JVC DLA-HD750 D-ILA Projector review
With blacks deeper than a Galaxy far far away, JVC are certified for the Darkside with THX
It seems like a long time has passed since we first set eyes on the DLA-HD750 from JVC. Indeed, it was back in September that we had our first good look at this model with its THX certification and Colour Management System (CMS). The actual production models arrived in December and our first review sample in January. Yes, you read that correctly. We have had two samples of the HD750 and this is why our review has taken some time to publish.
The reason is fairly simple and also very encouraging on the part of JVC. It seems like we have harped on about properly measuring displays for a few years now, but there is a good reason for that and this projector is the first example where it has become very important. You can tell almost everything about how a display has been designed and indeed, what kind of picture performance you are likely to achieve, by careful testing and measuring.
Set up and Menus
The first thing to mention about the design and layout of the DLA-HD750 is that it looks identical to its younger brother the HD350. Indeed, apart from an added VGA input and trigger on the connections panel, you would be hard pushed to tell them apart.The sleek body measures 365 x 167 x 478mm (W x H x D) with weight a reasonable 11Kg. The new lens layout is offset to the left when looking directly at the projector, but this shouldnít cause too many issues in set up, due to the slim width of the unit. This time around the lens has an electronic cover which opens and closes when powering the machine on and off. This will save it from any dirt and dust build up, especially when ceiling mounted. The drawback with this approach is that the lens is slightly recessed so that if you decide to add an anamorphic lens, extra care will be needed. Genesis Technologies have again worked with JVC to design an anamorphic solution for those who want to take that route in their home cinemas.
The new chassis design also changes internal cooling with air flowing in through the front and out through the left hand side panel, so careful positioning will be required to avoid overheating. Again the glass used in the optical path looks impressive and a step up over the HD100 which this projector replaces. It uses D-ILA technology sporting three 0.7 inch full HD 1920 x 1080 panels with a 17 element lens system in 15 groups with 2 ED (extra-low dispersion) lenses. Convergence of the panels can be an issue if misaligned, however JVC UK check each machine by hand to make sure they pass for accurate convergence and indeed our review samples looked perfect in this regard. The HD750 is a well built unit and feels solid.
The remote control for the HD750 is identical to the lower end model and set out in a logical manner. It is intuitive to use and also features a backlight for use in a dark room. It is a simple design with a plastic feel and at this price point, it might have been nice to have had a machined metal unit that feels more expensive with such a premium projector. The only small gripe is that the remote control (with two sensors front and back of the unit) was slow and sometimes unresponsive from any great distance.
Moving to the connections, situated on the right hand side of the unit (looking from the front), we have a number of options. There are two HDMI V1.3a slots, a VGA/PC input, one set of component, a composite and s-video slot. Also here are the important RS232 serial port and 12v trigger for custom installation use.Setting up the HD750 is a pretty straight forward affair with lens shift, focus and zoom controls all motorised on the new model. Response of the focus and zoom functions are responsive and a huge step up on the pre production models we played with last year. Once set up, a procedure that will take an hour at the most to get perfect, we move on to the menu pages.
The first new feature we see in the menu system is the inclusion of the THX picture mode. This is part of the THX certification program that, thankfully, more manufacturers are implementing into their display products. But what is it? Basically the THX mode is something we at AVForums reviews have been asking to have for a number of years now. It is a preset that tries to get the image as close as possible to industry standards for the HD colour gamut and white level out of the box. This is important as hardly any displays are capable of hitting these standards without professional calibration. It is still very difficult for a mode like THX to be completely correct out of the box as there are many variables to getting the perfect image. These include the environment the display will be used in, along with the variations in output of the differing sources. However, providing as accurate as possible a setting for end users out of the box gives them a great starting point for reproducing playback material at the correct standards. THX mode is designed to do this and we will test just how close it gets later in the review. You can see the THX testing criteria On their web page here and funnily enough it is identical in many ways to the process we use when reviewing.
The main picture menus are very similar to those seen on the DLA-HD350 with THX joining the other picture modes, Cinema 1, Cinema 2, Natural, Stage, Dynamic and 3 User presets. After selection of the picture mode, you then have the usual main display controls, Brightness, Contrast, Colour and Tint. The next main selection is the colour temperature which allows selection of 5800k, 6500k, 7500k, 9300k, and High Bright plus three custom selections. Again this follows the same implementation as the HD350, with no high controls available for any of the temperature selections. To do a full white balance you have to select one of the three custom modes. All of these are set to 9300k and require calibration to get them to the desired 6500k point accurately. I also have to mention here that THX and Cinema 1 picture modes do not allow any adjustment of the greyscale or CMS Ė the controls are greyed out. THX mode is set by the company as part of the licensing of the product, so you are left with their version of the colour temperature. (There is a work around in the service menu Ė search AVForums discussions in the projectors forum for details of how to do this - though it's not recommended for amateurs). Moving on through the picture selection we then have gamma control which also allows selected presets or a completely custom selection across each primary and white. Finally on this menu page we have the aperture selection tool which allows adjustment in 15 steps. Set up of this control will depend on what the end user will want to achieve for image brightness and contrast for their particular room and screen.
Moving to the advanced controls brings up the sharpness and of course one of the main attractions with the HD750, the colour management system (CMS). The controls available here are 3 custom selection modes for making adjustments to the colour gamut. There are the primary and secondary colours along with three controls for each, hue, saturation and brightness. This should allow good control and allow the colour gamut to be corrected towards the Rec.709 HD standard.
Other menu selections are fairly standard for a projector, including lamp selection modes, keystone adjustments and for anamorphic set ups there is the vertical stretch mode selection. You can also check your usage levels and our review sample, after its trip back to JVC for a firmware upgrade, was running at 100 hours.
So with all that covered it was time to measure the HD750 and see just how close it is to industry standards out of the box and, of course, professional ISF calibration.
Out of the box and Calibration
As mentioned we measure displays for a very important reason and at first we measured each preset to see what the performance was like. The main selections, Cinema 1, Cinema 2, Natural and Stage were all had wide colour gamutís when compared to the Rec.709 standard. This was to be expected and the gamut follows that of the HD350 (and indeed the previous JVC models) by being wide on red and green points. The only exception here was Natural which has a tamed green point, which while still wide, is only about half that of the other preset points. But overall, these gamuts are wide and oversaturated which is easy to see within images on screen.
Of course the main preset of interest here is the THX mode and how close it gets to being accurate to the standards laid down for broadcast and film reproduction on HD. This mode is intended to get end users close out of the box and as a starter point towards hitting the right colour points and white balance, so how does it perform?
Looking at the colour gamut first, you can see that the THX mode is vastly superior to previous JVC presets and offers an almost exact result against the Rec.709 standard. Yellow and Red are slightly pushed with Magenta towards red, but overall itís a brilliant result with DeltaE errors for luminance of the points all under 10. The luminance measurements are important to check that each of the colour points have the correct brightness levels and intensity to comply with the standards. It is very rare for a consumer product to manage this out of the box (and with some products even after calibration).
The greyscale results are also better than expected out of the box in THX mode with DeltaE errors under 4 across the board, but with Red consistently low by about 5% maximum. Unfortunately because the THX preset is locked you cannot correct the greyscale without using a trick within the service menu. There is also no way to correct the gamut either within this preset, so any calibration will require using one of the custom user modes. But given these results the THX preset itself is very impressive in terms of results against the HD standards.
One of the big selling points of the JVC HD750 is the introduction of a 3D colour management system (CMS). This allows control over the primary and secondary colour points on three planes, hue, brightness and saturation. By correctly measuring these points we can then use the controls to move them close to the HD standards for colour. This should not be confused with Greyscale adjustment. To be able to correct the colour points we need to see where they are on the CIE chart out of the box and with this projector, all the presets that allow control over the colour points, were also very wide of the Rec.709 standard. This means that we need a CMS that has enough adjustment of the three controls and is linear in applying those adjustments.
On the first sample of the projector we received it became obvious fairly quickly that there was an issue with the Gamut being wide and the CMS not having enough adjustment to bring the points back correctly to the standard. Even with experimentation and adjusting the colour decoder (not advised in normal circumstances), it was only possible to bring the gamut within the CMS range by reducing the colour control by minus 23. Even trying to get acceptable results within normal parameters with the CMS there was also an issue with the controls not being linear and giving varying degrees of errors across various stimulus points. These would be clearly seen within colour ramps (0-100ire) with colour clipping at 75ire and under saturation at 100ire for example. Obviously, with this feature being a big selling point of the HD750 over the HD350, this kind of issue meant that the projector could not be corrected and as such the CMS was pretty useless in this state.
With these results I contacted JVC and a few HD750 owners to see if there had been similar problems reported and of course checked the online forums. Both AVForums and AVSForums (our American friends) did indeed have posts from owners and calibrators experiencing the same issues, so it was not confined just to our review sample. After liaising with our UK contacts at JVC I was asked to compile a report based on our findings during the review testing process and sent this to JVC for investigation.
JVC asked me to wait and stated they would fix the issues quickly. This is quite unusual and I was impressed that the unit was delivered, complete with a beta version of new firmware, just a few weeks later.
JVC UK has consistently impressed me with their attitude of listening to what the end users want and need. So with hand shakes and back patting all-round, does this firmware fix actually work?
I am happy to report after lots of testing and re-testing of the new software upgrade that the CMS system now works as it should and in a linear fashion.
As you can see the results, first of all for the greyscale, were almost completely perfect with just a slight red error around 60ire, but with DeltaE errors well under 2 across the board. This was an excellent result with Gamma hitting 2.2 as desired and D65 CCT hit correctly. After hour and hours of testing I just couldnít improve any further our results here.
Moving to the Gamut and the CMS results, you can see that we managed to get all the points, along with luminance levels and DeltaE errors to within a whisker of perfection. This was the case across all the stimulus points showing that the previous issues with clipping and under saturation where now fixed. Plus, these results were repeatable by resetting the HD750 to factory defaults and calibrating six (read it, six) times, each run attaining near perfect results. And those of you who know how long it takes to fully calibrate a display will appreciate just how long I have spent fully testing this unit.
So after an initial false start with the HD750 and its CMS controls, I can happily report that all is now working as it should and the results are fantastic!
Picture Quality Ė Out of the Box and Calibrated
For this section of the review I went with the THX preset for the out of the box settings with corrected brightness and contrast for our review room. As you can see with the results above the THX mode is not far from being accurate, but it is also not capable of being corrected manually. So by choosing this preset you are left with just the main picture controls working.
However, with almost every piece of material I watched on the HD750, THX mode looked fantastic, as you would imagine. Black level performance along with a huge dynamic range and a colour palette that is now well controlled almost gives us home cinema perfection, or certainly as close as 'of the box' settings as we have seen in a projector. For most people this will be the mode that is used and for good reason. However it is not quite perfect to a trained eye. There is a yellow/green cast seen in some scenes which can be accounted for from our measurement results. But hey, I really am picking very small holes in what is a fantastic projected image. For many who loved the JVC black levels and dynamic range, but were not happy with the previous model's over saturated colours, this new projector with the THX preset gives you an almost perfect cinematic image. In terms of measuring up against its peers, the Sony VW80 had a very similar colour performance to the JVCís THX preset, but certainly cannot produce the black levels and contrast performance of the JVC.
Moving onto our calibrated settings and almost perfect becomes reference level in terms of image depth, colour balance and black levels. The yellow/green cast is now gone and colours are vivid but perfectly saturated and natural looking. Flesh tones are superb with fantastic shadow detail performance adding in that three dimensional feel to image depth where required. It is the deep fluid blacks that make the JVC projectors famous and with the HD750 they have done it again, with a performance the competition can only dream of matching. And adding in colours that are now natural and perfectly calibrated gives us a level of performance no other projector under £20k has yet matched in our review room.
Add to this picture performance video processing from HQV which passes every test thrown at it; a contrast performance (for comparison in our review room against other tested projectors) that hits 12,876:1 in calibrated settings and -7 on the aperture control; an anamorphic lens solution available and proper integration controls, it's hardly surprising that I was suitably impressed.
With so many new projectors coming through our review room this year we have seen a steady upward slope of improved contrast, black levels and colour reproduction with almost every model. But JVC have yet again produced something very special indeed with the DLA-HD750. It has black level and contrast performance that is industry leading in the market place for consumer projectors and with a CMS control; colour performance is now perfect against industry standards.
In my opinion the JVC DLA-HD750 offers a performance level that should cost twice its suggested retail pricing and is outstanding for a consumer product. There is no such thing as a perfect display and DILA technology does have a few draw backs, one is an issue with detail loss in fast moving scenes (slight dither effect), that some users can experience. This is a side effect of the technology in the same way that some will see rainbow effects on a DLP. However, I must point out that seeing this effect is very rare.
I would also not recommend installation of the projector in a room that is not light controlled. To get the very best out of this projector it needs care and attention spent in its set up, calibration and most importantly the environment it is used in. That means no white walls and a complete bat cave in terms of light control. (Or if you have to, look at using black velvet curtains within the screen area).
Overall, there is nothing in my opinion that can touch the JVC DLA-HD750 for under £20k in todayís consumer marketplace. JVC has once again produced a true reference point for consumer home projection that will also appeal to the custom installation market. What else can I say other than go see one, and if you can afford it, push the boat out! We have seen it online for £5200 at Sound and Vision.Pros:
Our feedback for JVC
If you are interested in buying the JVC DLA-HD750 ,
Have your say
Read about our review ethos and the meaning of our review badges here.
3,351 word review viewed 18,351 times.
High end D-ILA Projector
Suggested price: £5,500
Reviewed 13th April, 2009 by Phil Hinton
To get the best out of your TV or projector, consider getting it calibrated.