JVC DLA-X55 R Projector - Image Quality
The JVC DLA-X55 R projector is one fine home theater projector. I'm talking image on your screen. Features vary, prices of projectors are all over the place, but when you get up here into the $5000 price range, most of us are really looking for at least one thing the same - a really great picture. We can quibble about which competitors are better, and why, but as you will see, the JVC X55R is certainly a serious player, with impressive picture quality.
All of the JVC DLA-X55R screen image photos below are from either Blu-ray or HDTV source material. Screen images were taken projecting onto a Stewart Studiotek 130 screen. Comparison images (two projectors, side by side), were taken when projecting to a Carada Brilliant White screen (1.4 gain), which is basically similar to the Studiotek).
12/20/12 - Art Feierman
Basically all the projectors we review, including this DLA-X55R, will look a lot better projecting on to your screen than they do in our photos. Although the images can reveal some things and support some points I make, they are mostly for "entertainment" for the following reasons:
Editor's Note: These JVC DLA-X55R projector screen images come to you, via a Canon 60D dSLR camera, Photoshop software where we crop and save for web, (using massive image compression which does affect color), browsers, your computer's graphic card, and even your monitor, all with their own color and contrast inaccuracies. There are color shifts, saturation differences, etc. Take them all, "with a grain (no, make that a kilo) of salt".
There is a slight yellowish caste to the images. Part of this is, no doubt, the result of all the processes above, but note that the X55R, post calibration does seem to still have a touch too strong yellows in most skin tones.
DLA-X55R "Out of the Box" Picture Quality
Pretty impressive but not so good that calibrating it doesn't noticeably improve it. Oh your friends will think it's stunning "right out of the box" but you'll know it can be better. Right below is a good example of "out of the box". Both projectors were in one of their "best" modes, with default settings. The X55R projector is on the right, the Epson Pro Cinema 6020 on the left. Epson is slightly brighter on bright scenes:
Looking at the small image above, the Epson has a reddish caste, the JVC on the right a yellow green one. Neither looks quite right. Of course if you click and look at the larger image, try covering up one for 20-30 seconds, and the other will start looking just great. It's the comparison that makes it easy to spot small differences. Remember, this was shot before either was calibrated. Either projector will simply look better - closer to ideal, just by plugging in our calibration settings.
Check out our recommended settings for items like Brightness, Color, Grayscale, etc. on the Calibration page of this review.
The image above from Victoria Secret is post calibration (though stage lighting always has an impact).
DLA-X55 Projector - Flesh Tones
Close to excellent but not quite there. After calibration the color accuracy of skin tones is improved, but despite Mike's calibration (including the Color Management System for individual colors) still managed to leave a slight hint of too much yellow or yellow/green.
Not that anyone but us "hard core" will care about that slight a shift.
I should note that for normal movie viewing I found best, most natural viewing when Sharpness was kept to no more than 10, and Detail Enhancement at 15. Most images here were taken with those settings.
Above and below, from Lord of the Rings: Gandalf, Arwen
Above, Arwen has a bit too much yellow green, however, a slight greenish caste should be there regardless. The image is taken from a forest scene, and you can see that shift due to the "environment" (especially the forehead) with most projectors, but the JVC still has a touch too much, compared to the original.
Leeloo, of course, from The Fifth Element
This HDTV image was taken with the X70 in Stage mode, the projector's brightest, rather than the User 1 "best" mode used for all the movie shots.
Immediately below are some additional images we typically use in reviews, that should give you a good feel for overall skin tone handling:
Above, Andrew Garfield from the new Spiderman.
From HGTV - a woman describing her "hobbit-like house":
DLA-X55R Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Overall, great blacks and really good shadow detail!
Black Level Performance of the X55R
Let's start with a a direct comparison between the JVC and the Epson 6020UB (same as the 5020UB for our discussion). As many of you know, the Epson offers exceptional black level performance for an under $3500 projector - the best we've seen for the price. Well, this JVC is at least as good.
Before you look at the side by side image below, a note: Both projectors were photographed with their default settings, no adjustment to even Brightness or Contrast. As it turns out, however, that tends to favor the JVC if only slightly. Why? JVC's default Brightness is zero, but based on testing, should be +2, which would raise overall black levels (and whites too). The Epson, though is at zero, and should be there. As a result, if we reset the JVC's Brightness to +2, the letterboxing would brighten. Even with all that considered, the JVC still has to be considered to be slightly better at blackest blacks.
Below: Epson Pro Cinema 6020UB (left), JVC X55R (right):
Viewing the enlarged version of this overexposed "night" photo, you can see that the Epson is a touch brighter overall, but the letter box at top and bottom are a bit brighter still compared to the JVC. In terms of blackest blacks, let's say the JVC can get just a slight bit darker than the Epson at its best. Still, very close by anyone's observation. The difference between, the JVC and Epson, is very slight, say compared to either of them compared to the Panasonic PT-AE8000 (which is still very respectable at blacks but no match for these two).
Now for a series of comparative images from competing projectors:
Here we again start, with the DLA-X55R, followed by the Sony VPL-VW95ES. Note: We have been converting most recent "starship" images to grayscale to remove the distraction of varying colors (which tend to be exaggerated on these many seconds long time exposures).
Sony VPL-HW50ES: (about $1400 less) The letterbox and background blacks are a touch lighter with the Sony, but note that the JVC image isn't as overexposed (look at the starship and the pause button), so that has to be "compensated" for.
These two (JVC and Sony) are about as close as two different projectors will get in terms of blackest blacks. But, of course, in brighter images, the blacks are blacker with the JVC due to not needing a dynamic iris. Still, you really notice differences on dark scenes. They all look really good at blacks when the scenes are primarily bright.
Sony VPL-VW95ES: (Sorry, we don't have a more overexposed version of this image) If we did, we believe you would find that the VW95ES can definitely do a bit better blacks than it's lower cost HW50ES or the JVC X55R.
Mitsubishi HC9000D (uses Sony LCoS panels):
Sharp XV-Z30000, Sharp was the first company to launch a home 1080p 3D capable projector. This new Z30000 is a major upgrade from that old one. (price competitive to the X35 not this X55). A single Chip DLP, it really has very good blacks compared to a lot of other DLP projectors, but still not a match for the JVC.
Epson Home Cinema 5020UB: Epson has reigned for years as the "black level champ" in the under $3500 price range, and can compete in blacks, rather easily with most over $5000 projectors. Compared to the JVC - very close in terms of blackest blacks (depending on which images I view), but the JVC has the advantage in dynamic range:
Short version: The X55R has excellent black level performance. I expect that the X75R and X95R will still beat the X55R (as probably can the Sony VW95ES), but the X55R can hold its own, at least with every other projector we've reviewed under $5000. As I've said many times, when blacks get this good, further improvement in blacks, for most of us, is usually less important than other features. This JVC has achieved that level.
Shadow Detail Performance
Also very, very good, but not as good as the JVC's black levels. In our side by side with the Epson (again, the one projector we have with excellent performance that I will use off all year), the Epson is a little better. We're again quibbling, however. Losing the last small amount of dark shadow detail is rarely going to be missed. And, more to the point, when you get to a lot of these more expensive projectors (and some less expensive ones), often the difference you see is more a factor of the gamma setting you select, than actual differences in native ability. Note: For the Starship and Train images except the side by sides, the JVC is set with the correct +2 Brightness when photographed
Editor's note: We're converting many of these "Bond train scene" images to grayscale, because color differences tend to be very distracting (and they are poor representatives of actual color on images overexposed by 4 or 5 f-stops (an incredible amount).
DLA-X55R: Pretty good, or rather very good, but not the best. Of course playing with features like e-Shift will further affect seeing the darkest shadow detail as the tendency is to boost contrast, which in turn tends to extract a price.
Ed. Note: Almost all the images below have the PS3 pause icon in the lower left corner. Comparing how blown out that pause is, helps determine if images are similarly overexposed, or if one is more so, compared to another.
Last year's DLA-RS45 (same as the older consumer X30)
Below Mitsubishi HC9000D: We found the Mitsubishi to be particularly good when we reviewed it
Here are images from additional projectors:
Sony VPL-VPL-HW50ES ($3999) unfortunately not overexposed enough to be very helpful, but defintely at least the equal to the X55:
Epson's Home Cinema 5020UB - Does slightly better:
Here's a heavily overexposed, and slightly cropped image from Lord of the Rings. Also note that there is more color in this image than you might notice at first glance. Some projectors do better. MPC / e-Shift is set to Film.
From Star Trek:
JVC DLA-X55R - Overall Color & Picture Quality
Hard not to appreciate the picture of the JVC DLA-X55R, but for $5000 it's not quite the best out there. It is, however, a serious contender. I have to describe the color accuracy, and naturalness of the X55 to be extemely good, but there is some real competition. I figure, calibrated, the JVC and the Epson are roughly comparable in the naturalness of the picture, especially skin tones.
That said, last year's more expensive JVC DLA-X70R was better (than the X55) at both color and naturalness of the picture. (My subjective assessment.) I'll aso say that both Sonys - the HW50ES and VW95ES - and the Runco RS-5 are more natural looking.
Again, we're dealing with overall great looking images on all these projectors, and worrying about the last 1%, so to speak. Few of us really would choose one of these great projectors based on these differences. It's more likely that other factors come into play. For example, if you were considering the less expensive Sony HW50ES against this JVC projector, and you are primarily a movie viewer who has the room for a 2.35:1 "Cinemascope screen", it would be no contest. The JVC has the Lens Memory feature that makes that easy. Even if you could slap an anamorphic lens and sled on the Sony, it would work, but the Sony would now be noticeably more expensive.
Bottom line: Looks great, skin tones and overall picture are extremely good, as is shadow detail. Black levels are really excellent.
Only we serious enthusiasts are going to quibble about the differences in picture between most of the projectors I've just mentioned. You will truly enjoy the picture here, if the projetor has the other things you need.
For your consideration: Here are additional JVC DLA-X55R images, some of which can be found on other reviews for comparison purposes:
In this image of Ben Kingsley above, if your display is like my Mac's you are definitely seeing an image with more yellow caste than existed on the screen, and that's desipte an intentional general color caste to the movie. It's very evident in this image though because the JVC itself still exhibits a very slight shift toward yellow (post calibration).
Above - Pippen from LOTR, Below - Spiderman
Below: HDTV (with ambient light present - see room photos in HDTV section below):
The bottom line on overall picture quality:
Great, but not the absolute best picture for the price once calibrated. Very good, but not exceptional "right out of the box". Black levels and dynamic range are excellent. Color, shadow detail, and overall naturalness of the picture are truly impressive, but are not the best.
Further, JVC puts a lot of stock in their e-Shift and MPC processing for it.
The thing is only the Film setting doesn't take an obvious toll on the naturalness of the picture, and even it exacts a minor price. By the time you use the stronger MPC / e-shift settings, contrast is obviously boosted, making the image look visibly less natural. That's the price for a seemingly sharper, more detailed image - one that's not as natural looking.
JVC DLA-X55R Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
Let's start with how the room was setup for the shoot. I've already said this is a projector designed for a dedicated home theater / cave. While you could consider the bonus room / family room type environments, I don't believe this projector would be a good choice.
For our HDTV shoots, we did it two ways. Football images were taken with modest ambient light coming into the room, and the rear seven recessed room lighting turned on. Overall, though we're letting a good bit less light in from the side and back shuttered windows than we do for brighter projectors, and that definitely includes the Epsons, Sonys, Panasonics...
Note the bright spot at the top right of the screen. You can particularly see that light washing out the top right of some of the football images.
Here's how the rear of the room looked for the football shoot (usually the door is open - a large skylight is in that outer room, and normally the shutters are a bit more open:
For all the other HDTV photography, the shutters were closed to the point that drastically less light was entering the room. In the image below it's easy to see how that extra ambient light hitting in the upper right corner of the screen, has taken it's toll on the upper right of the image below us.
Since this projector is best in a dedicated home theater or cave, there's plenty of brightness to do a really nice job on HDTV, and sports in general, as long as you don't intentionally allow too much ambient light. Keep in mind this is a projector that approaches 1000 lumens at its brightest.
Below, the same image as in the room photo above:
By comparison, the Sony competition is a good 20+% brighter in brightest mode, and the Epsons are about twice as bright! Most of the DLP projectors out there in the general price range, however, are pretty similar in brightness. And, of course, screen size makes a big difference.
Below - Mad Money (CNBC). With the window shutters almost completely closed you can really see that the blacks in the image below are much blacker than the ambient light damaged blacks in the football photos. Of course, even with that much ambient light, football viewing was pretty good. (Although personally I would have closed the shutters more to satisfy my own taste. That said, I prefer to have a projector with more horsepower to begin with.) Clarity is very good, and looks even better with MPC running. The image below is the type where e-Shift gives you sharper looking small text, and minor associated artifacts aren't important.
Another Olympics image:
Bottom line for HDTV on the JVC DLA-X55R Home Theater Projector
It worked just fine here. For football, I typically more than fill my 124" screen with DirecTV's NFL GameCast, showing up to 8 games at once. That gives me a sports bar look with each of the games being almsost 37" diagonal! With modest ambient light, that's pushing the JVC a bit hard. I was definitely tempted to switch in an Epson 5020UB for that oversized image, when friends were over to watch. "Tempted" is the magic word. The Epson could have easily done better with twice the lumens, but this JVC was still able to handle the setup reasonably well. True, I didn't allow as much ambient light as I could with the Epson, but the room was still pretty "social" friendly.
As with Super-Resolution, and Reality Creation from the competition, I enjoyed using MPC and e-Shift. The feel was a very sharp image. And for this year, it seems CFI and e-Shift can be run at the same time, for smoother motion, and a seemingly sharper image.
Below - from the recent 12/12/12 Concert:
Very Bottom Line: This JVC DlA-X55R is just great for HDTV type work. Any inherent softness due to a 3 panel system, and misconvergence, can be dynamically compensated with, by using the higher MPC settings. Minor artifacts (such as those from MPC) just aren't an issue when watching some serious football, but the extra "apparent" sharpness and detail, is appreciated. A really good trade-off in this case.
Above, from the Summer Olympics, Below - a little "Dark Side of the Moon" anyone? (also from 12/12/12).
As long as you have enough lumens to go around with this X55R JVC projector, HDTV and Sports will be just great. The biggest concern should be having enough brightness to allow for whatever ambient light you need to have a nice social experience for "watching TV" as opposed to movie viewing. BTW, movie viewing off of HDTV works well too. Just dial MPC down to Film or turn it off.
More football tomorrow (12/22/12)! Tomorrow we discover another "truth" as I'll be working with this JVC, but at some point, will be switching over to the BenQ W1070, which should prove to be a nice, very sharp, $1099 single chip DLP projector. The BenQ is far brighter than the JVC, so I'll get to see audience reaction from my buddies... All that fancy image from the JVC, or a nice, brighter image from a low cost, "almost" entry level home projector. Folks, it's the movies where we can easily appreciate the X55R. Brightness is a powerful thing. I won't be too surprised if my guys should decide they prefer the BenQ, for football.
Other than the brightness, though, I think the X55R should easily hold its own! It's good though to put a $1000 projector up against a $5000 one. It helps keep perspective.