What is the JVC DLA-NX9?
Announced on its launch in 2018 as the world’s first e-shift 8K projector, the JVC NX9 is the flagship 4K DILA projector which uses new native 3x 0.69-inch 4K DILA chips and costs a whopping £17,999 at the time of this review (November 2019). It has taken a while to get hold of a review sample as JVC has been selling as many of the new 4K projectors as they can build, and as such these models are all still a current product and will be for the foreseeable future. If you are buying an N5, N7 or this NX9, you can be confident that it is currently supported with regular firmware updates when required. One such update (3.10) recently dramatically improved the performance parameters of all the N-line native 4K projectors by adding a new Frame Adapt HDR mode. We delayed our publication of this review and our testing until this was launched recently and we could fully test the NX9 properly. We also soaked the projector to put 50 hours on the bulb before we did any measurements and calibration.
This new flagship introduces a brand new projector chassis over the outgoing X-series e-shift 4K models, with a much larger case and huge lens assembly and opening. While the DLA-N7 and DLA-N5 models feature a 17-element, 15-group all-glass lens with a 65mm diameter, the DLA-NX9 uses an 18-element, 16-group all-glass lens featuring a full aluminium lens barrel with a 100mm diameter. Lens shift is ±100% vertically and ±43% horizontally to offer flexible installation placement and the NX9 adopts five ED lenses that take into account differences in the R/G/B refractive index to reduce chromatic aberration and colour fringing. The lens and lens opening is the most dominant feature of the new chassis design and you can appreciate the quality of glass being used here.
The other major differences that account for the flagship status of the NX9 is the introduction of e-shift 8K technology and THX certification. The e-shift uses proprietary high-resolution display technology which shifts by 0.5 pixels vertically and horizontally to achieve up to four times the perceived pixel density. E-shift is also used with MPC (Multi Pixel Control), which converts HD and 4K to a perceived 8K-equivalent resolution of 8192 x 4320 and has various processing steps you can control such as noise reduction, smoothing and enhance. The NX9 is not capable of accepting an 8K signal, it only upscales 4K and lower resolutions. The e-shift can of course also be switched off and the projector used at its native 4K resolution (4096 x 2160).
The NX9 also boasts a claimed light output of 2200 Lumens and contrast of over 100,000:1 and, with the advanced Iris Control, JVC claim over 1,000,000:1 as a dynamic contrast figure. The NX9 is also HDR10 ready with the new Frame Adapt HDR technology that can be switched from Static, to Scene by Scene or Frame by Frame to adjust the dynamic tone mapping. This allows the NX9 to produce the absolute best dynamic range to match the HDR content to its capabilities. There is also support for Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) with the cinema filter which helps the projector reach the DCI-P3 colour gamut.
So with all this technology onboard can the JVC NX9 provide a convincing performance for the premium price tag? Let’s find out.
JVC DLA-NX9 Video Review
Design, Connections and Control
The design is that of a traditional projector chassis with air vents to the left and right sides of the front plate and a 7-inch circular recess that houses the 100mm all-glass lens in the centre. The area around the lens is sealed. At the edges, the chassis tapers to join the sides and on top, we have a brushed metal black strip with the JVC, HDR, THX and ISFccc logos at the lens end and 8K e-shift and DILA logos at the rear.
Around the back, we have the connections which include a 3D sync input along with two full-bandwidth 18Gbps HDMI2.0b ports with HDCP 2.2 compatibility and 4K 60p 4:4:4 support including HDR10 signals. To control the projector you have an RS232C port, LAN network connector and a 12V trigger. The USB port is for service and firmware only. The power socket is to the bottom of the chassis. To the right side of the backplate there is a selection of menu controls to access the projector should you misplace the remote control.
The remote control supplied with the JVC DLA-NX9 is a new design launched with the N Series projectors which is a shorter design than previous units. It has an obvious backlight button to the bottom of the keys and everything is laid out in a logical manner around the central directional keys. All the buttons offer direct access to well-used picture settings or functions and the remote sits neatly in the hand and feels sturdy. You may question if a remote like this fits with the price tag, but the NX9 is likely going to be used in a custom installation with control software, so the remote will probably be secondary.
Out of the BoxAs we always do within our reviews, we measured the out of the box picture presets to find those that get as close as possible to the industry standards. The idea is that a projector must get close to these standards in at least one of its picture modes so end users can see content as it was mastered and intended to be seen.
There are a number of SDR picture presets and we found that Cinema was the most accurate with this review sample. We set the colour gamut to Rec.709, colour temperature to 6500K and gamma at 2.4 for our viewing room, which is a light-controlled Batcave.
As we can see the greyscale is not perfect out of the box, with a lack of blue and a little too much green and some red at varying points that push the DeltaE errors over the visible threshold of three and we can see the result onscreen with an overly warm yellow look. Video white should be warm but this is a little too pushed. Gamma tracking was good but there was a little movement which didn’t give us a perfectly flat line. However, none of these issues was visible with content. The accuracy out of the box could have been better given the price point and high level of this projector, but we would expect such an item to be professionally calibrated after installation.
Rec.709 colour gamut coverage was also good but moved slightly out of position by the greyscale being a little too yellow. With a corrected greyscale these points should all drop back to where they should be and provide an accurate Rec.709 colour performance.
CalibratedThe JVC has a number of ways and controls to approach calibrating the image. There is an automatic calibration system using a third party software and meter, but we would really like to see JVC up their game in this respect and perhaps partner with CalMAN so we can use far more accurate equipment to get the best possible results.
Of course, the controls are available to calibrate the image and the only feature missing is an accurate gamma editor. Everything else is here including a very good colour management system (CMS).
We managed to get the greyscale tracking far better than the out of the box results, but again this wasn’t a perfect looking graph, even though there are no visible errors or issues thanks to DeltaE results all under 1.5, which is well below the visible threshold of three. Gamma remained a slight issue again without a perfect curve at 2.4, but again, this wasn’t actually visible nor did it affect image quality when viewing content on screen.
By correcting the greyscale we also saw the Rec.709 points all fall back into the positions where they should be. 100% red saturation was slightly off and 50% was a tad over but with DeltaE errors all well under the visible threshold, once again these are not visible at all with content. Overall, while I’d like more accuracy with the gamma tracking, this is a bulb based device and I’m happy with the results we obtained.
HDR ResultsAs this is a projector and a reflective display technology, it will not be capable of producing an image that can match a direct display device, such as a TV for HDR peak brightness or specular highlights. Indeed, HDR on projectors is a completely different viewing experience to that seen on a TV, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of brighter images and wider colour gamuts. Just don’t expect the same specular highlights seen on a 1000 nit TV.
We measured a peak brightness of 245 nits on a 10% window at approximately half zoom. This increases to 267 nits with no zoom and decreases to 76 nits on maximum zoom. This is with the projector positioned 13ft from our screen surface, which is a Screen Excellence Enlightor 4K. On/Off contrast measures in at 41,628:1 (267.1/0.006) at minimum zoom and 126,107:1 (75.9/0.001) at full zoom and the manual iris was open to full for all measurements. Results will vary from projector to projector as they are bulb based, so factors like screen and room also have an impact. However, this should give you a general idea of possible performance.
When it comes to measurements of the PQ EOTF, this is more difficult as JVC approaches the issue of mapping with their Frame Adapt technology. As such, measured results are not consistent with what we would find on TV sets and the ST.2084 standard is not followed here, there is a more linear result.
Coverage of the DCI-P3 wide colour gamut, using a filter in the light path is very good with only a few issues within the saturation tracking chart. Magenta has a hue error which is typical of current devices including TVs and red is undersaturated at all saturation points. However, these are not visible within the content we viewed and overall the gamut coverage is impressive for a projector. BT.2020 coverage is 74% XY and 81% UV with P3 measuring in at 97% XY and 99% UV.
MORE: What is Colour Volume?
I also need to mention that if you are using a 2.39:1 scope screen without masking, there is an issue with black level banding and light spillage beyond the 16:9 image raster. This will not be seen using a 16:9 screen or a scope screen with a masking system and is only seen on our screen, which is unmasked, within very dark scenes in 16:9 ratio content at the very far sides of the image, and again I only mention it to be complete in our assessment.
One other issue which was obvious when moving up to the new NX9 was the HDMI handshake time that is now much quicker than previous models, but still not quite superfast.
There are also new installation modes instead of the previous lens memory functions. The installation modes allow you to fine-tune Lens Control, Pixel Adjustment, Mask, Anamorphic On or Off, Screen Adjust, Installation Style, Keystone, Pincushion, and Aspect. These can be saved to 10 different modes and then selected from the remote control. So you could have Mode 1 as 16:9 and Mode 2 as 2.20:1 with a mask, then Mode 3 as Anamorphic On as your lens moves into position and so on. It really is far more flexible to set up and use. I set one for 2.39:1 with top and bottom mask for watching discs like Aquaman so it represents the theatrical framing on my scope screen and masks the IMAX scenes correctly.
I also used the lens adjustments to frame content correctly on my screen, so 3840 x 2160 is shown as displayed and I didn’t use the digital zoom in the Aspect menu to scale to the 4096 x 2160 native resolution as you will lose fine detail taking this approach.
While the black floor is slightly raised compared to the previous projectors, the dynamic range and contrast performance is still very much a JVC strong point and the NX9 is capable of producing some seriously cinematic images.
SDR performance in low lamp mode is superb with excellent Rec.709 colour accuracy and stunning detail levels. Sharpness really is a massive step up with the NX9 and its new lens and 4K content looks incredible. However, even lowly HD from a Blu-ray can be incredibly sharp and detailed with superb skin tones and natural-looking colours. There is something about a projected image that just brings films to life in a way I can only describe as cinematic. Watching some well known test scenes on Blu-ray, like Jaws, highlights this feeling of watching a film as it is intended to be seen. On my scope screen, the impact and immersive nature of the image is hard to describe in words, but you are pulled into the story and feel the emotional tug of the characters. Even though I have watched these scenes so many times in reviews, I actually ended up finishing the movie, rather than just watching one test scene, that is how gorgeous it looked.
HDR is still a tough ask for a projector and as such enthusiasts have had to find workarounds to watching content on projectors that haven’t quite managed to present an HDR image that gives the best all-round look given the challenges of High Dynamic Range. Even with my reference JVC DLA-X7900 I struggle to get HDR looking as good as I know it can be on a projector. I mention it earlier in the review and again here, an HDR image on a projector is a different proposition than a TV display, you just can’t get the specular highlights and dynamic range. But, that doesn’t mean the effort is not worth pursuing and thankfully the 3.10 Firmware update which adds Frame Adapt really is a game-changer, for JVC at least.
With options for Frame by Frame, Scene by Scene and Static, the Frame Adapt technology does exactly what you think it does from those descriptions. Much like how LG, Panasonic and other TV makers have their own dynamic tone mapping systems, Frame Adapt does the same thing but for a projector. This means that using analysis from histograms and other measurements and then adapting the capabilities of the projector to map that, HDR produces a much more acceptable image on screen. It doesn’t suddenly add in mega bright specular highlight details or boost the image to match a TV, but rather it balances out the dynamics of a scene so that, instead of hard clipping details in the whites, for example, it now maps so that some of those details are now visible but without dimming the rest of the image in doing so. The end result really is the best presentation I have seen of HDR10 on a projector so far.
MORE: What is HDR Tone Mapping?
Even the presentation of colours is improved as the image is more balanced and nuanced. Skin tones are superb and the JVC doesn’t lose its cinematic edge either. The new 4K UHD release of The Shining is absolutely stunning in terms of detail, image depth and dynamic range. Colours are rich and textured with no signs of bloom or clipping and you are sucked into the surroundings of the Overlook hotel. Even going further back in time with the 4K release of The Wizard of Oz also shows up the strengths of HDR playback on the NX9. Bright primary colours are represented properly, blacks are deep and shadow detail is stunning. It is often an overlooked area of HDR, but the above black areas of the image really do add depth and scale.
Moving to compressed 4K HDR from Netflix is also a strong point for the JVC with Stranger Things 3 really showing how far streaming has developed and improved with image quality. Most of the series is set within the bright garish 80’s shopping mall against others scenes in dark, shadowy basements and at night. The NX9 offers up stunning sharpness and detail along with superb shadow detail and strong, clean blacks. Image processing is very good indeed.
I have to admit that I have really been taking advantage of the NX9 to watch and rewatch favourite movies and new 4K UHD discs. Aquaman is absolute bonkers drivel, I have no idea what is going on within that movie, but it looks incredible with strong dynamics, bright and vivid colours, mixed with authentic skin tones and amazing details. Plus, motion is also strong with 24fps content on the JVC with little in the way of noticeable judder or blur.
And all of the above assessment is without engaging the e-shift 8K capabilities of this projector.
So, is e-shift 8k any good? Well, that is actually quite hard to answer as from my seating position and using well-known test scenes I was really struggling to see any major difference in resolution. I could certainly hear the e-shift device when it was switched on (the projector position is close to my seating in this room) but when it comes to actually state for sure that I could notice an obvious difference I have to put my hands up and say, no, not really. Unlike the move to 4K with e-shift that also introduced HDR and WCG to the mix over just HD resolution, adding in 8K e-shift is much harder to notice when being objective and as honest as possible with your assessment. For the majority of my time spent with the NX9, and that is three months and 60 hours on the bulb for far, I have used the native 4K of the projector and left the e-shift switched off.
I am really struggling to come up with any major weak points other than a few niggles here and there that don’t really add up to anything that would put me off owning such a projector. The main stumbling block is the fact I’m skint and this costs the same as an entry-level Fiesta ST.
The DLA-NX9 is one of the very few new displays that still supports 3D using the frame packed active system but you will need to buy the optional emitter and glasses. The technology has improved greatly over the years and the performance here is incredibly good. There is no crosstalk present and there is a fantastic sense of depth as the screen expands backwards. I watched Alita: Battle Angel and the NX9 handled it with excellent colour and natural-looking skin tones. There is no 3D mode, but I based my 3D preset on the Cinema mode with the lamp on high. Note that the resolution of 3D is 1080 and e-shift is disabled in 3D mode.
- Excellent SDR image quality
- Best HDR we have yet seen from a projector
- Very good 3D playback
- Excellent 4K sharpness and lens
- Cinematic images
- Decent set of features
- Decent calibration controls
- Excellent build quality
- Good control features for CI
- No motorised lens cover
- Needs a gamma editor in the menus
JVC DLA-NX9 4K Projector Review
OK, so before we go any further we need to deal with Mr Elephant. Yes, this does cost £17,999 and is beyond the reach of most of us AVForums readers and members. It is a projector aimed at the custom installation market or those enthusiasts with deep pockets.
So, is it worth the cost against the DLA-N7? Well, that is a question only you can really answer as the NX9 does offer a larger lens set up and the e-shift 8K technology along with THX certification. We didn’t have a chance to put it side by side with the N7 but would expect there to be some improvements with the lens and image tuning that would perhaps stand out. But the price difference is quite large and we would encourage you to get a demo of both with a specialist dealer if you are considering spending this much.
As a projector, the DLA-NX9 is stunning with SDR and HDR content as you would imagine. As we have said in detail, the Frame Adapt system has really added a game-changing edge when it comes to HDR tone mapping for a projector and that is available throughout the range of N-Series units. The lens is high-quality glass and that is obvious straight away from lifting the projector out of the box and then with use. Images are sharp and detailed with excellent screen uniformity when it comes to focus with no obvious signs of chromatic aberration. Colour performance is also excellent with almost full DCI-P3 coverage and good volume thanks to the dynamic tone mapping. Blacks are also very good and just above black detail retrieval is a real strong point with HDR content, adding real depth to images and skin tones are life-like and natural through SDR and HDR content. And while there is a slight rise in the black floor by swapping to the 4K native chips, contrast and dynamic range remain class-leading and it retains that JVC cinematic look many of us have enjoyed for a number of years now.
It is expensive, but in its market segment, the JVC DLA-NX9 adds a new approach to HDR which actually really works to raise the picture quality of a projector with the format. With all the other added features, build quality and new lens set up, we feel the NX9 is best in its class at this market point.
MORE: Projector Reviews
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Picture Quality Calibrated
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