JVC DLA-RS25 Projector Review
Welcome to our in-depth projector review of the JVC DLA-RS25 1080p home theater projector. The HDTV section are not yet completed and other screen images of the DLA-RS25 projector will be added. We've rushed this to you, because we know you are waiting! Enjoy -art
November 2009 - Art Feierman
JVC DLA-RS25 Projector Overview
Let's start by getting the housekeeping out of the way. We are pleased to give the DLA-RS25 our Hot Product award. No surprise, of course in that, considering its predecessor (the RS20) not only won a Hot Product Award, but later picked up our top award; "Best In Class - $3500 - $10,000 projectors". So far (although I do have the Sony VPL-WV85 and a couple of other higher end projectors yet to review), the JVC DLA-RS25 (and its twin, the JVC HD950), has to be considered the favorite in this year's "Best in Class" challenge.
Starting from the beginning, what we have here, in the form of the JVC DLA-RS25, is a $8000 list price, 3 panel LCoS projector (liquid crystal on silicon). In today's world of home theater projectors, only two major manufacturers use LCoS, and they are, of course JVC (which calls theirs D-ILA) and Sony (SXRD). Both companies manufacture their own panels.
The JVC RS25, and its identical twin, the HD950 (sold by different dealers), come with excellent placement flexibility, power zoom, focus and lens shift, and are nicely styled in a shiny black piano finish. The RS25 has some gold trim - the lens trim ring and on the top, while I believe the HD950's trim comes in silver - that's not much difference is it?
This JVC projector, is about the best black level performance around, something JVC has been able to claim for its three most recent generations of home theater projectors.
For this year, the JVC RS25 looks and behaves very much like last year's RS20, but along with minor improvements in a number of areas, JVC has added CFI - Creative Frame Interpolation, which will be discussed below.
Finally, a little key background before we get into the heart of this review. I own the JVC RS25 projector's predecessor, the RS20. I bought it earlier this year, because at the time, I strongly felt it was the best overall projector for me, and my budget. The RS25, like the RS20, isn't perfect, but most will agree, it comes about as close as one will find in the under $10,000 price range, and for that matter, rivals many projectors far more expensive, in most ways.
With that in mind, it's no surprise that I really like the DLA-RS25, and the essentially identical DLA-HD950. Time to get into the details.
DLA-RS25 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 in THX mode but can be improved with a full calibration 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 (or low side of average)
- Full support for HDMI 1.3b with 24 fps, Deep Color, CEC...
- Definitely worth the bucks, if you are into performance!
Projector Specs for the JVC DLA-RS25
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 more complete specs and brochure
Above image from The Hunt For Red October (Blu-ray disc)
DLA-RS25 Projector - Special Features
The JVC DLA-RS25 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 RS25). 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.
No doubt about it; the THX mode offers the best picture and color performance than any of the other presets. Still, we calibrated the Cinema 2 mode, and I found that a well calibrated projector can produce what I feel is an even better picture. THX mode has good skin tones and overall color, but, as with last year, I found the picture to be just a tiny bit flat, that is, a bit lackluster. If you aren't going to try our post calibration settings, then THX mode is the mode you want to leave your projector set for. It will do a great job, even if that can be improved upon slightly.
Color Management System (CMS)
JVC provides a primary and secondary color management system on the JVC DLA-RS25 and the HD950. The CMS needs to be calibrated (that would be calibrating the individual primary and secondary colors), for the JVC DLA-RS25 to produce its best results. Apparently the THX mode has its own CMS settings, and the results of THX mode are superior to the other key modes (notably Cinema 2, the closest), because of the better CMS settings.
Once Mike calibrated the individual colors, the RS25 started to really look great. The end result was slightly better overall color, and slightly better skin tones than the THX mode. Not a huge difference, but enough to be worth the effort.
Unlike the original CMS on last year's JVC RS20 (that I had to deal with), JVC's CMS now works rather normally. Mike reported no real surprises, and the results prove that out. With last year's CMS, every adjustment you made seemed to affect some other adjustment, and it was a mess. We needed outside help from the forums to get the CMS right. (Later, JVC came out with a firmware improvement, but since I had already achieved "good color" I decided not to start all over).
Bottom line: A good CMS system, now easy to use. It works, and a proper CMS setup is needed to maximize the JVC RS25 and HD950 projectors performance.
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 closer to 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.
CFI - Creative Frame Interpolation
JVC has added CFI this year. It's their first generation attempt at CFI, and they haven't hit the bullseye with this implementation. I don't know whether they developed this themselves or licensed from companies like Pixelworks, or Silicon Optix.
Last year I was pretty critical of the various CFI solutions that appeared on a few home theater projectors. The Panasonic was pretty good, but a little more limited than, say the Epson, which had real problems, but Epson quickly (about 2 months after first shipments) came out with a good fix. Sanyo's was good, as far as it went, which wasn't that far at all.
Sadly, the JVC CFI, which has two settings, isn't that great in the Low setting, and I barely have looked at the high setting, as those are always worse, in terms of artifacts.
It's not hard to spot artifacts in the low setting. Viewing the same segments of Casino Royale that I discussed in the CFI blogs back at the beginning of the year, I'd say that the JVC RS25's CFI is just a little better than Epson's first implementation, but definitely not as good as after Epson's firmware upgrade, or Epson's or Panasonic's current implementations.
I can watch sports with CFI on low, and it's pretty good. Movies, I wouldn't recommend at all. Not only are there those motion artifacts you will spot, but the JVC definitely adds more of that "live digital video" or "soap opera" look and feel, than the Panasonic, as well as both old and new Epson implementations. I tried segments from movies that I had indicated I could definitely watch with the Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB (Home Cinema 8500UB too) projector's CFI on low. While I could enjoy those movies with Epson CFI, that was not the case with the JVC - too much of that soap opera look. Hey, it's your call. Transformers is probably fun at least in some scenes, with the CFI on, but I probably couldn't stand to watch the whole thing with the JVC's CFI engaged.
Bottom Line: OK, the CFI is good for sports, but probably take a pass on movies. I call upon JVC to do what all great projector manufacturers do in such cases - come up with a firmware fix over the next few months. At worst case, CFI is still (other than sports or gaming - or animation), a novelty. I'm used to it for sports now, so I hope my next projector has a good CFI, but few will use for movies, even with the better CFIs out there on projectors. Remember, CFI will not adhere to the "Director's intent". With a CFI engaged, it will not look like the way the director expects it to look in the theater.