They might not be native 4K but they've got just about everything else
It was with a degree of relief that projector enthusiasts greeted the news that JVC were launching a new range this year.The lack of any new models last year raised the possibility of the Japanese manufacturer withdrawing from the projector market entirely, especially in the light of structural changes after the merger with Kenwood. Thankfully this was not the case and JVC were clearly taking the extra time to develop a range of projectors that can take full advantage of the new standards being proposed for both Ultra HD Blu-ray and broadcast TV.
The first thing to mention is that this year's JVC projectors are still using Full HD D-ILA chips, rather than the the native 4K SXRD chips that are found on the Sony projectors. Although some people might be disappointed that JVC haven't developed a native 4K D-ILA chip yet, it's worth remembering that JVC don't benefit from the same economies of scale as Sony do when it comes to 4K. Instead JVC have sensibly decided to concentrate on what they do best, deep blacks and a wide dynamic range, whilst also including many of the other features associated with the new Ultra HD 4K standards.
However this lack of of native 4K support might not be as big a disadvantage as some people, including Sony, believe because the new projectors can all accept 4K signals and include e-shift4. This latest version of JVC's resolution enhancement technology has been optimised for 4K/60p content and allows all three projectors to produce an image that is genuinely higher resolution than normal Full HD when receiving a 4K signal. It might not be native 4K but you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference at a normal viewing distance and of course you can also use e-shift4 with lower resolution content.
The other area where some people were disappointed was in the absence of the any models that used a laser light source in the same way as the Epson LS10000. The general similarities between the Epson and JVC projectors led some people to think that the latter might also introduce a laser projector this year. Although it is true that both Epson's LCoQ and JVC's D-ILA are variations on the same technology, as is Sony's SXRD, it will be some time before a laser light source becomes a mainstream choice on consumer projectors. You can find out more about the various projector technologies here and the different light sources here.
The JVC projectors might not be native 4K but their technical capabilities and price make them strong contenders this year.
What JVC have done this year is increase the light output of their projectors significantly with the DLA-X9000 rated at 1,900 lumens, the DLA-X7000 rated at 1,800 lumens and the DLA-X5000 rated at 1,700 lumens. The reason for this increased light output is that, along with their superb native blacks and, if necessary their dynamic irises, all three projectors will be able to support High Dynamic Range (HDR). This will allow them to take full advantage of this exciting new feature when Ultra HD Blu-ray is launched early next year.
Interestingly the increased light output on the X5000 appears to have had a detrimental effect on its native contrast ratio, which is now claimed by JVC at 40,000:1. This is lower than the DLA-X55 from three years ago but once setup correctly and calibrated, the actual contrast ratio of the X5000 will probably be similar. As with the previous DLA-X500, the X5000 also includes a dynamic iris which can boost the contrast ratio to 400,000:1 according to JVC. The X7000 has a claimed contrast ratio of 120,000:1 (1,200,000:1 with the dynamic iris), whilst the X9000 can boast a claimed contrast ratio of 150,000:1 (1,500,000:1 with the dynamic iris).
The impressive technical capabilities of these new projectors don't stop with their dynamic ranges, they also use full HDMI 2.0a inputs with HDCP 2.2 support and the ability to handle transfer rates of 18Gbps and 4K signals such as 4K60p 4:4:4, 4K60p 4:2:2/36-bit and 4K24p 4:4:4/36-bit. That should be enough to handle not only the current Ultra HD 4K standards but any new ones that get agreed in the next few years. All three projectors also support 10-bit video and if that wasn't enough JVC also claim that the X7000 and X9000 can support the DCI colour space, which makes them both extremely future proof.
The three new projectors use the same chassis as previous years and the X9000 and X7000 come in a glossy black finish, whilst the X5000 offers a choice of matte black or white. All three projectors support 3D, include a lens memory feature which is handy if you use a 2.35:1 screen and have the latest version of Multiple Pixel Control which is part of the Super Resolution technology developed by JVC using a unique algorithm that has been optimised for 4K content. The new projectors also have Clear Motion Drive, with a new Motion Enhance feature to minimise the motion blur with 4K and 3D signals.
All three projectors will include JVC's screen adjust mode and a new Auto Calibration feature, along with 6-axis colour management and 12-point manual gamma adjustments. In addition the X9000 and X7000 includes Real Colour Imaging technology and ISF certification. JVC have also applied for THX 3D certification for the X9000 and X7000 but hadn't received confirmation as at the time of writing (September 2015). However overall that is a seriously impressive set of specifications and even the lower priced X5000 has just about everything you would need aside from the wider colour gamut found on the more expensive models.The X9000 delivered a gorgeous picture with Blu-ray before showing just what it was capable of with 4K HDR.
We were lucky enough to receive a private demonstration of both the X5000 and the X9000 at IFA and we can honestly say that the performance of these new projectors was hugely impressive. Anyone who gets caught up in arguments about native resolution is missing the bigger picture - pun most definitely intended. JVC had set up their projectors in a completely black environment and were using a very large screen, which certainly gave both the X5000 and the X9000 the opportunity to show the kind of performance of which they're capable.
We started by watching some content on the X5000 and the source was 4K/60p with HDCP2.2 and although the content was composed of the usual travelogue shots of Japan, it was obvious that the perceived resolution was higher than Full HD and it looked superb on the big screen. In fact it looked so good that we had to check with JVC which projector they were using. The projector was in Kino (Cinema) mode and there was plenty of detail, with natural colours and excellent contrast, whilst the image retained that lovely film-like quality that JVC do so well.
After that we watched a scene from the Blu-ray of Gravity on the X9000 and even without HDR the results were spectacular. The film has a very contrasty look with bright white space suits against the black of space and the X9000 reproduced this with ease, really showing the full potential of its native contrast. The e-shift4 feature also played its part, squeezing every last pixel of detail from the source and showing the film's beautiful computer animation in all its glory.
Although the Gravity demonstration was a timely reminder of just how good Blu-ray can look, things are changing and the new JVC projectors are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the new standards. The final demonstration involved JVC showing a specially commissioned short film, first in standard dynamic range and then in high dynamic range (HDR). The difference was very noticeable, with the SDR version appearing almost washed out and detail in bright or dark parts of the image being lost. There was clearly more detail in the sky when watching the HDR version and the same was true with the shadows of a night time sequence.
In the demo the ST 2084 PQ HDR gamma was manually selected but on the actual production models the projector will detect the ST 2086 HDR metadata and automatically select the correct gamma. The use of HDR seemed to just give the entire image greater depth and detail, showing the potential of this new feature. JVC pointed out in the demo that a projector obviously can't compete in terms of overall brightness with a TV but of course that isn't what HDR is about. In fact the JVC projectors with their deep blacks and increased brightness can deliver a high dynamic range experience that is just as good as the TV demos that we saw.
After seeing both the X5000 and X9000 in the demos, we're more excited than ever about getting these new projectors in for review and putting them through their paces. All three projectors should be arriving in November with the entry-level DLA-X5000 retailing for a very reasonable £3,999, the mid-range DLA-X7000 costing £5,699 and the flagship DLA-X9000 setting you back £8,499. At those prices the new JVCs will be going head-to-head with Sony's VW320 and VW520, which should make for an interesting comparison.
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