JVC X70 D-ILA Projector Review

It's that time of year again for JVC to launch their latest Projectors - have they dropped the ball yet?

by Phil Hinton
Home AV Review

19

Reference Status
JVC X70 D-ILA Projector Review
SRP: £6,999.00

Introduction

JVC have much to prove this year as the projector market in the last few months has seen a boatload of new 3D machines from budget level to the high-end. There seems to be something for everyone at any price level and in direct competition with the JVC DLA-X70 is the Sony VPL-VW95ES we reviewed last week. Indeed, we took the opportunity to run some side by side testing with both models which proved to be quite enlightening. Sony have stepped up to the mark with the VW95ES and it certainly offers some long needed competition to JVC’s models.

It has been a great year for 3D projectors, even if the public have yet to show any real interest in the technology. Almost all the latest projectors launched now offer big screen 3D, with some obviously doing the job better than others. With any new technology it always takes a couple of generations to get it performing to a high standard and as we are now in JVC’s second generation of models we expect that there should be some improvements with 3D playback, as there are no models out there (bar some expensive DLPs) that are either completely free from artefacts or can do both 2D and 3D to an extremely high standard. That also seems to be the crux of the matter at this price point, these models must offer exceptional 2D performance and also try and replicate that with their 3D output. Gone are the days that 3D is seen as just an add on feature. These days there is a growing market of enthusiasts taking 3D just as seriously as the 2D image quality. You can buy some budget projectors that do a very good job with 3D, I am thinking about the DLP models, but they are nowhere close to offering the kind of 2D picture quality that home cinema enthusiasts demand at this price.

So, have JVC managed to retain their Reference badge which they have claimed for the last three years, or has the competition finally provided an all-round challenge to the current king of the castle?

Design and Connections

This year’s chassis design is identical to the outgoing DLA-X7 as JVC tend to have a two year cycle in design and layout of their projectors. The design is large in size with a wide and chunky body which feels heavy and well built. Indeed, build quality is excellent and adds to the looks of what is a serious piece of kit. The body is only available in Black at this market point (the X30 is available in white) but that suits the type of environment where this projector performs at its best, in completely blacked out rooms. Unlike the X30, this model does keep the motorised lens cover which helps keep dust out of the optics when not in use. This might not be a feature to make or break a sale, but it is nice to see that costs are not being cut for the premium models. The lens is once again positioned in the centre of the chassis which makes installation easier and the connections are around the back, where we like them. There is not much else we can really discuss about the design of the body that we haven’t already covered in detail in last year’s reviews as the X70 wears the same body as the outgoing X7.

JVC DLA-X70R

Looking at the connections available and it might seem a little stingy that we only get two HDMI connections for HD sources, yet in most home cinema set ups that will be more than enough. Also positioned on the rear panel is the 3D transmitter interface connection, component input, RS232C control port, PC/VGA input along with triggers for controlling lenses and screens. There is also a LAN connection and the menu controls including a power button are also positioned on the rear plate.

The remote control supplied with the DLA-X70 is again almost identical to last year’s handset which is a long and slim affair with a logical key layout that is easy to learn quickly. The remote sits neatly in the hand with the important every day button presses within easy reach. Whilst it is a plastic remote, it doesn’t feel cheap and we never had any issues with sync between the handset and projector. Some of the keys have changed location with new additions replacing older and less used options from previous generations. For example there are now three keys all dedicated to the lens functions such as Lens Control, Lens Memory and Anamo (anamorphic), where the same keys were for CMD and Lens AP on last year’s model. The old Aspect and Anamo keys have also been replaced with two direct 3D controls, giving instant access to the 3D menus.

Features

The JVC DLA-X70 employs a few new features which are aimed at picture quality. The first is the rather confusingly marketed 4K E-shift. JVC haven’t done themselves any real favours with the style of marketing that has been used to explain this technology as it does immediately cause the end user, and the public in general, problems in understanding what it actually does. It is not 4K as the projector is a 1920 x 1080p model with HD D-ILA chips and not native 4K panels (like the Sony VW1000). So there is no 4K input and the projector is not a 4K projector. So what is E-Shift? Well it is a technology jointly developed with Japanese broadcaster NHK that pixel shifts an image to try and double up the resolution on screen, using a traditional 1080p display device. The image of the X70 is shifted half a pixel on the diagonal to achieve this, but it does not add or create any new detail in to the image, that would be impossible. The net effect of this technology is that images on screen should appear sharper and movement should be smoother, without over sharpening edges and adding ringing. We will fully test this in the review. We know that this feature can be switched off in the service menu of the projector and we have tested that. As the service menu entry is not encouraged and E-Shift works with 2D images out of the box as sold, that is how we will test the projector here, as sold.

JVC DLA-X70R

The next welcome addition to the JVC DLA-X70 is the new lens memory shift feature, once the preserve of just Panasonic in the projector world, we have witnessed both JVC and Sony add their own versions to their new models. On the JVC it is a fairly easy method of set up and memory save for 16:9 and then 2.35:1, and then selecting which you require via the menus and waiting on the image being processed for shift, zoom and focus. The JVC version is the slowest of all three systems I have reviewed recently, but that is no bad thing in my book as it gets the positioning and focus right on each change. You do have to exit the menu after each move, which some users may find to be a chore, but it didn’t really cause us any issues here. As a scope screen owner I see these features as a welcome addition and it allows ease of use, over the expense of an anamorphic lens and sled system. Obviously there are pros and cons to both approaches but we didn’t find any issues with brightness drop or pixel structure with the zoom. The addition of these features allows enthusiasts perhaps put off with the potential costs of adding a third party lens the ability to finally have scope and 1.85:1 material in the correct ratios, and the use of a scope screen. Of course it also allows those with restricted room width to try a constant image approach with the various memories available for storing screen sizes.

Other features to be advanced for this year’s model is an increase in claimed contrast ratio to 80,000:1 using updated D-ILA light path techniques, plus, a claimed 1200 lumens brightness. Plus the Clear Motion frame interpolation system has also received an update which is claimed to improve the motion smoothing over 4 different modes and without artefacts. We found that the first two modes worked in a reasonable manner without too much of a soap opera effect, but artefacts were still present. As with all these types of frame interpolation and motion systems it will be down to the end user to assess how useful these modes are personally.

JVC DLA-X70R

In terms of 3D the new glasses are claimed to offer a brighter image with better sync capabilities and better colour balance. The emitter is the same type of unit as seen last year with the X7 which attaches to the chassis via the 3D sync slot on the rear connections panel. We didn’t have any issues with the emitter or glasses sync’ing together correctly and no issues with lost sync or flicker. The new glasses are a slightly different design to last years, with an on/off switch and USB charging and a clearer filter on the lenses which is not as yellow as last year’s tint. Comparing the light input between the old and new models, it is clear that the newer glasses offer slightly more brightness and less of an issue with colour balance with image preset selections. Are they more comfortable? Well this is definitely a personal preference issue as I did find them a little more uncomfortable compared to last year’s glasses, but I have also heard the exact opposite point of view, so it is best to leave this one to your preference.

JVC DLA-X70R

One slight drawback we did notice using the JVC sync transmitter was that it floods the room with IR signals and as such can in some cases affect remote controls. I found this when trying to adjust volume levels on my Onkyo TX-NR5007 receiver as the Onkyo remote struggled to work when the JVC was in 3D mode. As with last year’s model the new X70 is THX certified for 3D playback with a picture preset selectable in 3D mode which approximates the THX standard of 3D, which itself mirrors the colour timing at 5ftl used in cinema playback. With 3D it is all about the brightness of the image and the THX mode is rather dim when compared to the 3D specific picture preset. However, this does help with masking the slight issues with crosstalk. I would also mention here that in the 3D mode there is excessive sharpness applied out of the box that can introduce moiré issues. Users should set the sharpness as per usual to reduce these possible issues.

Menus and set up

The menu system used by the DLA-X70 is the now familiar JVC design which has been around for at least the last two generations. The layout is logical and easy to navigate with excellent image controls available from simple Gamma selection to full on manual calibration controls.

JVC DLA-X70R

The main menu starts with the picture mode to be selected and these include Film, Cinema, Animation, Natural, Stage, 3D, THX and five User selections for custom calibration settings. We then have the Colour Profile which relates to the colour gamut used. For example Standard tracks the industry standard of Rec.709, whereas other settings offer wider gamut results. These wider gamuts are adding extra colour saturation and brightness to the primary and secondary points, which do not exist in mastered 8 bit material we watch on Blu-ray where the standards used, are Rec.709. Using these other colour profiles is certainly a subjective choice for the end user, but if you want colour to be close to how it should look and as intended, then THX and Standard are the selections to use here. Next we have the Colour Temperature selections where we have choices of presets or to manually calibrate the greyscale. Out of the box the 6500k selection gets fairly close to D65 and can be further manipulated to achieve a perfect greyscale track with a meter and software.

JVC DLA-X70R

Next we have the Dark/Light selection slider which I was a little down on last year in our review. However, this control and the new Picture Tone sliders do have a use with image presets such as the THX Picture Profile, which locks out adjustments in the advanced menus and custom selections. But with the Picture tone control we can reduce the greyscale errors using the sliders in a crude manner, which does work at reducing errors. Again the use of a meter would be advantageous here and as such, we would just calibrate a User mode, but if what we have found with the THX preset measurements is the same for the majority of sample of the X70, then some reduction of the red channel would reduce errors and make the greyscale even more accurate. The Dark/Light control can also be used to balance out the gamma as well in a similar manner. This is far from ideal and we would always advocate proper calibration, but if a user wanted to get THX mode closer and without the means to do a full calibration, these two controls allow this, whereas the advanced controls are switched off in THX. So, perhaps for some users these controls will be useful. The final controls on the main menu are the front panel adjustments (Contrast, Brightness, etc.) and then the selection for the advanced menu.

Moving to the advanced menu we have further useful picture adjustments, which will be available or not in certain picture mode selections. These range from the Sharpness controls, Noise Reduction and the custom Gamma controls. We also have access to the colour management system which is a full 3D CMS and which has again been improved it is claimed, over last year’s example. Also here in the Advanced menu are the CMD selection modes for the frame interpolation processing, along with a demo mode if required. The MPC control is for the E-Shift feature and as you would imagine, it increase and decreases the effect of the sharpening. Finally we have the manual lens aperture which has 15 stops and the lamp power settings.

JVC DLA-X70R

The major controls we are looking at when calibrating the X70 for the best possible image quality to the industry standards are the Colour Temperature Custom selection, Gamma custom selection and the CMS custom system. All three controls have had bugs present in previous generations of the JVC models, but we can report that we found no issues at all using the available controls to calibrate the projector. Whilst the colour temperature controls are on the coarse side it is still perfectly easy to get reference results and the same can be said for the custom gamma controls should you choose to use them, and the CMS had no obvious issues. JVC are certainly tying to provide a good quality suite of picture controls and in our testing and measuring we haven’t found anything to cause us concern.

JVC DLA-X70R

Other menu settings to be aware of are the set up options for us with the Lens Memory function where you can save, edit and name your memory settings. These features are straight forward to use and you should have your settings saved quickly. We also tested the accuracy of the lens memory and found that it got the positioning correct on each change which is impressive.

Out of the Box Measurements

As always in this section of the review we set out to measure each of the available picture modes and picture options to find those that are the closest to the industry standards for film and TV playback. In doing so we can quickly find what the best settings are likely to be with a display and with the contrast and brightness controls set for the review environment we can get a good idea of how close the picture settings can get to our desired goal.

With the JVC DLA-X70 we are actually given a few choices in terms of out of the box settings to use, from THX to User modes. In this section of the review we feel it is interesting enough to show just what the different settings and results are with the X70, so let’s start with the THX mode.

THX display certification, unlike ISF, comes with a factory calibrated THX picture preset which is designed to try and get as close as is possible to the picture standards. It is not a perfect preset as it is impossible to obtain reference results with a projector or TV that will be used in various environments which will affect the results seen. However, it is better than not having such a preset and relying on what TV engineers think is a good image, ignoring the industry standards along the way. It is also a good place to start for those who will eventually get their projector professionally calibrated; something we would always recommend as it is done in your room, with your sources etc. So how close is the THX mode on the JVC X70?

JVC DLA-X70R

Looking at the greyscale results first, as they are the most important to get right for the rest of the image, we can see a few errors. The most obvious is that Red is tracking around 15% too high down to 5%, with Blue and Green tracking close to each other and 5% low of our 100% mix level. Gamma is also tracking a little low and is close to 2.1 from around 30% stimulus onwards, where we would prefer to see it towards our reference of a 2.2 curve. DelatE errors, i.e. an indication of what errors will be seen by eye, is good with most points under 6, which means that we will see errors in the greyscale, especially in Red. As this is the THX mode it is a catch all preset and it would be very difficult to get reference levels of performance with it. However, onscreen with normal film and TV material there are no obvious over the top errors, although there is a slight yellow hint if we are being critical. It is possible to get better results and for an out of the box setting we have seen better in terms of results and onscreen images.

JVC DLA-X70R

Moving to the Colour Gamut results and we have again some very good results which get very close to the standards and co-ordinates. In fact apart from an undersaturation of Green and slight hue shifts for yellow and magenta, which are very difficult to notice in real world onscreen material, we are impressed with the THX preset here. Luminance results, which are one of the most important areas with colour are also almost perfect and do not add any issues such as clipping. DeltaE errors are well within acceptable results and we would be very surprised if the majority of viewers would point out any visible errors with onscreen viewing.

Now, there is a way to improve the THX results without a full calibration, if, we can accept that most samples would have the same results. The new Picture Tone sliders offer control over White, Red, Green and Blue and because the tracking results in the THX greyscale were quite linear, we could use these controls to improve the greyscale without a full calibration. So, looking at the results we measured for the THX greyscale we reduced the Red slider to see if we could bring red back towards blue and green and the 100% mix point. Obviously we had to measure the greyscale to see what was needed, so X70 owners thinking this should work for them, should be warned that there is an assumption that our results would be anywhere near another projector. This is based on measurements and is an example of what the Picture Tone control could do to improve matters, so what did we find?

JVC DLA-X70R

Whilst still not perfect or close to what could be achieved in a pro calibration, using the picture Tone control did bring our tracking closer, especially at the low end and improved our DeltaE results at the same time. So in theory anyway, the new addition could be used to improve the THX greyscale.

JVC DLA-X70R

Interestingly by using the Picture Tone control to bring the greyscale closer we also see an improvement in the hue errors of yellow and magenta. We can’t do anything about the green undersaturation but as we mentioned above, we would be extremely surprised is viewers would see this with normal film and TV material.

THX is also not the only selection of picture settings to get close to the industry standards on the DLA-X70. By selecting the User picture mode we can also choose the Colour profile of Standard and also select a custom gamma setting of 2.4 and colour temperature of 6500k. So what results did we get with this approach and is it better than THX?

JVC DLA-X70R
JVC DLA-X70R

In terms of the greyscale tracking with the custom setting of 6500k it almost mirrors the result of the THX mode, with slightly better gamma tracking. DeltaE errors are 6 or lower and with onscreen material there was a slight yellow hint but nothing that was standing out as an obvious error and as an out of the box setting it would be acceptable to use this where again we don’t think the vast majority would see any blatant errors. And as with the Greyscale the colour gamut was also identical to the THX result, so users have two options to use to get the best images out of the box and of course plenty of scope for a full calibration which we are going to look at next.

Calibrated Results

The JVC DLA-X70 features many calibration controls as we have already discussed above in the menu section of the review, so we should be able to hit reference results is everything goes as planned. Over the last few generations we have seen some issues with the CMS and Gamma controls which introduced a few slight problems if pushed. Thankfully, in our testing, we have not found any issues that would stop any qualified calibrator from obtaining reference levels of accuracy.

JVC DLA-X70R

As we can see from the tracking, DeltaE and Gamma results on the graph (and tested fully with onscreen film material in the form of reference clips we know inside out) we managed to hit reference levels of accuracy. There is no further improvement that could be made here, so moving on.

JVC DLA-X70R

The CIE chart and our results from using the CMS system (with a wider gamut and bringing the points back) mirror the reference levels of excellence from the greyscale. We managed to almost hit each co-ordinate perfectly, with extremely low DeltaE errors that show errors would be beyond human perception and almost perfect luminance results. Again, the results were checked over a number of stimulus points and we found no issues so we can happily say that the end results of a full pro calibration gets excellent results and performance.

Video Processing

The X70 was subjected to our usual set of video processing tests and performed as expected. We didn’t find any major issues with SD scaling or de-interlacing as the projector managed to produce acceptable results with good standard definition sources such as DVD. There was no ringing or haloing present with images looking reasonably sharp and free from artefacts. Motion was also handled well with no induced judder seen. The X70 was capable of showing reference video black and peak white easily without clipping. On the film detail test the X70’s performance was equally impressive, correctly locking on to the image resulting in no aliasing in the speedway seats behind the race car. Overall the SD performance was impressive.

Moving to HD sources and again the X70 handled 24p images with ease and again without induced judder and with 1080i sources we again saw no issues with the projectors performance. The CMD feature however needs to used with care as it does introduce image artefacts and the dreaded soap opera effect the higher the setting you use. This kind of video processing feature is very much down to the individual user’s preference. In our opinion we left CMD switched off for HD playback.

Picture Quality – 2D

As we would expect from a JVC projector, the X70 offers exceptional picture quality with 2D images. The addition of the E-shift device has also added a degree of sharpness but without taking anything away from the very analogue, film like image and it also seems to help with motion. We tested the X70 with the Sony VW95ES and the JVC DLA-X9 and the performance on offer with 2D images was superb and just ahead of the two comparison models. Black levels are mightily impressive as we have come to expect with no clipping of the bottom end and plenty of shadow detail on display. This provides the image with a real depth and the dynamic range is impressive to behold. The JVC continues to be the most CRT like image I have yet found with a digital projector and the X70 adds incremental improvements over the outgoing X7 and X9 in terms of visible native contrast on screen. Mixed scenes are very good with detail retained within the shadows and highlights also look detailed without clipping or early roll off.

Calibrated performance is again reference level at this market position with a perfect greyscale and very accurate colour performance which results in vivid but natural colour and excellent skin tones. The JVC surpasses the Sony VW95ES in this regard when added to the exceptional dynamic range and black performance. Don’t get me wrong, the Sony is a major improvement this year and is by far the company’s best model to date, but when compared to the JVC it just lacks that final film like look and ultimate contrast on screen. The JVC’s only real flaw is the blurring on fast moving pans, but we are also happy to report that the use of the E-shift device does seem to help improve this area of the image over the X9 when running them side by side. This was surprising but welcomed. We don’t feel that the sample and hold effect interferes in the image performance and if anything the loss of detail on pans and fast moves helps add a sense of realism over super sharp frame interpolated images of the same scenes. E-shift doesn’t stand out straight away as one would expect but on closer inspection it becomes clear that there is an improved sharpness without turning the image towards a super sharp digital look or adding unwanted ringing to fine edges. Convergence is also first class with an additional control for convergence adjustment which mirrors that seen on old CRT projectors. We didn’t have any issues with the convergence out of the box.

At this price point we simply cannot fault the exceptional image that the JVC produces for 2D material. Add in a 2.35:1 screen and the memory zoom controls and you can have an image to rival units costing many thousands more and have a fantastic cinematic image. Reference quality in our opinion, so go and test one for yourself in the best surroundings possible. You will not be disappointed.

Picture Performance – 3D

Straight away it is easy to see that the new additions to this year’s X70 in terms of 3D have made an improvement over the X7 and X9. The new glasses allow more light through and also correct the rather yellow tint seen with last year’s models when compared side by side. This allows the X70 to produce a brighter and more compelling 3D image with better colour balance performance. The new glasses are a little more cumbersome and feel a little more uncomfortable to me, but again this is a very personal issue that will be down to the individual user and their preference. The image brightness improvement is of course welcome and allows the image to stand out more, without any visible flicker in our testing. Flicker perception is of course down to the individual so again, demoing the 3D performance is recommended and if flicker is an issue try reducing the light level.

Crosstalk can be seen in the image and is more noticeable with SBS material than Frame Packed from Blu-ray. Although crosstalk can be seen from time to time and of course seems more prevalent with certain types of 3D content, it is not a deal breaker and will only be noticed on extreme parallax type shots. Indeed we only mention it to be complete in our assessment as it is not distracting or seen all the time. I would argue that the performance of the X70 is slightly better than the X7 in this regard and was the case with our testing. I have heard a few comments from some users that they feel it is the opposite, but I didn’t find that to be the case with our review sample and in our side by side assessments. It is with 3D where surprisingly, after last year’s debacle with the Sony VW90, we thought that the Sony just nips it in performance terms with 3D content over the JVC. We found this surprising. We have only seen one projector where crosstalk was genuinely absent and that cost three times the price of the JVC and didn’t have the convincing 2D performance to match the X70’s black levels and contrast. So there is no overall package which offers absolute perfection, but we found the JVC more than excellent with 3D content with the occasional issue with some visible crosstalk.

Verdict

10
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Reference black level performance
  • Reference colour and greyscale
  • Excellent shadow detail performance
  • Excellent out of the box performance
  • Excellent calibration controls
  • Memory lens function for 2.35:1
  • E-shift improves motion slightly

Cons

  • CMD functions can add artefacts and soap opera looks
  • Some crosstalk with select 3D material

JVC X70 D-ILA Projector Review

So, does the JVC offer an improvement over last year’s X7? Yes it does and adds in some interesting new features in the process. The introduction of the E-shift device is most welcome and adds a nice, subtle sharpness without adding in artefacts or ringing to fine edges. The increased native contrast and dynamic range is again exceptional on the X70 and the 2D images produced are astonishingly cinematic and rich. In out of the box or calibrated settings the image quality is still a reference point at this price level offering a performance you would be hard pushed to see on much more expensive models out there. There are drawbacks as there always are with consumer displays and the motion blur of fast moving scenes are certainly still present on the X70. However, we did find that in comparison with the X9 model, motion seemed to be improved and we suspect this is an offshoot of the E-sift technology added to this year’s range.

So does E-shift add a real 4K image? No, but it does add a nice degree of sharpness without the side effects of doing so, such as ringing or haloing to fine edges. The 2D Image produced is the still the closest to that of the old CRT projectors of the past, with excellent black levels, superb shadow detail and accurate colours and skin tones. Gradations are also well-handled with no signs of banding or artefacts and the resulting image is certainly one of the most cinematic and analogue in look, which will appeal to the vast majority of film fans out there. Where the X70 still needs to improve is with 3D and while the performance here is excellent, there are signs of crosstalk from time to time and with difficult material. We don’t see this as an issue and mention it only in being complete with our assessment of the X70.

Once more, when the chips are down JVC manage yet again to produce one of the finest home cinema projectors on the market. We think it is still the reference point for others to match or better and while Sony have come close with their VW95ES model this year, the JVC still just has the edge where it counts. Of course, with such close results we would certainly recommend that you get out and test both these projectors together and make your choice. Just be warned, it will not be easy we don’t envy anyone having to make such a decision. Reference level yet again!

Reference Status

Scores

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels

10

Colour Accuracy

.
9

Greyscale Accuracy

.
9

Image Uniformity

10

Video Processing

10

2D Picture Quality

10

3D Picture Quality

.
.
8

Features

10

Ease Of Use

10

Build Quality

10

Value For Money

10

Verdict

10
10
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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