JVC HD1 D-ILA Projector Review

AVForums has a 5 week affair which could very well become permanent with JVC's new DILA Projector...

by Phil Hinton
Home AV Review

28

Reference Status
JVC HD1 D-ILA Projector Review
SRP: £4,500.00

Introduction

If there is any product that probably doesn’t need an introduction within an AV Forums review, then it is JVC’s DLA-HD1 DILA projector. Ever since the rumour surfaced last year that JVC would be bringing its revolutionary DILA technology to the affordable end of the market, there has followed a constant flow of interest from enthusiasts. Indeed when the unit was finally launched in February it sold in record time and comments were quick to follow on the AVForums from happy end users. With such interest and the claims of black levels to rival the old guard CRT projectors we just had to have a closer look.

After a quick phone call to JVC, the unit arrived in the kind of packaging I imagine a nuclear missile would be wrapped in. On opening it was clear that the HD1 is certainly not small, however it does have a nice home theatre design which is something lower priced projectors cannot compete with. Obviously, quality optics and bulbs need room to do their thing and the size of the unit certainly gives an air of quality.

The sleek, black case measures 455 x 172 x 418mm (W x H x D), with user controls situated within a grey stripe which runs along the spine of the case, allowing access to the menu, stand by, exit and selection buttons. The unit is also not overly heavy, weighing in at just 11.6kg, and has adjustable feet for table mounting, or an option to mount on the ceiling.

At the rear of the unit are the video inputs, which boast two HDMI slots, one component, one composite and one S-Video, plus there is an RS232 connector. Around the front we have the lens, which is located centrally to the unit with two manual lens shift buttons to the bottom, and a manual zoom control around the lens, allowing a large 2x zoom range. Also included in the box is a rather plastic feeling remote control, which has every button required for everyday use laid out in a well spaced and logical way. The remote also has the ability to illuminate the buttons for use in the dark. Always a nice touch when using this projector in its optimum environment (a completely light controlled room). Rounding off the unit are the two air circulation vents at the front (which make placing the projector on a wall shelf possible without over-heating) and an air filter on the underside. This is easy to access and clean. The unit also makes changing the bulb as painless as possible with a side door giving easy access.

JVC DLA-HD1

Once out of the packaging it took under 15 minutes to get the projector aligned and adjusted for my 92” screen at a distance of 13 feet, and level with the centre of the screen. Focus and lens shift were a breeze to set up correctly, but if I had one complaint, it is the sensitivity of the horizontal and vertical shift wheels. You have to be very soft with your touch to attain the position you need. The wheels also need a fair amount of pressure to actually move, so it can become frustrating when things move further than anticipated. But once in position and correctly set up, I gave myself a pat on the back. As Forum members are probably aware, I come from the CRT projector world where set up can take many hours leading into days, so to have such ease of use, as well as such a portable and light weight machine, is a real bonus.

The HD1 is a 3 chip projector using 0.7inch DILA chips to attain a 1920 x 1080 resolution. DILA is an offshoot of the familiar LCOS technology and has developed in the higher reaches of the Home Cinema world over the last 10 or so years. The technology is similar to that used by Sony in their own configuration under the SXRD projectors, such as the VW-100 and VW-50 and it was Sony who brought the technology to the masses first with those projectors and to the £5k and under price range in the VW-50. It is obvious to conclude that JVC had seen the success of these units when bringing their product to market and after some discussion on the AV Forums and work by dealers, JVC also saw the sense to have the HD1 priced competitively to the VW-50 and give consumers a real headache when choosing which machine to go for.

The first thing I wanted to check with the review sample was convergence. Being a CRT owner and user, I am familiar with correctly setting convergence and also being susceptible to poorly adjusted units, even with a film running.

Switching to a test generated pattern at 1080i30 (1080 interlaced lines, 30 frames per second) the central area of the screen was bang on the money with only a slight ¼ pixel drift on red near the right edge of the screen. Moving the adjustable pixel controls didn’t allow any fine adjustment at the sides. Instead the whole panel moves by about ½ a pixel, so I decided the convergence was excellent for a machine which has spent much of its life on the road doing the magazine review rounds. I will also state that this machine has had a fairly hard life by the looks of it, I had to reset all the controls to factory default and the bulb had 90 hours on the clock when I switched it on, which I feel makes this review more valid than a fresh unit out of the box as the projector has had some fair run-in time.

The fact that I was about to spend 5 weeks living with the HD1 also gave me a great opportunity to see just how the product coped with everyday use. This is something we strive to do with our reviews here on the AVForums - you won’t find us reviewing sophisticated products in just a few days (or weeks in some cases). We want to live with the products and give you, the reader, an insight into what it will actually be like to live with the HD1 or any equipment we review.

First Impressions

I connected my Denon DVD1730 and Toshiba XA-1 HD DVD player to the HD1 using two HDMI cables and sat back to watch some material at factory default, without any calibration or testing of the de-interlacing and scaling in any detail. That would come later.

I started with some HD DVD material and was immediately impressed with the sharpness and detail of the image, which was free from any picture noise. Colours also looked very good out of the box with the Natural setting looking fairly accurate to the naked eye. The primary colours looked strong without being over blown and there was an obvious three dimensionality to the images being displayed. I had heard comments that the HD1 had a soft look, but to be honest I was more than impressed with the sharpness and film like nature of the picture with stunning levels of detail, especially in the shadows. This is not a soft looking projector and while not as razor sharp as a DLP with good optics, I found the HD1 gave a more pleasing and less tiring image than most, and looks far more filmic than any digital projector can be expected to look at this price point.

So, I hear you ask, how do the black levels look to someone who lives with CRT projection? In a word, stunning! I really did want to pick holes in the claims of such a high contrast ratio and true black levels that many who have never seen an excellent CRT machine were shouting about. But I have to eat some humble pie here. While there are some small issues such as a slight light spill effect which never allows a true deep inky black on a full black video field being projected, when calibrated and watching film material the JVC is as good as my Barco G808 and the JVC is certainly more capable of accurate reproduction of things like the star field at the beginning of Star Wars. Where the CRT has lovely blacks, the stars also don’t look very bright or realistic. Give the HD1 the same scene and it excels with comparable black levels but stronger and brighter stars thanks to its huge contrast ratio and lack of any iris system.

JVC DLA-HD1

Another obvious stand out for me is the amount of shadow detail available in scenes with both black and light material. For example, chapter 15 of Gladiator on Region 1 DVD upscaled by the Toshiba to 1080i. At the start of that chapter there is a Roman guard in full armour hidden in the dark, on the right side of the screen, with some bright sunlight falling in the background area of that scene on the left and central. On the Barco G808 you can just make out this guard, but there is no detail to extract thanks to a halo around the brighter light in the scene (this is a well know side effect of CRT). However switch to the HD1 and the guard is instantly recognisable and you can even see detail on his armour, while the bright light in the scene looks further back in the image and adds real depth. This, remember, is factory default settings on the HD1, and it instantly gives real depth to the images. There is nothing flat about the pictures this machine throws.

I don’t want to upset too many CRT owners with my comments, here. I am comparing the JVC to my Barco G808. I have seen some 9” CRTs which perform to a far higher level, but obviously on a higher price level as well. Considering the HD1’s ease of use, set up and the overall quality of the out of the box images, I think even the old guard 9 inchers have a real competitor at last.

Test Results

Once I had played with the HD1 for a few weeks and put on another 30 hours watching a wide range of material, it was time to do some real testing and calibration. There have been a few comments from some sources that the brightness uniformity across the screen can see the far edges looking brighter than the centre of the screen on a black field; however no matter what setting I used on this machine, which now had 120 hours on the clock, it did not display any noticeable uniformity issues.

Next was to set up our tests using a Sencore VP401 pattern generator, a tripod with a Spyder TV Colorimeter connected to a laptop running Colorfacts 7.0 Professional software.

We started by unplugging the HD DVD and DVD players and testing the projector with the test pattern generator feeding 8 bit RGB 4:4:4. Looking at overscan first, we began with an HDMI connection and ran the Pixel Crop test pattern across resolutions from 1080i30 down to 480i30 including all PAL50Hz options. No overscan issues were apparent with 1080i sources but as we worked down from 720 to 480 we noted steadily increasing levels of uneven overscan. From 720 to 480 there was a definite 2% overscan on the right at 720 and 5% at 576 and 480.

To test the scaling of the Gennum VXP processor via HDMI we moved to a multi-burst test pattern and again moved through the resolutions as described above. At 1080i via HDMI the black and white single lines representing the highest frequency in the multi-burst were perfectly rendered showing that a true 1:1 pixel mapping had been achieved and confirming that there was no unwanted overscan in any direction.

Edge transitions looked excellent with no obvious enhancement or video noise even at the high frequencies, all lines were solid and a good start for the HD1. As we started to move down the resolutions certain issues began to become apparent. Some were surprising. At 720 60/50hz you could start to see some ringing around vertical edges and some blurring starting to show in the higher frequencies, but the performance was still what we would expect from the quality of processing used. However as we descended to 576 50/25 the ringing increased and there was a distinct level of blurring and varying line width in the high frequency portion of the multiburst.

The disappointing scaling led us to run some more tests, which revealed a number of other SD processing issues. When using a 4:3 linearity test pattern we found that the anamorphic stretch was not handled evenly across the screen, with content in the lower right quite obviously showing more vertical stretch. When coupled with the uneven overscan this translated to a visibly distorted image which was quite disappointing for a fixed pixel display!

Additionally we found that when viewing static diagonal line patterns, there were noticeably more jaggies with interlaced input than when feeding the projector with a progressive version of the same pattern. There should have been no difference here, so this is something else to consider when deciding what input to feed the projector with.

Switching to the component input we ran the same tests again and it became very apparent that the overscan issue was really starting to let the side down. At 1080 there was a slight 1 pixel move to the left, at 720 it was 3% to the left, at 576 it was 2% left and 3% right which was very surprising. But it didn’t really improve from there as the 480 resolution lost 4% from the left, bottom and right of the screen. It is a shame that JVC have not allowed any user control for the overscan settings, like other manufacturers at cheaper price points.

Moving onto the multiburst pattern again and we began to see some issues with high frequency noise as we moved down the resolutions. From 576 50hz down the highest (i.e. finest) lines became very noisy indeed, with some evident dithering noise. Strangely, using the sharpness control allowed some control of this noise, which while useful to know, is not recommended.
In concluding this round of tests, we certainly saw some issues which were surprising with the component input, and the overscan being particularly disappointing, with no way to manually adjust it. With no issues over HDMI at 1080, we would recommend using this input for your material and upscaling with your DVD player as this displayed no problems whatsoever and the scaling was certainly excellent at this resolution.

JVC DLA-HD1

Moving on and we set the Spyder TV colorimeter on the tripod and loaded up ColorFacts to measure the primary and secondary colours, greyscale, gamma and colour temperature.

The HD1 uses a 200watt UHP lamp with special colour filters to take away unwanted portions of the colour spectrum, which allows the colour reproduction to look like a more expensive Xenon lamped machine. This could have reduced the light output of the projector but we found the HD1 more than bright enough on the 90” screen used for testing. The red and blue primary colours are slightly oversaturated, while the Green could be considered quite oversaturated when compared to the target HD colour gamut. The secondary colours are not that far away from target and, perhaps more importantly, lay exactly where expected with reference to the projectors white point and primary colours. This told us that there was a good chance the projector had accurate colour decoding.

Colour temperature before Colour temperature after
JVC DLA-HD1
JVC DLA-HD1
RGB levels before RGB levels after
JVC DLA-HD1
JVC DLA-HD1
Gamma curve before Gamma curve after
JVC DLA-HD1
JVC DLA-HD1
Unfortunately the HD1 offers no colour management adjustments for the primary and secondary colours to match the colour spaces defined in the various video standards. Thankfully, however, colours on screen do not look overly saturated. We noted that the factory setting is not that far from the magic D65 setting, and with some careful adjustments, could be improved upon still further.
With some calibration tweaks you can see that the RGB levels could be brought in line, indicating accurate tracking of D65 at all intensities (although if you look at the before image you can see it wasn’t that far off to start with), and the Gamma is not far away from the desired 2.2 curve.
The out of the box settings of the JVC are commendable and pretty close. Yet a proper calibration really does bring out the very best of this projector (even without total access to colour space controls) and adds even more accuracy to the images on display.

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Stunning picture quality with black levels that leaves the competition standing.
  • Sleek design.
  • Excellent HD scaling via HDMI.
  • Easy set up.
  • Very accurate Grayscale tracking.
  • Good colour reproduction.
  • Colour Temp close to D65 out of the box.
  • Relatively quiet in low lamp mode.

Cons

  • No colour management controls.
  • Issues with component scaling and overscan with non HD resolutions.

JVC HD1 D-ILA Projector Review

So once calibrated and after running our tests, we sat down to be blown away with a stunning representation of HD pictures in the form of King Kong on HD DVD. As Kong finds his sweetheart after breaking out of the theatre building, the surroundings are dark with just the street lights present. The level of detail on Kong’s fur, even in the shadows, is breathtaking and even objects like the traffic light outside the Woolworths building stand out with stunning clarity, adding depth to the image that is truly cinematic. As they head off down the dimly lit street, the parked cars sparkle with the little streams of street lights, and the shadow detail again stands out as being exemplary. Colours also look stunning on screen and although they sometime looks a tad over saturated, it is not enough to distract you from the movie. What truly makes this projector stand out from other similarly priced units is the total filmic look, and stunning black levels. The competition better be running scared! Blacks really are close to being perfect and the JVC lives up to the PR promises. The HD1 really does produce a great black performance compared to the competition.

Reference Status

Final thoughts

With any projection device you will have compromises in certain areas of the technology to think about. Whether that is rainbows with single chip DLP or the lacking blacks on even the best LCDs out there. The JVC DLA-HD1 has some issues to think about just like any other unit. The poor component performance and overscan errors are annoying and a calibration tool like that implemented in the HD1’s big brother would have been nice. If you strive for a constant height 2.35:1 set up, the JVC will need an outboard scaler to achieve the picture tweaks desired. Also the remote control feels a little cheap. But you know what? I really don’t consider those points to be real problems for the HD1. The HDMI performance at 1080 is stunning and the picture is one of the most cinematic I have seen from any projector at the price point, with good sharpness and stunning detail. I think the perfect set up would include the JVC and an outboard scaler to erradicate those small criticisms I have.

I have no hesitation to say that at this price point the JVC is THE projector to beat. It offers everything you need for a truly epic cinematic performance and I want one for the Reference Review system. I don’t think I can say any better than that - it is reference status!

Scores

Features

.
.
.
.
.
5

Ease Of Use

.
.
.
7

Build Quality

.
.
8

Value For Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
8

2D Picture Quality

.
.
8

Video Processing

.
.
.
7

Image Uniformity

.
.
.
7

Greyscale Accuracy

.
.
8

Colour Accuracy

.
.
.
7

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels

.
9
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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