JVC DLA-X95R Projector Review

The JVC DLA-X95R projector has little direct competition anywhere near its $11,999 price point (US). Below you will find some hopefully useful information on how the DLA-X95R stacks up against the other JVC projectors, all three Sonys and an Epson.  They all have several things in common.  All have very good to excellent placement flexibility, and they all have really great black level performance, so are especially excellent on dark scenes – one thing that separates the great projectors from the good ones.

JVC DLA-X95R and DLA-X75R vs. Sony VPL-VW95ES

The battle of the 95′s is interesting, but considering the DLA-X95R is twice the price of the Sony, we should include the DLA-X75R in this discussion.  The X75R is just under $8000 so at least in the same ball park as the Sony projector.

While we did not look at the X75R this year, I have had the opportunity to view JVC’s standard top of the line vs. its hand picked flagship in previous years.  I expect to see the same difference.  The X95R’s optics, I expect to be a touch “clearer” or so it seemed in the past.  The term I like to use is, that the hand picked optics offer a touch more clarity.  I found that to be pretty exceptional in the past.  I would expect the X75R in this regard to be more like the Sony, than the X95R would.

So, let’s start with is the DLA-X75R worth the extra $2000 over the VW95ES?

I think it will have enough appeal to some purists to be worth the difference.  After all, why have dynamic iris based black levels when you can have the real thing – true native contrast, and that’s a battle both JVCs win.  Oh, the VW95ES can give you a black level just as dark, but the dynamic range is lower, so that on darker scenes with small bright areas, those bright areas get dimmed a bit along with the blacks.  Not so with the JVCs.  They inherently have a bit more range.  This really only comes into play in that the blacks are blacker on medium and bright scenes, where that’s good, but far less critical, especially since the Sony is pretty good at what it does.

These projectors are about equally endowed with features, such as power lenses with Lens Memory. They all calibrate well. I really liked the naturalness of the Sony’s skin tones, I’ll give it the slight nod there.  Better still, it’s about 10% brighter calibrated and in “brightest” mode, and has still an additional 10% more lumens with a bit lower quality color balance.

Although the DLA-X95R has a three year warranty as does the Sony VW95ES, the X75R comes with only two years parts and labor.

Detail enhancement - e-shift2, may not be true 4K, but it is an excellent detail enhancement solution, as long as not overused (true for all).  The VW95ES is a bit older, and lacks the current Reality Creation detail enhancment found on Sony’s less expensive HW50ES.  Bottom line on that – the JVC’s is the better.

That said, some folks who inherently believe in those natural blacks, are the type that won’t go for fancy dynamic image enhancement.

Still, I like such abilities – more than say, CFI. I count e-shift2 to be an advantage for the JVCs over the Sony VW95ES.

Neither projector has a lot of juice for 3D, so most would consider 3D to be a compromise, given that the Sony VW95ES should prove to be the brighter of the two.

Placement wise, the 95ES has a 1.6:1 vs. the JVC’s 2:1.

On the other hand, the Sony’s smooth curves definitely make it the prettier piece of hardware, for those who care about such things.

So, I’ll say choose your poison, VW95ES or X75R, whichever sounds better to for you.

And that brings us to the DLA-X95R, the subject of this projector review.  Is it worth 50% more than the X75R, and double the Sony?  That’s just a matter of desire for the best projector, and having the where-with-all, to pay a lot extra for a much smaller improvement in picture quality.  The X95R is a fairly tough rationalization, if your budget is such that you need to scrimp on your screen to afford the difference.  If you are putting a projector in to a $50,000 home theater room, then, sure, you can afford it and there is a difference, or rather I believe there will be that same extra touch of clarity that so impressed me when comparing the predecessors of these two JVCs.

Price no object, or if the (the “95″s) cost the same, I would recommend the JVC X95 to you, but, at half the price, the Sony, to my taste is definitely the better value.  I’m less sure about the X75R vs. the VW95ES.

JVC DLA-X95R vs. Sony VPL-VW1000ES

Talk about twice the price!  In this comparison the tables are turned, with the Sony costing just over double the JVC DLA-X95R.

This time I don’t see as tough a decision as in the comparison above.  The Sony VPL-VW1000ES is, to my taste, simply the better projector.  So the question becomes is it $13,000 better.

Well, the VPL-VW1000ES is a true 4K projector, and 4K content is coming.  Sony says they will support near future 4K formats that are not yet out. I’ve watched the Sony upscale 2K to 4K, and the JVC’s e-shift is not in anyway a match for it. On true 4K content, which Sony provided, 4K was a whole new world.  Note that the jump to 4K resolution from 2K is far greater than the move 720p to 1080p. People with small LCDTVs don’t need 4K, but it’s going to be wonderful for us projector folk. The difference is pretty awesome.

Feature wise, they are similar.  Lens Memory, Power everything, pretty large and heavy as home projectors go, and black finished.

Brightness is no contest.  Almost 1300 calibrated lumens for the Sony crushes the JVC.  The Sony has the horsepower to view 3D nicely bright enough on a decent sized screen, something the JVC can not do.

But consider that if the Sony is just out of your budget, the X95R is one hell of a 2K projector.

Myself, I really would love to have the Sony.  It’s excited me more than any projectors since the JVC RS1 and the Epson 1080UB, the start of the 1080p projectors with great blacks.

JVC DLA-X95R vs. Epson Home/Pro Cinema 5020UB/6020UB

For starters, you’re asking why I’m comparing the JVC to projectors 1/4 the price?  The primary reason is that this is the projector I had here while I’ve had the X95R.  It has been the projector that I can view alternately with, or side by side with the JVC.  That folks, means side by side photos:

I certainly didn’t expect the Epson 5020UB (same as the 6020UB for all these purposes, unless otherwise noted), to match the JVC in black levels. Simply put, the Epson for 4+ years has been to under $3000 projectors in terms of “ruling” when it comes to blacks, that JVC has been in the $8000 and up range.

So, no surprise, the Epson may be great, but the JVC better.  You can see it in the letterboxing (JVC on the left), also note that despite the lower blacks on this intentionally way overexposed image, the whites are also brighter on the JVC.  What you are looking at there, essentially is the JVC’s advantage in dynamic range. It can do darker blacks, and brighter whites at the same time.

What is nicely surprising for the lower cost folks is that the Epson basically calibrates as well as the JVC with very similar results in terms of color:

Above, you can see the extra pop on the JVC, and that the darker areas in the lower right quadrant on the Epson are a bit lighter and “flatten” the image.

There is a point to all this, at first glance, these projectors in terms of image are similar but not identical.   Only dark shadow detail may favor the Epson, everything else the JVC.  Well, folks, that’s why you spend more money, to get to that next level.  If you compare cars, in terms of ride, if you go from a similar sized $25,000 car to a $40,000 one, you should go from a very good ride to much better one for your extra $15K.  But jump from the $40K, to a $150K+ Bentley, you’ll get an even better ride, but it’s not going to be 6 times the improvement.  Same thing here.

If you can afford this JVC, or the DLA-X75R, definitely go for it.  If not, consider the Epson 5020/6020 a bit lacking in some features (notably Lens Memory) but otherwise a good “poor man’s X95R”.

JVC DLA-X95R vs. DLA-X55R and DLA-X35

The DLA-X55R projector is an easy comparison. For a bit more than twice the price, the DLA-X95R gets you a slightly more dynamic picture with definitely blacker blacks.  Further (especially if you aren’t using the dynamic features such as e-shift2), there is a basic clarity difference, also slight, but there.

The X55R delivers about an extra 50 lumens or so in most modes.  That’s not enough to really matter, but for 3D, and larger screens in general, every extra 50 or 100 lumens is appreciated.

These two projectors have the same features, for the most part, including e-shift2.  You get that extra year of warranty with the X95R, but mostly you are getting yourself the best blacks available for your extra $7000, since overall these two projectors have the same look and feel.

As to the JVC DLA-X35, I just got back Mike’s calibration data, surprisingly the X35 isn’t significantly brighter as the specs would suggest.  Only about 50 lumens more calibrated, but 15% brighter – about an extra 125 lumens.

Now realizing the X35 really isn’t going to blow away the X95R, despite claiming 300 more lumens. Therefore it still won’t be a good family room projector, it’s a case of the JVC X35 really being the poor man’s X95R, if you can give up some black levels, some warranty, e-shift, etc.

For your consideration, a few side by sides between the DLA-X95R and the DLA-X35.  The equivalent projector to the DLA-X35 in JVC’s “Pro” line, is the DLA-RS46:  The X95R is on the left in all of these images.  We start with the Bond night train scene.  Immediately you can spot the blacker blacks on the DLA-X95R.  You don’t even have to click for the larger versions.  The X95R also seems to have a slight advantage in terms of dark shadow detail  Why not, after all, the X95R is over three times the price.

This image above, from The Hunger Games, probably best demonstrates the differences in black level performance.  The DLA-X35 on the right is actually a touch less bright in the brightest areas – their faces, but comes no where near the blackness of the darker areas in the lower left quadrant.  Talk about a difference in “pop”.  The result is, by comparsionDLA-X95R looks dynamic, while the X35 looks a bit flat. Both projectors were in calibrated “best” mode for all of these images.

If you need Lens Memory and are shopping around the $3500 range, the DLA-X35′s about the best thing to offer it, although the Panasonic PT-AE8000 has the Lens Memory feature as well, for many hundreds less, but can’t match the X35′s blacks.

But, how the X35 compares to its competition is a story for another review – our next one.

JVC DLA-X95R vs. Sony HW50ES

Well, you’ve read my take on the JVC vs. the more expensive VW95ES.  The HW50ES is no match (though still really good) at blacks.  The HW50ES is roughly comparable on blacks to the Epsons, perhaps just a tiny bit not as good. The reason for this comparison is Reality Creation on the Sony.  I’ll put their dynamic detail enhancement up against e-shift2 no problem.  I favor Reality Creation (which the more expensive, older VW95ES, lacks).

The Sony also gives up the power lens features that make Lens Memory possible. In terms of calibration though, the Sony projector, as best I recall, can definitely slug it out with the DLA-X95R, when it comes to color. Based on Mike’s calibrations, I might even slightly favor the Sony, but that can be tweaked.

There is a second reason for including this Sony projector in this comparison, and that is brightness.  It’s the only less expensive projector that’s significantly brighter calibrated (more than 50%). It also has a lot more lumens for 3D.

The Sony (like the Epson) is simply a great projector for about $3500 net.  If the X95R is out of your range, and the DLA-HW50ES is right in it, it’s certainly one of, if not my favorite under $3500 projector.

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