DLA-RS400 - The Picture - a Summary
In 1080 resolutions, the picture looks great out of the box, in best mode, and gets slightly better with calibration. Although a little noisier in full power than in low, I favor the calibrated color Mike achieved in full power, more than the low lamp setting, it was a touch more accurate, without any visible shift towards red that low lamp has (however slight). Honestly, both look really good though.
The picture always looks nicely detailed and sharp. I spotted some modest corner brightness (a known JVC issue), but not a serious amount. If I had a 1.0 gain screen instead of 1.3, I might have cared more.
As mentioned more times than I want to think - if you are going to watch 4K content from Blu-ray UHD, then the default color needs some real work. The good news is JVC has since provided specific recommendations which we have included a link to, on the JVC site. I highly recommend using those recommendations for all 4K content with HDR (High Dynamic Range). I found the saturation still needed some tweaking, but that's easy to get looking good.
Without the JVC updates, depending on gamma (I used Gamma B with the default settings) you get washed out (B) or if you use D, it's ridiculously dark, crushing everything!
All considered I'm extremely pleased with the picture, and in no area more so than the stellar black level performance. While the native contrast isn't as good as JVC's two more expensive models ($3000 and $6000 more respectively, black levels are competitive with basically everything else out there.
The first photos above are of 4K content from The Martian and Ender's Game. The rest, starting with the closeup of Cinna from the Hunger Games, are from 1080p movies.
3D (per Ron) is dramatically improved over previous generations of JVCs, and is now highly competitive, instead of a significant weakness.
Bottom line, I believe it's the best 1080p picture available at this time at $4K or under. And there are no other projectors near the price that can also play Blu-ray UHD 4K content.
JVC DLA-RS400U / DLA-X550R Value Propostion
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The JVC makes an excellent 1080p projector, rivaling the Sony HW65ES in most ways (and beating it easily in black level performance). It is superior to the much lower cost Epson 5030UB, it's real strength over the competition is it's ability to accept and play true 4K content from commercial sources (Blu-ray UHD) with HDCP 2.2 copy protection (and needing HDMI 2.0). The next lowest cost projectors shipping as of 4/2016 that can handle Blu-ray UHD are JVC's own, more expensive ($6999) RS500U, and Epson's $7999 LS1000 dual laser projector.
JVC RS500U! Oh, at $6999, it is better, by virtue, primarily of better native contrast, aka black levels. That's great, but the RS400U is so good, that I consider the RS400U to be the much better value!
Leaving the JVC family let's consider next, the Epson LS10000: In fairness to that expensive Epson, the dual laser light engine does provide a significant pricing value. JVC lamps are very expensive at $399 list, (I think). At any rate they seem to sell in the $329 range. JVC's lamp life is ok at 3000/4000 hours (full power/low lamp) less hours, then, than most, vs. perhaps 17,000 hours on the Epson laser. That will, however only partially offset the price being twice as high. Black levels are very different, as noted, but overall, comparable, depending on the type of scene. As of this writing, the JVC has the advantage of supporting HDR which the Epson does not. Will Epson provide a firmware upgrade? No one knows (except Epson of course, and they "ain't" saying, but others think the projector should be upgradeable. We'll keep you posted on that.
JVC DLA-RS400U on copy protected 4K content (Ender's Game)
Epson LS10000 4K copy protected content (Spiderman 3)
With the laser engine you get perfect black frames, (a nice touch), but a key advantage is for those demanding serious accuracy of color, because lamps are always slowly shifting color. A laser projector should hold color virtually unchanged for thousands of hours, rather than a few hundred hours with a lamp. If you insist on great color you might be spending to recalibrate the JVC a number of times over its life.
Still, when it comes to bang for the buck the JVC RS400U at half the price is priced where far, far, more folks can afford it.
Sony VPL-HW65ES. I really liked the HW65ES when I reviewed it. I'll give it the slightest edge in terms of color and naturalness over the RS400U, but this JVC is a grand less than last year's while the Sony is actually more expensive (slightly that it's predecessor). Now this JVC and Sony are essentially the same price. Sony's Reality Creation does some great things in terms of "detail enhancement" different but with the same goal as pixel shifting, but that's not the issue. The JVC supports 4K content, and the Sony doesn't. That, and the better overall black levels make the JVC the one I would definitely buy of the two. Yes there are always trade-offs (including a longer Sony warranty.) If you are unconcerned about 4K content, this is a far closer content - so if, for example, you figure you need a projector now, but want to choose from a variety of true 4K projectors in 2-3 years when they will be more affordable, then the Sony is at least competitive in most ways.
HW65ES doing 1080p image (The Hunger Games) Reality Creation engaged for improved detail
Perhaps the most serious competition for the RS400U are the "later this year" DLP projectors coming from the likes of Optoma, BenQ, (both have announced they will have projectors using the new TI 4 megapixel chip with pixel shifting) and perhaps others. (Acer? LG? Viewsonic? Vivitek? are all projector manufacturers that use TI's DLP chips, that could also enter the UHD fray.) BTW 4 megapixel is half of true 4K, but double 1080p! At least one of those companies has indicated in conversations, a desire to bring one out sub $5000, but no prices have been announced. We shall see.
If you demand true 4K, that currently starts at $9999 with the Sony VPL-VW365ES. For perspective, that Sony is no match at all in terms of black levels, which means the $14,999 Sony VPL-VW665ES (which I think is great), is the ticket. Can you say almost 4X the price. Not exactly a direct competitor!