This new mid-range Sony projector has rather snuck up on us. We got a bit of press info about it on the eve of the Berlin IFA show, and then caught a glimpse of it in action at the end of a presentation ostensibly about Sony’s 4K TV and projector. But no sooner had we started to digest either of these ‘moments’ than the Sony VPL-HW50ES was suddenly sat atop our projector stand, ready, willing and able - hopefully - to continue Sony’s mostly superb run of 2012 AV form.
Aesthetically the Sony VPL-HW50ES is unusually pretty by projector standards. Its boldly arced and glossy top, rounded corners, together with its centrally mounted and recessed lens all add up to a thing of relative beauty - especially if you get the white version rather than the slightly more dour-looking black one. (Though obviously the black one will be the subtlest bet if you’ve got a fully blacked out room.)
Tucked under a ledge down the side of the Sony VPL-HW50ES projector is a solid/typical selection of connections. Two HDMIs will be the most important jacks for most people, but there’s also a D-Sub PC port, a component video jack, a port for adding an optional extra external 3D transmitter (though there is also a 3D transmitter built into the projector), an IR port, and a 9-pin control socket.
It’s perhaps a shame that the Sony VPL-HW50ES doesn’t follow the Panasonic AT6000E’s lead in offering a third HDMI, but to be fair hardly any other projectors offer more than two either.
Setting the Sony VPL-HW50ES up is pretty straightforward. Its lens offers a respectable x1.6 optical zoom, and images can be optically shifted vertically or horizontally using simple rotating adjustors on the projector’s top edge. Focus and zoom, meanwhile, are achieved via simple wheels around the lens.
Having recently tested the Panasonic AT6000E, we can’t ignore the fact that Panasonic’s model trumps the Sony VPL-HW50ES in offering a greater amount of optical zoom (x2) as well as motorised zoom and focus controls and a lens memory feature for folk with an ultra-wide 21:9-ratio screen.
However, while Panasonic’s excellence where set-up is concerned gives Sony some things to think about for the HW50’s successor, it doesn’t alter the fact that the Sony VPL-HW50ES really shouldn’t present many people with any major setup headaches.
The mid-range positioning of the Sony VPL-HW50ES finds it slotting into Sony’s 3D projection range above the soon-to-be-discontinued HW30 but below the excellent Sony VPL-VW95ES. Sony also has the VW1000ES projector, of course, but this model’s 4K native resolution and £17,000 price point put it in a whole separate product category.
The Sony VPL-HW50ES specification represents quite a significant step up from the HW30. For starters, the HW50’s claimed 1700 ANSI Lumens of brightness is a 30 per cent increase on the past model. This should benefit 2D images, of course, but its biggest impact is likely to be with 3D, as the extra brightness should help fight the dimming impact of active shutter 3D glasses.
Also higher on the Sony VPL-HW50ES is the claimed contrast ratio. For while the HW30 claims 70,000:1, the HW50 manages 100,000:1, raising hopes of deeper blacks and generally punchier images. The VW95 offers a contrast ratio of 150,000:1, but then this model costs around £2,000 more.