JVC DLA-RS35 Projector Review
I've been looking forward to reviewing the JVC DLA-RS35 home theater projector. The DLA-RS35, or RS35, is identical to the JVC HD990 projector as well. They are simply sold by different reseller channels, but should be identical but for small cosmetic changes.
February 2010 - Art Feierman
JVC DLA-RS35 Projector Overview
The JVC RS35, that is, the DLA-RS35 - or the DLA HD990, represents JVC's top of the line projector for home theater.
The interesting thing about the JVC RS35, is that it is also technically identical to the JVC DLA-RS25 which we reviewed way back in November.
The fundamental differences between the RS25 (and HD950), and the RS35 (and the HD990), lies in that the RS35 is assembled from specially quality controlled components. That means that the light engines are QC'd and the best ones go into the RS35 / HD990. The same would be true for the lens, and, I assume, other major components.
The other difference is that the "standard" projectors, the DLA-RS25 and HD950 have a retail price of $8000, while the superior DLA-RS35 and HD990 retail for $10,000.
All that aside, this JVC projector is one of the brighter projectors around, in "best" movie/picture quality mode. On the other hand, it's just about average brightness in its "brightest" mode.
Picture quality is what the JVC DLA-RS35 is all about. As we will discuss, black level performance is superb, but color is also excellent. And it offers a very sharp image, as well!
That makes things interesting. The DLA-RS25 is already the successor to the JVC DLA-RS20 (which I own/use in my larger home theater). The RS20 last year took top honors in our 2009 1080p Projector Comparison Report - our Best In Class award, for projectors priced from $3500 to $10,000. This year's RS25 looks and cooks basically just like an RS20, but for what appears to be the very slightest improvment in black levels (but then, nothing else comes close), the addition of creative frame interpolation, and an improved color management system.
The JVC DLA-RS35 - and HD990, unlike virtually all competition between $3000 and $10,000, except of course for the other JVC LCoS projectors, lacks a dynamic iris to improve blacks.
That's just fine, considering that the JVC without a dynamic iris, still has better blacks than any other projector under 10 grand. Only the Sony VPL-VW85 comes close, and it's not really that close. The Sony can get close on the right type of dark scene, but the rest of the time, the RS25, and therefore certainly the RS35, easily has better black level performance, and without compressing (dimming) bright areas, like the competition.
The JVC DLA-RS35 is a medium largish home theater projector for the under $10,000 range. Like all other JVC's we've reviewed, it's an LCoS projector with very good placement flexibility. The finish is a shiny piano black with gold trim just on the lens trim ring, and a "stripe" running from front to back on the top. Very tasteful. While the size could be a wife issue, the combination of being almost all black and a clean look should overcome any objection - especially after it's turned on!
Since the DLA-RS35 is feature for feature, identical to the RS25, for the purposes of this review, a few of things to consider:
- Is the JVC DLA-RS35 really worth the extra $2000 over the RS25? That is, will putting all the best QC'd components into a limited number of RS35s result in a picture quality that is definitely recognizable as being worth a couple thousand more dollars? That's the big question.
- In writing up this review, you will find a mix of both RS25 and RS35 images used. While the end results in terms of calibrations are slightly different, I will be using some RS25 images where I don't think there is any substantial quality difference. Of course you can tell which are which by their image names, when using your browser.
- Large sections of content in this review will be lifted directly from the RS25 review. There's no point in re-writing most of this review. Some areas though will be different. Performance page - and calibration pages, will have new content relating to measurements and calibration. The summary, of course will be different, as there I have to assess the value of the RS35 as a $10,000, compared to both the RS25 and all the other competition.
As you read through this review, you should end up as impressed as I have been. Having the RS35 here, along with the new InFocus, the lower priced JVC RS15, and the Mitsubishi HC3800 (not to mention the recently reviewed LG projector), I must admit it's been a challenge to disconnect the RS35 to put other projectors online, I'm so enjoying the RS35. For the Olympics, now, I'm mostly using the RS35, but I have gone to the brighter LG for some of the daytime viewing.
The last major decision I'll have to make is this: Do I sell my RS20, and lay out a lot more money for an RS35, or do I "suffer" my RS20 another year or so, before I go into hock again for another expensive projector? I will say, that if money were not an issue, I'd have already called JVC to say - "you ain't gett'in this one back, so you might as well send me a bill". I am blown away! (but not for the reason you probably suspect).
DLA-RS35 Projector Highlights
- While it may not be the best under $10,000 projector for everyone, it probably is for most people
- Great color out of the box - THX, etc., even better, post calibration
- Brightness in "best" mode, measured a little less than the RS25, but still brighter than most
- Brightness is definitely below average in "brightest" mode, when you need extra lumens for ambient light, this JVC has little to spare, at least for those of us with fairly large screens
- Best black level performance I have ever seen, that wasn't a CRT projector. Basically the same as the RS25, but a touch better
- CFI - Creative frame interpolation for "smooth" sports (and for some, movies), added this year
- Zoom lens has plenty of range - 2:1, suitable for ceiling or rear shelf mounting (my own JVC RS20 is rear shelf mounted)
- Adjustable vertical and horizontal lens shift, very good range, but not quite as much range as some, but not bad at all!
- Excellent black level performance achieved without having a dynamic iris, but manual iris is provided to adjust overall brightness
- Very sharp image (rare for an LCoS or LCD projector)
- Premium projector, premium price: Good value. If you want this level of picture quality, pricing is definitely reasonable. The picture is something to behold. Theoretically, this projector is an RS25 on steroids.
Projector Specs for JVC DLA-RS35
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: 900 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 2:1 (motorized)
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal (motorized)
Lamp life: 3000 hours "longer in standard lamp mode" (low power)
Weight: 24.3 lbs. (10.8 Kg)
Warranty: 3 Years Parts and Labor
Click for more complete projector specifications of the JVC RS35 projector.
JVC DLA-RS35 Special Features
The JVC DLA-RS35 (like the RS25) sports THX certification (the THX program for projectors is something THX launched just 2 years ago). They launched just two years ago when they certified the first projectors (a couple of Runco projectors costing at least four times the price of the JVC RS35). 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.
The THX mode offers the best picture and color performance of the presets. You cannot, however tweak most of the THX mode's settings. Thus, to get the best color, 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.
Individual panel adjustment
Stop right here! Yes, the JVC DLA RS35 projector does offer digial pixel alignment, like the other JVC's.
One, huge difference though, and right there lies the justification for spending the extra $2000 for the RS35 over the RS25.
The DLA-RS35 projector that arrived for review has, best I can tell, with my eyes, pretty much perfect alignment of all colors, vertical and horizontal. With a 128" diagonal projected image, and standing less than a foot from the screen, I can't see any shift. When I compare it to the RS15 here, there's no comparison. On the RS15, I can see some shifting both horizontal and vertical, including red being off just over a pixel (so it can be corrected with the pixel shift). My own RS20 happens to have slightly better pixel alignment than the average JVC that's come through here, but also is clearly, inferior to this RS35.
More to the point. I can see the difference in sharpness, between my RS20 and the RS35 while watching the Olympics. I haven't yet put the RS35 side by side with the new InFocus SP8602, but likely will have before I post this. The InFocus is a single chip DLP, and as such tends to be inherently sharper appearing, since there are no three sets of colors to converge imperfectly. Single chip DLP's generally just look sharper than the rest. Not so this time, this RS35 I'm pretty certain will be every bit as sharp as the InFocus. If the JVC's not as sharp as the InFocus, you won't be reading this paragraph!
CFI - Clear Motion Drive
Creative Frame Interpolation! JVC calls theirs Clear Motion Drive, and there are two settings. We stuck to low. Good for sports. With movies, like with others, you get a little of that "live digital video" or "soap opera" look, that most enthusiasts and all purists will avoid on movies, but, hey, some folks like it. When my daughter has friends over, they mostly watch stuff like Iron Man, or Star Trek, or Across the Universe, or High School Musical 3 with CFI on low. (strange child!). To put it in further perspective, anytime I have a projector on with CFI running (always on low), Lisa can walk into the room, and in about 1 second she'll say "you've got CFI on".
Which just goes to show you that it does have a visible impact. And some may like it even though it may distort the "director's intent".
Color Management System (CMS)
JVC provides a primary and secondary color management system on the JVC DLA-RS35 and the HD990. The CMS needs to be calibrated (that would be calibrating the individual primary and secondary colors), for the JVC DLA-RS35 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 RS35 started looking even better. I'm still doing some very minor tweaking as I feel the skin tones have a tiny bit of "goldish" look that I'd like to remove, but I'm talking really, really picky - the kind of thing you only notice on some content. Once again 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.