Is JVC's new mid-range projector still relevant in a 4K world?
What is the JVC DLA-X500R?
We were pleased to see JVC launch a mid-range projector last year, it filled an obvious gap in their line-up and offered a wider set of features at a more affordable price.This year's mid-range projector, the DLA-X500RBE, is very similar to last year's X55 but if it ain't broke, why fix it? The basic premise is essentially the same, provide consumers with the opportunity to buy a projector with many of the features found on JVC's high-end models but at a more accessible price point. However the new model isn't exactly the same as its predecessor because JVC have improved some of the technology and ported over more of the features previously only found on the higher-end models. The changes include the addition of a dynamic iris and the latest version of JVC's proprietary e-shift technology, which increases the projected resolution to 3840 x 2160 pixels. Although it should be stressed that the DLA X500 still uses a 1920 x 1080 pixel panel.There's also improved 3D performance, a better contrast ratio and the ability to accept a 4K signal over the two HDMI inputs. In terms of features that have been migrated from the higher-priced models, there's a more precise pixel adjustment function and an increased number of screen adjustment modes. Of course, sitting as it does in the £5,000 price bracket, the X500 won't have to go head-to-head with Sony's native 4K projector, which means the fact that the JVC's native resolution is 1920 x 1080 won't be such an issue. That's more of a problem for the X700 but the continued lack of any real 4K content makes even that projector's lack of a native 4K panel a moot point. It's going to be predominantly high definition for the foreseeable future, so how does the X500 measure up?
Design and ConnectionsAs far as the design of the X500 is concerned it's business-as-usual, with JVC using the same chassis for the fourth consecutive year. That means you get the standard layout, with a good quality centrally mounted lens, air exhaust vents on either side and adjustable feet underneath. The JVC has motorised lens controls, along with a lens memory feature and, thanks to a generous focal length and lens shift, it's easy to install. The build quality is generally very good, although you don't get some of nicer touches found on the higher-end models, such as a motorised lens cover. The chassis is reasonably large, measuring 455 x 179 x 472mm, and it weighs 14.7kgs, although that's slightly less than last year's X55. However, as with that model, there are two chassis colours, with a choice or either a matte black or a matte white finish.
It's business-as-usual as far as the design is concerned.
As usual the connections are at the rear, with two HDMI ports, a RS232C control port, a LAN socket, a 3D emitter port and a 12V trigger. The RS232 connector and the LAN port can both be used for system control. JVC have dropped the component video input and remote control jack found on last year's model; which makes sense as very few devices even support component video these days. Underneath the inputs is the power connector and to the right of this are manual controls to access the menu system, in case you misplace the remote control. The remote itself is the standard black plastic design, which includes a backlight and sensibly laid out buttons. There are keys for selecting the inputs, as well as the Lens Control, Lens Memory and Lens Aperture controls. There are also buttons for selecting the Picture Modes and directly accessing many of the calibration and setup features.
As with last year's model, JVC includes two pairs of their current 3D glasses and the RF emitter, which is small and slots neatly into the connection port at the rear of the unit, where it is out of sight. We found the sync with the glasses to be faultless with no dropout at any time and the use of RF means that there are no IR signals to interfere with other remote controls. The 3D glasses (PK-AG3) are light, rechargeable and comfortable to wear, with large lenses that offer a wide field of view and sit comfortably over prescription glasses. The lenses also let in a reasonable amount of light and are free of any obvious tinting. Our only complaint would be that getting the glasses to sync could be a fiddly process and we sometimes had to hold the power button on the glasses down a long time to get them to work.
MenusOne of the major difference between the X500 and last year's X55 is in terms of the menus, which have had a makeover and thus change how you access certain features. As before the Picture Adjust menu gives you access to the Picture Mode, Colour Profile, Colour Profile, Colour Temp, Gamma, Contrast, Brightness, Colour and Tint. However JVC have dropped the pointless Dark/Bright Level and Picture Tone controls and moved the Clear Motion Drive and MPC Level (e-shift3) controls to this page.
The menu system has had a slight redesign, making many of the controls easier to access.
JVC have also dropped the Advanced settings page, so now all the key controls can be accessed from the main Picture Adjust page. This means that when you select Picture Mode, you can select the specific picture mode, change the lamp power (low or high) and rename the user modes if you wish. JVC have also included a new dynamic iris feature, along with the standard manual lens aperture control. If you access Colour Profile you can select a specific colour profile or create a custom setting and access the colour management system (CMS). If you select Color Temp. you can choose a specific colour temperature and also access the two-point white balance control for calibrating the greyscale.
The same approach is taken with the Gamma option, here you can select different gamma settings and adjust the curve if necessary. Then there is the MPC (Multiple Pixel Control) Level option, where you can turn e-shift on or off, select the original resolution and adjust the amount of enhancement, dynamic contrast, smoothing and noise reduction. Unlike last year, there is only the one MPC setting, which appears to be the same as the Film setting previously found on the X55. Finally there's the CMD (Clear Motion Drive) option, where you can control JVC's frame interpolation feature - as always, we would recommend just turning it off, especially for film content. Aside from the more precise pixel adjustment function and an increased number of screen adjustment modes, the rest of the menu system is essentially the same as last year.
The out-of-the-box performance was reasonably good, although in the case of the greyscale it could have been better. We chose the 6500K setting for the colour temperature of white, which should approximate the industry standard of D65. However, as you can see on the graph below left, the greyscale has too much red and green energy and not enough blue, resulting in a shift towards yellow. The DeltaE (error) measurements are between 3 and 5, which is certainly visible to the human eye, with an obvious yellow tinge to the image. We selected a gamma curve of 2.4 but it actually measured at 2.3, although it was tracking in a straight line which is good to see.
If you take a look at the graph below right, the colour performance was better than the greyscale, with overall errors at or below the tolerance threshold of three. The luminance measurements were excellent and the errors in the hue are undoubtedly the result of the inaccuracies in the greyscale. So once we have calibrated the greyscale with the two-point white balance control, the hue errors in the secondary colours should drop out. That only leaves some minor under-saturation in blue and magenta to address but since the X500 has a CMS, we should be able to improve the colour accuracy still further.
As we expected, the greyscale was fairly easy to calibrate with the two-point white balance control, we just dialled down the red and green and brought up the blue and fairly quickly we had errors that were all below two and most below one. The gamma curve was still tracking in a nice straight line at a measurement of 2.3, which should be ideal for most home cinema environments.
After calibrating the greyscale the hue errors in the secondary colours were immediately eliminated and we were able to correct the primary colours too. The luminance measurements were spot on for the primary and secondary colours and the overall errors were now all well below the tolerance threshold of three. We weren't able to correct the slight undersaturation in blue and magenta at 100% saturation but as the graph below shows, both those colours were tracking far more accurately at lower saturation points, which is more important. Only red struggled in the saturation sweeps, resulting in a slightly muted appearance in actual viewing material. However overall this is an excellent greyscale and colour performance from the X500.Brightness, Black Levels and Dynamic Range
The two areas where JVC projectors usually reign supreme are their black levels and contrast ratios, so we expected good things from the X500 and we weren’t disappointed. JVC claimed a native contrast ratio of 60,000:1 for the X500 and we actually measured it at 40,000:1, which is excellent. The blacks produced by the projector were superb, measuring 0.01 cd/m2, the resulting dynamic range was impressive and the X500 retained an excellent level of shadow detail. JVC claim a brightness of 1300 lumens but after calibration we measured the X500 at 700 lumens and, with the lamp on high power for 3D, we got nearer 1000 lumens. This should be bright enough for most home cinema environments but to really take full advantage of the X500's deep blacks, you should use it in a room that is as dark as possible. Given the dominance of their projectors in terms of blacks we found JVC’s decision to include a dynamic iris this year a strange one. This type of technology was developed to improve the perceived blacks on projectors where this is a weakness but clearly in the case of the JVC projectors, they just don’t need it. For the purposes of completeness we tested the feature but quickly realised that it added no real value and returned to the X500’s already superb native blacks.
The first thing we should point out about the X500, is that it can not accept either 480i or 576i, you need to send standard definition as a progressive signal. This isn't really an issue since just about any device can output a progressive signal and most DVD and Blu-ray don't even offer the choice of an interlaced output. This minor point aside, the X500 performed well in our tests, scaling standard definition up to its projected resolution without introducing any unwanted artefacts. The X500 was equally as impressive in the tests using high definition content and with our Blu-ray player set to 1080i the X500 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests and showed excellent scaling and filtering performance, as well as good resolution enhancement. With 1080i material the X500 also had no difficulties in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems. The default setting for HDMI is Standard where the video levels are set to 16 to 235 but this was clearly clipping peak white from 235 to 255. It is best to choose Super White which shows video levels 16 to 255, a fact we confirmed using the Spears & Munsil test disc. We also confirmed that the X500 wasn't clipping the three primary colours either.
As we have come to expect from JVC the 2D images had deep blacks and a lovely film-like quality.
JVC DLA-X500 Picture QualityIn all the hype surrounding 4K recently, it's easy to forget that the majority of our viewing material will be good old-fashioned high definition for a long time to come. So it's how a projector handles high def content that remains key and in this respect the X500 was an absolute cracker. After calibration, the greyscale appeared accurate and colours were natural, resulting in some lovely images. The deep blacks, superb shadow detail and fantastic dynamic range, gave the pictures real punch and a wonderfully film-like quality. We've reviewed a lot of different projector technologies at wildly different price points but the images produced by JVC projectors remain our favourite. Whilst motion handling on D-ILA projectors has never been the technologies strong point, it's prone to some smearing, the implementation of e-shift3 certainly helped. We generally found that the default MPC settings worked well, increasing the perceived resolution without introducing excessive sharpening or smoothing.
We watched the recent Blu-ray of Captain Phillips and the X500 delivered a superb image, retaining all the inherent film grain whilst rendering Paul Greengrass's trademark hand-held camera work with style. Similarly when it came to the Blu-ray release of Riddick, the digitally shot images were totally clean and brimming with detail. There's no doubt that you find a better looking image at this price point and whilst the X500 might not have a native 4K panel, thanks to e-shift and the inherent quality of its performance, the projector makes an ideal stop-gap until 4K becomes both cheaper and more readily available. The X500 can even accept 4096 x 2160 at 24p and 3840 x 2160 at up to 60p, so there is a degree of future proofing. Although we should stress that due to the limiting nature of the 1920 x 1080 panel, the X500 can't pass the full 4K resolution. However for the next few years the majority of our viewing will remain high definition and this resolution content, and especially Blu-ray, looks very impressive on the X500.
JVC X500 Video Review
JVC have improved the 3D performance of their projectors over the last 2 years and we couldn't fault the X500.
JVC X500 Picture Quality 3DJVC have worked hard to improve the 3D permanence of their projectors over the last two years and, after introducing their D-ILA 'frame addressing' technology, the results speak for themselves. The X500 delivered a fantastic 3D performance, with images that had sufficient brightness and three dimensionality, whilst also retaining a high degree of accuracy. There were no signs of crosstalk or other distracting artefacts and overall we found the X500 delivered an enjoyable and extremely immersive 3D experience. We watched a number of 3D movies on the X500 including Planes and our old favourite Avatar, which reminded us just how well James Cameron understands 3D filmmaking. We also watched the 3D Blu-ray of the IMAX documentary Space Station, which has some quite extreme 3D effects and a lot of negative and positive parallax. The X500 handled the 3D very well, managing to reproduce the extreme sense of depth without introducing crosstalk. For a bit of fun we also watched Dario Argento's recent 3D version of Dracula and whilst not the greatest film, the X500 rendered the blood and heaving bosoms in all their lurid 3D glory.
- Reference black levels
- Superb dynamic range
- Excellent shadow detail
- E-shift can be effective
- Reference greyscale and colours
- Impressive video processing
- Superb 2D images
- Excellent 3D performance
- Superb set of features
- RF emitter and glasses included
- No native 4K panel
JVC X500 (DLA-X500) 3D D-ILA Projector ReviewIt would be fair to say that JVC are treading water to some extent at the moment but, in the the face of some fairly stiff competition from Sony with their native 4K projectors, it's also worth remembering that there's a complete lack of any quality 4K content. For the foreseeable future, the majority of our viewing material will be high definition and in that respect, the JVC DLA-X500 is a stellar performer. The overall design and the majority of features are the same as last year but JVC have tweaked the menus, along with both the e-shift and the 3D performance. They've also added more features previously only found on the higher-end models and, for reasons best known to themselves, a dynamic iris.
The latter seems especially redundant because as we would expect from a JVC projector the native blacks on the X500 are superb, as is the dynamic range and the level of shadow detail. The out-of-the-box accuracy could have been better but the X500 delivered a reference performance after calibration and the video processing was also excellent. Whilst motion handling has never been a strong point of D-ILA, the use of e-shift appears to help matters here and the increase in the projected resolution did result in some very impressive big screen images. The 2D performance was highly detailed and natural looking, with a lovely film-like quality; whist the 3D was bright, immersive and crosstalk free.
The projector market may be getting complicated in the £7,000 to £9,000 price bracket but it's a lot simpler down at the £5,000 price point, where the JVC DLA-X500 is about the only game in town. When you consider all the features you get for the price, not to mention the level of performance, the X500 remains something of a bargain and thus as far as mid-range projectors go it's a Best Buy.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels10
2D Picture Quality10
3D Picture Quality10
Ease Of Use10
Value For Money9
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