JVC X30 (DLA-X30) DILA 3D Projector Review
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Can JVC's new budget projector still shine in a crowded market place?
The model we have for review is the JVC DLA-X30W Full HD DILA 3D projector, the suffix denotes that the projector has a white chassis but there is also the DLA-X30B, which has a black chassis. The DLA-X30 sits below the DLA-X90 and DLA-X70 in the new JVC home cinema projector range.
When JVC released the DLA-X3 this time last year, they pretty much had the market to themselves. At a suggested retail price of £3,499, which included two pairs of active shutter glasses and an emitter, there was no other 3D projector even close to that price point. Once you took into account all the other factors such as the superb build quality and excellent performance in both 2D and 3D, you had a deserved winner of an AVForums Best Buy award.
This year, however, things are very different with the £3,000 and below price point now filled with projector manufacturers jockeying for position. Already this year we have seen a number of excellent budget 3D projectors, including the Sony VPL-HW30ES, the Panasonic PT-AT5000 and the Optoma HD83, all of which have been aggressively priced. In fact Optoma have recently smashed the price barrier for budget 3D projection with their remarkable HD33, which has a retail price of only £1,350.
JVC are clearly aware of the competition and so this year they have been equally aggressive on their pricing, with the DLA-X30 retailing for £2,999, which once again includes two pairs of JVC's new active shutter glasses and an emitter. To reach this price point JVC has dropped some minor features such as the motorised lens cover but they have also included some new features such as a lens memory function. Overall though the DLA-X30 appears to be very similar, in terms of specifications, to last year's DLA-X3 which, for its time, was an excellent projector. However, a year is a long time in the consumer electronics business and 3D performance in particular has shown remarkable improvements, especially when it comes to crosstalk reduction. So the question is, in a crowded market place and at such a competitive price point, can the DLA-X30 deliver the kind of performance we have come to expect from JVC?
The full in-depth review follows after the summary and scoring. Test Results are under the tab above.
The DLA-X30 is definitely a case of evolution rather than revolution and is essentially a refined version of last year's DLA-X3. However this is certainly not a criticism, as the DLA-X3 was a fantastic projector and the DLA-X30 takes that excellent starting point and improves upon it.
In order to hit a sub-£3,000 price point, JVC have removed a couple of largely cosmetic features such as the motorised lens cover and the gloss black finish, however neither of these impact on the performance and the build quality remains excellent. In return JVC have added some welcome new features including network control via a LAN socket and most importantly a lens memory function. Whilst the implementation is a little clunky, it is good to see JVC finally including this feature which allows owners to easily use their DLA-X30 in conjunction with a 2.35:1 screen.
The out-of-the-box greyscale and colour gamut are reasonably accurate and the included white balance and gamma controls allow for a reference performance after calibration. It is unfortunate that JVC still don't include a Colour Management System (CMS) on their entry level projector but after calibration we were able to produce a fairly accurate colour gamut that approximated the industry standard. The video processing was excellent, allowing the DLA-X30 to produce superb Ďupscaledí images, even from standard definition content and whilst motion handling isn't a strong point of D-ILA technology, the DLA-X30 was able to impress in this area as well.
As you would expect from a JVC projector, the black levels and shadow detail are superb delivering an industry leading performance in terms of contrast ratio and dynamic range. As a result of all these factors, the DLA-X30 is capable of producing wonderful film-like images that are bursting with clarity and detail, delivering a 2D performance that is the best in its class regardless of whether you are watching standard or high definition content.
So far, so like last year but when it comes to 3D the DLA-X30 shows what remarkable improvements have been made in this area in such a short time. The DLA-X30 was able to produce wonderfully dynamic, detailed and dimensional 3D images that were virtually free from crosstalk. Compared to the DLA-X3 the crosstalk performance is noticeably better and the DLA-X30 is able to produce bright 3D images that are both immersive and largely artefact free. There is also a new 3D menu that allows for greater optimisation of 3D performance, if needed, and JVC have now included a 2D to 3D conversion feature. Whilst we remain sceptical of this feature on any display, we did note that JVC's implementation is better than most, resulting in a 3D image that actually bears some scrutiny and is free of any gross errors.
The DLA-X30 ships with an outboard emitter and two pairs of JVCs latest active shutter 3D glasses. Whilst these new glasses are lighter than last year's, they also have smaller lenses, are more difficult to wear over regular spectacles, more noticeably tinted and block out less ambient light. JVC claim that the new glasses are optimised for use with the DLA-X30 but we found last year's glasses were equally as effective and overall we still prefer the older design's benefits compared to the newer version.
Overall, the JVC DLA-X30 is an excellent entry level projector that remains the best in its class when it comes to 2D performance. Once you include the improved 3D performance, new features and competitive pricing and the result is an impressive combination that is hard to resist. Highly Recommended
Design and Features
JVC follow a policy of using the same chassis design for two consecutive years so it comes as no surprise to discover that the basic chassis of the DLA-X30 is almost identical to the DLA-X3. There are, however, a couple of slight changes, the most obvious of which is the absence of the motorised lens cover that JVC have been using for the last three years. The DLA-X30 ships with a plastic lens cap and whilst the motorised lens has obviously been removed to reduce costs, its absence might not be a bad thing. Since the light path is sealed and the lens itself can, if necessary, be given a quick wipe with a lens cloth, the motorised cover was always more of a cosmetic touch and its absence means there's one less motor to break down. The other slight change, is that whilst the X30 still comes in a choice of black or white, the finish is now matte rather than gloss. Whilst this is also a cost saving feature, once again it is not necessarily a bad thing, as you probably don't want a reflective surface in a home cinema.
Otherwise the layout of the chassis is identical to the DLA-X3, with the lens centred at the front and flanked by exhaust vents. Whilst at the rear of the chassis are the intake vents, the power socket and the other connections. Since the DLA-X30 uses the same chassis as last year's model, it remains quite a large projector with a reasonably big foot print and bulk to go with it. The dimensions measure (W x H x D) 455mm x 179mm x 472mm and the weight is a hefty 14.9kg, so whilst the DLA-X30 might be JVC's entry level projector it still exudes an impressive level of build quality. The DLA-X30 also includes the same 220W UHP mercury lamp as last year, which has a rated lumens of 1,300 and no doubt much of the projector's size is related to cooling. However, despite all this brightness, size and cooling, the DLA-X30 - like its predecessor - remains impressively quiet; we measured an NC reading of 24 in Cinema mode which is below the threshold of 25 for a THX certified home theatre.
The DLA-X30 utilises three 0.7Ē Full HD D-ILA panels as well as a high performance 2x zoom lens within a large diameter all-glass lens system with 17 elements in 15 groups including 2 ED (extra-low dispersion) lenses. There is a motorised focus, zoom and shift feature which allows for flexible installation with a +/-80% vertical and +/34% horizontal powered lens-shift function. The DLA-X30 also includes the latest version of their optical engine resulting in a claimed native contrast ratio of 50,000:1, as well as the latest version of JVCís Clear Motion Drive. Of course the DLA-X30 also includes 3D capability, which it achieves using the frame sequential method combined with an external emitter and JVC's latest active shutter glasses.
The rear connections of the DLA-X30 include two HDMI v1.4a inputs and a component video input using RCA plugs. There is also a 12v trigger, a remote terminal for connecting to an external light receiver, an RS-232C control port for custom installation and a 3D Synchro terminal for connecting the DLA-X30 to the PK-EM1 external 3D emitter. However, the DLA-X30 now includes a LAN socket for network control, a feature which was only on the DLA-X7 and DLA-X9 last year. Also, at the rear, you will find the connector for the power cable and some basic controls including Standby/On, Input, OK, Menu, Back and Up/Down/Left/Right. Finally, although it isn't mentioned anywhere in the menu, there is a small panel at the rear that can be removed to provide access to a mini-USB socket for firmware updates.
The DLA-X30 uses the same style of remote control as last year and since we rather liked that remote we're equally as impressed this year. The remote is slim and light, with a black soft rubber feel that is comfortable in the hand and it includes a backlight for use in the dark. We found the remote easy to use and the buttons are sensibly positioned. The choice of buttons is similar to the remote that came with the DLA-X3 but there are a few minor differences, the most obvious of which is the addition of the Lens Memory button. There are also new buttons for 3D Format and 3D Settings but the DLA-X30 now has only one User mode as opposed to the three that were on the DLA-X3.
As part of the package the DLA-X30 comes with the same PK-EM1 3D emitter as last year and two pairs of JVCís new PK-AG2 active shutter glasses. The emitter itself is connected to the previously mentioned 3D Synchro terminal at the rear and thus provides greater flexibility for installation. The emitter is quite small so it can be comfortably placed on the top of the DLA-X30 and it can be easily directed so that you can bounce the IR signal off the screen, thus producing effective IR coverage over a wide area. Whilst this approach means that you are unlikely to suffer from a loss of sync, you might experience some issues with the emitter swamping other IR controls, although we had no such problems ourselves.
The DLA-X30 comes with two pairs of JVC's new PK-AG2 active shutter glasses and unfortunately we weren't as impressed with the new design, preferring the older PK-AG1s. The earlier JVC glasses are actually re-badged XpanD X103 glasses and as such we found them to be extremely effective due to their large and neutral coloured lenses, as well as the wide frames and sides which fitted comfortably over regular glasses and blocked out any ambient light. Their only downside was that they were a little on the heavy side and could become uncomfortable after a couple of hours. The new design addresses this with a much smaller and lighter frame but in doing so we found the build quality to be quite fragile and it was less easy to wear them over regular glasses. We also felt that the lenses, themselves, had a slight brown tinge to them and were smaller, thus providing a reduced field of view. Due to the smaller frame, the sides were also less effective at blocking out any ambient light. In another retrograde step, the glasses need to be turned on, whilst the previous design just turned on automatically when they detected an IR signal. However on the plus side the new glasses are rechargeable via USB, whereas the previous design required batteries.
Menus and Setup
Thanks to the generous amount of zoom and shift available on the DLA-X30, setup couldnít be simpler and we just placed it on our projector mount, zoomed the image to the size of the screen and adjusted the focus. Our mount is aligned relative to the exact centre of the screen and if you can, we would always recommend this approach. However, if you canít then, you can just use the DLA-X30ís vertical and horizontal shift to correctly align your image. However a word of warning, you should never use the keystone adjustment when setting up your projector; it will add unnecessary scaling, thus robbing your image of resolution and ruining your high definition experience.
The menu system on the DLA-X30 is exactly the same as the one used on last yearís models which is good thing as JVCís implementation is excellent; it is sensibly laid out, intuitive to use and easy to read. There are six main pages within the menu hierarchy, Input Signal, Installation, Display Setup Function, Information and Picture Adjust.
The Input Signal menu allows you to adjust settings for HDMI, COMP, Picture Position, Aspect (Video), Mask and Progressive. The HDMI option includes a setting for the dynamic range with the default setting at Standard and a setting for Colour Space which should be left on the default setting of Auto. There is also the 3D Setting sub-menu which is new for the DLA-X30 and provides controls for 3D Format selection, 2D to 3D Conversion (which was not available on the DLA-X3), Parallax control, Crosstalk Cancel, Intensity and Sub Title Adjust.
The Installation menu gives you access to the Lens Control, Pixel Adjust, Installation Style, Keystone, Anamorphic, Screen Adjust and Black Level. The Installation Style relates to whether the projector is at the front, rear or on the ceiling and the Pixel Adjust function allows you to adjust each colour by increments of one pixel in cases of mis-convergence. As it happens on our review sample the three colours were perfectly aligned but since pixel alignment can often be a lottery at this price point, it can be a useful function in cases where they aren't. As mentioned previously, the Keystone function is best avoided; we left the Black level at zero and Anamorphic adds horizontal and vertical stretch for use with an anamorphic lens. The Screen Adjust setting is designed to optimise the DLA-X30 with different types of screen, in order to do this correctly you will need to select the code that relates to your screen, which you can find on the JVC website.
The Lens Control sub-menu includes controls for the Focus, Zoom and Shift, although these can also be accessed directly from the remote control. There is also the Lens Memory which is a new feature on the JVC line-up and allows owners of 2.35:1 screens to create different settings depending on the content. Since we had a 2.35:1 screen in our review room, we were able to take advantage of this feature, creating two settings - 1.78:1 and 2.35:1; although you can create a total of three. After you have adjusted a particular setting you save it to the Lens Memory which remembers the amount of zoom, shift and focus used to create that setting. Once you have saved a particular Lens Memory, you can also name it - if you so wish - and then you just select your required ratio and the DLA-X30 automatically changes to it. Unlike with Panasonic's PT-AT5000, you can change the Lens Memory setting quite happily whilst watching both 2D and 3D content.
We have been asking for this feature for a couple of years and now that JVC have finally included a Lens Memory we feel churlish complaining. However, there are a couple of issues we would like to point out, firstly make sure that when creating a setting you do it as smoothly and with as few moves as possible. This is because the Lens Memory will remember all the moves in the chain and repeat them rather than just remember a starting and finishing point and go directly between the two. As a result it can look quite comical if the grid is zooming and shifting all over the place before finally reaching its destination. Secondly, once the new setting has been reached you are asked if you wish to make any further adjustments. If you choose 'yes' you can then adjust as necessary but if you choose 'no' you end up back in the Lens Control sub-menu which you then have to exit - why not just exit entirely when you select 'no'?
The Display Setup menu allows you to adjust the Back Colour, Menu Position, Menu Display, Line Display, Source Display, Logo and Language. All these controls can be left in their default setting unless you have a strong need to change the location of the menu itself or not see the 'D-ILA' logo when you turn the DLA-X30 on.
The Function menu allows you to control the Trigger, the Off Timer, the High Altitude Mode and the Lamp Reset. There are also controls for selecting the Communication Terminal, as well as the Network and the remote code. Finally the Information menu shows you which Input is being used, what the Source is, whether there is Deep Colour, the Lamp Time and the Software Version.
The Picture Adjust menu contains all the controls relating to the image and includes obvious ones such as Picture Mode, Contrast, Brightness, Colour, Tint, Colour Temperature and Gamma selection. Of the various Picture Modes available we found Cinema to be the best choice for 2D movie watching and 3D to be the best for 3D movie watching. Initially we left the Contrast, Brightness, Colour and Tint controls at zero and selected 6500K for the Colour Temperature and Normal for the Gamma. In addition there is a two point White Balance control for calibrating the colour temperature, which can be accessed by selecting Custom 1-3.
There is also an Advanced section within the Picture Adjust menu and this allows you to control Sharpness and Noise Reduction and choose the Colour Space, with Standard designed to approximate the industry standard of Rec.709. There are also controls for User Name Edit, the Clear Motion Drive (CMD), the Lens Aperture and the Lamp Power. We found that the best settings for the Sharpness and Detail Enhancement controls were zero and we also turned off the Noise Reduction controls. We left the Clear Motion Drive function off and will discuss this in more detail in the video processing section. We would recommend starting with the Lens Aperture at the lowest setting for 2D and the middle setting for 3D and then gradually opening them up as the bulb ages and dims.
Finally, within the Advanced sub-menu, there is a Custom Gamma feature which allows you to create up to three custom gamma curves. This feature offers a high degree of control and combined the White Balance control should allow a trained calibrator to create a reference greyscale performance.
Picture Quality - 2D
Any suspicions that the 2D performance of the DLA-X30 might be quite similar to the DLA-X3 were immediately confirmed when watching demo material. However, this is no bad thing as the DLA-X3 looked excellent and the DLA-X30 looked equally superb. At this price point, there really is no other projector that can deliver the kind of breath-taking 2D images of which the DLA-X30 is capable.
As is always the case, an accurate greyscale and gamma forms the backbone of any good image and here the DLA-X30 delivered in spades. In addition, as we have come to expect from JVC, the DLA-X30 has beautiful deep blacks that just wipe the floor with the competition. These blacks help create a base for wonderfully rich and fluid images that have plenty of shadow detail and a gorgeous film-like quality. The other advantage to the deep blacks is that although the DLA-X30 is the brightest projector out there, its dynamic range is truly impressive and the native contrast is achieved without resorting to any dynamic iris trickery. Of course to truly appreciate the DLA-X30's superb blacks you really need to be using it in a light controlled environment; if you use it in a room with white walls and ceiling then the blacks will be washed out - robbing the DLA-X30 of one of its greatest assets.
Thanks in part to the perfectly aligned pixels, the level of detail with high definition content was remarkable and thanks to the excellent video processing, even standard definition content looked impressive on the DLA-X30. Motion handling has always been the weakest area when it comes to D-ILA panels but thanks, in part, to the excellent video processing, the motion handling of the DLA-X30 was also very good and there was very little of the smearing that sometimes accompanies camera pans.
The generally good colour accuracy was also evident and whilst anyone used to watching a perfectly calibrated colour gamut might be able to spot minor errors, it is unlikely that most people would see anything amiss. In fact the colour performance was probably a slight improvement on the DLA-X30, with skin tones and the grass and sunflowers on the Spears & Munsil demo footage all looking very natural. Overall, most people should be very happy with the colour performance of the DLA-X30, despite the lack of a CMS and combined with everything else, there is no doubt that in terms of 2D performance, JVC remains the industry leader at this price point.
Picture Quality - 3D
When we reviewed the DLA-X3 a year ago, we were impressed with its overall 3D performance, even if it did suffer from some crosstalk, especially before it had warmed up. However 3D performance has come a long way in the last year and we have been incredibly impressed with the projectors from Panasonic, Sony and Optoma. In fact even Optoma's sub-£1,500 HD33 really impressed with its bright and crosstalk free 3D images. Thankfully JVC haven't been resting on their laurels and the quality of the 3D image produced by the DLA-X30 is as impressive as the competition.
Given the exceptional quality of the DLA-X30's 2D images, we would expect equally impressive 3D images and we certainly got that. Using the 3D setting on the projector the resulting images were wonderfully detailed and despite our concerns over the tint to the new glasses we found the colours to be reasonably accurate. As with the 2D performance, motion handling isn't really D-ILA's strong point but once again we found the general motion handling in 3D to be very good, with no excessive smearing on camera pans and the sense of depth maintaining its integrity. Obviously the review sample was brand new, so the bulb was performing at full brightness and in 3D mode at high power the 3D images had plenty of punch. In fact we were able to close the iris down to its minimum settings and still enjoy impressively bright 3D images.
All of this is largely in line with the DLA-X3 but where the DLA-X30 shows significant improvement was in terms of crosstalk. We often use the menu screen from Despicable Me because its bright white background and characters in extreme negative and positive parallax are a crosstalk torture test. The DLA-X30 performed better here than the DLA-X3, even without being warmed up and certainly handled the 3D as well as any of the competition. The 3D Blu-ray of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is exceptional, with some absolutely brilliant 3D photography and on the DLA-X30 it looked simply stunning. The 3D was rendered with a wonderful and largely crosstalk free sense of dimensionality and the level of detail within the frame was jaw dropping at times. Once you add in the superior image quality, the result was a 3D experience that was genuinely immersive.
Whilst the new glasses certainly worked well in conjunction with the DLA-X30, the improved performance didn't appear to be a result of the glasses themselves, despite JVCs claims that they have been optimised for use with the new projectors. We actually swapped between the new glasses and the old style whilst watching POTC: OST and there was no visible difference in performance, aside from a more noticeable tint on the new glasses. Certainly both types of glasses were capable of synching without any issues and the resulting 3D looked artefact and crosstalk free whichever pair wereused. This is good news if you are thinking of switching your DLA-X3 for a DLA-X30 and already have a few pairs of the older style of glasses, which in all honesty we still prefer.
The DLA-X30 also includes a 3D menu that is new to this year's models and allows for greater optimisation of 3D performance, if needed. We tried the various settings but found that they didn't really make much difference to the 3D performance and we largely left them off, centred or zeroed. In addition, JVC have now included a 2D to 3D conversion feature and whilst we remain sceptical of this technology on any display, we did note that JVC's implementation is better than most, resulting in a 3D image that actually bears some scrutiny and is free of any gross errors.
There is no question that the 3D performance of the DLA-X30 is certainly better than the DLA-X3 and at least as good as the current competition, resulting in detailed, beautifully rendered, crosstalk free and immersive 3D pictures.
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Entry Level Full HD 3D D-ILA Projector
Suggested price: £2,999
Reviewed 10th December, 2011 by Stephen Withers
To get the best out of your TV or projector, consider getting it calibrated.
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