Best In Class – Value $3500 – $8000: JVC DLA-RS400/420

Last year, the RS420’s $3995 predecessor took top honors in the $2000 – $4000 range. This year, the RS420, which is the same $3995, has to slug it out with projectors up to twice its price.

JVS RS420 Front
The JVC DLA-RS420 is a 1080p pixel shifter with power-everything and a host of excellent features.

Now, this is one of the projectors we did not get to review. I usually have to borrow JVCs from dealers, and with other things going on, and the fact that the RS420 is only a very minor upgrade from the RS400, I’m comfortable making judgements.

JVC DLA-RS400/420 Overview

So, what do we have here? A medium-large projector (typical for this class), with power everything including Lens Memory for wide screen support, with a 2:1 zoom lens, and lots of lens shift. In this regard, its placement flexibility is almost identical to the Epson LS10500 that took top honors in this Class, this report.

Of course, the DLA-RS420 is a 1080p pixel shifter, so it’s interesting that I gave both awards in this Class not to 4K UHD projectors or true 4K, but to 1080p pixel shifter.

Why? Outstanding black level performance is first. This projector’s black level performance, thanks to superior, best in this Class native contrast, and combined with a very good dynamic iris, is only challenged by the Epson laser of all the projectors in this group. The true 4K Sony, and the BenQ HT8050, for example, aren’t even remotely in its league when it comes to those black levels, which means, it blows them away on really dark scenes!

Then, there’s the very full feature set, including HDR and BT.2020 support, good brightness (1800 lumens), and a couple of advances over, even the LS10500, including support for HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma, which is the HDR designed for 4K streaming) and the use of 18 Ghz HDMI, so no limitations – the ability – if you could actually find content, to do 4K HDR, BT.2020 and 4:4:4.  That’s as good as support gets.

That, btw is the “major” difference between the newer RS420 and its predecessor is the addition of that HLG support. That’s about it!

This JVC is lamp-based, but there aren’t any projectors at its price that can handle 4K and comes with a solid state light engine at this time. That’s going to change really soon, but that’s a story for the major update to this report that will come out end of September.

The pictures here are from my RS400 review, since I haven’t had the RS420 here.

The Bottom Line

Historically, I’ve found the Epson 1080p pixel shifters to seem a tad sharper than the JVCs, but of course, in the grand scheme of things, the 4K UHD and true 4K projectors are slightly sharper. The black level performance of those other projectors is far below this JVCs (or the Epson’s). The lowest cost in the Class, the Epson Pro Cinema 6040UB (essentially the same as their 5040UB), also falls short of the JVC’s black levels, or it might have given the JVC a run for the value title.

BTW, I’m a big JVC fan. True, it’s been a while, but the last two projectors I actually purchased (and the one my reviewer Ron bought last year) have been JVCs. Fortunately, for my budget, I got smart, and have borrowed projectors for extended times to use them a reference projectors, so I’m not buying new projectors every other year anymore. My wallet thanks me!

I really like that the RS420 covers all the bases – the full HDMI, HDR, BT.2020, support for HLG in addition to HDR10 (the standard for Blu-ray UHD and more), and combines that with a great picture overall. For the lower price, compared to most of the others in this Class, this year, it’s “merely” a 1080p pixel shifter, and it’s lamp based. Now that really doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Time for a cheap shot at the 4K UHD DLP projectors. I know the DLP manufacturers are getting great buzz with the 4K UHD stamp of approval, and they are a bit sharper than 1080p pixel shifters. I see the issue for them is that for the last decade, the DLP projector companies have seemed to think that single chip sharpness and other characteristics (including 4K UHD), and the very good native DLP contrast, gives them a big advantage.

And, for that reason, those manufacturers have not, for the most part, used dynamic irises. Dynamic irises aren’t by any means perfect, but they solve some major issues.  Consider JVC itself, hands down, their LCoS panels have the best native contrast of any manufacturer, and that includes the DLPs which aren’t even close.

At the same time, I have to commend JVC. All of their projectors (including this, their least expensive) would still have better black levels than almost all of the other projectors in this class even had JVC not put in a dynamic iris. Yet they did! Those DLP manufacturers need to up their black level game, via more use of dynamic irises, or a major breakthrough in native contrast (as JVC accomplished almost a decade ago), or their strengths in other areas just won’t keep them competitive in a dedicated home theater environment.

Bottom Line: Of the projectors in this Class, if you can’t spring for the Epson LS10500, and can live without a laser engine, you can’t go wrong with the RS420.

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