JVC DLA-X55R Home Cinema Projector - Review Summary
JVC's DLA-X55R projector is definitely most at home in a dedicated home theater, or similarly dark room environment.
12/20/2012 - Art Feierman
JVC DLA-X55R Projector - The Bottom Line
There's lots to summarize, so let's start with the Physical attributes. JVC's 2:1 zoom lens is motorized (focus, zoom and lens shift). This allows for maximum placement flexibility, and on top of that, the X55R offers Lens Memory, allowing you the option of going widescreen, without the expense of an anamorphic lens (and motorized sled).
On top of the flexibility, the optics themselves appear to be particularly good. Image sharpness (whether e-shift is involved or not) is overall very good, for a 3 panel device. Also of note, the 2:1 zoom lens doesn't lose the usual 40% or so brightness when placed at maximum distance (telephoto), compared to wide angle (only 26%). This does mean, that the JVC hangs in better, in terms of brightness should you be mounting it on a rear wall, near the distant end of the lenses range.
Of course, this JVC has some standard features - the lamp can be changed without unmounting the projector. This year JVC has improved their lamp life claim, from 3000 hours in low power, to 4000, and from no spec, (we assumed 2000 hours) to 3000 hours at full power. The lens is center mounted, simplifying placement calculations.
When it comes to 2D brightness the X55 is truly a typical dedicated theater projector - about 700 lumens calibrated, and right around 1000 lumens at its brightest (conservatively measured). That's plenty of lumens for a 120" or even larger screen. I run a 124" in 2.35:1 and the JVC always had plenty of brightness for my 2D viewing, and with some to spare.
For 3D viewing, however, even at it's brightest it doesn't have a lot of brightness for 3D. 100" diagonal's respectable, (this year's 3D projectors as a group are getting a brighter image to your eye, per lumen) than last year's models).
Creative Frame Interpolation - "Clear Motion" - has three modes in addition to Off. I stuck to the Low setting which was pretty good. Not too obvious, but far from the best in terms of avoiding the "soap opera" affect. That said, I used it primarily in conjunction on MPC the firmware for sharpness/detail enhancement (and e-Shift), the combination, however, does result in an increase in artifacts.
Speaking of the whole "4K e-Shift2", while I still won't buy into it being real 4K. After all, two things: It can't accept 4K content, and, at best it's 2 times 1080p pixels, which is still only half the pixels of true 4K). Still, you should consider it to be a very good detail/sharpness solution. I think about it as something roughly comparable in purpose to Sony's Reality Creation on their HW50ES. Note that the whole configuration in MPC for Film, is subtle, and less than Sony can easily do. The more severe HD and High Resolutions modes, make a real difference, but as you can see from some of our demo modes, they can be over the top, as can anyone's detail (etc.) dynamic system.
Watch our video on the JVC "4K" e-Shift2 detail enhancement technology.
So, how good is it (MPC and e-Shift)? I would say it allows the JVC to come out with a sharper / more detailed seeming image than Epson can do with their Super-Resolution, but I don't think it can beat Sony's Reality Creation. I just don't know as I didn't have both projectors at the same time. (Both can easily be "over the top", in fact, with both, you can use a setting that looks great on one piece of content, then be over the top on the next. Getting them set at their best takes some fiddling around.
The remote control is a great one. Definitely, it is one of my favorites, if not my favorite. Nice size and balance, nice back light on the buttons, and good range. Not much you can ask for in a remote control. The remote provides direct access to each Preset modes, and each of the Sources. Plus key buttons for Lens Memory, Lens Controlcolor temp, gamma, and more. And of course a Lens Control button for access to the power zoom, focus and lens shift.
Below, Paris at dusk, from Hugo:
Color handling, and the naturalness of the image are really good. A more complete color management system allows for a very good calibration. Still, this X55R projector doesn't match the color accuracy and naturalness of the X70R we reviewed last year, but better than the RS45. Despite Mike doing a full CMS calibration, I'm seeing just a touch of shift toward yellow that shows up on skin tones. It's not something dramatic, but, for example, we've oft said that Epson UB projectors have a tendency toward yellow/green if you don't do a full CMS calibration. In this case both the Epson and JVC got the full treatment, but the JVC still has some of that yellow, that the Epson no longer had.
Bottom line on color: It really is going to look great to most folks, but, when it comes to that bottom line, some of the less expensive competition still looks better. Without side by side viewing though, figuring that out would be pretty hard for most.
Below: Ernest Bourgnine in RED
What really stands out about the DLA-X55R projector is its black level performance. I was pleasantly surprised to see it outperform (albeit slightly) in terms of blackest blacks compared to the Epson 5020UB (which we are using this year as a mid-priced reference - due to it's great blacks). Of course the JVC doesn't have a dynamic iris, so it also has an image with more dynamic range.
Below: From the Victoria Secret fashion show:
That said, this year we have the Epsons at $2600 and $3500, the $4000 Sony HW50ES and this JVC all close enough on blacks that you won't be choosing one over the other due to the blacks. I'd still give the more expensive JVCs and the Sony VPL-VW95ES the edge in blacks. Shadow detail is extremely good, although you can notice slight contrast boosts due to the use of e-shift / MPC, which help bring them out.
Below, from Lord of the Rings:
There are many other things to like about this JVC, besides skin tones, and awesome black level performance. The handling of dark shadow detail is most impressive, especially considering the great, dark, black levels. I won't claim that the JVC does the best on dark detail, but it is right up there, with any that are better, being not significantly better. What little might be missing, probably will not be missed.
The two year warranty, while not best in class, is a respectable one. Still I would have liked to see 3 years on a projector of this quality, as most of the competition comes with 3 years in this price range. Let's say - not a bad warranty, but less than projectors in this price normally come with.
If you have chosen a relatively small screen for your theater (100" or less), you should be able to extend lamp life by running the JVC in Normal - (low power) lamp mode for your movie viewing. That will get you 3000 hours on the lamp. Every little bit helps!
Above: From Star Trek
And of course, for movie viewing on larger screens, 748 calibrated lumens is nicely brighter than most other projectors.
Above, from Red, below Spiderman, with e-Shift2 / MPC engaged
3D on the JVC DLA-X55R projector
Sadly, this JVC projector lacks the native brightness to do really vibrant 3D on larger screens. Sorry, but most should consider this JVC to be a projector fine for "fooling around" with 3D, but if you are really into 3D, the brightness will likely disappoint. I was rarely satisfied with brightness over 100" diagonal.
On the brighter side, though, 3D picture quality is noticeably improved over last year's JVCs, which were pretty weak compared to the competition in terms of crosstalk, etc. This year 3D looks pretty good to me, in terms of a smooth image without obvious crosstalk issues. The controls allow you to adjust 3D, including one which controls image brightness. Expect more crosstalk in the brighter end of the range, but even at it's default setting in the middle, the JVC looked real good watching Hugo, Spiderman and others.
Overall Brightness: This projector is supposedly (like the X35) based on last year's X30R (aka RS45). Thus, it was a surprise to us, that the DLA-X55R doesn't measure near as bright as the RS45 did back in 1/2012. That is until I realized that the X55R, like the more expensive DLA-75R and DLA-95R, JVC only claims 1200 lumens (the X35 specs 1300 lumens). This JVC X55R measured 703 lumens calibrated, which is slightly less (about 5%) than the X70R tested last year (which measured 748 calibrated)! Of course there will be some small fluctuation in brightness from unit to unit due to lamp variation. This projector was measured with less than 50 hours on the lamp.
In this image above, like with many others you can pick up that slight yellow caste that was still left after Mike's calibration. (More tweaking likely could get rid of it, but possibly with other trade-offs.)
Still, when watching this projector, most of us will be perfectly happy with the color, and the shadow detail, and definitely with the blacks!
Above: From The Fifth Element, Below: Red
The Very Bottom Line on the JVC DLA-X55R Home Theater projector:
Last Word: 2D...
JVC DLA-X55R Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Image above, from The Fifth Element, Blu-ray disc
JVC DLA-X55R Projector: Pros
There sure are a lot of Pros!
- Extremely good color post calibration
- Great black level performance for the price (and no dynamic iris needed)
- Good CFI - multiple modes
- Slightly bove average brightness in "best" movie mode (703 lumens) for movie viewing
- Very good dark shadow detail, expecially considering the dark blacks
- 2D->3D works - try it with some of your 2D videos from your camcorder or...
- Lens Memory - allows movie fans to go with a widescreen - such as 2.35:1 cinemascope
- Zoom, Focus, Lens shift, are all motorized
- Supports anamorphic lens in both 2D and 3D (not all the competition supports an anamorphic lens in 3D)
- Wide variety of color presets
- Better than average lamp life (4000/3000 hours)
- Extensive gamma and custom gamma controls
- Crosstalk is much improved (reduced) from last year
- Optional RF glasses are rechargeable, have a great, 30 foot range from emitter
- Very good menu layout
- Really excellent remote control
- Rather good documentation, better than most
- Excellent placement flexibility
- Reasonably quiet projector - not too bad at full power, very quiet at low power
- Black case - works in dedicated theaters with dark ceilings
- Decent warranty - 2 years parts and labor
JVC DLA-X55R Projector: Cons
- Just below average in "brightest mode" (less than 1000 lumens)
- Needs to be brighter for 3D - stick to smaller screens or high gain ones
- Lacks a standard analog computer input
- A 3rd HDMI input would be nice (always), but especially so, in light of no analog computer input
- Warranty 2 years parts and labor is average, but several competitors are offering 3 years
- Lamp life - with 3000 hours claimed at low power, we estimate 2000 at full. That makes its lamp life one of the shorter durations
- Only an OK warranty, for the price range
- 3D glasses and emitter are optional
- 3D glasses are Very expensive at $179
Above, from Sherlock Holmes (sequel)
Above: Star Trek's Captain Pike
JVC's DLA-X55R is one fine projector. We tend to overanalyze most things. Take one of these home and watch it, and you'll wonder why you've been wasting a fortune at movie theaters all these years. Well done!
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