- Written by Chris Heinonen
- Published on 03 January 2014
The Sony VPL-HW55ES Projector On The Bench
With the VPL-HW55ES I measured directly from the lens of the projector. This removes the screen as a variable. Light output is also only measured in lumens, as a foot Lamberts number is completely dependent on screen size and material while lumens are universal.
Straight from the box the Sony comes setup very well. The only adjustments I had to make are brightness and contrast, and changing the Gamma to 2.4. After viewing the HW55ES for a while I decided that a gamma of 2.2 works better with the Sony as 2.4 gets too murky in the deep shadows. The average grayscale error before calibration is only 2.1, which is not going to be visible. The gamma tracks 2.4 almost perfectly and the largest issue is in Red.
Post-calibration our grayscale error is only 0.58 dE2000 on average and the gamma tracks even better to 2.4. The color checker and saturation average errors improve but the red is still an issue. The Sony color management system is only OK and so you cannot correct these errors that well. As they only happen in red with 100% saturation, it is not something you will see often, and it didn't cause an issue for me.
Lens uniformity is measured using a 13-point pattern that is found on the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark, Version 2. Measured at the screen we see a fairly even light fall-off around the screen with the corners registering 70% as bright as the center of the screen. Some cheaper projectors will fall off to 50% or less in the corners, so this is performance in line with the price.
In my calibrated mode, the VPL-HW55ES produces 678 lumens. That is more than enough to handle a large screen at the recommended 14-16 ftL. Switching it to the Bright TV mode, I measured 1,340 lumens, which can handle the largest screen you probably ever want to install. The main benefit is that as the lamp ages (this has 115 hours of use when I measure it) and gets dimmer, you will have lots of headroom before you need to replace it. Since it is rated for 5,000 hours of use, that is good to see. It also runs very quietly in high lamp mode, so it is very usable in that setting.
The VPL-HW55ES handles RGB Video and 4:4:4 YCbCr signals correctly but has a bit of a roll-off with 4:2:2 YCbCr content. I thought that 4:4:4 looked slightly better with a little bit of extra sharpening possibly going on with RGB signals. I can only detect this with test patterns and not real content.
For video processing the VPL-HW55ES does fine with 2:2 and 3:2 cadence materials. The jagged edges on the Ship video off Spears & Munsil are worse with the Sony handling the processing than my Oppo BDP-105. They are not bad and there is no extra haloing around them as on some displays, but feeding the VPL-HW55ES a 1080p signal is your best bet.
For the gamers, Game Mode introduces only 26ms of lag time. That is very good for a projector and you cannot blame the Sony if you don't play well online. The calibrated Reference mode has 62ms of lag so I would pick the Game mode for fast twitch games.
The bench performance of the VPL-HW55ES is very good and should not disappoint anyone. The only negative is the red primary that is a bit off but in regular content will hardly be noticeable.