JVC DLA-X55R Projector Review
Last year JVC offered three home theater projectors in their lineup, but this JVC DLA-X55R shares features from two of those JVC projectors. The DLA-X55R is primarily built around last year's X30 (which has been improved as this year's X35). In addition though, JVC's e-Shift feature, previously found only on the top two models, has been integrated into the DLA-X55. That puts it squarely between the X35 and X75 projectors.
Let's get started with an overview of JVC's DLA-X55R.
December 2012 - Art Feierman
JVC DLA-X55R Projector Overview
This is a 3 panel LCoS projector. JVC and Sony are the primary manufacturers of LCoS based home theater projectors. With a $5000 price tag, you have to expect some serious performance from this X55 projector. The projector is equipped with almost all the bells and whistles but is still about picture quality.
The X55 offers excellent placement flexibility, with a motorized zoom lens. It offers features including CFI for smooth motion, their e-Shift for a sharper, more detailed image, Lens Memory for those who want to use a Cinemascope shaped wide screen, and more.
And of course, this JVC (like most projectors these days), offers 3D capability (just add emitter and glasses - not included in that $5 grand price tag.)
Image below from The Fifth Element (converted to grayscale)
Gandalf - of course, from Lord of the Rings, Return of the King:
This JVC projector is designed for a dedicated theater, or at least a cave of sorts.
JVC DLA-X55R Projector Highlights
- Excellent black-level performance and dynamic range
- Good brightness in "best mode"
- Capable of handling very large screens for movie viewing (in 2D)
- Good warranty
- Very good shadow detail
- Sold by local installing dealers
- Excellent remote control
- 3D capable
- Excellent placement flexibility
- Lens Memory feature
- Creative frame interpolation for smooth motion
- "4K e-Shift2" JVC's detail enhancement
Specs for JVC DLA-X55R
Original MSRP: $4999.95, Street Price: $4999?
Technology: LCoS (D-iLA) 3 panels
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: 1200 lumens, measured 703 calibrated, 872 at maximum
Contrast: 50,000:1 Native (no dynamic iris)
Zoom Lens ratio: 2:1 motorized zoom and focus
Lens shift: Vertical and horizontal, motorized, 80% vertical 34% horizontal
Lamp life: 4000 hours in Normal mode, 3000 in High
Lens Memory: Yes
Weight: 33.3 lbs. (15.1 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Years Parts and Labor (US)
View additional specifications and brochure: JVC DLA-X55R home theater projector.
JVC DLA-X55R Projector: Special Features
No Dynamic Iris, but a Manual One
JVC's exceptional blacks are due, first and foremost, to their LCoS panel design. They simply created a panel that has higher native contrast than the panels coming from Sony or Canon, or any LCD or DLP projectors. As a result, JVC does not need to add a dynamic iris. The JVC X55R produces excellent blacks, without it, and with more dynamic range than any other under $5000 projector.
There is a manual iris with 16 steps. If you don't need all the projector's brightness, stopping down the manual iris will help you get the desired amount. In doing so, there's also a slight improvement in contrast.
DLA-X55R 3D Abilities
JVC has accomplished some significant improvement to 3D since last year where it was considered the one area where the competition really had the JVCs beat handily. Even $1599 3D projectors like those from Epson and Acer were doing a much cleaner job with 3D content. After watching at least 8 hours of movie 3D, and a bit of both sports and general HDTV 3D content, I'm very pleased with the improvements. Crosstalk seems significantly improved, which is good, because last year's JVCs were way, not good.
JVC X55R 3D active glasses and emitter:
For 3D, of course, the X55R projector works with optional 3D active glasses which means if you have a lot of friends, more money for glasses. JVC's got some of the priciest 3D glasses out there, at $179 MSRP. True, they are RF (not IR), and they are rechargeable, but the same can be said for similar glasses for the Epson projectors (RF and rechargeable), which are only $99 each. JVC's glasses are reasonably light, and relatively comfortable (more so than Sony's glasses).
I should mention the emitter for the glasses. It's a small affair and I love that it just plugs into the back of the projector into its connector. Last year the IR remote was at the end of a cable so you could position the emitter for best functionality with glasses. This one, being Radio Frequency, doesn't need to be in the open. Just figure, though, that if you are shelf mounting, it makes the projector about 3 inches deeper than otherwise.
Third party glasses hopefully will become available.
2D to Simulated 3D on the DLA-X55R
Take it or leave it. I'm not into it except for home videos.
JVC DLA-X55R Calibration
The DLA-X55R sports a full CMS, allowing for a very good calibration. Mike (our calibrator), provides the settings his calibration came up with, and some additional commentary from his experience with the X55R projector.
CFI - JVC X55R Creative Frame Interpolation
JVC's CFI designed to smooth out fast motion works typically well. I was able to spot a bit more artifacts (haloing players moving around) than I expected in the low setting while watching football. I do have the MPC (e-Shift), however engaged (HD setting), so I expect any CFI artifacts to be less noticeable with it turned off. I would expect the same with any other projectors in terms of their dynamic enhancement firmware..
Figure the more dynamic processing being done, the more likely you'll notice. Thus the CFI, at least with e-Shift running rarely produces artifacts you'll easily notice, but it's not the cleanest. Even the low setting gives you enough "live digital video" (soap opera) effect for me to say that there are more natural ones. The Panasonic PT-AE8000U would be a very good example of a less intrusive CFI when viewing a movie.
From the 12-12-12 concert - a couple of old guys most of you will recognize!
JVC e-Shift2 and "4K" resolution
Watch our video on the JVC "4K" e-Shift2 detail enhancement technology.
I can't say I'm a fan of JVC for calling their e-Shift technology 4K resolution. That said, I understand what they are doing, and how they can claim it as 4K More importantly, the setup really does provide benefits. And, of course, like any other razzle dazzle, a touch of downside. For example, when e-Shift is engaged, CFI seems be a little more noisy around moving objects (like football players' shoulders).
Overall, having the e-Shift feature is a good thing, and I believe most folks will engage it. I haven't found a good reason not to. There are a number of presets to choose from. We'll show you how each one affects an image. Check it out on the the performance page. I expect just about everyone will use e-Shift2 at least some of the time. My issue is branding it as 4K resolution, which will only lead to consumer confusion. I'll say that the Film preset doesn't "sharpen" as much as some other settings, but it retains a nice film "softness" while seeming sharper than without.
E-Shift2 needs to project two 1080p frames (one shifted diagonally by a half pixel up). To do that, they need to create the data, from a single 1080p frame. They analyze the image to determine what needs enhancing to "improve" the picture.
JVC's MPC is the controls that handle the detail and contrast enhancement. There are five settings besides off, Film is close to Off, but the rest...well take a look:
Let's take a look. Here are close-ups from the new Spiderman movie.
Each thumbnail will provide a 1000 pixel wide cropped close-up when clicked:
JVC does a lot of image processing as part of the feature. They do analyze the image and create a 4K resolution frame interpolated from 2K data.
Here's one issue though. A true 4K projector (let's base it on 1080p), would be 3840x2160 pixels, or roughly 8 megapixels. This JVC projector though doesn't do 8 megapixels - it fires 1920x1080 twice, which is half the number of pixels as true 4K. That's the math.
By the way, a side benefit of e-Shift, is that it makes the almost invisible pixel structure of JVC's LCoS chips essentially invisible. Now for a 100" screen, you'll have get within about 2 feet to see any pixel structure instead of 5 or 6 feet back.
Panasonic for years, has had SmoothScreen. It's done differently, but also does at least one thing similarly: It makes the pixels more invisible at normal seating distances.
None of the JVC projectors with 4K e-Shift2 are capable of handling any 4K source material.
The X55 projector basically takes 1080p (1920x1080), and fires twice - 1920x1080 the first time, then shifts the image about 1/2 pixel diagonally, and repeats the process. That blurs the image, and spreads out the light to where the pixel mask is, thus the lower pixel visibility.
I think JVC's got a good thing here, except for pitching it as 4K. Don't worry though, JVC will have help - lots of it, from the various LCDTV manufacturers. Those players are starting to call all sorts of things 4K, that are also not true 4K. Consider this:
JVC is addressing 4K, but they are merely overlapping pixels. Even if JVC could accept 4K, it definitely doesn't provide the sharpness and detail of a true 4K projector like Sony's VPL-VW1000ES. The overlapping pixels, which at times can actually add softness on some fine work where there's 1:1 pixel mapping, generally provides a sharper seeming picture.
Bottom line. The JVC appears a touch sharper than the Epson 5020, which seems pretty sharp for a 3 panel projector. I may yet get a chance to run the JVC with e-shift against a basic 1080p projector that is a sharp single chip DLP projector. Timing didn't work out so that I could compare the Sony's Reality Creation to JVC's e-Shift.
Image below - Leeloo, from The Fifth Element