InFocus SP8602 vs. JVC DLA-RS15
Last year we loved the InFocus SP8602's predecessor, and we had plenty of praise of the older version of the JVC DLA-RS15. In fact we had an IN83 vs. DLA-RS10 comparison last year. This year the comparison between the "entry level" JVC RS15, and the completely redesigned InFocus SP8602 results in some very different conclusions. It should be noted that the JVC DLA-RS15 is sold by their Pro group, and the virtually identical JVC DLA-HD550, is sold by the JVC Consumer division. While there is a very slight spec difference between the two, perhaps the most significant difference is that the JVC RS15's trim is gold vs. the HD550's silver.
6/4/2010 - Art Feierman
InFocus SP8602 vs. JVC RS15 Projector Overview
Ladies and Gentlemen! Tonight's contest is between InFocus'es newly launched heavyweight of their home theater projector lineup - the SP8602, and what is technically JVC's "light weight" (in that it's their least expensive) projector. There is, however, nothing lightweight about the RS15's performance, it's a slugger in its own right. The InFocus SP8602 won a Best In Class - Runner-up award. Impressive! The JVC RS15 received only a Hot Product award, but in fairness, you have to remember that the RS15's two "bigger brothers" - the RS35 - received Best In Class, and the RS25, tied the InFocus with a Runner-up award.
These two projectors are markedly different. The InFocus SP8602 is a single chip DLP home projector while the JVC DLA-RS15 projector sports 3 LCoS panels (which they call D-iLA, much as Sony calls their LCoS panels SXRD). Both, however are extremely impressive, and excellent overall.
We've got one attractive projector here - the glossy black finished (with a touch of gold trim) in the JVC RS15. The InFocus SP8602, on the other hand, looks a lot better when the room's lights are off. The SP8602 has a very industrial look to it, done in medium and dark grays. It almost looks like a giant ice cream sandwich, but for the colors. The SP8602 is only pretty when the lights are off, and the projector is working!
Getting past the look, let's start at the front of these very different projectors. The InFocus'es lens is manual, and centered. Controls for the lens, including lens shift are hidden behind the quick release top cover. The JVC DLA-RS15, by comparison is all power - focus, zoom and lens shift. In addition the JVC's zoom lens has an awesome 2:1 zoom ratio which is about as good as it gets in terms of placement flexibility. The InFocus, typical of DLP projectors has a lot less range, only 1.5, although that is pretty good among the DLP projectors out there.
Personally I am a fan of power focus, especially if mounting the projector pretty far back. I know I'm going to get just that much more perfect a focus, if I'm standing 8 inches from the screen while focusing, rather than standing on a ladder 10 - 15 feet back.
That takes us to the connection panels. Here you'll find a couple of notable differences. The greatest difference is that the JVC lacks an analog computer input. Although there are work arounds with external devices, or you can feed the RS15 an HDMI signal if your computer has one, for many, this is just a pain in the butt. I use computers with my projectors in both rooms, fortunately, I'm a Mac guy, so when I had the RS15 (and RS10 before it) for review, I would hook up my MacBook using HDMI. The InFocus SP8602 like just about every other home projector we've reviewed in the last year, does have an analog computer input (often called a VGA input, or just a "computer input").
The computer input is the biggest difference between these two home theater projectors, but the InFocus consistantly has more connections. The two projectors both have two HDMI inputs. (InFocus has finally dropped their proprietary M1 connector that they've been using for DVI / HDMI.) The InFocus is dripping in component video inputs with 3 sets of three RCA component video jacks. By comparison the poor JVC has but one set of component video inputs. It's the same thing when it comes to screen triggers - InFocus 3, JVC 1. If you have a motorized screen and an anamorphic lens and sled, or a screen with multiple masks you can use those extra screen triggers to control them. This is a minor concern though, as there are always other ways to control motorized screens, and for that matter lens sleds. Of course they both have the basics - composite video, S-video, and an RS-232 for service support (or controlling a sled, etc.)
The InFocus's cable connection area (the inputs/outputs) is deeply recessed on the back, and the projector comes with a cable cover to keep things neat. The JVC RS15 has all of its inputs/outputs on the right side (looking from the front) running from the front, to about halfway back.
Should the lack of an analog computer input be a deal breaker for those wanting to interface their computer? No, as I said, there are some workarounds available, but still, if you normally would need an analog computer input, it is a hassle. I'm not sure if the lack of that input affected my award decisions, but let's say, it sure didn't help.
Top image: JVC DLA-RS15 cable connection area. Lower image: SP8602's connections
In summary: There's no question about the greater placement flexibility advantage of the JVC. And power everything is really nice. On the other hand, the InFocus is better endowed in inputs, most noticeably by having a VGA input that this JVC projector lacks.
InFocus SP8602 vs. JVC DLA-RS15 Picture Quality
Comparing the Projectors' Picture Quality
First, the good news. I did have the RS15 and the SP8602 visiting here at the same time. And I was wise enough to do a side by side shoot between the two. I have comparsion images from Casino Royale and Space Cowboys for your consideration. That should give you a taste of some of the differences.
The JVC RS15 does not have as sophisticated a color management system as the more expensive JVCs. Still it's out of the box performance is already rather accurate, and very good on skin tones. Still, you can't improve them much at all. The end result is still really good skin tones, excellent compared to most projectors. When it comes to color though, InFocus projectors rarely perform like other projectors. Last year I flat out said that the best color we saw all year was the InFocus IN83. This year, again, the InFocus is about as good as it gets. I'm not saying that the SP8602 calibrated as perfectly as the IN83 did last year, but the skin tones still proved to be excellent. Better, slightly, but for sure, than my RS20 (which has better color controls than the RS15). Remember, when you view these images, that the camera/software/your display, are changing the colors enough that these images in their own right, cannot be taken as proof of the SP8602's advantage over the DLA-RS15 or for that matter the JVC HD5500 projector.
One thing you will note is that the JVC images are a bit more contrasty. This most likely relates to the JVC likely measuring a higher gamma overall, than the InFocus. In other words, something you can adjust.
In all the comparative images, the InFocus SP8602 is on the left, and the JVC DLA-RS15 on the right!
It is interesting in these images, how similar the skin tones are, yet, look at Bond's suit in the image above. The colors there are far more different than in the skin tones.
InFocus SP8602 Black level performance
I am so pleased that InFocus came back this year with a replacement for the IN83, that has a dynamic iris. The glaring weakness of the old IN83 was it's poor (for its price) black level performance, which, due to DLP technology, but no dynamic iris, wasn't much better than $1500 - $2000 DLP projectors, and no match for those $2000ish ultra-high contrast 3LCD projectors like the Epson 8500UB / 9500UB, or the Panasonic PT-AE3000 or PT-AE4000.
The InFocus SP8602's dynamic iris allows the InFocus projector to offer up some very impressive black levels. While at it's very best, the SP8602 might be able to match the blacks performance of the JVC RS15, for the most part, it comes up a bit shy. That said, this is still, very much an ultra-high contrast projector.
To position the InFocus in terms of black performance: Below is the Space Cowboys "stars" image again, this time the InFocus is on the left, and the Epson 9500UB on the right. This demonstrates that on dark scenes, the InFocus rivals the Epson, which has the best black level performance of any under $4000 projector. (The InFocus has better color). In fact few projectors under $10,000 can best that Epson, which is why we use it as a reference projector.
InFocus SP8602 vs. JVC DLA-RS15 Shadow detail
Both projectors offer really good shadow detail, but the InFocus seems to have a slight advantage. You can see just a touch more detail in the shrubs on the far right behind the train tracks. Remembering that a simple adjustment of +1 (or -1) to brightness, can make a difference this slight. In other words, while the InFocus looks a touch better, that may not be the case if someone else sets up and calibrates. I'd call these pretty much a tie. That is, don't worry about shadow detail.
A few additional images from each projector: First, three side by side images from The Dark Knight, and one from Space Cowboys.
The next two images are from the SP8602, then the last two are from the JVC DLA-RS15.
JVC images start here:
Overall Look and Feel of the Picture:
The InFocus is typically a bit brighter, and more dynamic looking when the gamma's are set about the same. I do prefer its skin tones over the JVC. That is to say, that overall, the InFocus has a touch more pop to most images. It's not that the InFocus is in any way, "over the top" but rather that the RS15, is if anything, a touch subdued.
Bottom Line in terms of image quality
Where it not for the great JVC blacks - without a dynamic iris, I'd probably pick the InFocus overall, as a much superior projector. But, in the wonderful world of dark scenes, there's still a significant advantage to achieving great blacks without being forced to suffer the side effects of a dynamic iris. I appreciated my own RS20's lack of a dynamic iris, frequently, when switching back and forth between it, and the InFocus SP8602 projector.
I should also mention that when I awarded the InFocus, the Best In Class - Runner-up, that was taking InFocus'es word (that I "forced out of them") that they would improve the dynamic iris action significantly, and quickly. (I took their word because, past experience with multiple manufacturers on this type of thing, has yet to dissapoint me with a broken promise.
And the good news is that last week I was able to install (easy) the new firmware (easy to download too), with the iris action upgrade. The SP8602 still doesn't have the best iris action around, but it is much improved and I'd say fairly typical of projectors with acceptable iris action.
JVC RS15 vs. SP8602 Projector Performance
Depending on how you mount / position, the SP8602, it can be anywhere from bright to very bright among the competition. Certainly, at its worst, it's as bright, in best mode, as the JVC. From our own measurements: 785 lumens for the InFocus in "best" mode, at mid point zoom, lens at 0 offset. With the same settings (mid-point, 0), the RS15 clocked in at 657. In brightest mode, no contest - InFocus 1110 lumens vs. JVC's 746 lumens.
Further, if you have the ceiling height, and can mount the InFocus at its maximum lens offset, (for a 100" screen, the center of lens about 15" above the top of the screen, you pick up about an extra 18% more lumens. That translates to about 930 and almost 1300 lumens. And all that is with Brilliant Color off. Turn it on and you get about an additional 35%. But, InFocus'es Brilliant Color, while pretty good, is definitely not as natural looking as with it off (which they call "Normal" - vs. "High" being on).
In other words, the InFocus, is always the brighter projector, and if you bring every factor into play, in brightest mode, it can be a full 60% brighter than the JVC!
What about sharpness:
No contest. I'm not convinced that the SP8602 is as razor sharp as the older IN83, in fact I'm pretty certain it's not. Still, it's a pretty sharp DLP, and that makes it sharper than any LCoS projector I've seen, except maybe an RS35 with perfect pixel alignment.
No question that the RS15 looks softer than the InFocus - it's not great at all, on movies, but on pure HD digital content, the InFocus adds that extra appearance of sharpness that I really find to be an improvement. I've always complained (slightly) that I wish my own JVC was a bit sharper, primarily for all that HDTV sports and digital Discovery-HD and similar content.
The JVC wins here. It's pretty quiet overall. The InFocus is about average overall. In full power lamp mode, it just might bother the more audible noise sensitive viewers. In low power, where it's still about a bright as anything else, it's as quiet or quieter than the JVC at full power.
Audible noise should not be an issue for all but a very few. It was fine for me, in my main theater, sitting the usual 4 feet behind (and to the side) of my seat.
InFocus SP8602 vs. DLA-RS15 Special Features
While neither projector is dripping in features, they are fairly well endowed. Both offer CFI, dynamic sharpening, and a dynamic contrast control Of course the JVC does not have a dynamic iris, which the InFocus offers. Both also use Frame Interpolation (non-creative) to speed up standard 24fps, to help minimize one type of motion blur, even when not using CFI. As you probably know, I don't get into a lot of little features, such as security features, sleep timers, etc. Both seem to have plenty of those types of features.
InFocus SP8602 vs JVC RS15 Bottom Line:
Tough call. Really! I'd have to say choosing between these two will really come down to choosing which of these two, similarly priced projectors works best for your mix of content, your room, and other factors that are your preferences. Overall, one would have to consider them pretty close to a tie, due to some trade-offs.
That said, because of the brightness options, I would go with the SP8602 - if it would work in my room, for positioning purposes. In my current home, I could actually get the InFocus on my rear shelf. Of course that would be with the zoom at pretty much full telephoto, so it would cost me some lumens. Still, it would still be brighter than the JVC, because I could raise my shelf from 0 offset, to about 20 inches above, to get the extra 18% more lumens out of the InFocus. In other words, yes, I'd go with the InFocus. And that's not easy to say for someone who owned the original JVC - the RS1, which evolved into the RS15.
I'm moving though - in a few months. The theater in the new place just might work better for the JVC, though. As I said, placement may be a key factor in your decision.
Given either will work in your room, the big trade-offs are: InFocus advantage for sharpness, ultimately slightly better color accuracy, and brightness, vs. the JVC's slightly better blacks, smoother operation (no visible dynamic iris action, since no dynamic iris), power everything, and being physically more attractive.
What a tough choice, though it comes with a silver lining: Both are excellent projectors overall, and should satisfy all but the most hard core.