The Art of Home Theater Projectors

JVC DLA-RS25 and HD-950 Projectors – A First Look Review

Greetings,

I’m a couple of days late, but hopefully this “first look” was worth the wait.  The JVC RS25 arrived, and headed over to Mike’s for calibration before I ever got it out of the box.  Mike took an extra day, playing with it, and got it back to me mid-week.  I’ve been watching extensively, but only in my main theater.  Still haven’t lugged the JVC DLA-RS25 home theater projector into the “testing room”/second theater.

Let’s start with the obvious.  The JVC DLA-RS25, and it’s “consumer division” twin, the HD950, pretty much “look and cook” like last year’s RS20 and HD750.

The most sigificant differences between old and new, are the addition of  Creative Frame Interpolation (two modes – low and high), an increase in contrast (and presumably black level performance), and an improved color management system.  JVC had upgraded the CMS during the life of the RS20, and I haven’t changed mine since I calibrated my RS20 early on.  I believe there was one firmware change to the CMS of the RS20 that I haven’t seen. Whether the RS25′s CMS is different from the last iteration on the RS20, I’m not sure.   Either way, Mike reports that the JVC DLA-RS25′s CMS is a lot easier to work with than the rather difficult CMS he and I had to work with (and get outside help from the forums), back early in the year when I bought my RS20. (Whew, that was too long!)

The JVC’s out of the box performance is excellent.  The THX mode, is a dandy place to start from, and extremely watchable.

I’ve been switching back between the RS25, and my RS20.  I had to close the RS25′s manual iris down 3 steps to compensate for the now dimmer lamp in my RS20 (about 600 hours on the lamp).  My projector, as I stated, hasn’t been recalibrated since it was first done, when there were only a few dozen hours on the lamp.  Immediately, the RS25′s color was slightly superior to my RS20′s.  Skin tones with the DLA-RS25 were definitely a touch more believable, and the RS20′s already are extremely good.  The settings I used were Mike’s calibration based on the THX mode.

Overall, the most noticeable difference is that the RS25 has more pop to the image.  With the iris down three steps, the older RS20 was a tad brighter, but when both gammas are set the same, the RS25 seemed to have a bit more pizazz. Fair enough!  Figuring out the why’s of that, will have to wait.  Obviously a little might come from the higher contrast, or it may just be the two calibrations.

Before I ramble further, The RS25 projector for just under $8000, should, like the RS20 before it, have the best black level performance of any projector under $10,000, and by a noticeable margin.  There are still a few competitors of note, including the Sony VW-85, we haven’t received yet, but there’s no reason to believe any will match the black level performance which gives the RS25 a big head start on the rest, and has favored JVC for the previous two generations of home theater projectors as well.

The RS20 was our Best In Class last year, and the RS25 is now the favorite for this year’s competition.

Basically, all considered, the RS25 is an improved RS20, with the same optics, case, warranty, and many other components.

Let’s talk CFI since that’s a real difference.  The CFI on the RS25 isn’t bad, isn’t a great one either.  I’ve been using it for sports, but for other content, I am noticing occasional artifacts, and more “live digital video” than I care for, even on the low setting.  At any rate, it works well enough for the sports, and that’s enough to make me happy, and one reason why I might upgrade to the RS25.

But, wait!  The RS25 is not the top of the line this year.  JVC has an RS35 (and an HD990).  These are of the $9999 variety, price wise (or was it $9995?).  What makes them interesting is that these are essentially the same as the DLA-RS25 and HD950, but for the fact that the top of the line are made of hand picked components and extra quality control.  The guys at JVC say – yep, you can see the difference.  I buy into that, the best of the optics, the best assembled light engines, etc., the best overall alignment, etc., each can add a little to  the picture, and that can add up.  I’m looking forward to comparing one of each.

Black levels.  I really can’t say how much improvement there is, I won’t really know until I move it into the other room.  I would say that the improvement is not dramatic, more toward the slight side.  Considering how good the older ones are (in a class by themselves), this just makes things a bit better still.

Sharpness, I would say, is the same as last year, and variations should be slight from one unit to the next.

Brightness – Sadly no change here.  Like the last two generations, the projector is well brighter than average in “best” mode, although this unit measured just a couple dozen lumens less than last year’s.  Not enough to represent a difference.  And, once again, brightest mode is only about 100 lumens brighter, making it below average in brightness.  I watched football all day, had to keep my shades basically all the way down, to enjoy, and the room was darker than I would have liked.  By comparison, if I was using the Epson 8500UB / 9500UB, I would have been happier, and had the shades on my french doors partially opened, to brighten the room.

Ahh, an RS25 – if only it did everything it does, but also had 1200+ lumens in brightest mode, I’d be all over it in a heartbeat.

Tonight I’ll be doing some side-by-side’s starting with the Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB.  I can already tell, that even at it’s best, the Epson won’t match the black level performance, nor the naturalness of the skin tones on movies.

OK, more to come.  Basically, though, the Best (under $10K), just got a little better, and it got CFI to boot!

I’ll drop in an image or two perhaps later tonight (very late), or tomorrow afternoon.  I’m going to try to have the full review posted on Thursday.  (and start on the Panasonic PT-AE4000 on Friday).  -art

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