massive, it’s recommended that you set it up out of sight, just so that people don’t mistake it for a coffee table.
The VPL-HW55ES is very sturdy, and sports a hard durable plastic body that feels like it could take a few knocks. Around the front you’ve got the lens with a removable cover, as well as adjustment rings for zoom and focus. Surprisingly, the VPL-HW55ES has all its ports to the side of the projector rather than at the back – I’m not quite sure why Sony did this, but it’s just something to keep in mind if you’re ceiling-mounting this thing.
Port-wise you’ve got two HDMI ports, one VGA, component, and an RS232 jack for serial commands. There’s no on-board speaker of any sort, as it’s assumed you’ll be using proper home theatre speakers if you’ve invested in this kind of a projector. You can also pair the VPL-HW55ES with an optional wireless HDMI module, which lets you wirelessly connect an HDMI source to the projector.
Performance / Display (projection quality)
As the VPL-HW55ES is a home theatre projector, it performs best in dark or medium-lit rooms. You’ll still be able to watch content in the middle of the afternoon, but the projector really shines (pun intended) after-hours when outdoor lighting is much softer. The VPL-HW55ES may not be as bright as other home theatre projectors in its price bracket, but it still performs exceptionally well. Blues and blacks really stand out, as seen in a quick Blu-ray on exploring the ocean depths. Colorful fish and coral shimmered brilliantly, and it was almost as if my wall became a temporary window into the ocean itself. The projected image was stunning, and the VPL-HW55ES had zero problems showing what it was capable of.
Gaming on the VPL-HW55ES was also incredible. I popped in Dead Space 3, a game that contains plenty of levels shrouded in darkness. But on the VPL-HW55ES I could navigate the same levels much easier, and it made the game more enjoyable because it meant that I ran into less things lurking in the shadows.
The VPL-HW55ES also offers 3D support, and bundles with two 3D glasses. Whether you’re watching a 3D movie or playing a game in 3D, the VPL-HW55ES excels at both, handling anything you throw at it. Being unable to see 3D I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the VPL-HW55ES, but friends that I had over really enjoyed the immersive 3D capabilities of the projector.
Of course bundled with the VPL-HW55ES is a sleek remote control that lets you change pretty much anything about the projector. It’s also backlit, making it much easier to see when you turn the lights down. You can instantly adjust sharpness, brightness, and contrast with the three handy + and – buttons at the bottom of the remote, or you can dive into the comprehensive menu to fine-tune things. There are also preset buttons at the top to quickly change settings depending on what you’re watching, which is also a bonus.
The VPL-HW55ES also has a couple of extra tricks up its sleeve that can make your viewing experience even more enjoyable. Again, these can be adjusted or turned off and on via the remote, and they can drastically affect what you’re watching. First up you have Motion Enhancer, which works to make motion on screen much smoother. Turning this on for Fast & Furious 6 made the cars swerve almost too realistically, while turning it on for the movie Up was utterly pointless. If you’re watching something with a lot of rapid movement, you can turn this feature on to smoothen out the motion and make it much sharper.
You also have Reality Creation which analyses what is being projected and adjusts for a clearer and more brighter image. It isn’t just one setting that applies to everything you project – the projector can analyze when there are different kinds of objects on screens (such as faces) and adjusts accordingly. It really can make a substantial difference to the quality of the image you are viewing, and I suggest playing around with this feature for a bit until you find a comfortable setting. There’s also superb Iris correction which lets you really fine-tune how the iris works, which then affects how bright your resulting projection is. This is very useful for people who are setting up for a very short projection or those who may find that the VPL-HW55ES is sometimes a bit too bright for their liking.
There are certainly a lot of projectors out masquerading as home theatre projectors, but the VPL-HW55ES is as genuine as they come. With stunning projection quality and a host of advanced image features, the VPL-HW55ES is a supremely intelligent projector that will allow both novice and expert users plenty of legroom for tweaking until they get that perfect image. If you’re in the market for a no-nonsense home theatre projector that delivers exactly what it promises, then look no further than the Sony VPL-HW55ES.