JVC DLA-N7 4K D-ILA Projector – First Look
Dial 'N' for Native
What is the JVC DLA-N7?The JVC DLA-N7B is a native 4K (4096 x 2160) 3-chip D-ILA projector that supports 3D and High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and HLG). It forms part of JVC's new 4K line-up for 2019 which also includes the entry-level DLA-N5B (DLA-N5W if you want a white finish) and the high-end DLA-NX9B; with the latter also including 8K e-Shift and THX certification.
The N7B is the mid-range model and retails for £8,499, which puts it directly up against Sony's £7,999 VPL-VW570ES 4K SXRD projector. These new models are JVC's first 'affordable' native 4K projectors, not counting the ultra-high-end DLA-Z1 laser projector; but are they any good, and how do they compare to the company's previous e-Shift generations?
This first look is based on time spent with my own N7, but it will be followed by Phil's full review and video in the near future.
DesignThe JVC DLA-N7 looks similar to previous generations, with a centrally mounted lens and exhaust vents on either side. Perhaps due to the larger size of these vents, if you're standing just to the side of the projector, you can see into the housing where the fans, lens assembly and D-ILA chips are housed. However, there doesn't appear to be any direct light spill, which is a relief.
The build quality and overall finish remain excellent, as does the quality of the all-glass lens. However, unlike the DLA-X7900, there's no motorised lens cover and, instead, you get a hard plastic cover that clips over the outside of the lens assembly. Personally, I won't be using this lens cover because, in all honesty, it looks like putting it on and off might damage the outer edge of the lens.The top front right of the projector houses an IR receiver for the remote, and above this there are three indicator lights. At the rear is another IR receiver, air inlets with filters, a set of basic controls in case you misplace the remote, and the connections. The N7B is finished in matte black, hence the B suffix, although this is largely redundant because there's actually no white alternative.
The projector sits on four large adjustable feet, which allow you to level the projector if you plan on stand mounting it, although you also have the option of ceiling mounting with a suitable bracket. Despite the similarities in terms of design with previous JVC projectors the N7 is much larger, measuring 500 x 234 x 495mm (WxHxD) and weighing 19.8kg.
The N7 looks superficially similar, but the larger dimensions suggest changes within
Connections & ControlThe JVC DLA-N7 has the same basic set of connections as previous generations, with two HDMI 2.0b inputs that are HDCP 2.2 compatible and fully specified up to 18Gbps. There's also a LAN port for a network connection, an RS232 terminal for serial control and a 12V trigger. Finally, there's a USB port for firmware updates, and a connector for the optionally available 3D synchro emitter. The N7 uses a three-pin power cable, which is also attached at the rear.The remote control has had a complete makeover, and I really like the new design. It's smaller and more ergonomic, with the buttons logically laid out. As a result, it's comfortable to hold and easy to use with one hand. JVC has sensibly moved the backlight button to the bottom, making it easier to locate. The backlight itself is highly effective, illuminating the writing on the buttons themselves and making them more readable in the dark.
The buttons are positioned around centrally located menu and navigation controls, with additional keys for power, source, info, input, lens control, and memory settings. There are also shortcut buttons for accessing key controls in the menus such as picture modes, colour profile, gamma settings, C.M.D., MPC, and the advanced menus.
The connections are basically the same but the remote has had a complete makeover
Features & SpecificationsThe headline feature on the JVC DLA-N7 is obviously the fact that it uses three 0.69-inch native 4K D-ILA devices. As a result, the projector can produce an ultra high-definition native 4K resolution of 4096 x 2160. It also has a 17-element, 15-group 65mm diameter all-glass lens system that is designed to deliver pin-sharp 4K images.
The N7 supports High Dynamic Range (HDR), specifically HDR10 and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) content, and JVC has added a new Auto Tone Mapping function. This automatically adjusts the settings based on the values of the metadata, such as Max CLL and Max FALL, so that HDR content can be tone mapped and projected at the optimum quality for various HDR images with different brightness levels.
In order to help achieve this goal, the N7 uses 10-bit panels, and has a claimed brightness of 1,900 lumens (using a 265 W ultra high-pressure mercury lamp). It also has a BT.2020 mode with a wide colour gamut that JVC claims can cover more than 100% of the DCI-P3 colour space. In addition, the N7 has a claimed contrast ratio of 80,000:1 and a claimed dynamic contrast ratio of 800,000:1.
The N7 includes Clear Motion Drive (C.M.D.) frame interpolation feature which supports 4K 60p (4:4:4) signals, along with Motion Enhance which is designed to optimise the driving of the D-ILA panels according to the motion of the image, thus reducing motion blur. There's also a Low Latency Mode, which suppresses display delay for a faster response when receiving signals from PCs and game consoles.
Other features include the Multiple Pixel Control (MPC) image processor, a six-axis colour management system, and an ISFccc (Certified Calibration Controls) mode. There's also an Auto-Calibration Function that uses exclusive JVC software and a third-party optical sensor to optimise the greyscale, gamma, colour space and colour tracking.
The N7 will automatically switch to the HDR mode when an HDR10 or HLG signal is detected, and the info page displays the MaxCLL and MaxFALL mastering data available for some HDR content. There are nine storable Installation Mode settings, which include Lens Control, Pixel Adjustment, Mask, Anamorphic on or off, Screen Adjust, Installation Style, Keystone, Pincushion, and Aspect.
Finally, the N7 supports active shutter 3D, which uses a wireless RF (radio frequency) transmission system for 3D viewing. However, you will need to buy JVC's separate PK-EM2 3D Synchro Emitter (which plugs into the back of the projector) and some PK-AG3 3D Glasses, in order to actually enjoy 3D content.
The N7 is native 4K and boasts JVC's new Auto Tone Mapping feature for HDR
Out-of-the-Box MeasurementsThe JVC DLA-N7 includes a number of pictures modes, but the most accurate in terms of the industry standards is Natural. This mode is already set to a colour temperature of 6500K and a colour gamut of Rec.709. Then all you need to do is select the appropriate gamma and lamp brightness (low or high) for your room, and the manual or dynamic (Auto 1 or Auto 2) iris.
The measurements below were taken after the lamp had been used for about 10 hours. Ordinarily we wouldn't take any measurements until there was at least 50 hours on the lamp, but since this is my own personal projector I didn't want to put another 40 hours on my lamp. When Phil gets the actual review sample he will soak it for over 50 hours before taking any measurements.The good news is that even after only 10 hours, the N7 is delivering a very accurate image out-of-the-box. As the graph above shows, the 6500K colour temperature setting has a slight defect of blue and a slight excess of red, giving a very minor push towards the latter. However, all the DeltaEs (errors) are below the visible threshold of three and most are below two. The 2.6 gamma setting tracks its target precisely, as do the 2.4 and 2.2 settings, if you prefer using one of those. So, overall, this is an excellent starting point, despite the absence of any THX modes (you'll only find those on the NX9).The colour performance was equally as accurate, with overall DeltaEs (not shown on the graph above) all below three and most below two. The luminance measurements (also not shown on the graph above) were just as accurate, with all three primary colours and all three secondary colours hitting their targets. The graph above shows how all six colours track their targets at the 25, 50, 75, and 100% saturation points. As you can see, aside from cyan and green at 100%, they are all very close to those targets.
The out-of-the-box greyscale and colour measurements were impressively accurate
Calibrated MeasurementsThe JVC DLA-N7 includes a two-point white balance control for calibrating the greyscale, a control for fine tuning the gamma characteristics, and a six-axis colour management control (CMS) for adjusting the colour performance. Using the already excellent Natural picture mode as a starting point, I was able to use these controls to improve the overall accuracy.It didn't take long to fine tune the greyscale, and the gamma was still tracking 2.6 precisely. As a result, the overall errors were now well below three and most were below one. This is a reference level of greyscale and gamma accuracy.Once I had tweaked the greyscale, the colour temperature of white was now hitting its industry standard of D65. Most of the colours had also fallen into line with their saturation targets and, after some fine tuning, the overall errors were generally below one. The exceptions were green and cyan, which had minor errors at 100% saturation, however, the rest of the tracking for those two colours were spot-on. In addition, all the colours were hitting their luminance targets precisely. So, overall, this impressive colour performance matches the equally impressive greyscale and gamma accuracy.
I was having some issues with my equipment when it came to measuring the HDR performance, so I decided to leave Phil to publish those graphs when he does the full review. Instead I'll concentrate on my experiences actually using the N7 with SDR, HDR and 3D content.
There's a full set of calibration controls that can deliver reference levels of accuracy
PerformanceThe JVC DLA-N7 proved to be a fantastic projector overall, but before I get into the SDR, HDR, and 3D performance, I'll just cover some more general measurements.
First of all, the N7 is fairy slow to boot-up, taking 55 seconds to get to the D-ILA logo and a further 10 seconds to get to a blue screen. That's slightly slower than previous generations, although they weren't exactly fast either.
On the plus side, the HDMI handshaking is a bit quicker, although still slow compared to many other displays. However, the N7 had no trouble detecting any signal I sent to it such as 4096 x 2160 and 3840 x 2160 resolutions, along with SDR, HDR, and 3D content.
The fact that the D-ILA chips are 4096 x 2160 is worth mentioning because it means that with 3840 x 2160 content (which is what you'll actually be watching) you either need to use the lens controls to zoom the image up to fill the screen or use the Zoom option in the Aspect section of the Installation Mode sub-menu.
Speaking of which, I love that you can save all these individual Installation Modes for different content, and then easily access them via a dedicated button on the remote. These modes go far beyond just using the lens controls to save a specific aspect ratio, you can also customise the pixel adjust and masking for example.
The N7 is pleasingly quiet in operation and I measured it at just 20dB in low lamp mode, and 28dB in high lamp mode. Since this is a native 4K projector there's also no e-Shift device and thus no noise being caused by the device physically moving incredibly fast in front of the lens.
In terms of the brightness of the N7, I found it was slightly less bright than my X7500, despite the two having the same claimed brightness of 1,900 lumens and both using 265W lamps. This may be due to the new 4K panel and, while it wasn't a huge difference, it was immediately apparent when setting up the N7.
Despite this apparent drop in overall brightness, the claimed contrast performance of the N7 is 80,000:1, while my previous X7500 had a claimed contrast ratio of 130,000:1. The best I have measured the N7 at is about 70,000:1, which is fairly close to JVC's claimed numbers, but I did immediately notice that the contrast wasn't quite as good as the X7500.
Having said that, the N7 still has a better contrast performance than the 4K competition and the contrast ratios on the most recent generations of JVC e-Shift models have been amongst the best ever delivered by any projector. The move to a different panel was always going to affect the contrast, and at least JVC are honest in the specifications.
There's always the dynamic iris for those looking to boost the contrast, and I found this worked very well with no audible noise or obvious artefacts caused by the iris opening and closing. I didn't feel the need to use the dynamic iris with SDR content, but opening the iris out completely and using the Auto 2 setting did prove useful with HDR content.
Standard Dynamic Range (SDR)Once I had set up the projector, selected and tweaked the Natural picture mode, and set the lamp and manual iris for my room and screen, the results were superb. The quality of the all-glass lens and the native 4K panel resulted in impressively details images, even from upscaled high definition sources. The recent Arrow Blu-ray of Waterworld looked stunning on the N7, with richly defined colours, deep blacks, excellent shadow detail, and plenty of fine detail.
I deliberately watched parts of the Blu-ray version of Passengers, so that I could compare the HDR performance later and, once again, the N7 delivered the goods. The image was highly detailed, the blacks and shadow detail were excellent, and the colours appeared natural. The motion handling was also very good, although it appeared to be identical to previous generations of JVC projectors in that regard: neither better nor worse.
While it is true that my previous X7500 has a slightly better contrast performance, I still felt that, overall, I preferred the performance of the N7 with its gorgeous big screen images.
High Dynamic Range (HDR)As with the SDR performance, the N7 ultimately impressed when it came to HDR content but I did need to do a little setting up first. I used the HDR mode, but I found the HDR colour space was more limited than the alternative BT.2020 option, so I used that instead. I measured this mode at 72% of Rec.2020 and 99% of the DCI-P3 colour space. The HDR colour temperature was very close to D65, which is correct and the HDR gamma uses ST.2084 which is also correct for HDR10 content.
If you go to the Gamma sub-menu, you'll see that the correct HDR10 PQ curve has been selected, and then beneath this you'll see the Auto Tone Mapping control, which you can turn on or off. This is the big new feature on the 2019 JVC projectors, and is designed to read the metadata on HDR content and then set the Picture Tone, Dark Level and Bright Level controls accordingly. There is also a sliding control for the Mapping Level, which adjusts the brightness depending on the size of screen you are using. The default setting is based on a 100" screen, so if your screen is smaller or larger, then you may need to adjust the mapping level accordingly.
In the examples where the projector was able to actually read the metadata, I found the results to be genuinely impressive, but on about 50% of the discs I randomly chose, the N7 was unable to read any metadata. In these examples you can manually set the tone mapping depending on whether the content is graded at 1,000 or 4,000 nits. JVC provides recommended settings for both peak brightness levels in the manual, but you may find some experimentation is necessary. It's a shame that the projector isn't always able to read the necessary metadata because when it could, the results were excellent.
However, overall I was delighted by the N7's performance with HDR10 content. I watched the Ultra HD Blu-ray of Passengers, which uses a 4K digital intermediate, and the increased level of detail was evident when compared to the Blu-ray. The blacks appeared deep, and there was excellent shadow detail, while the peak highlights were suitably bright. The colours were also superb, with the wider colour gamut delivering a more saturated but also more nuanced image.
I watched the IMAX movie Journey to the South Pacific and the BBC's Planet Earth II, and in both cases the native 4K HDR sources were often stunning, with some of the best projected images that I've seen. Since these documentaries use a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, I turned the Mapping Level back to zero, but I needed to move it up when watching 2.35:1 content like Passengers or Ready Player One.
However, overall, I was delighted with the N7's performance with HDR, and the increased resolution of the native 4K D-ILA chips was obvious at times. What was also very apparent to me was that the noise and fuzziness associated with e-Shift was gone, to be replaced by incredibly clear and detailed 4K images.
3DWhile 3D might be effectively dead when it comes to TVs, there's still plenty of support amongst projector manufacturers. The N7 does support 3D, although you will need to buy the 3D Synch Emitter and some glasses separately. I loved the 3D on my old X7500 – it was bright, detailed and almost entirely free of crosstalk – but on the N7 the 3D was a bit of a mixed bag.
First the good news, the 3D images on the N7 are completely free of any crosstalk and incredibly detailed. Unfortunately, the images are also darker than they are on my X7500, and while I have read suggestions online that this is due to JVC moving from horizontal to vertical polarisation on these new projectors, I also think it might also relate to the general lack of brightness compared to previous generations.
There's also no dedicated 3D picture modes, which means you essentially have to create one. After a degree of experimentation I eventually had a custom 3D mode that I was happy with and, when watching 1.78:1 3D movies like Avatar, I found the images to be bright enough in the low lamp mode. I also loved the level of detail and the complete lack of any crosstalk.
When I watched a 2.35:1 3D movie like Ready Player One, I found I needed to use the high lamp mode for the best results. Thankfully, the high lamp mode is fairly quiet so it wasn't a big deal, and in all other respects I was happy with the results. Ready Player One is a fairly frenetic film, but the N7 handled the fast-moving images with skill, retaining plenty of dimensionality.
The N7 delivers exceptional detail and a superb performance with both SDR and HDR
JVC DLA-N7 VerdictThe JVC DLA-N7B is a fantastic native 4K projector, that will undoubtedly give Sony's £7,999 VPL-VW570ES a run for its money. Personally, I prefer the design and build quality of the N7, and I feel it has a superior set of features. I love the new remote control, and think that the Auto Tone Mapping is an excellent addition. In fact, my only real complaint relates to the shoddy lens cover, which I could do without.
In terms of image quality the N7 also pips the Sony, both in terms of SDR and HDR content, and while the contrast might not be quite as good as previous JVC projectors, it's still better than the VW570ES. The 3D is darker than I'd like but I love the detail and lack of crosstalk in the 3D images. Overall, I am delighted by the performance of the N7, and definitely think it's worth the extra £500 over the Sony.
If you're on a tighter budget then you could go for the N5, but even that will set you back £6,499. However, if you're unable to afford a native 4K JVC don't despair, the X7900 can be picked up for a cracking price at the moment and in most respects holds its own against the N7. I believe JVC's first foray into 'affordable' native 4K projection is a triumph but don't just take my word for it, book a demo as soon as you can.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £8,499.00
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