JVC DLA-RS15 Projector Review
March 2010 - Art Feierman
JVC DLA-RS15 Projector Overview
The DLA-RS15 home theater projector replaces last year's DLA-RS10, a projector we considered one of the best, last year. The RS15 is an LCoS projector, as are a number of $2500 to $10,000 home theater projectors. Pricewise the DLA-RS15 fits about in the middle of the pack, with a list price of $5499. It sports a good feature set, respectable brightness and picture quality that appeals to the enthusiast.
The JVC DLA-RS15 is a larger projector, but hardly huge. It sports a 2:1 zoom lens, and is fully motorized for zoom, focus and lens shift. It's black shiny piano finish with modest gold trim looks clean, and impressive. Inputs are along one side, instead of the back, a trait that JVC happens to share wth Sony LCoS projectors.
JVC is legendary for their black level performance, and despite being the entry level of JVC home theater projectors, it's black levels are still one of the best out there, as we will discuss in depth.
This year CFI has been added as a feature, but otherwise, the JVC DLA-RS15 and it's almost identical sibling, the DLA-HD550, are essentially the same as last year's projectors but for minor improvements in performance.
The RS15 is sold by the JVC Pro group and the HD550 by the Consumer group - through different dealer channels. The projectors are virtually identical with the HD550 having silver trim instead of gold, and for some reason claiming a very slightly lower contrast spec.
Unlike the more expensive JVC projectors like the RS25 and RS35, and their consumer division equals, the HD950 and HD990, the JVC DLA-RS15 projector is not THX certified. That too shall be touched on, later. Keep in mind there are, as of the time of this writing, probably no more than 3 or 4 under $6000 projectors that do have THX certification.
This JVC home theater projector has very good color performance, but lacking the more sophisticated controls found on other JVC's and many other projectors, it can't be as finely honed as those with full CMS support. None-the-less the JVC puts up some really good skin tones, which is the first thing to look for. If skin tones look right, then almost everything else has to.
This is a projector targeted at home theater enthusiasts, and anyone who just wants a particularly exceptional looking projector, and is shopping in the JVC's budget range. Having owned it's "grandfather" the original DLA-RS1, I can attest to the overall picture quality of the even better RS15.
Warning for those who are hard core enthusiasts, and do their own tweaking and calibrating, and normally can't leave their projector alone without adjusting something for any reasonable time: The lack of a full CMS may take some of the fun out of your "hobby" if that's going to bother you, look elsewhere. We can't have you bored.
For those of you who only watch the content, and never "notice" the projector, only that everything looks great, the RS15 is right up your alley, it's got the performance, without all the gadgets.
Once again, this is a projector review of a new 2009/10 projector that is truly evolutionary, not revolutionary. Still, with the addition of CFI and other improvements, it is a natural, if not drastically better, replacement for the RS10. Let's get going.
DLA-RS15 Projector Highlights
- Very good color out of the box
- Lacks the sophisticated color management systems of the more expensive JVC's but that doesn't stop the RS15 from extemely good skin tones and very watchable overall color performance.
- Brightness in best mode: very good - over 650 lumens, but below average brightness of 750 lumens when you need all you've got to fight ambient light
- Excellent black level performance
- Creative frame interpolation
- 2:1 zoom lens for plenty of placement flexibility, and a goodly amount of adjustable vertical and horizontal lens shift, as well
- Good image sharpness
- In the $5000 range, the RS15 is going to be extremely hard to beat.
While not drastically better than the best $2000 - $3500 projectors, those craving top performance won't have a problem rationalizing the $5500 retail price of the DLA-RS15, for the better blacks, and much more.
Specs for JVC DLA-RS15
MSRP: $5499, MAP: $5499
Technology: LCoS (SXRD)
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: 1000 lumens claimed, 75
Zoom Lens ratio: 2:1
Lens shift: Vertical and horizontal
Lamp life: 2000 hours at full power, "more than 2000 hours" in low power
Weight: 24.7 lbs. (11.0 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Years Parts and Labor
Click for more complete specs of the JVC DLA-RS15
JVC DLA-RS15 Special Features
LCoS Projector - D-iLA
JVC manufactures their own LCoS panels (Liquid Crystal on Silicon). Think of LCoS as an LCD panel that reflects the light instead of letting it pass through the panel. Different design, different light engine design. JVC calls their LCoS panels D-iLA (Sony calls theirs SXRD, Canon, calls theirs Realisys, and so on).
A key strength of LCoS is less visible pixel structure. Traditionally though LCoS, like LCD have been rather weak when it comes to contrast and black level performance.
Not so the JVC solution. JVC's panels and light engine develop contrast ratios far better than any LCD or DLP, or other brand's LCoS panels, and that yields far blacker blacks. Oh, the competition tries to come close with the use of a dynamic iris, which the JVC's don't need to do the job. Even so, the best of the other LCoS, LCD and DLP projectors, even with Dynamic irises, can't match even the RS15, JVC's most entry level LCoS home theater projectors. True, it's possible the Sony VW85 and the Planar PD8150 might produce slightly blacker blacks on just the right type of scene, but, this JVC will still do better blacks, overall.
Individual SXRD panel adjustment
A very nice, touch, this JVC allows individual adjustment of each panel for more precise alignment. This feature carried forward from previous years. And, it works nicely! Like the Sony projectors solution as well, the JVC adjust digitally, so adjustments are in 1 pixel increments.
For example, if a red panel is off by, say 1/3 a pixel diameter to the right, there's nothing that can improve that, since shifting red a pixel to the left, would then have it off by 2/3s of a pixel. On the other hand, if that red pixel was off by 3/4 of a diameter, then the adjustment could reduce that to 1/4: 3/4 shift to right - 1.0 shift to left = 1/4 shift to left. In other words, it can improve sharpness if your projetor is off more than 1/2 pixel, but still doesn't get you to a perfectly converged set of panels.
CFI - Creative Frame Interpolation
Creative Frame Interpolation: JVC calls theirs Clear Motion Drive, and there are two settings. We stuck to low. Good for sports. With movies, like with others, you get a little of that "live digital video" or "soap opera" look, that most enthusiasts and all purists will avoid on movies, but, hey, some folks like it. When my daughter has friends over, they mostly watch stuff like Iron Man, or Star Trek, or Across the Universe, or High School Musical 3 with CFI on. My daughter can instantly tell when a projector (or LCDTV has CFI running).
Which just goes to show you that it does have a visible impact. And some may like it even though it may distort the "director's intent".