We’re not sure what Sony’s projection engineers have been drinking this year, but we want some of it. The brand’s VVW500ES redefined both the 4K and £7000-£10000 segments of the projection market, and now the VW55ES has shifted the sub-£3000 space up a gear too.
Its pictures truly are glorious, and streets ahead of last year’s HW50 model. The first thing that grabs your attention is how punchy and dynamic images are. That 30% or so brightness increase the HW55ES delivers is all up there on the screen, as the Hollywood saying goes. This helps you see more shadow detail, makes colours look more dramatic (without them starting to look unnatural) and helps pictures really explode off the screen.
Even better, this leap in brightness hasn’t come at the expense of that most important element of home cinema pictures, black level. On the contrary, the HW55ES actually manages to produce deeper, less grey-infused black colours than the HW50 did. Partner these rich blacks with the punchier colours and whites and you really have got a contrast performance to write home about. Which of course means you’ve got a picture tailor made to get the most out of Blu-ray movies.
Also very handy for optimising your Blu-ray collection is the HW55ES’s stunning sharpness. Sony’s SXRD system hasn’t always been associated with delivering the projection world’s crispest pictures, but Sony really seems to have got on top of this now. Detail levels are exemplary without the sharpness looking in any way forced, and the density of the image gives it a beautifully filmic look.
The picture’s sharpness also drops off scarcely at all when there’s lots of motion to handle – especially if you acclimatise yourself to using the initially slightly flickery looking Film Projection mode. The outstanding contrast helps you appreciate the projector’s detailing too, giving life to each and every pixel your source has to offer.
As further testament to just how accomplished the HW55ES’s contrast performance is, we found we were generally more than happy to leave the projector running with its lamp set to its maximum output even in a blacked out room, rather than preferring a low-output setting as we normally would. This is meant we got the punchiest images the projector can deliver without having to feel we were sacrificing much on the back level and colour accuracy fronts.
Try as we might, we’re really struggling to find anything significantly negative to say about the HW55ES’s 2D pictures. So we’re not going to bother any more. Let’s just sum them up as excellent, and leave it at that.