JVC DLA-X7900 D-ILA Projector Review
Is it enough of an e-shift from previous models?
What is the JVC DLA-X7900?This is the latest mid-range D-ILA projector from JVC that sits above the recently reviewed DLA-X5900 and below the high-end DLA-X9900 and offers the best features of both at a reasonable price point. While it will accept 4K HDR signals with ease, it is not a native 4K projector, rather it is a 1080p machine that uses the latest 4K e-shift 5 technologies. This means that the projector uses the e-shift device to pixel shift the image diagonally by 0.5 of a pixel to create a higher resolution image from 4K sources whether upscaled or native. It adds in a new algorithm in e-shift5 that analyses every pixel in the original 4K signal to determine the optimal data to create the e-shift frames. There is also the ability to read the HDR metadata and auto switch to the HDR picture mode for HDR10 (High Dynamic Range) material and there's an HLG (Hybrid-Log Gamma) mode as well.
In all other respects the DLA-X7900 appears to be identical to the previous X7500 and X7000 editions in design, chassis and features, although it is also available in a matte white finish, which we have for testing here. So is there enough of an upgrade with the DLA-X7900 to move up from the previous generations and do you get enough performance for the money? Let’s find out.
Design, Connections and ControlIf you have been following the JVC projector line-up over the last few years you will be immediately familiar with their chassis design. It really hasn’t changed in around 5 years now and telling the models apart becomes very difficult indeed if you can’t see the number at the rear. This is a plus and a minus as it is a proven chassis that works well, but at the same time it is starting to look a bit dated. No doubt it keeps costs down in what is a competitive marketplace and everything that is new with the DLA-X7900 is on the inside.
The high quality lens is centrally mounted with the air intake and exhausts to either side of that. There is a motorised lens cover, which moves in and out during use, and some indicator lights sit on the top edge showing power and lamp modes. The chassis measures in at 455 x 179 x 472mm (W x H x D) and weighs a solid 15.6Kg. It is available in gloss black and matt white finishes. The top plate is clean and clear of any buttons with just the JVC, ISF and THX logos printed at the top above the lens. Build quality is good with hard plastics making up the main body of the unit. The connections are at the rear.
Around the back we have the video connections, which are two HDMI 2.0 slots that are 18Gbps - which means they support HDCP 2.2, Wide Colour Gamut and High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Hybrid Log-Gamma) as well as accepting signals up to 4K60p, 4:4:4 and 12-bit. This puts the JVC above the recent Sony native projectors that are not as flexible with their inputs. We also have a LAN, 12V trigger and 3D Sync slots to the rear and the power socket is to the bottom of these.
The included remote control is almost identical to previous JVC models with just a few slight button changes. The biggest improvement with the remote for the X7900 over our X7000 is the new white backlighting which is far brighter than the dull amber/yellow of the previous remote. The layout is logical with power and inputs to the top, along with three memory keys for lens memory functions. Below this are keys for direct access to the lens page and anamorphic settings and then we have directional keys with a central OK and around these are the menu, back, light and hide buttons. Rounding off the selections are direct picture mode keys and direct access for image parameters like gamma and colour profile etc. that allows easy access for changes on the fly. Overall it is a good remote with a logical and intuitive layout.
The design stays the same, but the technology under the hood gets a refresh
Features and SpecsThe JVC DLA-X7900 is a 1080p D-ILA projector, which uses three 6th generation 0.7” Full HD (1920 x 1080) D-ILA chips and also includes e-shift5 technology which shifts the image by 0.5 of a pixel diagonally to increase the perceived resolution that offers a faux 4K image. From normal viewing distances and in comparison to the native Sony VW360ES we had for review at the same time you would be hard pushed to notice the resolution differences between the two. Only when you get a lot closer to the screen will you notice the difference in the Sony’s favour. Other image attributes such as improved black levels and image depth stand out more in the JVC’s favour. Indeed the X7900 is claimed to produce a dynamic contrast ratio of 1,300,000:1 on/off and what JVC call a native contrast of 130,000:1 (without using the dynamic iris). Brightness is also claimed to be 1900 lumens from the high output 265W NSH lamp.
The X7900 accepts all 4K signals available today up to 60p 4:4:4 12 bit through its 18gbps HDMI 2.0 inputs, it also now auto switches to HDR mode when it detects an HDR10 signal. The JVC is also compatible with the new Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) standard for broadcast signals which the BBC has just started to use on iPlayer with Blue Planet II. There is also a full colour filter that moves into place with some picture modes to provide a gamut wide enough to match the DCI-P3 standard currently being used by Hollywood for UHD Blu-rays. The Multiple Pixel Control (MPC) has been improved according to JVC, with a new analysis algorithm capable of more accurate diagonal-detection between frames for Full HD and 4K resolution signals. This allows the projector to make sure it is displaying the most accurate and detailed e-shift images for the content being viewed. We also have an improved low latency option which when used suppresses display delay for faster response when receiving signals from PC and game consoles, so good news for gamers. Plus, with Low Latency Mode active, high-bandwidth signals like 4K with 10bit or 12-bit colour depth can be processed without compression and reduced gradational artefacts. Also new is an improved CMD along with Motion Enhance that JVC claims minimises motion blur significantly by optimising the drive of the D-ILA panels. And there is an advanced pixel adjust function that allows for 1/16-pixel increment and also segments the screen into 121 points for individual adjustment, so alignment issues should be a thing of the past.
The X7900 is also a 3D projector and uses optional shutter glasses and emitter to do this. 3D images are strictly 1080p in resolution, there is no e-shift with these signals and the cost of the emitter and glasses might feel a little steep after the outlay for the projector, but you can always try and do a deal with your retailer to get them thrown in. Plus as we have come to expect with JVC there are plenty of calibration options to get the most out of the projector. However one gripe from us is that the auto calibration requires a third party sensor to be used, which is not that accurate to start with and kind of makes the process a little redundant if absolute accuracy is what you want. Making this available for use with far more accurate devices would only enhance the usefulness of the features and we currently do not use it due to inaccuracies with the supported third party device as the moment. We would like to see JVC develop their calibration suite to make it more accessible and built-in to the projector, including the further gamma and greyscale adjustments not currently available within the X7900. This can only improve the accuracy of the JVC projectors and make the process of calibration easier to achieve. We can’t see why anyone would disagree with these points.
Next up we have the lens memory functionality for those of us using scope ratio screens, with three memory buttons now available for instant access on the remote control. This lets you set up for 16:9, 2.00:1 (Netflix Original series) and 2.40:1 for Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray’s in that ratio. You can add more ratios if you desire, but the first three are the memory keys, which makes it useful for the majority of viewing sources. The other neat feature for geeks is the improved Info screen that shows you more information about the resolution, bit-depth and colour gamut of content that the projector is receiving, but it also displays the MaxCLL and MaxFALL mastering data available for HDR content on some UHD Blu-ray discs. Finally as always the calibration controls are ISFccc certified and there are also picture modes developed by THX that attempt to get to the industry standards for TV and movie viewing for SDR content.
From a normal seating distance, resolution is not an issue when side by side with a native 4K machine
Out-of-the-Box SettingsWe let the projector soak in for at least 30 hours before taking any measurements or doing any serious testing. We then set about finding the best out of the box settings to get the image as close as possible to the industry standards. You could select the THX picture modes for this as that is what they are designed to do, for SDR and 3D content anyway. We found that while the THX modes were fairly accurate, we felt that using the user selection with the custom 1 colour mode, the 7500k white balance custom mode and the 2.4 gamma setting managed to get closer to the industry standards. We used our trusted Klein K10-A colour meter, Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator and CalMAN Ultimate software to take all the measurements and create the test signals. For more information on how to correctly set up your Projector, you can take a look at our PicturePerfect Guide
Looking at the greyscale tracking (top left) we can see that the JVC does a reasonable job with red energy dropping slightly from 20ire to 90ire with blue and green just a tad high over the same scale. This gives onscreen images a slight, but just visible, yellow tint to proceedings in the same way that the THX mode does. Gamma also has a slight s-curve developing, but DeltaE errors are just under 3 for the most part, but the yellow tint is still visible for those looking closely.
In terms of the CIE graph and gamut measurement (top right) we found that all the named selections without the filter being applied were too wide of the Rec.709 standard for HD content and only the Custom settings were close enough out of the box to be accurate. As such custom1 was used for the measurements here and our out of the box settings. It still isn’t perfect with large hue errors with green and oversaturation issues with most points in the tracking. But luminance is good (not shown) and onscreen viewing is good with no obvious errors actually being visible and standing out, even with sports on green pitches. So even though the graphs and results are not ideal, the actual results viewing onscreen material are very good with only a slight yellow tint visible for some. We should be able to correct most of the issues with a calibration.
Calibrated SettingsAs always we calibrated the JVC X7900 using the controls available to all users through the menu systems. The auto calibration that can be done uses a low level meter and as such, we wouldn’t recommend this over a professional calibration using the high-level of equipment a professional will have.
So after some work with the two point white balance controls and raising the gamma up by one click, we found that to get balance in the greyscale (top left) required a few tweaks here and there. As such we now have no visible errors and DeltaE errors are now under two across the board. Gamma is still an issue and it is a shame we no longer get the gamma editor that used to be available in the menu systems of JVC’s of old. But we didn’t think it added any issues to shadow detail or the image just above black.
The CIE graph (top right) now shows greater improvement in the tracking of 25, 50 and 75% saturation points whilst not affecting the luminance points (not shown). There is no way to fix the cyan and green 100% points without introducing large hue errors in the lower saturation levels, and as hardly anything within onscreen viewing will be anywhere near 100% saturation, we are more concerned at correcting the lower points as those will affect image quality. We were also happy that the larger hue issues are now no longer an issue at all. So overall we have ended up with a nice looking accurate image that is to the industry standards for HD playback.
HDR ResultsHDR on any projector is never going to match that seen on an LCD or OLED TV as the projector is incapable of producing enough light, (and focussed specular light output), to get close to the TVs. This doesn’t mean that HDR is not possible on a projector, just that it is a different viewing experience. We sent a 3840 x 2160 24p 10-bit 4:2:2 signal that includes HDR10 metadata and Rec.2020 wide colour gamut, replicating the output of an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. When the X7900 detects a HDR metadata signal it switches to HDR mode that uses the ST.2084 curve and the Rec.2020 colour gamut. For our testing the manual iris was fully open and the lamp in high output mode to give us the maximum output. We are looking for the X7900 to track the EOTF and tone map the HDR image so as to not clip detail in the highlights. The problem in the past with HDR on the JVC X7000 was that to track the correct EOTF it introduced clipping in the higher areas of the image.
MORE: What is High Dynamic Range (HDR)?
Looking at the tracking on the X7900 (top left) we can see that it tracks the EOTF fairly well and tone mapping was good, but it still clips detail over 2000nits at these settings. To improve this you could reduce the contrast so it tracks further away from the EOTF to regain detail in the highlights, but this dulls the image and you lose the dynamic range advantages. So it is a bit of a compromise, but one that works well for the JVC as things stand with current HDR material mastering. The greyscale also tracks the same levels as that of the SDR settings (as it should given it's still D65) and this helps with the overall image quality. Looking at Rec.2020 coverage the X7900 will cover 76% but it is far from accurate in doing so colour wise. However we are more concerned about DCI-P3 within the Rec.2020 container.
PerformanceThe JVC X7900 is an excellent performer and it matches our reference X7000 in most departments with some slight improvements with HDR content. There aren't any real brightness differences either with some very decent results when it comes to contrast ratio and dynamic range. This has always been the strong point of D-ILA projectors and thankfully even with improvements with HDR material they haven’t pushed the black floor up, unlike recent Sony’s.
We had the Sony VPL-VW360ES in for review and side by side at the same time as the X7900 and the main resolution difference is not a major issue at normal viewing distances. In fact the JVC might be faux 4K but it wins out against the Sony in just about every picture attribute. With SDR material and zoomed out completely we get an on/off contrast of 137,500:1 and zoomed in we get 47,073:1 which is very good without the DI. Measurements were taken as always with the lens at exactly 3 feet with our Klein meter and software. This removes any influence of the room and screen and gives you a clean number to work with. In HDR mode with the zoom at the maximum we get 247,500:1 and zoomed in it’s 64,259:1 and that again is without the Dynamic Iris. With the DI in use it measures black at 0.0001nits so the on/off numbers are far higher. As an example in SDR at fully zoomed out and DI used we get 550,000:1 but there are issues with that as the iris is more or less fully closed and will never be like that with proper content.
With SDR content the JVC is certainly the current master of this domain under the £10k price point in our opinion. The dynamic range available within the image, from the blacks to just above black detail right through to the accuracy of the colours and highlight detail is superb. There is a reason we use the X7000 as our reference level product to test everything else against, and the X7900 carries that on in spades. There is a genuine cinematic feel to the JVC’s projected images that no other projector currently on the market can compete against. Images have superb depth thanks to strong black levels and highly detailed shadows that create the perfect depth to dark or murky scenes like our favourite Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray. The opening scene is a dank and wet affair with thunder overhead, rain falling all around and the choir starting to build within the sound mix. As this happens we pull back on Caesar his fur is wet and with the X7900 there is depth to that coat and we can make out strands of hair in the darkest areas. There is depth and detail to his face with every line building the structures under his eyes and the murkiness of his face and coat in such heavy rain looks utterly real. As the camera moves back to reveal more we see excellent detail to the bark of the trees and superb accuracy to the greens and browns on the moss covered tree trunks. Motion is also very good when things eventually kick off and the Apes chase down the heard of deer on the forest floor with no induced judder or motion blur that shouldn’t be there. It all looks natural and film like. Image depth is astounding at times and detail levels are extremely good, even if the image isn’t quite as sharp as a DLP or the native Sony. But that is not a negative here as it has a real cinematic look that those other two cannot match. It’s not a softness that affects the image in a negative way; it just looks less digital and sharp compared to the others.
With Star Wars: The Last Jedi opening recently we also watched the previous instalment on the X7900 and it looked stunning yet again. From the opening crawl of Star Wars: The Force Awakens the blackness of space is deep with thousands of tiny stars shining brightly and mixed with the yellow text, the X7900 holds its own to produce a wonderfully three dimensional feel to the image. The Sony looks more washed out with a weaker dynamic range between the competing elements of the image and the DLP image is blocky with no depth to the scene and raised blacks that are one shade against pale stars that feel less vibrant and the image is washed out. The JVC just manages to pull out the different shades of the greyscale to great effect with accurate colours and superb detail. We don’t have any issues with colour gradients either as large areas of the same or slightly different shades of one colour look solid without any obvious banding or posterisation. The same is true when we move to streamed content such as the recent series of Stranger Things 2 which looked superb and the new Star Trek: Discovery with its star fields and murky sets standing out and looking cinematic. Of course both of those series are in HDR and the JVC handled them pretty well, although they are a little on the dark side initially.
Switching up to Ultra HD Blu-ray and HDR10 material allows the JVC to again excel with its black levels and shadow detail with very little clipping in the lower reaches of the image. In fact the X7900 surprised us with its abilities to present a better HDR result within its picture mode compared to the less intuitive X7000 approach. The projector switched automatically to HDR mode and the high lamp setting when it detected a signal. And as you can see from the measurements above the HDR performance is rather good here with excellent colour reproduction thanks to the colour filter and a good level of highlight brightness. The natural dynamic range of the JVC really does help with the HDR image quality and our only gripe is some slight clipping with some material. Side by side with the Sony VW360ES the JVC is very close to being the better image, but the tone mapping on the Sony is just that little bit better in the highlights and midtones of the image, but it is extremely close indeed. The HDR performance with the X7900 is a nice step up on that of the X7000 and is one of the best projectors we have seen with the format this year.
Gamers will also be happy to note that with the introduction of the low latency mode, the lag time is reduced to a nippy 33ms, which makes big screen gaming with stunning visuals a real possibility. Image processing is also very strong within the X7900 as we have come to expect from JVC, and while the latency addition works to give us high-bandwidth images, such as 4K with 10-bit or 12-bit colour depth without compression, it has done nothing to improve the time it takes the projector to hand-shake. You could switch video inputs, go and make a home made bolognaise and comes back to your cinema room and the X7900 will still be hand shaking while you can hear the soundtrack to the program continuing with no image on screen. Could we fix this issue please?
Overall the picture quality of the DLA-X7900 is exactly what we have come to expect from the JVC brand over the years with a stunning image that is beautifully cinematic and staggeringly accurate. Black levels and dynamic range are still the envy of all their rivals at this price point with an improved HDR performance over previous models putting the cherry on top of the cake.
The performance with SDR is reference level and with HDR material the X7900 is a very capable projector
- Superb dynamic range
- Brilliant black levels
- Stunningly good SDR image quality and accuracy
- Very good HDR performance
- Good value for money
- Solid build quality
- Easy to use remote control
- Superb video processing
- Good input lag for gaming
- Lens memory functionality
- Motorised lens cover
- Motorised lens shift, zoom, focus
- Very good 3D performance
- E-shift works well and is effective
- Could be more accurate out of the box
- Auto Calibration needs to expand meters and be easier to use
- Hand shake takes an age
- Not native 4K?
JVC DLA-X7900 D-ILA Projector ReviewThere will still be those who point the finger at JVC and demand that they make a native 4K projector and over time we are sure they will do just that. But at the moment is there any real need? Only Sony can claim to have true native 4K projectors within the consumer market, but they do so at far higher price points than any of the competition, all of which do their own version of faux 4K resolution. But the main point I keep coming back to when reviewing all these products (and some of them side by side) is that resolution is not the be all and end all here. From a normal seating position you would be hard pushed to tell the different projectors apart when it comes to resolution alone, it is other image attributes your eyes pick up on, mainly the black levels, dynamic range and image depth, areas where the JVC excels above all of the competition. It provides the most cinematic image on the market that looks stunningly realistic, accurate and with incredible depth and dynamic range. It excels in a dedicated cinema room with bat cave levels of light control and dark surfaces where it can truly show off its capabilities. Room conditions that very few reviewers and consumers actually possess, but which they should strive for. If you go for the JVC X7900 then putting it in the best room possible and having it professionally calibrated are the two things you must do. This is a superb performer and is also excellent value for money when compared to the competition and it comes highly recommended!
What are my alternatives?
At £5,600 the DLA-X7900 is up against some very good competition both above and below it’s price point. It certainly gives the much more expensive Sony VPL-VW360ES (and VW260ES) a real run for its money and actually does a better job when it comes to dynamic range, black levels and image accuracy and gamma tracking. The Sony offers a subtle difference with HDR tone mapping that some may prefer over the JVC, but there is very little in it. Certainly you get all the high-end features of the VW360ES along with better image quality for far less and that has to be a good thing. Yes the Sony is a native 4K machine, but that isn’t the be all and end all here.
If you want the JVC image but at a slightly lower price point then the entry level DLA-X5900 is a stunner and was recently reviewed by Steve. At £3,995 it is exceptionally good value for money with much the same performance criteria as the X7900 but for less. Moving a little further down the line we also have the fantastic value for money Epson TW9300. It is not as bright as the JVC’s and the black level and dynamic range are not quite as good, but it does have all the higher end features of the X7900 and around 80% of the image performance for a very reasonable outlay. You could also consider its bigger brother the laser light sourced EH-LS10500 which offers excellent colours, strong blacks and that laser source for around the same price as the X7900. So plenty to consider, but we think the X7900 offers just the right amount of performance, features and value to top most demo lists.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels9
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box8
Picture Quality Calibrated9
Ease Of Use9
Value For Money9
Our Review Ethos
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