As well as its improved brightness and contrast, the Sony VPL-HW50ES also offers a potentially significant step up from the HW30 by carrying Sony’s Reality Creation processing. This impressively powerful engine can deliver a number of key benefits, including making HD pictures look sharper; delivering more effective standard definition upscaling; and perhaps most intriguingly of all, enabling the projector to bring out more shadow detail in dark scenes.
The Sony VPL-HW50ES offers a solid selection of picture adjustments to keep tweakers happy. It doesn’t go to town as much as the Panasonic AT6000E, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it makes the HW50 much less intimidating to use.
The only area of potentially serious set-up complication is the Sony VPL-HW50ES’s colour management system. For this uses Sony’s Real Colour Processing platform, complete with an initially bewildering interface that uses a combination of graphics and more standard numeric adjustments. However, persevere and you will master the system eventually. And actually, once you reach this stage, it turns out to be quite effective.
During the preview of the Sony VPL-HW50ES referenced at the start of this review, Sony’s new mid-range projector looked very impressive. And happily this early promise is amply fulfilled by the finished HW50 article. So immediately watchable and accomplished were the HW50’s pictures, in fact, that we forgot for a while that we were supposed to be analysing them, and instead just got lost in what we were watching. This is a very good sign.
Eventually forcing ourselves to dissect what makes the Sony VPL-HW50ES’s pictures tick, their most instantly striking feature is the amount of detail HD pictures contain with Reality Creation active. Toggle the feature on and off and you’ll be amazed by the amount of extra texture, detail and sharpness the picture suddenly enjoys with such classic HD ‘show-off’ fare as brickwork, treescapes, clothing weaves etc. It’s like HD-plus, frankly.
Of course, a certain breed of video purist will likely be feeling nauseous already at this talk of extra sharpness processing. But to these people all we can say is that the extra sense of detail is not generally (more on this qualification later) accompanied by extra noise or other unwanted processing side effects.
The impact of Reality Creation is even more pronounced during dark scenes. For as well as boosting detail levels generally, the system also has a remarkable impact on shadow detail, bringing subtleties out of dark picture areas that haven’t been visible before on any similarly affordable projectors.
It’s important to stress here that the Reality Creation processing is sufficiently clever to bring out shadow detail without simply ramping up the image’s overall brightness, ensuring that black parts of the picture don’t suddenly become grey and wishy-washy. In fact, an impressively deep black level performance is another of the Sony VPL-HW50ES’ most impressive achievements, enabling it to present dark scenes with a veracity and authority that isn’t far short of the brand’s VW95ES, and certainly represents a new high for Sony at the HW50’s price level.
Sony did actually need to deliver a black level improvement of this magnitude given JVC’s recent achievements in this critical area and the way Panasonic’s AT6000E has revolutionised the black level possibilities of LCD projection technology. In fact, the latest JVC and Panasonic models arguably do even slightly deeper blacks than the HW50. But Sony’s model balances this out with the exceptional amount of shadow detail it produces via Reality Creation.