JVC DLA-RS25 - Review Summary
A summary of the JVC DLA-RS25 projector's pros and cons and capabilities.
11/6/2009 - Art Feierman
JVC DLA-RS25 Projector - The Bottom Line
I'm going to keep this unusually short for a summary page. There's not much to debate about the JVC DLA-RS25 and its twin, the DLA-HD950.
It's got excellent, natural looking color, rivaling virtually any competitor. And, it happens to be very good, although not exceptional in revealing dark shadow details.
Where the JVC DLA-RS25 shines, however, is with the best black level performance of any projector we've tested to date. True, it's virtually identical to last year's RS20 in this regard, but, it truly has a commanding advantage over every other projector. Not only are the blacks simply blacker, significantly improving dark, and very dark scenes, but any projector that comes even remotely close to the JVC DLA-RS25 in terms of black level performance, relies on a dynamic iris to get there.
Translated, that means that to get blacker blacks, other projectors are compromising the dynamic range of their pictures. Only on very dark scenes with no bright areas, do any other ultra-high contrast projectors like the Epson 8500UB, or the Panasonic PT-AE4000, do those projectors come even close, but if those dark scenes have small bright areas, the Epson, Panasonic and others dim down those bright areas, whereas the JVC doesn't have to: Far more dynamic range plus the inherent black level advantage comes down to superior performance you can appreciate.
As noted, the JVC is particularly bright in "best" modes, with all of them measuring between 727 and 769 measured lumens, with the zoom at mid-point (that would be as much as 835 lumens with the zoom at wide angle).
The image above, from Quantum of Solace, is a great image for viewing black level performance. There are sufficient bright areas, that most projectors with dynamic irises won't close them down too far. As a result, it's the kind of scene where the JVC does far better than the competition, since they won't lower their blacks much, and the JVC does blacker blacks even when those others can close their irises all the way down.
This makes the JVC brighter than all but a few, for best mode viewing. The RS25 has no problem at all nicely lighting up my 128" diagonal Stewart Firehawk, something few projectors can claim.
My biggest complaint about the JVC, however, is maximum brightness. True, the JVC's brightest modes, really look particularly good, but we're still talking only about 850 lumens. I certainly wish I had an extra 300 - 500 lumens for my sports viewing. Still, it does an decent job with some lighting present, as you can see in the HDTV photos.
Fancy features: JVC's first generation CFI is suitable for sports but not quite ready for prime-time for movies, with more visible artifacts than some other CFI's we've reviewed. With the current state of CFI on projectors, truth is, most folks will not use them for normal movie watching, but are more likely to use it on TV, HDTV, and on sports in general.
The very bottom line: The JVC DLA-RS25 and HD950 are not inexpensive. With a price tag (MSRP) currently of $8000, you are paying twice the price or more, compared to some really very fine projectors. For the person seeking a great viewing experience, budget allowing, the JVC is hard to beat if it will work in your room. While many of those excellent, less expensive projectors look roughly about as good as the JVC on the average brighter scene, when it comes to those really dark scenes, the RS25, leaves them all in the dust.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to get my first look at the Panasonic PT-AE4000 brought to me by a couple of Panasonic folks (from NJ HQ, and from Japan). Before our time was through, we put the Panasonic side by side with the JVC. While the Panasonic looked great, the JVC looked greater! The Panasonic people were very pleased with how theirs compared, for a quarter of the price, but at the same time, you could see why the JVC is a premium projector. Blacks were simply visibly blacker. In the darker scenes the JVC offers up a more dynamic image, both because of the blacker blacks but also brighter whites and bright colors. This is because with a dynamic iris to darken the blacks, if there are whites, they must be darkened as much.
The difference between the two projectors in this regard, might be unnoticeable to the casual observer, unless viewed simultaneously, but to the enthusiast, the small differences translate to being one step closer to perfection. On brighter scenes, the differences were less obvious, but ultimately, it's not the small differences on bright scenes, but the darker scenes where the JVC simply produces a noticiably superior image. Folks, that's what it's about.
JVC DLA-RS25 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
JVC DLA-RS25 Projector: Pros
- The best black levels of any projector we have worked with, at any price. (Just slightly better than the RS20 it replaces, which was the former black level champ)
- Very good color accuracy post calibration in "best" mode, and almost as good right "out of the box"...
- "Almost Perfect" right out of the box: We found their THX mode to be excellent
- Significantly brighter than average in "best" modes with mid 700 lumen output - not the very brightest out there, but plenty of lumens for larger screens, and brighter than most
- 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, CEC, 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! We're talking premium picture quality!
JVC DLA-RS25 Projector: Cons
- Slightly below average brightness in "brightest" modes with just over 850 lumens - we consider average, about 1000 in "brightest" mode
- CFI - Creative frame interpolation needs to be improved, ok for sports, though
- 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-RS25 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Selection of inputs
- Just average lamp life - 2000 hours in High lamp power, "Norma" (that would be JVC's way of saying "low power") lamp mode can increase lamp life"
- Average sharpness for a 1080p projector - this can be improved slightly, with the sharpness and detail enhancement controls, without creating noticeable sharpening artifacts They can make a nice difference if not pushed too far.
- Documentation (I'm still waiting to see a projector that really does provide good explanations of all the menu functions).
My last thoughts: Well, I'd rather have the RS25 over my RS20, if for no other reason, for the CFI for sports viewing. I'm even more intrigued, by JVC's DLA-RS35. The RS35 is essentially an RS25 with hand picked components and a higher level of quality control. That means the best of the optics, light engines, etc.
How much of a difference can that make? I'm not sure yet, but my contacts at JVC tell me you really can see a real difference. I suspect that means there probably won't be an RS25 projector in my theater, but, if JVC can prove to me that the RS35 really will look better, I may have one of those under my tree for the holidays. -art
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