JVC DLA-X95R 2D / 3D Projector Review - Overview
February 2013 - Art Feierman
JVC DLA-X95R Projector Overview
The JVC DLA-X95R is the flagship projector of JVC's Consumer Group. It is JVC's effort at excellence, in that it starts with a great projector design, and enhances that by using only the best components. The DLA-X95R basically is built from individually selected components. Effectively that means that a DLA-X95R should have the best lens, the most stable power supply, the best light engine, etc. All the "normal" lenses, etc. go to building the lower cost X75R. Perhaps it's not surprising with the goal of creating the best projector, that the DLA-X95R is rated 100 lumens less than the DLA-X75R, and with that, sports the higher contrast number.
If you want the best JVC has to offer in a home theater projector, it will set you back $4000 more for the X95R over the $7999 X75R. Is it worth it? I can say from past experience, there is a visible difference between the hand-built JVC projectors and their standard build equivalent. However, this year we are only reviewing the X95R, not the X75R.
We will do a short write-up for the X75R, based on our expectations, and previous years' comparisons of JVC's flagship vs. the similar lower cost version. I suspect the bulk of the difference is having the best optics. But don't forget that higher contrast, which is probably related.
The DLA-X95R may be the flagship of JVC's Consumer Group, but also know that there's an essentially identical projector from JVC Pro, the DLA-RS66U. Only some minor cosmetic differences set them apart.
Which one should you buy, Pro or Consumer, keeping in mind that the projectors are effectively identical except for a touch of cosmetics? Warranties are the same. Pricing seems to vary by about $1 (ninety nine cents). It likely will come down to which one your favorite AV dealer carries.
That's a tough call. Personally, I've reviewed projectors from both groups. For the last two years, I've switched from getting review projectors from the Pro side to the Consumer side. (I did review one JVC Pro projector last year - the RS45, but I had to borrow it from a dealer.) My reasons may not have any bearing on your decision.
My reason relates to the response and support I get as a reviewer. Since due to some personnel changes at JVC Pro, I have since found JVC Consumer folks to be more responsive to me, in terms of getting product in on a timely basis for review, and getting quick response when I have questions, or an issue. My last JVC projector - my RS20, came from the Pro side. However, if my next projector is a JVC, it will almost certainly be bearing an X, not an RS. Either way, it will have the same great picture.
Image above, from The Fifth Element, saved as grayscale.
To keep the record straight, the JVC DLA-X95R projector's equivalent in JVC's Pro line, is the DLA-RS66U, and the "mass produced" DLA-X75R's twin is the DLA-RS56U projector.
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-X95R Projector Highlights
- Legendary (aka: superb) black-level performance
- Brighter than average calibrated
- Capable of handling very large screens for movie viewing (in 2D)
- Almost average measured brightness at full power (we use 1000 lumens as average)
- "4K e-Shift2" An interesting, useful technology, not to be confused with true 4K resolution
- Great Warranty
- Sold by local installing dealers
- Lamp design claims slower decay rate over time, in terms of brightness
- 3D capable
- Excellent placement flexibility
- Lens Memory, power lens features
- Support for an anamorphic lens
- Creative frame interpolation for smooth motion
Specs for JVC DLA-X95R
Original MSRP: $11,999, Street Price: $11,999
Technology: LCoS (SXRD) 3 panels
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
3D Capable: Yes, 2 pair of active glasses and emitter are included
Brightness: 1200 lumens claimed, measured: 658 calibrated, 757 at maximum (mid-zoom)
Contrast: 130,000:1 Native
Zoom Lens ratio: 2:1 motorized zoom and focus
Lens shift: Vertical and horizontal, motorized, 80% vertical 34% horizontal
Lamp life: Up to 4000 hours in Low power mode (labeled: Normal), 3000 hours at full power (High lamp).
Weight: 34 lbs. (15.2 Kg)
Warranty: 3 Years Parts and Labor, 1 year or 1000 hours for lamp
View additional specifications and brochure: JVC DLA-X95R home theater projector.
JVC DLA-X95 R Projector: Special Features
JVC Projector iOS app! Last week JVC announced their App for controlling JVC home theater projectors remotely from your iPhone, iPad...
How well does it work? I have no idea. But I will. I have downloaded it, and will start using it for my review of the JVC DLA-X35 which is already here and waiting to be reviewed. I will report on the app, in that review, which should be about 7-8 days behind this one's publishing.
No Dynamic Iris
Yes it is a feature of sorts! This JVC projector accomplishes truly superb black level performance without using a dynamic iris nor having to deal with the limitations of using one.
One might say that JVC is the only company out there capable of delivering really good black levels without an iris. Hey, no one else even tries!
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. Arguably, JVC X95R may well produce the blackest blacks of any projector I've worked with. (That is, other than a CRT in the "old days".) The $25K Sony true 4K projector (and just maybe their VW95ES), might beat the X95R's blacks, on really dark scenes, but definitely not overall.
On brighter scenes, those Sonys have great blacks, but the JVC X95 rules! Because the black levels are achieved without a dynamic iris, medium and brighter scenes, still produce equally black blacks as those in darker scenes. Other projectors (with irises), such as the Sonys, project blacks that aren't as dark, when doing brighter scenes, as the iris remains open so as not to dim the bright areas.
DLA-X95R 3D Abilities
This JVC X95R is 3D capable. Just plug the RF 3D emitter into the back panel, find some 3D content, and turn on JVC's active shutter glasses. As we discovered reviewing the "mid-priced" X55R, 3D has been seriously improved this year. Last years' JVCs had more image problems in 3D than any other projectors I reviewed in the price range (and worse than some entry level projectors)! This year, the 3D is really very good. Last year I basically said: Skip JVC if you want to take 3D seriously. Not the case this year.
Everyone seems to be getting brighter 3D this year than last, out of the same number of 2D lumens, whether due to glasses improvements or firmware, Still, this JVC still isn't even close to being a 3D powerhouse.
Above, Colin Farrel and Jessica Biel, in Total Recall
I watched 3D in both 16:9 (just under 98" diagonal) and 2.35:1 content - out to about 120" diagonal. I found the 98" diagonal to be "almost bright enough." That is, watchable, but still a little dim, dim enough that twice friends asked for a different projector or 2D. At about 120" diagonal, the image was downright dim Daylight sunny scenes in The Hunger Games, that should have looked bright, and vibrant, had the "brightness" that seemed more like a heavily overcast day. Daytime scenes in the woods, seemed more like it was about dusk. I could watch at 120" but rarely left it there for a long period of time, typically bringing it down to less than 110" before I was well into whatever movie I was watching. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks the JVC should stick to small screens for 3D:
I originally reported that JVC was waiting for THX 3D certification. This is the first projector I've reviewed to receive this certification. Interesting tidbit:
The footnote in JVC's brochure, regarding THX-3D, recommends a 90" diagonal screen as the optimum size for this projector. That sounds just about right for me, to have a decently bright image, with 100" diagonal still likely to be acceptable for many of you, if not your friends.
Above, Rihanna, at the Victoria Secret Fashion Show. Source: DirecTV
Let's talk 3D active glasses:
For 3D, of course, the X95R uses active glasses which means if you have a lot of friends, more money for glasses. JVC's glasses, however, are unusually expensive comparedwith many other projectors. (I also used SIM2's glasses with the JVC). Some others should work as well. The good news, is that you should be able to find some 3rd party glasses, that are well below $100. I have simply never found the time to do a 3D glasses comparison.
2D to Simulated 3D on the DLA-X95R
I can't really recommend watching 2D movies in 3D. I've tried. Kids might like it, but it doesn't do much for me. The practical use for 2D to 3D is to watch your own family videos in 3D. Definitely!
This JVC's 2D to 3D isn't quite as good as the Mitsubishi HC8000, and neither are ready for prime time. I spend time in the HC8000D review discussing details of what I'm seeing that looks 'wrong". Check it out if you want to investigate further.
JVC DLA-X95 R Calibration
The JVC X95R has a full CMS - color management system for proper calibration. This sets it apart from the lower cost X35 which has less color controls, lower contrast, etc.
Image below taken with more than a little ambient light in the room.
JVC X95R Creative Frame Interpolation
JVC's CFI modes are typical. The low setting should be tolerable to some (many?) for movie viewing, but I'm in the "purist" camp, when it comes to using CFI with movies. I can think of only two, maybe three projectors where I had watched part or most of a movie with CFI engaged on low, and really didn't notice. One, for example was a Runco, almost 3 times the price.
For sports I used the low setting. There is a slightly visible noise around the "fast moving objects" that may be a little more detectable than some other CFIs, but I wouldn't consider that an issue. I find CFI to be a fairly personal choice. Especially for movie viewing, where I'm definitely "old school".
JVC e-Shift2 and "4K" resolution
Watch our video on the JVC "4K" e-Shift2 detail enhancement technology.
I don't approve of JVC calling their e-Shift2 technology 4K resolution.
I understand what they are doing, and I can see real benefit as a dynamic detail enhancement and sharpening solution, but it's not true 4K nor does it come close.
Think comparable to Sony's Reality Creation, except that JVC's solution involves hardware, not just image processing. Having the e-Shift2 is a good thing.
e-Shift2 (this year's version adds the "2"), makes the almost invisible pixel structure of JVC's LCoS chips essentially invisible, even at a couple of feet away.
Panasonic for years, on their PT-AE projectors such as the current PT-AE8000U, 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.
Another "proof" about it not being true 4K, is that these JVC projectors with e-Shift2 cannot accept 4K source material. It 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. (That more expensiveSony does support 4K source material.)
Thus, JVC is addressing 4K, but they are merely overlapping pixels. Even if JVC could accept 4K, it wouldn't provide the sharpness and detail of a true 4K projector like Sony's VPL-VW1000ES, which is currently my favorite home theater projector, and winner of last year's Outstanding Projector of the Year award. Of course, that Sony is just over twice the price. What's extra $13,000 between friends?
Let's look at the JVC's e-Shift2 in action. Below, we have an image of a newspaper, from the most recent Spiderman movie. Below is a photo of the whole frame that we're about to use (less some minor edge cropping). For the serious look at e-shift2 in action, we'll start by cropping down to around 10% of the scene.
In the sequence below there's plenty to look at. (For future subscribers, there will be a video on e-Shift, when our redesigned site launches in May).
Remember as you look at these closeups below, that the image above represents just about the full frame. So, what may seem fairly dramatic here, is less so viewing the full frame. Still at close "normal" seating distances, you can make out all the things I'm talking about.
You will find that some settings appear more contrasty. You'll also find that as you look at different settings, despite all that enhancement, there is virtually no change in actual readability of very small text: More different than actually better. Folks if this was real 4K, the readability difference from going from 2K (e-shift2 off) would be more dramatic, even with 2K content.
An immediate visible difference just by going into the Film setting of e-shift. More than this setting, I found to be over the top, with the movie losing some of its film-like nature.
Notice the big jump in the shadows due to the slight fold and wrinkles in the newspaper. Noise is now visible around all the black text. Large or small, the paper now seems to be lighter right next to black text, and more gray in open areas without black text.
High Resolution, however, is still two steps below the most "extreme" e-shift2 setting. HD and Dynamic (the next two) are the most over the top when viewing movies:
HD, above, is a bit more intense, more shifts in the newspaper around black text, but very similar to High Definition. Now below, is Dynamic:
There is also a nice softer SD mode, more similar, overall, to Film setting. I found SD to work pretty well with "low def." It seemed a good match for my many music videos that are standard DVDs, not Blu-ray:
One more e-shift vs Epson comparison - on a simple Preview image before the movie trailers:
Editor's note: Basically here's an FYI for you to consider: If you are wondering why in the image above, the JVC (on the left) looks brighter on the right side, and the Epson looks brighter on the left side, that's due to the camera being placed straight back from the center, and that this is a 1.4 gain screen so straight back is going to be a touch brighter, due to some roll-off caused by the off angle viewing of the outer parts of both images. If the camera was straight back from the middle of the JVC's image, then both sides of the JVC 95 image would be equal, and the center of the JVC image appear a touch brighter.
Bottom line. Consider e-Shift2 to be a detail and sharpness enhancement solution. How good is it? Well, the JVC has many settings options, but Film works best for movies. I find the others (HD, High Resolution, Dynamic) to be over the top. I do like the High Resolution settting for most digital content. However, let's focus on movies.
When I did some side by side images comparing the JVC to the Epson Home Cinema 5020 ($2699), I had the Epson set with its "Super-Resolution" detail enhancment set to 2 (out of 5), the highest setting before "over the top". Next to it was this JVC with e-Shift2 set to Film. I hate to say it, but there was no significant difference. That said, you can push the JVC further before it's obviously "over the top" than you can with Epson's controls.
Pushing past 2 on the Epson even starts getting iffy with digital content, so, say, for a football game on High Resolution or HD (more images in the HDTV section), the JVC will produce the "sharper, more detailed, and more believable" seeming image, than the Epson would, when set to 3 (out of 5). But on movies, it's pretty much a tie, if you still want that film-like feel. Hey, for sports, a little over the top is fine. Less so for some other HDTV content, even if all digital.
Take a look. JVC on left, e-shift2 setting is Film. Epson 5020UB on the right, with Super-Resolution set to 2:
And here's a scene that's less people/facial detail, and more small object oriented:
Bottom Line on e-shift2: Again, JVC may doing some processing at 4K (so does Sony), but this projector is not true 4K. It's pixel shifting, but pixel size remains exactly the same as any other 2K projector. That said, e-shift will definitely produce imagery that seems sharper with more detail, as do other projectors, such as the Sonys and Epsons with their own "detail and sharpness" enhancment tools. I like having e-shift2.
It works well, and tastefully on almost all movies in the Film mode. Other than that, you make the call, as to how much is what you prefer. The more you use, technically, the less pure and faithful the original image. Alas, the world is always filled with trade-offs. Here you have Off and 5 settings worth of trade-offs to choose from, plus you can adjust each of them with three different sets of settings. Have fun.
Image below - Leeloo, from The Fifth Element (e-shift2 set to Film)
JVC X95R Manual Iris
This iris allows you to lower your overall brightness, and improve contrast (yes, black levels), if you don't need the iris fully open for brightness. The iris has 16 step settings. I did move the manual iris down 3 positions from fully open, to match the brightness of the JVC to the Epson HC 5020. (Both are about the same brightness calibrated with new lamps, but the Epson already has over 500 hours on its lamp, so has lost some brightness).
Don't expect anything but a very small improvement in contrast due to stopping down the iris. Improvement yes, a real difference maker: No.