JVC DLA-RS20 Projector Review
Welcome to our detailed review of the JVC DLA-RS20 1080p home theater projector.
Update: We recently reviewed the JVC DLA-RS25, the replacement of the RS20. Click here to read the projector review of this new award-winning JVC projector.
1/26/2009 - Art Feierman
JVC DLA-RS20 Projector Overview
Don't be surprised that I am truly impressed with the new top of the line JVC home theater projector, the JVC DLA-RS20, and therefore, also the virtually identical JVC HD750 (sold by a different JVC division). After all, in our 2008 1080p Projector Comparison Report, the older RS2 received our Best in Class award for best projector under $10,000 (that's as high as we go). JVC projectors are legendary for their excellent black level performance, and the RS20 is the best yet, although improvement over the RS2 is not great. The RS20 is an evolutionary improvement, not revolutionary.
The DLA-RS20 projector uses 3 LCoS panels. JVC calls their LCoS designs D-iLA, but I prefer to use the generic LCoS terminology. JVC has done a stellar job of designing their LCoS panels to achieve unmatched native contrast for black level performance. Sony, the other major LCoS projector maker, has to rely on adding a dynamic iris to achieve their best black levels, and still can't match the JVC projectors.
The JVC RS20 is a larger, good looking projector (though smaller than the RS2), finished in a shiny piano black finish with gold trim. The HD750, by the way, looks the same, but has silver trim, not quite as elegant, for those who care.
The JVC DLA-RS20 also has a little brother, the new RS10, which will replace the older RS1 (that I own). The RS20 has the better black levels of the two (although, the RS10 may well have the second best black levels around). The RS20 isn't quite as bright as the RS10, although they are close. Also, there are menu and color control differences, and the JVC RS20 is one of the few projectors out there (and probably by far, the least expensive) to be THX certified. More on that later.
As with the older JVCs, the RS20 is excellent when it comes to placement flexibility, with a 2:1 zoom lens and lots of vertical and horizontal lens shift. All lens functions are motorized, a very nice touch, and a change from the older models.
The JVC DLA-RS0 is noticeably brighter than its predecessor, being very bright in best mode, but the JVCs have never enjoyed being much brighter in "brightest" mode, than "best" mode. That is still true, so while "very bright" in best mode, it is on the low end of average brightess in brightest mode.
The DLA-RS20 is physcially fairly large, though definitely smaller than my RS1. It is longer front to back, but narrower. Input connections are now located on the side (left side, if looking from the back of the projector).
Another improvement is that the RS20 is quieter than the older JVC models and is now average in audible noise, and should be reasonable in high lamp mode, for all but those most critical of any audible noise.
JVC also has a new remote, however, that is about the only thing about the RS20 that has disappointed me. I'll discuss in the section on the remote control itself.
Cutting to the chase, the JVC is pretty much a purist's projector. It's not into frills or fancy dynamic enhancement features. It's about putting the best possible image on your screen. Sorry, no frame interpolation, nor is there 4:4 or 5:5 for 24fps sources.
Unlike the older models, the JVC RS20 is not as good in terms of out of the box color performance. Colors are noticeably oversaturated, and their Color Management System is needed to tame them. That said, once calibrated, the picture overall, and colors in particular, are stunning!
Great projectors aren't inexpensive, and while the RS20 may seem like an incredible bargain compared to those mid five figure 3 chip DLP projectors out there, and even some specialty name single chip DLP's, it certainly is a chunk more money than any of the 3LCD home theater projectors. It's also more expensive than the Sony LCoS models (the RS20 is slightly more than the new higher end Sony VW70), not to mention the widely distributed single chip DLP's from folks Optoma and BenQ. Even the InFocus IN83 (a favorite of mine), costs less.
The JVC DLA-RS20 has an MSRP of $7495, which is about $500 less than JVC quoted when they first announced the projector at CEDIA last Sept. Just for reference, the less expensive RS10 has an MSRP of $4995. Distribution is somewhat limited, however discounts can be found.
DLA-RS20 Projector Highlights
- Best black level performance of any home theater projector I've ever seen (other than old CRT projectors)
- Good sharpness, but just average for 1080p projectors
- Very good shadow detail
- Out of the box picture is impressive, but oversaturated, calibration is definitely recommended to get the most out of this projector
- Really good post calibration color accuracy
- Excellent placement flexibility
- Well above average brightness in best mode for movie watching
- Brightest mode, isn't much brighter, barely average
- Full support for HDMI 1.3b with 24 fps, Deep Color...
- Definitely worth the bucks, if you are into performance
Projector Specs for the JVC DLA-RS20
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Zoom Lens ratio: 2:1 (motorized)
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal (motorized)
Lamp life: 2000 hours "longer in standard lamp mode" (low power)
Weight: 24.3 lbs. (10.8 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Year Parts and Labor
Click for or more complete specs and brochure
DLA-RS20 Projector - Special Features
The JVC DLA-RS20 sports THX certification (a program they launched just over a year ago when they certified their first projectors, a couple of Runco projectors costing at least six times the price of the JVC RS20). The certification indicates that this projector meets their recently defined standard for accurate reproduction. More important than the certification though is the pre-calibrated THX mode, in addition to the others such as Cinema 1 and 2, Stage, Dynamic, etc.
Without a doubt the THX mode offers the best picture and color performance than any of the other presets. That isn't to say that it's perfect. I found that a well calibrated projector can produce what I feel is a more satisfying picture. THX mode has good skin tones and overall color, but I found the picture to be just a bit flat, that is, a bit lackluster. Also the black levels aren't quite as good as in some other modes. THX is the best place for you to start, but a good calibrator, one familiar with this projector, can provide a more enjoyable, impressive, viewing experience.
Color Management System (CMS)
JVC provides a primary and secondary color management system on the JVC DLA-RS20 and the HD750. The lower cost RS10 and HD350 do not have the CMS system.
The CMS comes in very handy. The JVC RS20, for a projector of its caliber, doesn't do great out of the box, and the usual basic grayscale balance doesn't get the projector to the performance it is capable of. On the forums, some issues have been reported with some of the characteristics of how the CMS works, but users (the ones who are really into tweaking their projectors), have come up with some great settings. I'll get into this on the Calibration page. The bottom line, however, is that with a good calibration, including using the CMS, the results are really superb.
Heads up: The image below is from the Stargaze HD Blu-Ray DVD. Some really spectacular imagery on this disc, for those with an interest in astronomy.
Motorized Lens System
While a number of projectors have motorized focus and zoom, the JVC also has motorized veritical and horizontal lens shift. The reason for pointing this out is that it allows one capabiliity some of you might take advantage of. Let's say you are putting on a typical Cinemascope movie - 2.35:1 aspect ratio - you'll have the usual letterboxing at the top and bottom. You can take advantage of the motorized lens shift to drop the active part of the image (the movie) down so that the bottom of the picture is even with the bottom of your screen. If you have dark walls you won't see the dim lower letterbox on your walls. You'll still have one at the top, plus some empty screen up there as well, but dropping the movie down will probably place it better for viewing. In most rooms you won't be looking up as much. The combination also means you can use the JVC with a 2.35:1 screen (if you have the right distance range for your screen), and zoom out when you want to watch standard HDTV or 16:9 movie content, as well as 4:3. Panasonic pitches this feature heavily on the PT-AE3000. The difference is that Panasonic lets you save the lens positioning, so you can switch back and forth with a single button. With the JVC, you'll be zooming in and out each time you switch from the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, to the others. For those watching mostly movies, this is viable, as it would only take maybe 15 seconds to do the adjustment from the remote.