JVC DLA-NZ8 4K Laser Projector Review
- Laser light source
- Amazing 4K images
- Superb HDR performance
- Bright crosstalk-free 3D pictures
- Reference image accuracy
- Class-leading black levels
- 8K eshiftX processing
- HDR10+ support
- Extensive set-up features
- Excellent build quality
The not so good
- Laser dimming needs tweaking
- This beast isn't small or light
- It's seriously expensive
What Is the JVC DLA-NZ8?
The JVC DLA-NZ8 is the mid-range model in a new line-up of 4K HDR projectors from the company which takes all the strengths of the previous N/NX Series and adds a BLU-Escent laser light source, 8K/e-shiftX, HDR10+, and HDMI 2.1 inputs. As a result, these big-screen beamers not only include the native 4K D-ILA panels, 3D support, Frame Adapt HDR, and Theatre Optimiser found on the previous generation, but also add the ability to handle 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz, which is sure to delight owners of next-gen gaming consoles.
The new range is headlined by the DLA-NZ9 (£24,999), which has a claimed brightness of 3,000 lumens, a native contrast of 100,000:1, and a 100mm all-glass lens with improved optics. The NZ8, reviewed here, costs £15,800 and is essentially the same as the NZ9, but has a brightness of 2,500 lumens, a contrast of 80,000:1, and a 65mm all-glass lens with improved optics. Finally, there's the DLA-NZ7 (£11,500), which is largely the same as the NZ8 but lacks the upgraded optics and has a brightness of 2,200 lumens, and contrast of 40,000:1. The NZ7 also lacks the DCI-P3 colour filter found on the NZ8 and NZ9, and uses the two-direction 8K/e-shift, rather than the four direction 8K/e-shiftX found on the more expensive models.
These new projectors represent a significant price premium over the outgoing models, with the NZ7 and NZ8 costing nearly twice as much as the DLA-N5 and DLA-N7 respectively, and the NZ9 costs £6,500 more than the DLA-NX9. While this pricing is comparable to similar laser projectors from Sony, it does mean anyone wanting to enjoy JVC's latest cutting-edge tech is going to need deep pockets. At least the company will also be offering the DLA-NP5 (£7,500), which updates the lamp-based N5 by adding HDMI 2.1 inputs with 4K/120Hz and HDR10+ support. But how do these new projectors perform, and can they justify the significant outlay required to buy one? As an N7 owner, I'm perfectly positioned to find out.
The JVC DLA-NZ8 looks identical to the outgoing DLA-N7 from the front, with the same centrally mounted lens and exhaust vents on either side. The top front right of the projector houses an IR receiver for the remote, and above this are three indicator lights. The build quality remains excellent, with the design and matte black finish looking surprisingly elegant considering this projector's size.
The only way to differentiate the N7 and NZ8 externally is by looking at the rear, where the twin exhaust vents are larger, the air filter has been removed, and the power connector shifted to the centre. The rest is the same, with another IR receiver, a set of basic controls in case you misplace the remote, and all the connections.
The design is all business-as-usual from the front, but the larger air vents at the rear hint at the laser light source within this huge chassis
The projector sits on four large adjustable feet, which allow you to level the projector if you plan on stand mounting, although you also have the option of ceiling mounting with a suitable bracket. If you're planning on the latter make sure the mount can handle this beast of a projector, because it measures 500 x 234 x 505mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 23.1kg.
Connections and Control
At first glance the JVC DLA-NZ8 has an identical set of connections to the previous generation, but in reality there has been a significant upgrade with the HDMI inputs now supporting most of the version 2.1 features at the full 48Gbps bandwidth. That means you get support for 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz, along with high dynamic range (HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), and HDR10+), 3D, HDCP 2.3, 4:4:4, 12-bit, and BT.2020. However, there's obviously no support for ARC or eARC, nor is there support for HDMI-CEC, variable refresh rate (VRR), or auto low latency mode (ALLM).
In terms of the remaining connections, this is the same as before with a LAN (RJ-45) port for a network connection, RS232 (Sub 9pin) terminal for serial control, 12V/100mA trigger, USB Type A port for firmware updates, and a Mini-Din 3pin connector for the optional 3D synchro emitter.
The provided remote is identical to the previous generation, which is a good thing because it's an excellent controller. It's comfortable to hold and easy to use with one hand, laying out all the buttons in a sensible fashion. There's a dedicated backlight button, which is highly effective, illuminating the writing on the buttons themselves and thus making them easy to read in the dark.
The connections now use HDMI 2.1 with 8K/60 and 4K/120 at full bandwidth 48Gbps, plus you get the same excellent remote control
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.
Features and Specs
The JVC DLA-NZ8 ranks as one of the most feature-packed projectors you can buy. It uses the same three 0.69-inch native 4K D-ILA devices as before, allowing the projector to produce an ultra high-definition native 4K resolution of 4096 x 2160. However, JVC has doubled the speed of these devices, allowing it to also display images up to 240Hz.
The NZ8 has the same 17-element, 15-group 65mm diameter all-glass lens system found on the previous DLA-N5 and DLA-N7 models. However, the new Ultra-High Contrast Optics featured on the DLA-NZ9 and NZ8 are designed to dramatically improved the image quality by suppressing the return of unnecessary light to the projection screen.
The 4K D-ILA panels have been upgraded to 240Hz, the all-glass lens has improved optics, and there's a BLU-Escent laser light source
The big difference with the NZ generation is the addition of JVC's BLU-Escent blue laser diode light source. This promises increased brightness, a longer effective lifespan of up to 20,000 hours, greater consistency over that life, and faster power up and down times. The laser can also be dynamically dimmed to produce improved blacks and a higher contrast performance.
The NZ8 uses 10-bit panels (although it has processing at up to 18-bit equivalent), and has a claimed brightness of 2,500 lumens. It also has a BT.2020 mode with a wide colour gamut that JVC claims can cover 100% of the DCI-P3 colour space. In addition, the NZ8 has a claimed contrast ratio of 80,000:1 and a claimed dynamic contrast ratio of infinity to one.
All the new NZ projectors support 8K, with the DLA-NZ7 using the same 8K/e-shift technology that was first introduced on the DLA-NX9. This increases the resolution by shifting the pixels by 0.5 pixels in two diagonal directions, allowing the NZ7 to display an 8K signal. The NZ8 and NZ9 use the new 8K/e-shiftX technology that shifts each pixel by 0.5 pixels in four directions (up, down, left and right), thus allowing these projectors to display an 8K signal at its full 7680 x 4320 resolution. All three projectors use LSI circuits to handle the huge amount of data provided by an 8K/60Hz signal and the processing required to convert and display it.
Thanks to the inclusion of HDMI 2.1 inputs, these projectors not only accept 8K/60Hz, but also 4K/120Hz. The latter will undoubtedly prove popular with gamers, allowing the projectors to display high frame-rate gaming content on large screens. JVC also includes a low latency mode that suppresses display delay for a faster response when receiving signals from PCs and game consoles.
It not only accepts an 8K/60 signal, but thanks to 8K/e-shiftX with four direction shift, it can actually display a resolution of 7680 x 4320
The NZ8 supports High Dynamic Range, specifically HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and HDR10+ content, and is one of the first projectors to include the latter format's dynamic metadata tone mapping. There's also Auto Tone Mapping, which automatically adjusts the settings based on the values of the static metadata, such as MaxCLL and MaxFALL, so that HDR content can be tone mapped and projected at the optimum quality for various HDR images with different brightness levels. In addition, Frame Adapt HDR analyses the video signal and dynamically adjusts the tone mapping on a scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame basis, while the Theatre Optimiser adjusts the tone mapping based on the screen size and gain, the frequency of use and the settings.
The menus are largely the same, although there are few tweaks from the previous generation. As before, the Content Type can be selected automatically using the Auto Picture Mode Select feature found on the Input Signal page, but now the default picture modes include SDR (2D), SDR (3D), HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG. In the More Settings sub menu you'll find the LD Power setting for adjusting the brightness of the laser (low, mid, high), and the Dynamic CTRL (off, mode 1, mode 2), and the aperture setting. There are also basic controls like Contrast, Brightness, Colour, and Tint. The Picture Adjust page has options for Colour Profile (which automatically switches to the optimal setting based on colour gamut information), Colour Temp, Gamma, HDR Processing, Tone Mapping, Theatre Optimiser, HDR Level, MPC/e-shift, and Motion Control.
The Installation page looks the same, but the Screen Setting sub-menu has been changed slightly. You can still select the screen adjust code for your specific screen and set the screen size and screen gain, but now you can choose between 16:9 and 21:9 aspect ratios. The Theatre Optimiser also has more Auto HDR settings, with a choice of Auto, -2, -1, 0, 1, and 2. There's the usual lens controls and lens memories, plus the Information page has been expanded to provide for detailed feedback about the signal and metadata.
The NZ8 includes JVC's Clear Motion Drive (C.M.D.) frame interpolation feature, 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. In general C.M.D. should be left off, unless you want film to look like video, but there's no harm in experimenting with video-based content like sports broadcasts.
The menus have been tweaked to add extra features and more detailed feedback, and 3D fans will be glad to know the format is still supported
Other features include 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.
Finally, the NZ8 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 (or equivalent), in order to actually enjoy 3D content.
The JVC DLA-NZ8 includes the usual 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, although the 7500K option was actually closer to the D65 target. Then all you need to do is select the appropriate gamma and laser power setting (low, mid or high) for your screen size and room, plus set the aperture and dynamic laser dimming control (off, mode 1 or mode 2). The measurements below were taken after the projector had been run-in for about 50 hours:
The NZ8 is delivers a very accurate image out-of-the-box. As the graph above shows, the 7500K colour temperature setting has a slight excess of blue and a slight deficit of red, giving a very minor push towards cyan. However, all the DeltaEs (errors) are below the visible threshold of three and most are below two. The 2.4 gamma setting tracks its target precisely, as do the 2.2 and 2.6 settings, if you prefer using one of those.
The out-of-the-box greyscale and colour gamut are very accurate, with errors all below the visible threshold of three
The colour performance was equally 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 precise, 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 a slight skew towards cyan caused by the greyscale, the colours all track their targets very closely.
The JVC DLA-NZ8 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 and 7500K colour temperature as a starting point, we were 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 2.4 precisely. As a result, the overall deltaE errors were all below one, which is a reference level of greyscale and gamma accuracy.
After calibration, the greyscale, gamma and colour gamut were all delivering a reference level of accuracy with errors below one
After tweaking the greyscale, the colour temperature of white was now hitting the industry standard of D65. All the colours were now in line with their saturation targets and, after some fine tuning, the overall errors were also below one. In addition, all the colours were hitting their luminance targets precisely. So, overall, this is a reference colour performance that matches the equally impressive greyscale and gamma accuracy.
The JVC DLA-NZ8 delivers a solid set of measurements with HDR, although as always when it comes to projectors you need to manage your expectations. A display with a peak brightness of 200 nits is never going to be able to outperform one that hits 1000 nits and, by its very nature, a projector can't deliver specular highlights at a pixel level. However, if the tone mapping is applied correctly, a projected HDR image can still look superior to an SDR image and deliver most of the benefits. This is an area where JVC is particularly strong, and the combination of its projectors' inherent strengths, combined with its cutting edge Frame Adapt HDR and Theatre Optimiser features result in HDR images that are better than any of the competition.
The out-of-the-box greyscale performance is fairly accurate, although there is a deficit of blue energy which is causing a skew towards yellow. This can be addressed by simply using the white balance control to bring red and green down, thus producing a more accurate greyscale. The PQ tracking is also good, but can be adjusted by changing the HDR setting from Auto to either -2, -1, 0, 1 or 2. The benefits of JVC's Frame Adapt HDR tone mapping is hard to quantify in graphs, but very easy to see when actually watching HDR content.
The HDR greyscale and colour gamut tracking were both very good, and the NZ8's tone mapping was great at delivering punchy images
The coverage of the DCI-P3 wide colour gamut is very good, although it requires the BT.2020 (Wide) filter in the light path to achieve this performance. This filter does reduce the overall light output by around 25%, but the resulting colour performance is impressive. The NZ8 hit 98% of DCI-P3 using the xy coordinates and 97% of the uv coordinates, which drops to 90% without the filter. The saturation sweeps are excellent, with all the colours close to their targets and any errors simply due to the slight yellow push in the greyscale. Once the greyscale has been calibrated, the colour coordinates are all spot-on.
One of the big benefits of the laser light source is increased luminance, with JVC claiming a maximum output of 2,500 lumens for the NZ8. We measured a peak brightness of 150 nits on a 10% window at approximately half zoom with the filter engaged, but in reality the brightness will depend on your screen size and settings. However, this is certainly a bright projector and the good news is this luminance isn't achieved at the expense of the the contrast performance, with black levels that are at least as good as the N7. With the laser dimming turned off, the contrast measurements vary from 35,000:1 to 80,000:1, depending on the aperture size. The ANSI contrast ratio was also good at 420:1, although measurements only tell half the story and the perceived inter- and intra-frame contrast performance was excellent.
The JVC DLA-NZ8 was a stellar performer, but before discussing the picture performance, let's cover a few general areas of improvement. Since this projector uses a laser light source, it turns on and off much quicker, going from pressing the on button to a blue screen in 41 seconds. Conversely, it takes just nine seconds to go from pressing the standby button to being completely off.
The NZ8 is also extremely quiet and we measured the fan noise at just 23dB in the low laser mode, this goes to 24dB in the mid setting, and 27dB in the high option. The low setting with the aperture at -4 is capable of delivering 17fL on my screen. The mid setting is noticeably brighter but virtually the same in terms of noise, which makes it a great choice for HDR where the added brightness comes in handy. The high mode is quiet enough to actually be useful, meaning you can use it with 3D and have sufficient brightness to combat the dimming effects of the active shutter glasses. The 8K/e-shiftX device doesn't change the noise measurements when activated, but those with acute hearing might notice the change in tone caused by the higher frequency of the device compared to the fans.
The NZ8 is quiet in operation, quicker to turn on and off, fast to lock on to signals and change lens memories, and the input lag is 38ms
The addition of HDMI 2.1 has an unexpected but welcome benefit when it comes to the projector locking on to a signal. While the N7 frequently left me looking at a black screen for four or five seconds, the NZ8 locks on to a signal almost immediately. The increased processing power also means that when changing lens memories there's no longer a wait for the new setting to load, again it happens almost instantaneously.
Finally, for any gamers out there, the NZ delivers a 38ms input lag with low latency turned on. This might not be as impressive as some of the sub-10 second measurements routinely delivered by TVs these days, but it's good for a projector and results in some enjoyably responsive game play. Once you include the 4K/120Hz support and laser light source, the NZ8 makes for a great (if expensive) gaming projector.
The NZ8 delivered the kind of exceptional SDR images that I'd expect from a JVC projector, with wonderfully precise details, gorgeously accurate colours and the kind of inky blacks no other manufacturer seems capable of producing. Watching Gravity on Blu-ray revealed incredibly detailed images with remarkable contrast between the bright white of the space suits and black depths of space. The NZ8 doesn't just deliver deep blacks, it also seems more refined just above black and is able to tease out more definition among the film's star-filled vistas. This may in part be due to the improved optical light path.
The Blu-ray of Samsara boasts stunning 1080p images, and it was here that the 8K/e-shiftX proved to be an unexpected benefit. When engaged, this feature offers a choice of standard, high-res 1, and high-res 2, and while the first and last don't appear to make much difference, high-res 1 brings out all the detail in an image without adding noticeable artefacts. It's obvious that this setting must be applying some sharpening, and while I usually wouldn't condone this, the NZ8 does it so well that the results are often breathtaking. Watching the images in Samsara, you would swear blind they were native 4K rather than good-old Full HD.
The HDR performance was equally impressive, although I tended to find the auto HDR setting made the tone mapping too dark, and for me the zero setting was often the best. You may have to play with the settings, especially when watching films encoded with minimal metadata, but the results are often stunning. Watching the demo footage on the Spears & Munsil disc reveals the effectiveness of the tone mapping, and the 1000 nits content is perfectly displayed, while both the 4000 and 10000 nits content look equally as good even with some of the more challenging material. The laser dimming modes worked very well most of the time, although with white credits against a black background their dimming effect was very obvious (especially with mode 2). JVC needs to fine tune the dimming, so it isn't quite so aggressive.
Whether it's SDR, HDR or 3D this exceptional projector delivers stunning images that will please even the most demanding videophile
When it comes to films in HDR the NZ8 constantly impressed. The scene in Allied where Brad Pitt watches an air raid retains all the details in the night-time shadows, while also adding the specular highlights of flak and tracer fire in the sky. At the other end of the scale, the JVC expertly reveals all the details in Jenny Lind's dress as she stands in the spotlight singing Never Enough in The Greatest Showman. Perhaps the best example was this projector's abilities with blacks is the scene where the Apollo 11 crew go into the shadow of the room in First Man, and then the lunar surface gradually appears through the window. This was the best this scene had ever looked on a projector.
The NZ8 is one of the first projectors to support HDR10+, and interestingly most of the main HDR settings are greyed out in this mode, with the Color Profile defaulting to BT.2020 (Normal) rather than BT.2020 (Wide). Since this can't be changed, the projector doesn't use the wider colour gamut with HDR10+ content. According to JVC this was a requirement of the HDR10+ consortium, who prioritised brightness over a wider gamut. It's debatable whether most people would notice the slightly narrower colour gamut, and watching 1917 in HDR10+ looked superb. Thanks to the added dynamic metadata, the nighttime scene in the ruined village where flares illuminate the landscape often looks stunning.
Finally, the 3D performance is the cherry on a very impressive cake. While JVC has dropped the dedicated 3D picture mode it's easy to create a bespoke setting, and since the high laser mode is a viable option, the results are pleasingly bright (even when wearing the active shutter glasses). Watching Spider-Man: Far From Home reveals punchy and colourful 3D images that have plenty of depth and no sign of crosstalk. If you've got a sizeable collection of 3D discs, this awesome projector can give them a new lease of life.
JVC DLA-NZ8 4K Laser Projector Review
Should I buy one?
The JVC DLA-NZ8 is an exceptional 4K HDR projector that delivers on its promise of taking the company's existing strengths and adding a host of new cutting-edge features. The BLU-Escent laser light source brings a longer life, greater consistency and brighter images without compromising the black levels or increasing the fan noise. The native 4K images are detailed and precise, while the addition of 8K/e-shiftX helps make good content look even better. The out-of-the-box accuracy is impressive and the calibrated pictures are reference. As a result, the SDR images are superb, while the HDR performance remains class-leading thanks to JVC's HDR Frame Adapt and Theatre Optimiser features. There's even support for HDR10+, plus 3D pictures that are bright, punchy and free of crosstalk.
In terms of other features, there's the HDMI 2.1 inputs with support for 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz – the latter being good news for gamers, as is an input lag of 38ms. The projector is much faster at locking onto video signals, and changing the lens memory is quicker as well. There's an effective remote, intuitive menu system, and flexible installation – although anyone thinking of ceiling mounting should bear in mind that this beautifully engineered projector is extremely big and heavy. It's also expensive, although in fairness so is all of JVC's new line-up, and interestingly the NZ8 finds itself with no direct competitor. If you already own the DLA-N7 it's hard to justify the additional cost of upgrading, but if you want uncompromising performance, and you have deep enough pockets, this projector is the best in its class.
What are my alternatives?
The obvious alternative is JVC's own DLA-NZ7 which delivers most of the same features with a saving of £4,300. The brightness, contrast and 8K/e-shift aren't quite as good and there's no wide colour gamut filter (although that's not an issue with HDR10+), but otherwise it's basically the same projector. Conversely it's hard to recommend the DLA-NZ9 when you consider the NZ8 is essentially the same, making it difficult to justify the extra £9,200 for a better lens and a bit more contrast and brightness. So despite its hefty price tag, the NZ8 might actually be the performance sweet spot in JVC's new range of 4K laser projectors.
Since the NZ8 has no direct competitor, the main alternatives are the two Sony 4K HDR laser projectors that sit either side of the JVC in terms of price. There's the VPL-VW790ES, which costs £11,999 and offers 2,000 lumens, HDR10/HLG support and cutting-edge image processing. However, it lacks JVC's superior blacks, dynamic tone mapping, 4K/120Hz support and many of its other features. The VPL-VW870ES costs £24,995 and despite its higher price tag doesn't really offer anything new compared to the VW790ES, aside from a slightly brighter output of 2,200 lumens. As a result, the JVC NZ8 is clearly the better choice.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
3D Picture Quality
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
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