JVC DLA-RS20 - Review Summary
A summary of the JVC DLA-RS20 projector's pros and cons and capabilities.
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.
January 26, 2009
JVC DLA-RS20 Projector - The Bottom Line
The JVC DLA-RS20 and its twin, the HD750, improves on the older, and our previously highest rated home theater projector, their RS2. It accomplishes this with a lot more brightness, slightly better black levels, and a sophisticated, if difficult, color management system, which when properly calibrated produces a truly excellent image.
Only the THX mode looks really good out of the box. Dynamic is barely brighter, and way off on Color Temperature (which is why we didn't do our usual "quick calibration" of Dynamic mode).
You'll definitely want a professional to calibrate your JVC RS20, as the basic capabilities of the "end user" calibration disks, will not get you to where you want to be. Consider the few hundred or more dollars for a first class calibration to be an integral part of the cost of owning an RS20, but, it is most definitely worth every penny.
While most projectors can produce very good color, with proper adjustment, the RS20 is a class of one (OK two, if you count the older RS2), when it comes to black level performance. The combination of great post calibration color, black levels and brightness, is simply unbeatable. That's not to say that the JVC is the very best at color, or brightness (the InFocus IN83 still has the best color, though the RS20 comes very close, and the Optoma HD81-LV is brighter in every mode, while the IN83 is almost as bright in "best" mode, but significantly brighter in "brightest".
Once fully calibrated, dark scenes on the DLA-RS20 are intensely rich, while medium and bright scenes just look right. The InFocus IN83 certainly holds its own with the RS20 in both brightness color accuracy and film-like appearance, (and it does have a bit more pop to the image on medium and bright scenes). That said, when it's nighttime, or in the shadows, on your screen (any largely dark scene), the DLA-RS20 simply blows away the InFocus. No contest at all. And that, folks is exactly why I'm going to replace my "aging" (20 month old) RS1, with an RS20 any day now! I can't give a higher recommendation than that!
OK, we've just established that the RS20 has the whole picture quality issue covered, what about the rest of the pieces in the puzzle.
Brightness, is a key consideration to many home theater projector owners. If you have a "cave-like" home theater, for full lighting control, and you only plan on a 100 inch diagonal screen (87 inches wide), just about any home theater projector has the brightness for movie enjoyment and brighter HDTV and sports viewing. If, however, you are in the 110 inch to 135" screen size range (as I am), and especially if you watch movies, but also content like sports with some lights on, then the majority of projectors simply won't work for you. For example, the old RS2, didn't have the lumens to fill my 128" screen, whether for movie viewing or sports/HDTV with some light. Others (typically LCD based projectors such as the Panasonic and Sanyo projectors, have enough brightness to work with larger screens in their brightest modes, but not in their best modes. Still others have the lumens for the large screen when watching movies in the dark, but don't have the lumens for sports/HDTV type viewing with some light on (LCoS projectors often fit in this category, along with some DLPs).
I mention all this because the JVC DLA-RS20 is solid. For the first category, the RS20 has lots of lumens for movie watching on a large screen in a fully darkened room.
For sports and HDTV viewing with some light, it is more marginal. I've definitely decided that in my large room, now that I've darkened it further during the daytime, the RS20 definitely works for my room and tastes. I do know, from my similarly bright RS1, that with my old setup - light walls, and more light leaking in around shades than now, that the RS20 would be just marginal for my football viewing, just as my RS1 was until the recent room changes.
My point is that the RS20 can handle larger screen sizes, in many cases, for both types of viewing. Matching it with the right type of screen, however, will be very important to making it work. (But definitely lose the sunlight, if you have a southern exposure!)
Audible noise: While many find even the noisiest home theater projectors pose no problem for them, I do get a lot of comments from those who really insist upon a very quiet projector. Most of them simply don't want to hear any fan noise when there's a very quiet scene on the screen. This is compounded, particularly, if your projector is ceiling mounted, and almost directly above your head. Those shelf mounting up high, in back of their room, have the advantage of normally sitting closer to the screen, and that the shelf itself can absorb or deflect some of the sound, away from the viewer.
The JVC RS20, is quiet enough in its low lamp mode (labeled Normal), that virtually no one should have an issue with it. With the lamp on full power (High mode), the RS20 is about average. And that means some folks will take issue with the fan noise. Not many, I suspect, but some. To a large degree this is a personal thing, as some folks just don't notice it. Many hardcore enthusiasts, though, in their search for perfection, find any flaw distracting, be it fan noise, the slightest color imbalance, so-so black level performance, etc.
I mention all of this because the RS20 will appeal strongly to the enthusiast. The good news is that, I do believe the RS20, a little quieter than the older RS1 and RS2, will be found by most buyers, critical or not, to be satisfactory even in its High lamp mode. For those that aren't, the choices are pretty slim. Mitsubishi and Panasonic projectors for example are extremely quiet, and affordable, but they aren't in the same class, in terms of picture quality.
Fancy features: Not a strength of the RS20. This JVC is more of a purist's projector. As such, it doesn't sport a dynamic iris. In fairness, it doesn't need one, but geez, how black could the black levels get on dark scenes if it had one? It also isn't capable of 120fps output from 60fps sources. It does however take 24 frame per second source material (primarily Blu-ray disc) and output at 96fps (4:4). On the other hand, it doesn't do creative frame interpolation. Of course these are all brand new features in the home theater projector market. (I do like creative frame interpolation when viewing sports.) I suspect the next generation may offer some of these, but, I wouldn't trade the RS20's overall picture quality for any of these features. If I would, I'd be looking at Panasonic PT-AE3000 and Epson UB series projectors. Given a choice, I'll take the JVC's picture quality over another projector, not quite as good in that regard, but loaded with the fancy features. Most of us will.
The very bottom line: The JVC DLA-RS20 and HD750 are not inexpensive. With a price tag (MSRP) currently over $7000, you are paying twice the price or more, compared to some really very fine projectors. This JVC is, however, a step up! In this case, though, if you want great picture quality, if it works in your environment for your types of viewing, and if the budget isn't a deal breaker, I don't think you can do better.
More simply stated: The JVC DLA-RS20 is pricey compared to the much of the competition, but is definitely worth the difference. Rather than talking about price/performance, let's just say it is an excellent value proposition - you'll get your money's worth!
JVC DLA-RS20 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
JVC DLA-RS20 Projector: Pros
- The best black levels of any projector we have worked with, at any price. (Just slightly better than the RS2 it replaces, which was the former black level champ)
- Very good color accuracy post calibration in best mode
- Significantly brighter than average in "best" modes - not the brightest out there, but plenty of lumens for larger screens
- Manual iris allows you to dial down brightness for smaller screen, which in turn increases contrast and black level performance slightly
- Very good shadow detail performance
- The combination of extremely good color accuracy, and black levels makes for the best overall picture quality of any projector we have reviewed
- Two HDMI 1.3b inputs, full support for 24 fps, Deep Color, etc.
- Outputs 24 frame per second sources at 96 fps
- Three User definable image modes (User 1,2,3) in addition to being able to modify all the predefined modes, except THX (which has limited adjustments available). Plus, three Custom modes each, for Gamma, Color Temp, and CMS
- Good layout on the remote control, and a good backlight with easily readable buttons
- Excellent placement flexibility due to 2:1 zoom and lens shift
- Focus, Zoom and Lens shift all motorized (see special features, first page for fringe benefits)
- Very good menus
- The price is reasonable for the outstanding performance!
JVC DLA-RS20 Projector: Cons
- Calibrating the CMS (color management system) is very tricky, as adjusting some controls affects others, something one does not expect to happen in a typical CMS
- Slightly below average brightness in "brightest" modes
- A third HDMI input would be nice
- Slight (but acceptable) pixel misalignment, only partially corrected on this unit by the pixel adjustment feature
- Key action on remote control is a bit iffy, range somewhat limited, you need to find the right angle when pointing for a bounce off of your screen
- Documentation is typically weak in terms of explaining a number of settings features and modes. Examples include no chart for lens shift offsets, no details about interaction of the CMS settings, no explanations of the different look and feel of the four preset gammas...
JVC DLA-RS20 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Selection of inputs
- Just average lamp life - 2000 hours in High lamp power, "Normal lamp mode can increase lamp life"
- Average sharpness for a 1080p projector - this can be improved however, with the sharpness and detail enhancement controls, without creating noticeable sharpening artifacts
- Documentation (I'm still waiting to see a projector that really does provide good explanations of all the menu functions).
That's all, folks!
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