Is pretend 4K, still 4K?
What is the JVC DLA-X700R?Ever since the introduction of the HD1, JVC’s first consumer D-ILA model back in 2006, the company has consistently produced some of the best home cinema projectors over the years. From an original range of one, they now produce a model for just about every price point and sector of the market. This year's line-up carries over the entry level DLA-X35 from 2013 and adds the DLA-X500R at the mid-range (reviewed by Steve Withers). The DLA-X700R we are reviewing here is the high-end model and above that is the custom installation focussed and, hand picked, DLA-X900R.
In the eight years since I reviewed the HD1 the market has changed beyond all recognition from those humble D-ILA beginnings. At the time of the HD1 review I had a Barco Graphics 808 CRT projector hanging from my ceiling, something the size of a Mini Metro and you needed nerves of steel to sit directly under it! The HD1 changed the game in the digital projector's favour and in the proceeding years JVC has picked up numerous AVForums Reference Status awards for their outstanding high-end models. They are also a company which listens to the enthusiast market and reviewers alike. In the last few years we have seen them refine the calibration controls on offer to make sure the very best images are obtained for the various environments the projectors are used in.
A JVC projector also boasts the highest native contrast and dynamic range in the consumer market, something Sony and others have desperately been trying to emulate and improve upon. We have seen a steady evolution of D-ILA and the features JVC offers in their products and this year they have added probably the most controversial, from a purists point of view - a Dynamic Iris (DI). Why is this controversial? Well the general rule of thumb when it comes to using a DI is that it is there to perceptually improve the black performance by changing the image characteristics, usually dimming the image by closing the iris and adjusting the gamma. Each company has their own take on what the DI will do during content scenes to perceptually improve the black response, some do it better than others. The problem some have with JVC adding a DI is the fact that their projectors have the best ‘native’ contrast levels on the market, so why compromise the image stability by adding such a feature? Does it actually make the already stellar black levels even better? Or does it add issues that compromise image quality? Why shouldn’t JVC add a DI to make the blacks even better and miles ahead of the competition?
The other major point that is worthy of discussion when reviewing the X700 is one which will see the projector market evolve yet again in the next few years - 4K or Ultra High Definition. The JVC carries a rather misleading badge in the promotional material for this year's range, something that is now in it’s third generation, 4K eShift3. Yes, the X700R will accept a native 4k signal through it’s HDMI connections and it will produce a 3840 x 2160 projected image using eShift3, but it is not a native 4K projector, it still uses a 1080p D-ILA device. This could be a problem for the DLA-X700R as it’s nearest competitor in this sector of the market is the Sony VPL-VW500ES which, at £8800, is a native 4K projector. So, why would you buy the JVC when at just over £1k more you can future proof your home cinema with a truly native 4K machine, and a very good projector at that? It looks like JVC have a lot to prove this year, so let’s get started…
Why settle for eShift when you can get a native 4K projector for just over £1k more?
Design & ConnectionsIf it ain’t broke, why fix it? For the fourth year in a row JVC stick to it’s tried and tested chassis for the X700. This means that the layout is unchanged from previous generations with a centrally mounted lens, two air vents at each side of the front plate and the connections to the rear. Unlike the lower X35 and X500 variants, the X700R keeps the (rather loud) motorised lens cover which moves out of the way on power up and is closed when not in use.
You can have any colour as long as it's gloss black.
The supplied remote control has seen a minor facelift with a new plastic material that is less prone to greasy finger prints and some buttons have been moved around to add the DI control and some other direct access selections. It's an easy to use remote with well thought-out button placement and a back light for use in an ideal bat cave environment.
If 3D is still your thing the DLA-X700R comes with two pairs of light weight RF glasses that boast 100 hours of continuous operation and the small RF emitter which slots into the rear of the projector so it is hidden away.
As you would expect with a higher end projector the build quality of the X700 is first class with a solid body construction and the use of a high-end glass lens. Installation is made easy with the connections on the rear of the unit.
At the rear you will find two HDMI 1.4 connections as the only video inputs, plus an RS232 & LAN control ports, 3D Sync connector for the RF emitter plus a 12V trigger and power socket. Also on the rear panel are manual menu buttons for the rare occasion where you misplace the remote control.
MenusThe menu system on the DLA-X700R will be familiar to users of JVC projectors but this year there are a few slight changes to the layout of some features. The main picture menu is roughly the same layout with picture mode options which include THX (and THX 3D when in that mode) and then we have quite a choice of colour profiles which include some pretty wide gamut selections if that takes your fancy. Colour Temp provides a choice of presets including numbered alternatives and custom settings and the same is true of the Gamma controls (note that these are greyed out if THX is selected). MPC level is the control associated with eShift3 and provides some options for selecting the source resolutions manually or you can leave this in automatic mode. You can also switch off MPC and when in use you can also adjust the ‘Enhance, Dynamic Contrast, Smoothing and Noise Reduction’ controls. Use of these controls will be a personal preference choice as you can make the images produced by the projector look fake and over enhanced if care is not taken.
Clear Motion Drive is JVC’s frame interpolation system which can make images appear smoother and more fluid. Of course using CMD will introduce what is referred to as ‘Soap Opera motion’ which can make film look too smooth and unnatural. Again this will be a personal preference setting and more suited to watching fast sports action rather than film content. Thankfully there is the option to switch it off, but be aware that in most preset modes it is set to on by default. The remainder of the main picture menu are the usual front panel controls for Brightness, Contrast etc.
JVC have removed the advanced menu selection usually found at the bottom of the main picture menu. Instead you can access the advanced features directly via the picture parameter settings you want to adjust, such as colour temperature, gamma etc. To access the lens aperture settings you click on the Picture Mode selection. In here you will find the usual manual selection control and slider, but this year JVC have added a dynamic iris to the fold with two auto settings to chose from. There has been a lot of debate amongst enthusiasts and professionals over the usefulness of adding a dynamic iris to a projector that has such a high native contrast and dynamic range to start with. We did quite a bit of testing using both auto options and found that there are draw backs which ultimately affect image fidelity. We will cover this more in the picture section of the review.
The remaining menus of interest are colour temperature, gamma and colour management. These are now under each section on the main menu and offer full manual control. Using these for calibration is a breeze with no delays or black flashes between slider moves, making the task easy and painless. The remainder of the menu system on the X700R are set once and forget features, including the lens memory function.
CalibrationWe didn’t start testing the JVC DLA-X700R fully until it had 50hrs on the bulb so we could get a good idea of any immediate dimming within that time and that we had a stable bulb for testing real world scenarios.
Out of the box results
Once we had enough hours on the bulb we measured and tested all the out of the box picture settings to find those, without any manipulation, that got as close as possible to industry standards. Usually using the THX picture mode would get us close directly out of the box, but we found that the greyscale tracking had a little too much red and green energy and that was visible while watching normal content. Instead we settled on the User 1 Picture Mode (remembering to switch off all the unwanted picture enhancements like CMD and the DI). We also found that selecting the 7000K preset for the greyscale gave us a very nice track and Standard for the Colour Profile was the best of the bunch. We also set up the front panel controls for the test environment which was a bat cave, here are the results.
As you can see from the greyscale results using the 7000K setting gave us a nice track and low delta E errors with green just a touch high. Gamma was also tracking nicely at 2.2 when set to 2.3 in the menu system. This is an excellent result for an out of the box picture selection.
Moving to the the CIE chart and our measurements of the Standard Colour Profile selection we again have an excellent set of results. Remember that these measurements are before any manipulation of the menu controls. Despite some over saturation of Red, Green and Yellow the chart and resulting on screen images looked very good indeed, especially with the luminance results showing no overblown colours and overall errors under 3 Delta E. These results will vary slightly from machine to machine but overall, we were very impressed.
Moving on to our calibrated results and as you can see it didn’t take much to improve on the already excellent out of the box picture selections. Greyscale tracked very well with Delta E errors now well under 2, gamma tracked at 2.2 and overall no errors were visible on screen using real world material.
We also had no issues with the colour gamut and were able to get very good results. Luminance was again on target and with the colour points all hit perfectly we had delta E errors well under 2 across the board (note the scale of the chart). The only slight draw back with the JVC were the saturation results below. You can see that under 100%, tracking, especially on red was undersaturated, whereas blue was over saturated. We also had some hue errors with green and magenta. But, watching actual on screen material we failed to pick up on these issues.
We run the usual suite of tests on the X700 and it passed with flying colours. From SD scaling that introduced no artefacts all the way up to 1080i and 1080p material the projector aced the de-interlacing, film resolution tests and displayed a 1080p24 signal with no issues whatsoever. The only issue we found was the need to set the projector to super white in the HDMI menu so it doesn’t clip white above 235. All in all we have nothing more to report on an excellent performance with a barrage of tests.
JVC X700 Video Review
Prepare to be blown away by 4K that isn't actually 4K... technically.
JVC DLA-X700R Picture QualityIf you have ever seen a high-end JVC projector in the right surroundings then you know just how well it produces 2D images. The first thing that always gets mentioned is the utterly brilliant dynamic range and inky black levels, mixed with what people normally describe as a filmic, analogue like image and stunning colour accuracy. These lines might look like JVC projector review cliches, but they are absolutely accurate in describing the performance of the DLA-X700.
Far too often as enthusiasts and members of these forums we all get hot under the collar about specifications, measurements, tests with test patterns and debates about issues that can seem like life and death for some. It’s easy to forget that the reason we love this hobby is to sit back and watch movies. With the X700 set up correctly and used in the right environment with a high quality screen and sound system, you soon forget about technicalities and get swept up in the film being projected in front of you. Those black levels are industry leading without ever clipping shadow detail which just brings darker scenes to life and adds depth to proceedings. Colours are never garish or pop out to add some jaundice or a heavy suntan to the actors on screen, instead everything looks realistic and accurate. And with a noticeable improvement in motion handling over previous generations, the X700 ticks all the right boxes for those looking for a quality home cinema projector.
The addition of a Dynamic Iris to this year’s JVC models has caused quite a few debates between enthusiasts. We don’t want to get into yet another such debate within a review but there are a few points to make here. The first is that regardless of any perceived or measured performance gains or not, this has clearly been the result of some requests from some corners to add a DI to the JVC line-up. It also more than likely happened because JVC marketing saw an opportunity to add a new feature that inflates the contrast ratio figures and brings the JVC projectors in line with other competitors who have such a feature on their products. At least the salesmen will have a come back for customers asking why the Sony has one and the JVC doesn’t. If that seems like I am being a little harsh on JVC, I’m not. It is just the way things happen in an industry that sells by having the bigger numbers and more features. So, does that mean that people who prefer a DI are wrong to want that feature? No, it is very much a personal preference feature, much in the same way as CMD and others. People will love it or hate it and as a reviewer, with an opinion, I also acknowledge that others will have a differing point of view and there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to personal preference. There are opinions that having a huge native contrast level is enough, from one point of view - image fidelity. We tested both user settings with copious amounts of varied material. In some cases both settings crushed shadow detail and pumped the image brightness to very noticeable levels. In the majority of cases it was harder to see any obvious issues, but it was also harder in all cases to state that black levels were perceivably any better than with the DI switched off. It was certainly easier to see the DI doing unwanted things with the image. But, it will be a personal choice for the user as to whether it has added any performance advantages for them. After our testing we set the manual iris control for the room and left it at that for the rest of the review process.
So what about eShift3 and claims that a 1080p based projector can project 4K images? Well, it is a rather clever device that has been improved for this new generation of projectors and it works very well indeed. The problem at the moment is actually finding 4K content to playback on the X700, something we struggled with, but eventually managed in the end. For the vast majority of potential buyers, it will be 1080p Blu-ray that is used with eShift3 and it has some advantages, although it doesn’t look like native 4K would (you can’t add what isn’t there to begin with). Certainly eShift when used conservatively with Blu-ray, (you can overcook the MPC settings and make things too sharp and over enhanced), can give a sense of a slight sharpness to images without looking processed. But if you were expecting a major blow me away difference with BD you will be slightly disappointed. Use some native 4K material (if you can find it) and you suddenly see just how well the eShift3 system works. We had to resort to internet based material on a very powerful Mac Book Pro, but it was worth the hassle to marvel at just how well the eShift takes two samples of the native image and then stitches it back via the diagonal half pixel shift. Is it as good as a native panel showing native 4K? Well, we haven’t had that opportunity to get down and dirty with the Sony and JVC side by side just yet, but we have seen both and the Sony edges it as you would expect. But, the fact the X700 even get’s close for what is basically a 1080p projector with a fancy eShift device, and no price premium over previous models at the price point, is outstanding. If you get the chance to see it with some 4K material, do it.
The DLA-X700R is another outstanding high-end projector from JVC and if you are in the market for something at this price point, you really have to see it with your own eyes in the best possible surroundings you can.
JVC X700 Picture Quality 3DThe X700 gives a very steady and ultimately satisfying performance in 3D. There is a lack of crosstalk in most material and the image quality using the THX 3D mode was good enough for a fairly accurate, if slightly dull experience. The new RF specs are comfortable to wear and never get in the way of your enjoyment and they never lost sync at any time. The lenses are also fairly light in colour which means that image brightness is as bright as it possibly can be. Motion was always fluid and even with some tough torture scenes only small instances of crosstalk were noticeable. If 3D is your thing we would recommend a demo before hand to make sure that the X700 meets your needs, but overall we don’t have anything negative to say about a very competent performance.
- Industry leading black levels and dynamic range
- Excellent colour reproduction
- Lens memory functionality
- Good quality 3D playback
- 3D glasses and Emitter included
- Excellent calibration controls
- Very good out of the box presets
- Excellent calibrated images
- Very good 4K playback with eShift3
- The ability to switch off picture enhancement controls
- Very good video processing
- Dynamic Iris causes issues with some material
- eShift device makes a high pitch sound when changing content
- HDMI handshake can take a little longer than desired
- Not a native 4K projector
JVC X700 (DLA-X700R) 3D D-ILA Projector ReviewDespite calls from some quarters stating that buying a 1080p projector nowadays is a waste of money, the DLA-X700 certainly puts the cat back amongst the pigeons. This latest model from JVC ticks all the right boxes in terms of picture performance and features. It offers outstanding black levels and dynamic range along with stunning colour performance and improved motion handling over previous generations. It has unique features such as eShift3 promising a 4K input and very good 4K playback, even if it isn’t a native 4K projector. There have been other features added like the dynamic iris which will likely keep those who demanded it happy. Overall the JVC X700 comes very highly recommended. So, why no reference badge this year?
Well as I said all the way back at the start of this review, the projector market is changing and enthusiasts are looking at the next big thing. At this moment in time that could cloud some judgements on the worth of a 1080p projector. The other point is that we have two outstanding projectors at this price point in the market. 4K would appear to be the elephant in the room. If you have the cash for the JVC DLA-X700R do you buy it or the Sony VPL-VW500ES native 4K projector for just over a grand more? That’s a question we have been mulling over ever since the X700 was announced and sadly we don’t have a definitive answer. We never tell you what to buy in our reviews, rather we give you the information and ask you to demo to make your own mind up about what you need and which product does that for you. With the X700R it is very much the same advice.
There is no doubt that both the X700 and the Sony VW500ES are stunning examples of where projection technology has come in less than 10 years. Both have their strong points and slight weaknesses. The main point is where is the 4K content and where is it coming from? The only officially announced 4K streaming service so far has been Netflix, but remember neither the JVC or Sony will be able to get that service as it is app based and only available (for now) in certain 4K UHD TVs. Blu-ray 4K is no further forward than it was at IFA or CES time and things have gone quiet yet again recently on that front. Will any studios actually support a 4K disc based system? And what are the standards and delivery compression formats and will it be HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 that moves things forward? So, the 4K question is an important one but as you can see from just that short list, there are also lots of answers yet to be provided by the industry. Do you upgrade now to a native 4K unit, or a 1080p example that can (at the moment) take a 4K signal and give you nearly 4K back?
We don’t envy anyone having to make a decision at this price point in the market, but what we will say is get a demo of the X700 and see it for yourself - Highly Recommended!
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels10
2D Picture Quality10
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use10
Value For Money9
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