Home Theater Projector Reviews:
JVC DLA-RS1 1080p LCOS Projector: Summary, Pros, Cons
The JVC RS1 has me sold. Of the six 1080p projectors reviewed so far, I consider the RS1 to be the best overall projector.
The reason the RS1 is exceptional, is its image quality. None of the other projectors come close to matching its black levels or shadow detail. The result is the most eye-popping movie watching I have enjoyed yet.
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Even the SIM2 C3X, my old favorite (a $20,000 3 chip 720p projector), may not surpass the dynamic look when watching movies, despite the C3X being at least twice as bright. I haven't yet had a chance to review the $50,000 SIM2 top of the line 1080p 3 chip DLP projector, nor the competition from Runco/Vidikron (with similarly stratospheric prices), nor have I had any of the premium priced single chip 1080p projectors from SIM2, Runco/Vidikron, Digital Projection or Projection Design. I would certainly hope those high priced 3 chip DLP 1080p projectors outperform the RS1. Of the those premium brand single chip 1080p DLP projectors, even the least expensive of these is several thousand dollars more, and I'm not sure there any reason to expect those single chip DLP's to actually surpass the JVC. I am, however trying to get them in for review, to find out).
It's not just about the "wow factor", of rich, dynamic colors, but also the fact that the color accuracy is excellent, the imagery is very natural looking, and that there really aren't any major issues that impact enjoyment or performance.
Everything I watched on HD-DVD and Blue-Ray looked great, and so were old fashioned standard DVDs. HDTV was also tremendous. I must admit to barely watching standard television. I generally consider the quality of standard TV to be so poor on a large screen, that the difference between projectors is pretty much the difference between lousy, and poor. As a result, personally, I don't see how performance on standard TV should be a real part of the projector selection process, certainly not for a projector in this price range, where people are primarly concerned with how good it looks on high quality sources.
That said, I better mention again, that the RS1 was great even on standard DVDs (such as the image above).
That's not to say the JVC DLA-RS1 is perfect. It has, like every other reviewed projector, it has a couple of limitations, and weaknesses. Those however are likely to be issues only to a small percentage of the potential buyers out there.
What could be changed to make it more perfect? Really only a few things:
1. HDMI 1.3 support for accepting more than 24 bit color. Tthe RS1 can handle the larger color palettes through its component video port for those who must have full 10bit per channel color.
2. It could be brighter in brightest mode, although it is exceptionally bright in its best mode.
3. More Aspect ratio control in 16:9, including support for 3rd party anamorphic lenses (for those wanting true Cinemascope 2.35:1 aspect ratio without letterbox. (That usually calls for very expensive multi-masking motorized screens - they can cost up to $10,000). I did pop in one standard DVD (I can't recall which anymore), that has an odd aspect ratio setup, and the RS1 could only fill the screen with the Zoom aspect ratio, which cropped part of the image.
4. It could be quieter, but that is probably only a serious issue for those needing the High Altitude setting who want to run in full (High) power lamp mode.
5. No analog PC input for hooking up your computer. To do so, there are 3rd party solutions that can convert to HDMI.
If none of these have scared you off, and the price is in your range, you should be out looking for the nearest JVC dealer.
That pretty much covers the most significant issues. There are minor ones as well, such as only having two HDMI ports.
How does the JVC stack up - head to head with it's competition? I've said so much within the review, that I'll keep this short:
JVC RS1 vs Sony VW50 Pearl:
I was extremely impressed with the Sony Pearl - the last 1080p projector I reviewed, both picture quality, and price performance. The Sony has the price advantage, and it can muster up more lumens (approaching 20%) in brightest mode, but isn't as bright in best mode. The Sony has excellent black levels, and until the JVC, I considered it the best in that regard. However, even the Sony falls way short of the JVC in black levels and in a fully darkened room, its not hard at all, to see the extra shadow detail the JVC provides. Ultimately, the JVC has the better picture quality, and I believe, is the slightest bit sharper.
The Sony has motorized lens shift, zoom and focus - always a nice touch. The Sony's big strengths by comparison to the JVC are: Lower cost, and the ability to support anamorphic lenses for Cinemascope without letter box. (The latter is probably an issue for no more than 1 or 2% of potential owners. The Sony is definitely quieter.
(How impressive is the enlarged version of this image above from the DTS disk? -art)
JVC RS1 vs Optoma HD81and BenQ W10000:
The Optoma can crank out a lot more lumens when you need them for sports in rooms with modest ambient lighting. It's outboard processor (Gennum processing, like the RS1) offers oodles (I had to put that in here) of inputs. On the other hand, the Optoma is slightly more expensive (street price), has very limited placement flexibility due to a 1.2:1 zoom (vs 2:1), and no lens shift. The Optoma HD81 produces an excellent, and very sharp image, but the JVC, although not quite as razor sharp, overall produces a much more impressive overall image. The Optoma's black levels and shadow detail, though both good, come up short.
The BenQ W10000 has placement flexibility almost as good as the JVC in terms of lens shift, but only a 1.15 zoom lens. Fortunately it's pretty long throw, so rear shelf mounting is possible for some. Image quality issues are about the same as the Optoma, so score one for the RS1.
The BenQ does have one cool trick however, it supports Picture in Picture, and Picture On Picture (two images side by side) even though one has to be "low res" (S-video or composite). It also has that extra year warranty.
JVC RS1 vs. Panasonic PT-AE1000U:
Both projectors have totally invisible pixel structures at any normal seating distance. The Panasonic PT-AE1000u, is the bargain of the 1080p set, with a $3995 MAP price and a $400 rebate, so its thousands less. The Panasonic is no match for the JVC in black levels, shadow detail or overall eye-popping image quality. At barely half the price, however, still most impressive. The Panasonic can't match the brightness of the JVC in high quality modes.
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JVC RS1 vs Mitsubishi HC5000:
The HC5000 has the most visible pixel structure, (barely detectable at close/normal seating on white areas, and credits) and in part, that is probably why it produces what seems to be the sharpest image. Whether it resolves more detail, I don't know but it looks "razor sharp". The Mitsubishi HC5000, like the Panasonic, can't come close to the JVC in brightness in best modes. The Mitsubishi, although not as inexpensive as the Panasonic PT-AE1000U is still almost $2000 less than the JVC on the street, and is a great "out of the box" projector, especially for the money.
Are things really that bleak for the RS1's competition?
Although it sounds like it, the answer is, no, not really. First of all, understand that the thing that really sets the JVC apart is it's black levels and natural, high contrast. That is ultimately what really creates that wow factor, the rich deep colors, etc. In my theater room (which still has off white walls (a few more months), I can even see how the white walls slightly degrade the overall image.
And that leads to the main point. If even light from the image on the screen, reflecting back off of the walls, can slightly degrade the image, consider what impact having even minimal ambient lighting, like side wall sconces, or even some tiny little 20 watt lamp in the back of the room that doesn't even face the screen, will have.
The JVC stands out in ideal theater room conditions. Any ambient light is going to start diluting that high contrast, and wipe out the deepest shadow details. Of course it does this to any projector, its just that the JVC is so good, that it is affected by the least amount of ambient light. Even as you introduce some ambient light, it should still have the advantage on other projectors, but the amount of advantage will dimish significantly. If you want modest ambient light for sports for example, you probably will have wiped out just about all of the difference that makes the RS1 so good at what it does, and in such a case, you likely would prefer a different, brighter projector.
Time to consider the projector's overall aspects.
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JVC DLA-RS1 Pros
- Overall, eye-popping rich images, with tremendous "wow factor", and lots of saturation, including almost amazing performance on dark intense colors
- "Blackest" black levels of any projector reviewed to date
- A natural "15,000:1 contrast ratio, without needing a dynamic iris
- Superb shadow detail (best to date).
- Excellent grayscale "color" temperature consistancy over IRE range (from white to very dark grays)
- Above average brightness in "best" (Cinema) mode
- Extremely good out of the box performance
- Wide range zoom lens for great placement flexibility
- Vertical and Horizontal lens shift with exceptional range for great placement flexibility
- Neutral grays for black and white (such as the opening scenes from Phantom)
- Really good remote control
- Good menus
- 2 HDMI inputs
- 3 User savable settings
- Good manual (better than most)
- Lamp replacement without unmounting projector
- Good looking unit
- Overall ease of setup and use
- Pure performance, and price performance
JVC DLA-RS1 Cons
- Not very bright in "brightest" (Dynamic) mode
- HDMI 1.2, not 1.3 (this is the first time I'm listing this in a review as an issue, now that there is one projector shipping with 1.3
- Fan noise is a bit noisy in High Power, and definitely noisy in High Power - High Altitude mode
- It could be just a touch sharper
- Lacks some aspect ratio control in 16:9
- No aspect ratio support for an anamorphic lens
- Lacks a computer input (3rd party solutions exist through HDMI, for a couple/few hundred dollars)
- No traditional overscan control (but Mask feature addresses the issue in a non-traditional manor.
- Lamp life - on the low side: 2000 hours even in low power lamp mode.
- No 12 volt screen trigger
JVC DLA-RS1 Typical Capabilities
- Warranty (2 years parts/labor)
- Noise levels overall; at quietest, on of the quieter projectors, at full power not as noisy as the loudest.
- 3 User memory settings (more would be nice)
- Number/type of Inputs
Perhaps the most significant thing I can say about the JVC RS1, is that, as things stand right now, the RS1 is at the top of my list to replace my 720p BenQ PE8720 projector in my theater.
Although I haven't made my final decision, and may not for a few more weeks, I have no doubt that I will , thoroughly enjoy watching it in my own theater room, and be dazzled by it or a long time to come (a year or two - I do need to stay "current").
The JVC RS1 is certainly a great projector for movie "purists" on the hunt for the ultimate in picture quality. At the same time, it seems to look good on just about everything I have thrown at it. Even watching Boston Legal, or parts of the last Superbowl, which I have permanently stored in HDTV on my DVR, looked great!
Like other projectors, there are features (and therefore benefits), that could further improve it, such as those I mentioned (more brightnes in brightest mode, perhaps a slight bit sharper, etc.), but overall, the RS1 produces such an exceptional picture, that few will find reasons not to choose the RS1, if their budget allows.
In the past LCOS projectors (like LCD projectors) have never been known for particularly ood black levels, one reason why the Sony Pearl, for example, relies on a dynamic iris to generate excellent black levels. JVC, however, with the RS1 has apparently come up with a way to dramatically increase the contrast performance of the LCOS (D-ILA) chips.
The JVC DLA-RS1 not only earns our Hot Product Award, but seriously raises the bar, for future 1080p projectors. I would have to say, that had the RS1 been the first of the "affordable" 1080p home theater projectors to ship, instead of hitting the market about 5 months after the first (Optoma HD81), I suspect there would be a few less Hot Product Award 1080p projectors on this site.
Congratulations to the team at JVC, that developed the RS1, for bringing to market what I consider a breakthrough projector. It not only has exceptional performance, but manages to combine it with one of the most versatile projectors in terms of ergonomics and room placement. Although an expensive projector, it is worth every dollar!