JVC X55 DILA Projector Review

AVForums takes a look at JVC's brand new mid-range projector

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JVC X55 DILA Projector Review
SRP: £4,999.00

Introduction

When JVC announced their new projector lineup at the end of last year, they had a couple of surprises in store. The first was that unusually they would be using the same chassis design for a third year, as opposed to the normal two-year life cycle. The second surprise was that they would be releasing a new model called the DLA-X55, to fit between the entry level DLA-X35 and the high-end DLA-X75. The new projector would include many of the features found on the X75, including a Colour Management System (CMS), high precision pixel adjustment and JVC's e-Shitft2 device, but at a more accessible price of £4,999. Obviously to hit this price point JVC have had to drop a few features found on the X75 such as THX and ISF certification, the 255 screen adjustment modes, the xenon lamp modes and the motorised lens cover. However all of these features are hardly essential and most can be mitigated by a professional calibration. In fact the only real difference in terms of image performance is that the X55 has a claimed native contrast ratio of 50,000:1, compared to the 90,000:1 claimed for the X75. However given that even JVC's entry level projectors offer black levels that are the envy of the industry, if the X55 can deliver in the key area of image accuracy, it could be a very strong contender indeed. In fact with only Sony's slightly long-in-the-tooth VPL-VW95 currently competing at the same price point, the X55 could have the market to itself. So let's see if JVC have delivered the goods yet again.

Design and Connections

JVC DLA-X55R

The X55 uses exactly the same chassis as the X35 and, as we mentioned in the introduction, this is the third year that JVC have used this design. The chassis is the one area where you can see that JVC have obviously cut a few corners on the X55 when compared to the X75. So since it uses the X35 chassis there's no motorised lens cover and the matte plastic casing comes in a choice of either black or white. The chassis measures 455mm x 179mm x 472mm (WxHxD) in size and weighs in at 15.1kg. The lens remains centrally mounted, with exhaust ports on the left and right edges of the body and there are four adjustable feet underneath for accurate table top mounting.

JVC DLA-X55R

Along with the chassis, the connections at the rear are also the same as the X35, with two HDMI ports, one component input, PC/VGA input, RS232C control port, a LAN socket, a 3D emitter port, a powered trigger and a remote jack. The RS232 connector and the LAN port can both be used for system control. Underneath the inputs is the power connector and to the right of this are manual controls to access the menu system, in case you lose the remote.

The remote control supplied with X55 is the same plain black plastic design used with the X35. It includes a backlight and the key layout remains logical, it sits comfortably in the hand and the important buttons are within easy reach. There are buttons 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, as well as directly accessing the Gamma, Colour Temp, Colour Space and CMD controls. The big difference between the X35 remote and the one provided with the X55 is that the latter includes a button marked MPC (Multiple Pixel Control), which controls the e-Shift2 feature.

JVC DLA-X55R
JVC DLA-X55R

This year JVC have introduced their new 3D glasses and RF emitter, which is a definite improvement over the previous large and rather unsightly IR version. The new emitter 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 new glasses (PK-AG3) are lighter than last year’s model and have large lenses which offer a wide field of view and sit over prescription glasses. They also let in a reasonable amount of light and are free of any obvious tinting.

Menus and Setup

Setting up the X55 is easy enough, thanks to the generous amount of zoom and shift available and whilst the panel alignment was good on our sample, if you need to make any adjustments the X55 includes the high precision pixel alignment found on the X75 and X95. The menu system on the X55 is essentially the same as the one found on the X75 and X95, with a few minor differences. JVC’s implementation of their menu system is excellent; it is sensibly laid out, intuitive to use and easy to read.

There are six main pages within the menu hierarchy, Picture Adjust, Input Signal, Installation, Display Setup Function and Information. The Picture Adjust menu contains all the controls relating to the image, such as Picture Mode, Colour Profile, Colour Temp, Gamma, Dark/Bright Level, Picture Tone, Contrast, Brightness, Colour and Tint.
JVC DLA-X55R
JVC DLA-X55R
There is also an Advanced section within the Picture Adjust menu and here you can adjust the Noise Reduction controls and set the Custom Gamma. It is here that you can also access the Colour Management System (CMS) and the Multiple Pixel Control (MPC). There are also controls for the Clear Motion Drive (CMD), the 16-step Lens Aperture, the Lamp Power and for naming the User modes. The X55 has five User modes, just like the X35, whilst the X75 and X95 both have ten.

JVC DLA-X55R
JVC DLA-X55R

The Colour Temp control offers a choice of a series of Preset colour temperatures or up to three Custom settings that use a two-point White Balance control. There is also a Custom Gamma control where you can choose between a series of preset gamma curves or create a Custom setting that can be adjusted. The combination of Colour Temp and Gamma controls should allow a professional calibrator to produce a very accurate greyscale and gamma performance from the X55.

JVC DLA-X55R
JVC DLA-X55R

One of the big selling points of the X55 is the inclusion of the full Colour Management System (CMS) which is found on the higher X75 and X95 models but is missing on the entry level X35. This feature gives a professional calibrator control over the Hue, Saturation and Brightness of the three primary and three secondary colours, allowing them to accurately set the colour gamut to match the industry standards. Another interesting new addition is the Environmental Setting control, which allows you to enter your screen size, viewing distance and wall colour. The marketing materials claim that the X55 will then adjust the image to suit your environment but in testing we were unable to see any visible difference regardless of the settings we chose.

JVC DLA-X55R
JVC DLA-X55R

One handy feature that JVC introduce with their previous generation of projectors is the lens memory function, which is particularly useful for owners of 2.35:1 screens, who can now save up to 5 memories to store multiple aspect ratios. There is very little brightness drop in zooming like this and as a result the functionality has almost completely removed the need for an expensive anamorphic lens. The implementation has been refined with the latest generation and whilst better, the change between ratios is still a little slow compared to the Panasonic system. For those who want to stick with their existing anamorphic lens, the X55 still has the stretch facility on board and there is also a pincushion adjustment for use with a curved screen.

The X55 includes the high precision pixel adjustment feature that had previously only been included on JVC's high-end models. This feature allows for very precise adjustments of up to 1/16th of a pixel and over a large number of zones, so if there is any panel misalignment you can correct it perfectly across the entire screen area. There is also a Screen Correction feature which allows you to match the X55 to your particular make of screen. The X55, like the X35, has three choices, whilst the X75 and X95 both have 105 choices. Finally there is also the 3D Setting sub-menu which provides controls for 3D Format selection, 2D to 3D Conversion, Parallax control, Crosstalk Cancel, Intensity and Sub Title Adjust.

e-shift2

JVC have been a little disingenuous in the marketing of their new projectors by giving the impression they are 4K capable, which isn't strictly true. The confusion surrounds the e-shift2 technology which is used to double the pixel count by shifting the image diagonally within the optical path. However despite the inclusion of this technology, the X55 still uses three 1920 x 1080 D-ILA chips and not native 4K chips. It is also restricted in that it cannot be fed a 4K video feed and cannot display a real 4K image. That’s not to say that e-shift2 isn't a nice addition, it actually works very well and produces some very good results in terms of image quality. However you can't add what isn't there, so it is best to remember that everything you are looking at is being scaled up to the higher resolution.

JVC DLA-X55R

This year JVC have made some changes to their e-shift2 technology and have included a menu system and provided the option to switch it off, which you could only do last year by entering the service menu. In the MPC sub-menu you are given a choice of profiles as part of the e-shift2 system and these are - Film, High Resolution, HD, SD, Dynamic and Off. Under each of these settings you then have options for Enhance, Dynamic Contrast and Smoothing. Each selection adjusts the perceived sharpness of the image and addresses different image frequencies to figure out where to apply some sharpening or raised contrast. This is very similar to Sony's Reality Creation or Panasonic's Detail Clarity processor, the only difference is that this works in conjunction with the higher resolution created by the e-shift2 device.

The ability to turn off the e-shift2 device provides us with an opportunity to directly compare its effect on the image, something we couldn't do last year. The first thing we noticed was that you could hear the e-shift2 device in action when it was on, so it does add slightly to the general fan noise, although overall the X55 is still a quiet projector. We found that choosing the Film option provided an ideal balance of sharpening and resolution enhancement along with improved motion handling. We couldn't see any obvious ringing or noticeable artefacts, just a detailed and very film-like image. However in the other settings it was obvious that processing was being applied and in addition motion took on an overly smooth appearance, similar to the effect found with the CMD feature. Since the default setting is with MPC set to High Resolution, we would recommend immediately changing the setting to Film and always using that setting for the best results.

Basic Set-Up Results

For our basic setup we chose the Cinema Picture Mode, which used the Cinema Colour Profile, the Normal Gamma and the 6500K Colour Temperature setting. We then set the MPC control to Film, turned the CMD off, closed the Lens Aperture (-15), left the Lamp Power on Low and set the HDMI Input to Super White. We also moved the Brightness control up to 3 because at the default setting of zero it was crushing the blacks slightly.

JVC DLA-X55R
JVC DLA-X55R

As you can see above the greyscale performance is almost identical to the default Normal setting, with an excess of red and gamma hitting 2.2 exactly. The big difference is in terms of the colour gamut, which is improved significantly over the Natural mode, with all the colours close to their targets. Red is over-saturated which is in turn affecting magenta but overall this is a very good preset performance and thanks to the inclusion of a Colour Management System (CMS) we would expect to improve this further.

Calibrated Measurements

In creating the final calibrated setting, we used the User 1 Picture Mode and chose the Cinema Colour Profile and a Custom Gamma setting with the 2.4 curve selected. We also chose a Custom Colour Temperature to access the two-point white balance control and a Custom setting on the CMS.

JVC DLA-X55R

As you can see in the graph above after only a few minutes we had an absolutely reference performance in terms of greyscale and gamma. All three primary colours are tracking exactly at our target of 100 and the DeltaEs (errors) are all less than 0.5, which is essentially perfect. The same is true for the gamma which is measuring at our target of 2.4 and overall this is a superb performance from the X55.

JVC DLA-X55R

The already reasonably accurate Cinema Colour Profile improved still further once we had calibrated the greyscale and on the CIE Chart you can see that the colour temperature of white is hitting the industry standard of D65 exactly. Thanks to the inclusion of a CMS we were able to improve the accuracy still further, resulting in a reference colour performance with all the colours hitting their targets for Rec.709 precisely. There was still a tiny hue error in blue that we couldn't quite get rid of but no one would ever be able to see that and otherwise this was an exceptional colour performance from the X55.

Note: Our first review sample had a restricted colour gamut that resulted in errors to green that we were unable to correct with the CMS. It appeared that there was a bug in the software that was under-saturating green and limiting the effectiveness of the CMS. Since the inclusion of a CMS is one of the major selling points of the X55, it was vital that this worked properly. We reported the problem to JVC immediately and they sent a replacement sample to us the next day. As you can see from the graphs above, there were no problems with the second sample and it delivered a reference performance. Since there have been no reports of similar problems, it would appear that our first sample was faulty, which is unfortunate but bound to happen on occasion with any mass-produced consumer product. At least it shows that JVC aren't sending out 'golden samples' and we were pleased to see them respond to the problem as quickly as they did.

JVC DLA-X55R

We measured the CIE tracking of the X55 at different saturation levels using 25% sweeps and the results are shown in the graph above. As you can see the overall performance is excellent with the majority of the colours tracking at or very close to their targets, apart from a slight kink in green at 75% saturation.

Brightness, Black Levels and Dynamic Range

If there are two areas where JVC projectors reign supreme, it's black levels and contrast ratios, and in general we find that the numbers quoted by the company actually reflect reality. JVC claimed a native contrast ratio of 50,000:1 for the X55 and we actually measured it at 35,000:1, which is excellent. The blacks produced by the projector were superb, measuring 0.01 cd/m2, and the resulting dynamic range was impressive. We also measured 18 foot Lamberts on our screen with the lamp power on low and lens aperture wide open which equates to a calibrated output of 600 lumens. That is certainly bright enough for our pitch black environment and in fact we closed the aperture to the minimum setting and still measured 12 foot Lamberts off the screen. In 3D mode with the lamp on high power we measured the X55 at around 900 lumens, although there is obviously a lot more noise from the fans.

Video Processing

As we have come to expect from JVC projectors the video processing was excellent and the X55 passed every one of our standard tests. It fully reproduced the SMPTE 133 test for both PAL and NTSC, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. With the video deinterlacing tests the results were also excellent and the X55 was equally impressive with the film detail test, correctly locking on to the test images. In the cadence tests the X55 also performed flawlessly, correctly detecting the 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format as well as the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. The X55 also had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, which was always clearly readable without any shredding.

The X55 was equally as impressive in the tests using high definition content and with the player set to 1080i the X55 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 X55 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 X55 wasn't clipping the three primary colours either.

Finally there is JVC’s Clear Motion Drive (CMD) which is their attempt to smooth motion by creating additional frames using frame interpolation. In general such features will ruin the film-like quality of movies and make them look like video; so our advice is to leave it off. Having said that, if you watch a lot of fast moving sports, shot on video, then the CMD function can come in useful to improve the motion handling. There is one other useful function within the CMD controls and that is Inverse Telecine. This function uses 2:3 pull down on film material encoded at 60Hz in order to reproduce the original 24p frame capture and thus reduce judder. If you have a large collection of NTSC DVDs you might find this feature on the X55 useful.

Picture Quality - 2D

There are a number of factors that go into making a great 2D image and if a projector succeeds in effectively combining them, the results can be wonderful. The X55 is one such projector, combining all the important elements of a great image and delivering one of the most affecting and film-like images that you will see at this or many other price points. First of all the deep blacks, wide dynamic range and impressive contrast ratio combine to deliver an image that has real impact. The dark scenes are truly dark but without losing shadow detail and there is also plenty of brightness, resulting in dynamic contrasts within the picture. The perfect greyscale and gamma also combine to deliver smooth transitions from black to white without any discolouration. Finally the colours need to be accurate and thanks to the inclusion of a CMS the X55 has this covered, with accurate and natural colours. With this combination of factors, whatever you are watching will look great but once you add in the excellent video processing, then regardless of whether the content is standard or high definition, the X55 can deliver the goods. The inclusion of e-shift2 is just the icing on the cake, resulting in a lovely detailed image but also delivering well defined motion that is more reminiscent of DLP.

We have spent the last few weeks watching our way through the recently released Bond Blu-ray box set and the majority of the high definition transfers are excellent, perfectly capturing the original cinematography. The X55 has handled all the movies superbly, delivering the kind of beautiful film-like images we have come to expect from JVC. Thanks to the e-shift2 device the images had a lovely detailed appearance that made it hard to believe that some of the films were over 40 years old. The Lens Memory was also extremely useful, allowing us to move from the 1.66:1 aspect ratio of the early Connery movies to the 1.85:1 ratio of the first two Moore films to 2.35:1 widescreen glory of the rest. Over the course of 22 films the X55 didn't put a foot wrong, rendering the films perfectly, showing up any limitations in the original photography and revealing some absolutely stunning detail in all those exotic locations and gigantic sets. It's a testament to how well the X55 performed that we thoroughly enjoyed our Bond-fest, relishing the accurate and natural colours and wonderful blacks and shadow detail. There's no doubt that if you love films and you have a light controlled room, the X55 will be hard to beat, except perhaps by another JVC - simply awesome.

Picture Quality - 3D

It would be fair to say that the 3D performance of JVC's projectors last year fell behind that of their peers and the images were sometimes marred by excessive crosstalk. Thankfully JVC have been working hard on improving the 3D performance and the X55 showed that they have clearly succeeded. There is no question that the 3D delivery this year is a definite improvement and the X55 delivered an excellent overall performance. The combination of the new glasses and the 1,200 lumen bulb resulted in bright and accurate 3D images that delivered plenty of impact. Thanks to the inclusion of excellent calibration controls it is possible to calibrate a surprisingly accurate 3D image that still retained sufficient brightness. Despite the e-shift2 device being bypassed when watching 3D content, the X55's use of active shutter meant that it still delivered full 1080p images that displayed plenty of detail. Motion handling was also very good and the result was an enjoyably immersive 3D experience that was free of any distracting artefacts.

We started by watching some scenes from our standard 3D 'torture test' Happy Feet Two and the X55 acquitted itself admirably, rendering the black penguins against the white snow with the minimum of crosstalk. In fact it was one of the best performers we've seen in this test since the Sim2 3D-S and the Sony VW1000. After that we watched a couple of new 3D arrivals starting with the stop-motion feature ParaNorman. The X55 did a fantastic job of delivering the 2.35:1 3D image and beautifully captured the exquisite stop-motion animation and gorgeous model sets. Next up was some live action 3D courtesy of the brutal Dredd and once again the X55 was a stellar performer, capturing the gritty 'Scope' reality of the native 3D photography but also rendering the 'slo-mo' sequences in all their hypnotic beauty. The X55 is a fantastic all round 3D performer and if you're a fan of stereography, the latest JVC certainly won't disappoint.

Verdict

9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Reference black level performance
  • Superb dynamic range and contrast ratio
  • Excellent shadow detail performance
  • E-shift improved and can be turned off
  • Reference greyscale and gamut after calibration
  • Superb 2D images with a very ‘filmic’ look
  • Bright images, even in 3D mode
  • Excellent 3D performance
  • RF emitter and glasses included
  • Impressive video processing
  • Lens memory works well
  • Clear Motion Drive can be turned off
  • Full anamorphic control for an external lens
  • Inclusion of a 12V trigger terminal
  • RS232 and LAN system control
  • Excellent set of features

Cons

  • Build quality could be better in places

JVC X55 DILA Projector Review

The introduction of the DLA-X55 in the current economic climate could be considered something of a gamble on the part of JVC, especially as Sony have decided not to replace their VPL-VW95 with a newer model. However, JVC's courage has been rewarded thanks to a projector that really delivers in all the key areas, offering a level of performance previously unheard of in the sub-£5,000 price bracket. Whilst the use of the X35 chassis and remote control provide examples where JVC have cut costs to hit the lower price point, the X55 still delivers in the areas that count. The menu system includes the majority of features found on the more expensive X75 and the inclusion of a full CMS means that the X55 can be calibrated to a reference standard.

In fact we managed to get a near flawless performance from the X55 in terms of greyscale and colour accuracy. The video processing was also up to JVC's usual high standards and the e-shift2 feature worked extremely well in Film mode, giving people their first taste of higher resolution projection at a previously unheard of price point. As if the resolution, accuracy and processing weren't enough, the X55 also delivered the kind standard-setting blacks, contrast ratio and shadow detail that we expect from JVC. The result of all these factors was a detailed 2D image that delivered impact and retained a lovely film-like quality, regardless of your source material. The motion handling on the X55 was also very impressive, with the projector rendering 24p exceptionally well and the e-shift2 feature giving movement a clarity more reminiscent of DLP than D-ILA.

The inclusion of a lens memory feature is a real boon for owners of 2.35:1 screens, allowing them to easily move between different aspect ratios and there are a host of other features including pixel and screen adjustments that allow you to fine tune the X55 for your specific viewing environment. JVC have worked hard to improve the 3D performance on their projectors and this has paid dividends with three dimensional images that are bright, detailed and largely free of crosstalk. The addition of the new glasses and RF emitter are also a nice touch that round off a superb projector package that's difficult to beat. In fact, we can't think of another projector that comes close to the DLA-X55 in terms of both performance and price and for that reason it's the worthy winner of an AVForums Best Buy award.

Best Buy

Scores

3D Picture Quality

10

Features

.
9

Ease Of Use

10

Build Quality

.
9

Value For Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9

2D Picture Quality

10

Video Processing

10

Image Uniformity

10

Greyscale Accuracy

.
9

Colour Accuracy

.
9

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels

10
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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