The Sony VPL-HW50ES is an excellent colour performer too. Tones look bolder yet also more natural than they do on the HW30, and there’s markedly more finesse in the way the HW50 reproduces colour blends. Plus, as we would expect, the HW50’s ability to make colours look convincing during dark scenes is greatly enhanced by its deeper black levels.
Then there’s that brightness rise to consider. Pretty much every bit of the HW50‘s 30 per cent extra brightness over the HW30 is clearly visible on screen, and is given extra punch by the way the projector’s enhanced contrast enables the brighter colours and whites to sit right alongside the deeper blacks we’ve already described.
As predicted, the brightness boost works wonders with 3D too. Inevitably donning one of the two pairs of active shutter 3D glasses shipped free with the Sony VPL-HW50ES (you don’t get any with the Panasonic AT6000E) results in some reduction in brightness versus 2D. But the brightness loss is less extreme than it usually is with affordable 3D projectors, especially if you use one of the HW50‘s two highest ‘glasses brightness’ settings.
The extra 3D brightness pays dividends too in enabling the Sony VPL-HW50ES to reproduce bolder, more believable colours than you commonly get with affordable 3D projectors, as well as an enhanced sense of 3D space as you can pick out more depth ‘markers’ during dark 3D sequences. Panasonic’s AT6000E claims considerably more brightness than the HW50, but intriguingly the AT6000E’s 3D pictures suffer a much greater drop off in brightness versus 2D than happens with the HW50.
The Sony VPL-HW50ES also outguns the AT6000E’s 3D pictures where crosstalk is concerned. The HW50 isn’t wholly immune to this ghosting problem, but it only pops up on rare occasions, and even when it does it’s not severe. It certainly doesn’t cause the out-of-focus backdrops you sometimes see with the AT6000E.
Inevitably the Sony VPL-HW50ES isn’t perfect. One issue with the mostly superlative Reality Creation system is that occasionally, if a film is especially grainy, the processing struggles to cope and can leave pictures looking rather processed and ‘smeary’. You can combat this, though, by either turning RC off completely, or else adjusting the sharpness and noise reduction components of the RC system.
Another issue is that the projector pumps out a rather distracting high-pitched noise if you set the glass brightness to either level two or level four - so it’s just as well that level three is probably our preferred option anyway on account of the way the brightest level four mode causes a noticeable increase in crosstalk.
One final area Sony could work on is 3D motion. It looks a little juddery without using Sony’s MotionFlow processing, but this processing can tend to make action scenes look a little unnatural.
Don’t be put off by the little list of niggles we finished the main review with. For in reality all these issues do is explain why the Sony VPL-HW50ES is only £3,000 rather than £5,000 or more. Overall the HW50 is an absolutely outstanding effort that rocks with 2D and sets new standards for its price level with 3D. In other words, it’s another red letter day in Sony’s bid to get back on top of the AV game.