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Sony VPL-HW65ES Projector Review

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Are excellent full HD big screen images still enough?

by Phil Hinton May 1, 2016 at 9:05 AM

  • Home AV review


    Sony VPL-HW65ES Projector Review
    SRP: £2,800.00

    What is the Sony VPL-HW65ES?

    The Sony VPL-VW65ES is the latest SXRD 1080p home cinema projector from the company which replaces the outgoing HW55ES model and remains as the highest level Full HD projector in the Sony range. This model is not capable of accepting Ultra HD Blu-ray signals and as such it remains very much the older statesman for normal Blu-ray playback. That’s not a bad thing at all as 4K is still very much in it’s infancy with many growing pains yet to fully be resolved and Full HD can hardly be called old hat or bad quality. So it makes sense to add some more lumens (1800), refine the reality creation image processing engine and make sure the lamp can last for at least, in low mode, 6,000 hours.

    The chassis remains the same as it has for quite a number of years now with manual lens shift controls on the top with the manual zoom and focus rings on the lens body. The body itself is available in white or black and the exhaust ports remain at the front which allows for easier placement at the rear of the room if required.

    With the TV market currently in Ultra HD HDR flux and the projector market likely to follow suit eventually, is it too late to introduce a Full HD-only model or is there still life in the old high def dog for a while yet? Lets find out…

    Design, Connections and Control

    Sony VPL-HW65ES Design, Connections and Control

    As we have already mentioned the VPL-HW65ES uses the same chassis as the outgoing HW55ES it replaces and the current HW40ES entry-level projector. This means that the body has a nice top plate curve with a good level of build quality and all the main controls for setting up the image are manual in nature. The lens is centrally mounted in its own recess on the front plate and has manual zoom and focus rings which means there is no lens memory functionality in this model for those using scope screens – it’s all manual. Also on the front are air intake and exhaust vents which allows for easy ventilation and placement of the projector in a hush box or against the rear wall in the room. If you would rather table mount the HW65ES then there are adjustable feet to help with this. The projector measures in at 407.4 x 179.2 x 463.9mm and weighs 9kg with the chassis being available in black or white finishes.

    Above the lens on the top plate are the lens shift control wheels which manage to hold position when set in most cases, but some fine tuning will be required from time to time as the lens slips downwards thanks to gravity. It is a shame there is no stop lock to prevent this, but it isn’t really a major problem to be honest. The final set of controls for the projector are placed on the left hand side (from the front) of the body and include a menu button, direction keys and the power. Below these are the connections.

    Sony VPL-HW65ES Design, Connections and Control

    Connections wise we have a wired LAN port, USB slot, two HDMI 1.4 inputs along with a remote port and IR in and a 12V trigger. The power socket is the rear of this section and slightly more recessed. Controlling the projector is a full-sized Sony remote control that is backlit for use in a dark cinema room.

    Sony VPL-HW65ES

    Anyone familiar with Sony SXRD projectors will recognise the remote control layout and design. Although it’s made from plastic it has a nice weight which helps it sit easily in the hand with the main menu and direction and enter keys centrally placed, making it simple to access most of the features and image controls quickly. Sources are placed to the top with picture attribute controls for direct access to 3D, aspect, motion, gamma and so on. Being backlit is also a god-send for use in a darkened room and the remote looks and feels like it belongs to a far more expensive piece of kit.

    Finally if you want to take full advantage of the 3D capabilities of the VPL-HW65ES you will need to purchase the RF glasses (TDG-BT500A) separately, although the emitter is built into the projector.

    Features and Specs

    Sony VPL-HW65ES Features and Specs

    At first glance the only update that appears to have been added to the HW65ES over the HW55 is an extra 100 lumens of brightness. This is certainly usable and makes the HW65ES suitable for rooms with light coloured walls and ceilings. Even in calibrated modes we could achieve up to 950 lumens in movie watching settings and higher with 3D material. And it is not just the lumens count which moves thing on slightly. New features include an update to the Reality Creation which brings it up to generation 2 with more refined performance and settings available for resolution and noise filtering. We found that with settings at the lower end of the scale most material looked sharper with no obvious artefacts, however we personally preferred to have it switched off and reproduce what was originally on the disc or other source. However we did notice that there was possibly some very slight backdoor noise suppression filtering added to images that couldn’t be defeated, but we only saw this with test clips and not while watching Blu-ray content and we don’t think it has any obvious detrimental effect as it is so slight, we mention it to be complete in our review. As this is a 3-chip projector we also get a panel adjustment tool to help with any issues with alignment of the chips. As you can probably just make out from the menu images we did have a slight issue with alignment on this projector, which we were able to fix as best we could so it wasn't visible on image or text within onscreen content.

    Sony VPL-HW65ES Features and Specs

    Cinema Black Pro gives the option of a manual iris or two settings for the Dynamic iris control. We found that with Limited and Full the dynamic iris is not very responsive on the HW65ES and we noticed image luminance shifting and brightness pumping on both settings, with Full being unwatchable with most material and even Limited showing up some issues. For example the opening titles of the Bad Boys 20th Anniversary Blu-ray had the image pumping between the Miami nightscape and the white titles appearing on screen. This was the worst example but even with mildly mixed material the iris in both settings was visible. This is a real shame as Sony have in the past employed extremely effective DI settings. The manual iris was easy enough to set with increments from 0-99 and we found this the best solution for setting image brightness in our bat cave cinema room. Other settings under this menu item like contrast enhancer are best left off for obvious image consistency issues.

    Motionflow is also the latest version offering various levels of frame interpolation as well as a black frame insertion mode. You have a number of choices from Impulse, Combination, Smooth High, Smooth Low, and True Cinema and off. We found that all added a soap opera effect to 24p images bar True Cinema which employs black frame insertion and a slight flicker to improve motion without any side effects of frame interpolation. This may work for some users while for others they may notice the flicker caused and find it unusable, as motion and flicker can be very personal depending on how you personally pick up on such things. With Motionflow switched off we found the SXRD technology could resolve around 350 lines on our FPD tests and with the other frame interpolation options that could increase this up to 1080 – with the obvious side effects of using such settings. For our testing we left it switched off, but as with all such settings you might prefer to use them at the cost of image integrity, it’s a personal choice.

    Out-of-the-box Settings

    We used the User setting with the white balance selection of D65 and gamma set to 2.4 and colour space set to Rec.709. We then set the brightness, iris and contrast to our room conditions before measuring our results. We used our trusted CalMAN 5 software and Murideo Fresco Six-G generator for testing.
    Sony VPL-HW65ES Out-of-the-box Settings
    Sony VPL-HW65ES Out-of-the-box Settings

    As you can see the greyscale tracking (top left) is pretty superb for an out-of-the-box present with blue just slightly down and red a little high in the brighter end of the scale. However these slight errors were not visible on screen with normal viewing material and our DeltaE errors were 3 and under, which is right on the threshold of being visible to most viewers. Gamma also tracked extremely well to our dark room target of 2.4 with a bottom end (10ire) just was just a little too dark. Overall it’s a cracking result out of the box.

    Our colour gamut results (top right) were also very good with just red and yellow being oversaturated at all 25% points. Most of the other points were hitting their mark and the slight right hand bias of the results are down to the white point at D65 being slightly off out-of-the-box. We expect that to fall in to place when we correct the greyscale tracking and we should also be able to fix most of the over saturated points using the built-in Colour Management System (CMS). But for an out-of-the-box result it is rather good with just the slightly oversaturated reds being visible with on screen viewing material.

    Calibrated Settings

    We used the provided calibration controls within the projector to correct the greyscale tracking as best we could. Although the controls were quite coarse we managed to get DeltaE errors well under 2 and in most cases 1 or under, which means no errors were visible on screen with viewing material.
    Sony VPL-HW65ES Calibrated Settings
    Sony VPL-HW65ES Calibrated Settings

    Gamma was also unchanged and spot on at 2.4. Moving to the colour gamut and using the built-in CMS controls carefully we were able to fix the important saturation points of 75% and below to perfection with only the native green hue point and red missing out at 100% but once again our deltaE errors were such that none of the off points were noticeable when actually viewing movie content on screen. So, excellent results all round.

    Sony HW65ES Video Review

    Picture Quality

    The out-of-the-box performance of the HW65ES is very good indeed and with the excellent greyscale tracking making up the backbone of the images on screen, we can forgive the oversaturation with red on the colour gamut and doubt most normal users would notice unless they had the projector side-by-side with a reference monitor.

    The main use of the HW65ES will be in cinema rooms or normal living rooms so it needs to be able to produce acceptable images in both types of room. The one negative we do have with the performance of the Sony is the black levels in a bat cave environment. The blacks are a little light in such surroundings with a lack of shadow detail in the lowest reaches of the image. This was most noticeable with movies like Crimson Peak where scenes are set against very dark surroundings and some detail was lost on the HW65ES that was visible with more depth on our reference JVC X700. Of course there is quite a difference in price points between the two, but it is something to be aware of and test for if you plan on using the Sony in a bat cave. In normal living room surroundings (light colour walls and ceilings) we don’t think that issue will be as noticeable as the black floor level will be raised in such surroundings and the projector is pretty bright which also has an effect on the ultimate low-end performance.

    Video processing was excellent from the HW65ES with DVD and Blu-ray discs and 24p material had no induced judder or motion issues added. Motion is also very good considering this is an SXRD projector and the level of image blur is not excessive and is normal for such a device. We also found the extra brightness really did make the images pop with superb colour reproduction being the highlight for us on the Sony. Skin tones are utterly convincing with excellent sharpness and detail in the images and primary colours really pop. The gamma is also excellent giving images a nice degree of solidity and depth. It might only be 1080p but the Sony VPL-HW65ES provides an excellent performance at the price point and HD is far from being dead. Blu-ray movie watching is an enjoyable and cinematic experience on this projector and it’s only real competition in this market sector is it’s more budget sibling the HW40ES (and upcoming HW45ES). You would have to spend at least £800-£1,000 more to get to the entry level JVC DLA-X5000 with its E-shift4K technology, HDR and black levels.

    Wrapping up with the HW65ES image quality and 3D is extremely good with minimal crosstalk or other artefacts getting in the way. We have found Sony projectors to be hit or miss when it comes to 3D and with some models no matter what settings you select or how careful you are at setting up, the 3D can be a disappointment. But here on the HW65ES we really enjoyed the experience and sitting down to watch the start of Man Of Steel to check the quality, we ended up watching the entire movie and never felt fatigued or distracted by any artefacts or the glasses. Indeed the Sony is plenty bright enough in 3D mode to give an excellent performance with colours that were as accurate as you can expect without a calibration. It is well worth the effort of buying the active glasses to enjoy the experience even if 3D at home is a dying sector of the market.

    Finally all you gamers out there will be happy with the Sony VPL-HW65ES gaming input lag measuring just 27.8ms using our trusted Leo Bodnar lag tester. This means that even the most competitive gamer should enjoy the big screen experience, just remember to switch the reduce lag setting to on.


    OUT OF

    The Good

    • Excellent colour performance
    • Very good 3D performance
    • Excellent video processing
    • Good motion
    • Easy to set up and intuitive menus system
    • Attractive design and good build quality

    The Bad

    • Black levels in a bat cave environment could be better
    • Slight back door noise reduction spotted
    You own this Total 2
    You want this Total 1
    You had this Total 0

    Sony VPL-HW65ES Projector Review

    Full HD is not dead yet and while TVs may be fighting over 4K HDR and wider colour gamuts it is going to take some time before the projector market under £5,000 catches up and can provide that technology. In the meantime we have the likes of the Sony HW65ES which provides an excellent HD proposition at a very affordable price point, providing cinematic images with superb colour performance as well as stunningly good 3D. Blacks could be a little better but they are not a deal breaker with good motion for an SXRD projector and an overall performance that is hard to fault. You would need to spend at least another £800-1,000 on the entry-level JVC to get to the next level of black level and e-shift4 HDR support but those technologies are still in flux and could yet take a while to settle down. The VW65ES is a good bet for 99% of your viewing content on Blu-ray for now and sometime yet in the future and offers excellent value for money – Recommended.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,800.00

    The Rundown

    Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels


    Colour Accuracy


    Greyscale Accuracy


    Video Processing


    Image Uniformity


    2D Picture Quality


    3D Picture Quality


    Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box


    Picture Quality Calibrated




    Ease Of Use


    Build Quality


    Value For Money




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