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Home Theater Projector Review

Best Home Theater Projector
Ease of Use
Intended Use:
Home Theater
Sony VPL-HW65ES Projector Sony VPL-HW65ES
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120000:1 Contrast Ratio
1800 Lumens
Full HD 3D
$2,999 Street Price

The Sony VPL-HW65ES is the latest in a series of high performance 1080p home theater projectors, replacing the VPL-HW55ES which was released two years ago. Like its predecessor it is priced at $3,999, but it offers some improvements including a more robust Reality Creation processor that has been brought down from Sony's more expensive 4K products, and several changes in interface such as the addition of IP control, USB update capability, and RF sync for 3D instead of IR. Gaming fans will be happy to hear that, though the HW55ES was fast with an input lag of 27 ms, the HW65ES is faster still, coming in at a very rapid 21 ms. It is slightly brighter than the HW55ES and the analog inputs have been removed. Overall, the HW65ES is an incrementally refined version of the HW55. But that is no surprise. The HW55ES was an excellent projector in its own right, and from the performance standard set by the HW55ES, there is little headroom for revolutionary improvements in 1080p technology.

Picture Quality

The Sony VPL-HW65ES is among the best of the 1080p resolution home theater projectors on the market today. It delivers an outstanding 2D picture by combining performance attributes of its SXRD light engine with a variety of video processing features that enhance sharpness, detail, clarity, and contrast. There is no single feature of the HW65ES that gives it a unique competitive advantage, but rather several features working together that collectively produce a beautifully clear, high resolution picture.

To begin with, the light engine itself is capable of generating sufficiently deep, rich black levels that few are likely to find fault with. Though there are a few projectors that can produce marginally deeper blacks, the black levels on this unit are sufficiently solid to give the picture impressive depth and dynamic range.

The HW65ES has excellent clarity and remarkably deep three-dimensionality. These attributes are in part due to the more powerful Reality Creation 2 processor (brought down from Sonys 4K models) that enhances detail definition. In addition, the Contrast Enhancer improves shadow separation, and the Motionflow frame interpolation system gives the picture incremental clarity and stability. All of these features are options available to the user. They can all be turned off, or conversely they can all be overdriven to the point where they exaggerate and detract from the natural beauty of the picture. But used in moderation, they work together to produce a picture of refined quality that is hard to beat. Sony VPL-HW65ES

The Reality Creation 2 processor can be set on a scale from 1 to 100. For our taste, we found a setting of 25 lends the picture a compelling enhanced sharpness and detail definition without looking artificial. The Contrast Enhancer can be set to Low, Medium or High. We found the Low setting opened up shadow details while retaining a satisfying balance across the gray scale.

With regard to Motionflow, a few comments are in order. This is Sony's name for frame interpolation (FI), the process by which intermediary frames are created and inserted into the video stream to smooth motion artifacts, primarily judder that results from camera panning. The advantage of frame interpolation is that it gives you a more stable picture. The disadvantage is that aggressive applications of it can introduce motion artifacts that were not there to begin with, and it can make a movie picture look disturbingly hyper-real (the digital video effect or "soap opera" effect).

On the HW65ES you get four options for Motionflow: Off, True Cinema, Smooth Low and Smooth High. In our testing of scenes that (a) have excessive judder or (b) are prone to manifesting FI artifacts, we found that True Cinema has minimal effect in reducing judder but also has virtually no negative effects either. It is designed to reproduce the original frame rate of a 24-frame movie by removing the 3:2 pulldown and giving a more faithful 24 fps playback. However, the reduced frame rate can be suboptimal. In most cases the result is very close to the system being off.

The other two Motionflow settings are a different story. Smooth Low has a dramatic impact on judder reduction, producing a much cleaner and more stable image. Smooth Low also adds occasional motion artifacts, but they are subtle, rare, and nowhere near as apparent as we've seen on earlier implementations of FI. Smooth Low also adds almost no digital video effect.

Smooth High, the most aggressive setting, adds just a subtle touch of digital video, but it is nowhere near as obvious or as problematic as we've seen on other products. Most users would simply interpret it as a sharp, clear film picture rather than anything that was shot with a videocam. Smooth High adds a tad more image stability than Smooth Low, but the added benefit is marginal and not worth it for film subject matter. However, for live performance dance or concert video (material for which the more real it looks the better), it works fine.

Overall, Sony's implementation of Motionflow is highly successful. We suspect many users, even those who have objected to frame interpolation technology in the past, will be opting for the Smooth Low setting for most of their film viewing, as it substantially improves image stability with almost no undesirable side effects. However, there is one noteworthy limitation -- Motionflow is not an option in Game mode when you've got the input lag set to its fastest. No big surprise there, but worth mentioning.

3D Picture Quality

As stellar as the 2D image is on this projector, the same cannot be said for its performance in 3D. Though the picture is good from a color and contrast perspective, our test sample shows some instability that includes subtle flicker in the brighter scenes, motion artifacts, and some occasional crosstalk. Overall, the 3D picture is good enough to satisfy the user who intends to view 3D only on occasion, but cleaner and clearer 3D is available in competing products. Avid 3D fans who have a steady viewing diet of 3D material will want to seek out a projector with a more stable 3D image.

The Color Presets

The HW65ES has eight factory calibrated presets that you can modify as you see fit. Cinema 1, Cinema 2,and Reference are all targeted to D65 with rather modest variations in lumen output. They are perfectly viewable out of the box without calibration. However, most home theater videophiles who spend up to $4000 on a projector will want to have it professionally calibrated. Bright Cinema about 15% brighter than Cinema 1 and targeted to D75, so it is a bit cooler. It is still quite watchable and some users will prefer it.

Of the eight presets, Game mode is the brightest. Its vibrant picture is calibrated to a somewhat cooler temp, estimating 7500 degrees. TV and Bright TV have the same 7500 degree target color temp calibration, but the names are odd since they are virtually identical in lumen output. However, these presets differ in the default settings for the Contrast Enhancer, gamma, color space, Reality Creation resolution, and noise filtering.

The final preset is Photo mode, which is the only one of the eight that is warmer than standard, targeted to 5500 degrees. The designation "Photo" is peculiar -- we would never choose to display color photographs at 5500 degrees. And we would display black and white photos at this temperature only if we wished to impart a sepia toned effect to them. However there is one huge advantage to Photo mode -- it is ideal for the presentation of classic B/W films. Back in the day, commercial theaters used warmer light sources than we have today. So if you want to experience those old Bogie and Bacall films as they were actually seen by audiences back in the 40's, load up your b/w classic film source, pop the HW65ES into Photo mode, and you are all set. I watched the 1948 Orson Welles film The Lady from Shanghai over the weekend, and the HW65ES' Photo mode made it look spectacular.

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Key Features
Review Contents: Picture Quality Key Features Performance Set Up and Install
  Limitations and Conclusion

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Comments (11) Post a Comment
Robert Melvin Posted Dec 10, 2015 9:36 AM PST
Since the HW55es is still available for $2,999, which is $1,000 less, is the new HW65ES worth the extra $1k I would like to see a side by side comparison review
Erich Posted Dec 10, 2015 3:49 PM PST
I really appreciate you including a review of the fan noise in high altitude mode. This is an aspect that is often ignored, but is pretty significant for us folks that our at high altitude. I ask that you please continue this trend. Thank you for your time.
Joe Smith Posted Dec 11, 2015 11:11 AM PST
Excellent review. I wanted to also ask if you can see a difference between the 65ES and the 350ES at 15 feet when watching blu-rays on a 110 inch screen. Since it has an Iris, the 65ES should have better black and native contrast than the 350ES

I would like to hear peoples thoughts on this
Acid Posted Dec 16, 2015 7:45 AM PST
I bought the Sony 55ES used off of EBay 3 weeks ago for $1,800 (no 3D glasses, and 600hrs on the bulb). I'm really impressed with it, and the Reality Creation is awesome. I thought about getting the 40ES, but am glad I got the model with the Iris.

My only complaint is its 8 bit color processing... Being used to a monitor with 12bpc is a noticeable difference. But the rest of the image is pretty impressive, especially for $1,800!
Jörgen Persson Posted Dec 24, 2015 6:16 AM PST
Really nice review. I like the heads-up in regards to how much light is lost at a different throw distance. Along these lines - it would be practical to get a quick-fact in regards to the common screen-sizes of 100/120/135 and 150 inches relative to minimum throwdistance for each, and how much light is the lost relative to choice of screen size.
Dennis Posted Jan 8, 2016 6:04 AM PST
Have you seen flickering problems during the review or maybe after on the projector ? This apparently is a problem when running in eco-mode.
Bobby Posted Jan 20, 2016 8:18 AM PST
What about audio connection? No optical? Just ordered a 5030 Ube but now thinking of the Sony...
David Kim Posted Feb 16, 2016 3:41 PM PST
Is there any reason for me to get the Sony VPL-HW65ES over my existing Epson 5030UB?
Brett Posted Mar 13, 2016 1:05 AM PST
Just a bit of info about 3D on the 65 it's awesome! There is (when in 3D mode) a menu to calibrate your glasses and 3D settings in general and after calibration there was no signs of Crosstalk at all compared to "out of the box mode" which was rightly so awful but 10 minutes of fine calibration and your smooth sailing the same with the 2D picture after Isf calibration of this unit it far surpasses the picture of the HW55 by a mile, House of Cards or the Blacklist for example from Netflix at times it made me doubt it was "only Full HD" this picture is excellent in general and for gaming check out Fifa 16 on PS4 which with the correct gamma setting as well on that= jaw dropping experience.. I have even bench tested the VW520 which is a sublime projector but if your on a "normal" salary then this is hands down one of the best out there period! yes there is a lot of talk of the JVC in comparison and yes the black is very slightly better (barely noticeable) but on the whole, the detail of the image is better on the HW65. My experience you ask? is over 25 years in the calibration business with CEDIA,THX,JKP among a few others picked up along the way. The biggest issue as always with comments are they are not always 100 procent calibrated and the so called "flicker" issue in Sony projectors can be switched off by disabling the contrast modes that are always "measuring" ambient light changes in the room and correct the picture constantly acting like a flicker affect for many people which I admit can be distracting, a feature one can do without but again easily switched off.
Viveak Majithia Posted Jul 2, 2016 4:07 PM PST
Nope... That is one hell of a projector and best in its class
Triller Posted Nov 12, 2016 11:19 AM PST
Can anyone give me an idea of screen brightness at 135" diag? Also, at what distance back fm the screen would the Sony 65 ES have to be mounted to throw a 135" image? Will pixels start to be visible? (The first seat-row is approximately 14' back fm screen.)

My current projector is a BENQ 10000 that throws a surprising satisfying single-chip DLP image, albeit at 110" diag. I would like to completely fill my 145" diag screen but am concerned it would take an $8K (lowest priced projector able to do the job, especially since we have approx 60 3D titles) Epson 10000 pseudo 4K laser-driven projector to do so. I don't have an "extra" $4K, so willing to settle for 135" if the Sony can do it. Comments from Sony are welcome.

Otherwise, looking for knowledgeable input regarding my questions.

Thanks to all who respond!

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