First look at the JVC 2012 Projector Line-up
AVForums gets its first look at JVC's new e-Shift technology
On Wednesday the 5th of October, AVForums were invited to JVC’s offices in North West London to get an exclusive look at their new line-up of projectors.In November JVC will launch the DLA-X30, the DLA-X70 and the DLA-X90 but we were able to spend five hours with the X30 and X70, putting them through their paces and measuring their out-of-the-box greyscale and colour gamut performance. It should however be noted that the projectors we tested were pre-production samples so there might be slight differences when the actual production models start shipping in November. We also tested the e-shift technology with various test patterns and most importantly, we sat down and watched real world material on both projectors.
As with previous line-ups, the X30 is the entry level model, the X70 the middle range model and the X90 is the flagship projector built using hand selected and hand tested components. All three projectors feature three 0.7” 1920 x 1080 D-ILA chips and are designed around JVC’s third generation D-ILA High Dynamic Range optical engine. As such all three projectors offer impressive native blacks without resorting to a dynamic iris, JVC claim a contrast ratio of 50,000:1 for the X30, 80,000:1 for the X70 and 120,000:1 for the X90. In the X70 and X90 the 16-step Lens and Lamp Aperture Adjustment allows the user to optimise the f-number (relative aperture) of the optics system in all steps whilst the X30 just features a 16-step Lens Aperture Adjustment.
The first thing to notice about the new projectors is that they retain the same basic design as the X3, X7 and X9. This is to be expected as JVC tend to use the same chassis design for two consecutive years, just as they did with the 350/750 and 550/950/990 and before that with the HD1 and HD100. Whilst the new projectors retain the same well-built and reasonably large chassis and rear facing inputs, there are some minor changes this year. The X30 will now ship in either a matt black or matt white colour scheme whilst the X70 and X90 both come only in gloss black. In addition the X70 and X90 retain the motorised lens cover whilst the X30 now comes with a manually fitted plastic lens cover.
All three projectors are 3D capable and still use the same outboard 3D emitter (PK-EM1) that was available with the previous projector line-up. The new projectors also use active shutter glasses made by XpanD but they are newer versions that are lighter, more compact and rechargeable. These new glasses are turned on and off manually as opposed to the previous glasses which turned on automatically when they received a sync signal. The new projectors are backwards compatible so if you already have some of the older style of glasses you can still use them. Whilst we were at JVC they only had the older style glasses available but since we were very impressed with those we are looking forward to trying out the latest iteration when we get the projectors in for a formal review. In the UK all three projectors will ship with the emitter and two pairs of glasses.
As far as 3D performance is concerned, JVC have added a number of new features for their latest line-up, including compatibility with a wider range of 3D broadcasts, including 1080p/24 and 720p side-by-side formats. All three projectors also offer brighter 3D performance through the use of an improved driver that keeps the shutter on the glasses open longer, thus allowing in more light but at the same time minimising crosstalk - this is similar to the approach taken by both Sony and Panasonic with their latest 3D projectors. In addition there is a Crosstalk Canceler which further reduces crosstalk through analysis of the left eye and right eye signals and applying appropriate correction and a Parallax Adjustment which allows users to tailor the 3D effect. There are now dedicated buttons on the remote control which allow direct access to the 3D Formats and 3D Settings menus.
Another feature that JVC have included on the new models is 2D to 3D Conversion which uses technology derived from JVC’s professional 2D to 3D converter and includes user adjustments for 3D depth and subtitle geometry correction. We watched some of the 2D Blu-ray of Transformers: Dark of the Moon using this feature and we have to say we were quite impressed. The conversion software created 3D with genuine depth and it avoided confusing perspectives which can often cause discomfort on less capable converters. It was certainly the first time we have seen on-the-fly converted 3D which we could actually watch and JVC’s implementation was vastly superior to anything we’ve seen on a consumer TV.
All three new projectors have both a Stretch Mode for use with an anamorphic lens and a Lens Memory Function and there are dedicated buttons for both these features on the new remote control. We checked that the anamorphic stretch works with both 2D and 3D material and we can confirm that unlike Panasonic’s PT-AT5000, the lens memory function also works with both 2D and 3D content. The lens memory function includes three memory settings to store custom focus, zoom and horizontal/vertical lens shift positions. After asking for it for so many years it is pleasing to finally have a lens memory function on the JVCs and its great news for anyone wishing to use a 2.35:1 screen without an anamorphic lens. All three projectors also include an RJ45 Connection to provide enhanced system control and easy firmware or screen mode updates.
In addition, the two top models - the X70 and the X90 - are both ISF Certified and THX 3D Display certified. Other features that only appear on the X70 and X90 include an upgraded optical engine that further improves the native black level and contrast ratio, an expanded range of colour profiles, including 100% Adobe and five additional positions that are user programmable and three xenon lamp colour modes that emulate the characteristics of high-end movie projectors. The X70 and X90 also include a full 7-axis Colour Management System and ISF calibration via corresponding software to allow advanced adjustment by certified calibrators. There is also an option to use an automated calibration feature developed in-house by JVC for the X90 that uses the RJ45 connection, dedicated software and an approved meter.
One of the most interesting new features to appear on the X70 and X90 is the Enhanced Installation Adjustment which allows for adjustments as small as 1/16th of a pixel to be made to blue and red to improve the convergence of the three chips. This is achieved in conjunction with 121 adjustment points (11 vertical x 11 horizontal) and allows for adjustments to be made across the entire screen. Previous pixel adjustments have been relatively crude and have affected the whole screen which meant that whilst the centre might have better convergence it could be worse at the edges. We tried out this feature and were very impressed with the flexibility which should allow users to perfectly converge all three chips across the whole of the screen area. Those who were used to manual convergence tinkering on old Barco CRT projectors will be right at home with this feature.
There is however one new feature that has caused more interest (and confusion) than any other, and that is JVC’s new 4K e-shift technology. This technology was developed in conjunction with NHK Engineering Service Inc. and is once again only available on the X70 and X90. We will admit to being quite sceptical about this technology at first because it just sounded like hyped up video scaling. However as it was explained, the e-shift technology is much more than that as it is mechanical in nature and sits between the panel and the optical array. The e-shift technology uses a computer controlled refractor to take the original 1920 x 1080 image and displace each pixel by half a pixel diagonally thus producing twice as many pixels. It then treats all the new pixels as a single frame and uses advanced algorithms to analyse the 1920 x 1080 source image to ensure the new image is correctly projected. Obviously the actual panel remains 1920 by 1080 and since real 4K content has four times the resolution and the e-shift creates an approximation of twice the resolution the name is a bit misleading.
However we watched familiar scenes from both The Dark Knight and King Kong using the X70 projected onto a very large screen (160” Screen Excellence with enlighter 4k material) and the results were very impressive with a smooth, detailed film like image. Looking at the projected image up close you could hardly see the pixel structure and the X70 handled motion better than any D-ILA projector we’ve seen before - in fact it reminded us more of DLP. We also ran a 1920 x 1080 multiburst pattern through the X70 to make sure that the e-shift technology wasn’t introducing any unwanted artefacts, and it wasn’t, the image was clean. This is just as well because since the e-shift refractor is a physical device it can’t be turned off with 2D material, although it’s interesting to note that it isn’t used with 3D material. It should also be pointed out that neither the X70 nor the X90 can actually accept a 4K source, assuming of course you could find one.
We took the opportunity to watch both 2D and 3D content on both the X30 and X70 and we also measured their out-of-the-box greyscales and colour gamuts. Starting with the X30 we watched Casino Royale in 2D and an IMAX documentary in 3D and we were impressed with both. As you would expect from a JVC projector the blacks were excellent and there was also plenty of brightness in both 2D and 3D. Of course we were watching the projected image on an excellent screen in a pitch black environment and the bulb was still relatively new but our initial impressions were very good. The greyscale also looked very accurate to the eye and this was borne out by our measurements which showed an almost perfect greyscale and gamma. Of course this is a pre-production sample but if the production models have results this good we will be very happy. The colour gamut was also reasonably good and very similar to the gamut we saw on the X3 when we reviewed that at the start of the year. We took measurements in both the Cinema and Natural modes and both were quite similar with perhaps Cinema having the edge. Since the X30 doesn’t have a CMS the only way to tweak the colour performance was using the colour and tint controls - which we did - resulting in minor improvements.
As mentioned previously we watched The Dark Knight and King Kong on the X70 and we used the THX mode as the default out-of-the-box setting. As with the X30 we were very impressed with its performance and once again the blacks were excellent and the image had plenty of brightness and thanks perhaps to the e-shift technology, motion handling was the best we had seen from a D-ILA projector. Just by looking at the image we could see green in the blacks and this was borne out by the greyscale measurements which showed a surprisingly inaccurate greyscale and gamma. We measured User1 as well to see if there was any improvement and there was in the gamma but the greyscale remained as inaccurate as before. Obviously the greyscale can be calibrated to improve this performance but we were surprised at how inaccurate the THX mode was. Of course this is a pre-production model so perhaps the THX settings had not been finalised yet. The colour gamut was much better with both the THX and User1 modes being quite accurate and showing errors that were all less than three which is basically indistinguishable to the human eye. In fact once the greyscale has been calibrated these measurements will improve further and then if you so wished you could use the CMS in User mode to produce a reference colour gamut.
Whilst we accept that these were pre-production samples and we will hold off our final conclusions until we have conducted a full review, our initial impressions were very good and we were impressed with both the X30 and X70. Pricing for the X30, X70 and X90 will be announced next week and any members who would like to get a look at both the X30 and X70 before their launch in November can see them in action at the Manchester AV Show from the 22nd to the 23rd of October.
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