Projector Reviews

JVC DLA-RS440U Review – A Serious, 4K Capable Home Theater Projector – Summary

DLA-RS440U Projector – Summary: Big picture, Competition, Bottom Line, Pros, Cons

The Big Picture: JVC RS440U and X590

These two essentially identical (except for some trim) JVC projectors represented the “entry level” of the JVC line until they recently introduced their first DLP projector, a 4K UHD, model we haven’t seen yet.  

JVC is known for the best black level performance around, and that has made them very successful.  This is thanks to the design of their LCoS panels. 

While the new DLP may be interesting, I don’t expect it to be a serious home theater projector with great black levels, which is how I would describe these two JVC projectors.

Overall, the JVC is extremely good in terms of picture quality.  Sharpness, as a 1080p pixel shifter is very good on 4K content and appears very sharp on anything lower resolution than that. 

Despite being rather bright – over 1100 lumens calibrated in best mode, and 1700+ for our calibrated brightest mode, and 1800+ for HDR calibration, the JVC belongs in a proper well designed room to take advantage of it. Sure, you can toss it into a media room, or even a family room that has some decent window shades, but, the JVC begs for relatively dark walls, ceilings, floors, and full lighting control, more than any other projector under $5K.  

Getting past all of that let’s go over the feature set again:  

Great placement flexibility (including the ability to be placed high on a rear shelf), thanks to: 2.1:1 zoom and lots of vertical and horizontal lens shift, all motorized, and supporting Lens Memory.  These JVC projectors are quieter than most competing projectors (especially the 4K UHD DLPs – the exception are the high end BenQ’s which are twice the price of this JVC) – a real plus.  


All the usual trimmings such as CFI for smooth motion, HDMI 2.0 (two inputs), controls using algorithms to enhance detail and sharpness. And let’s not forget having a great many modes and features to choose from, networking, and optional 3D.  Just add 3D module (IR or RF, your choice) and the appropriate 3D glasses to match.  And let’s not forget a very nice remote control.

True, this JVC doesn’t come off quite as sharp as the better 4K UHD DLPs, with 4K content, and even on 1080p content, the JVC has always had a slightly soft look. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it looks very natural, rather than in general, a bit oversharpened as is the tendency today. 

Still, if you want “razor sharp” the JVC is good, just not that good, any of the 4K UHD DLPs, and also the Epson UB projectors (which are the same 1920x1080x2 pixel shifting types), come across as a bit sharper, although some also can give a slightly hard look to the picture.

The Competition

As I see it, the competition fits nicely into about 4 groups of projectors.   First there are the 4K UHD DLPs, which I will consider both 4K UHD “resolutions” (the low and high res DLP chips) that run lamps, as one group, but laser 4K UHD projectors as a second.  Then there’s the true native 4K projectors.

And finally less expensive 4K content capable projectors that are 3LCD, such as the Epson UB series – the Home Cinema 5040UB and Pro Cinema 6040UB, and their HC4000, and PC4040

spacecraft to mars
This CGI scene from Journey to Space, really pops, thanks to the great blacks + very good sharpness.

Let’s start with the 4K UHD projectors that are lamp based (like the JVC RS440U).  There are many of them, and we’ve reviewed plenty:  Optoma UHD65, UHD60, UHD51A, BenQ HT2550, TK800, HT8050, Vivitek HK2288…  all within the last 12 months.   Then comes the laser based 4K UHD models.  They include the Casio XJL8300HN (very expensive), the Dell, S718QL, Acer V7860, and Optoma UHZ65.  (Again, all in the past year!).

The true native 4K crowd  consists of Sonys: VW285ES, and VW385ES (also the VW885ES but it is almost 4x the price of the JVC).  In the photo player, we have this Passengers image of the VW285ES.  Remember, the primary real difference between the VW285ES and 385ES is black level performance.

Finally there are the other 4K capable pixel shifters, like the Epsons which, like the lower res group of 4K UHD DLPs, starts with a 1920×1080 chip resolution, and pixel shifts one extra time.  Those projectors – right now primarily the Epsons on the home theater side, are the same overall resolution as this JVC DLA-RS440U.

In the images directly below, I picked a nice dark “outer space” type image, from near the ending of Passengers (4K, HDR, etc.), starting with the JVC, but also a few competitors.  I chose this one, because simply put, this is a scene where the JVC blows away most of the competition, when viewed on the big screen.  Only the more expensive Sonys, and the lower cost Epson UBs come close. The $15K Sony is right up there with the JVC on black levels (and serves up true 4K, unfortunately, I competed that review before I started using Passengers images for comparisons.  After that big Sony, the next two closest at black levels would be Sony’s VW885ES and Epson 5040UB/6040UB, and not far behind the Epsons, comes the Acer VL7860 which is one of the laser based 4K UHDs.  None of the other laser, or lamp based single chip DLPs is even remotely competition when it comes to black levels, they are miles behind this JVC!

Epson’s lower end 4K capables, the HC4000 and PC4040, are more in line with the average 4K UHD when it comes to black level performance, so also no competition.

But projectors are more than just black levels.  When it comes to color – right out of the box, Sony’s the best of those I review in general, Epson is normally 2nd, and this JVC is right about there with the Epsons. (I’d say JVC’s brightest modes tend to be a little better than the Epson’s Bright Cinema mode, but in “best mode” comparison, the Epsons probably have the better color. But we’re quibbling.  And all of these projectors can improve with a good calibration (although I often wonder about the Sonys.  I find them “close enough” that we rarely bother to calibrate them anymore, because the improvements we could make are probably slighter than the difference from one lamp to the next, in color balance..

Calibrated almost all of these projectors tend to vary from pretty good, to excellent.

This JVC can easily be rear shelf mounted.  Say 11-21 feet back from a 100” screen.  Not one of the 4K UHD projectors can match that, 15-16 feet back is about the maximum for any of those, except those 2 BenQs, and even they are far more limited as to how high you can place them. And most can’t be mounted high on a rear shelf because they don’t have enough lens shift, if they have any at all.

Audible noise:  I think the JVC is a little noiser in both eco and full power modes than the Sonys, but I doubt any of the other 4K capable projectors are as quiet. Certainly the Epsons are noisier at full power, but might be as quiet (or at lease silent enough) in their Eco modes so, that no one cares.  But most of the DLPs are at least as noisy as the Epsons at full power, and noiser still when in Eco, so no match at all for the JVC.

That simply makes the JVC RS440U the quietest overall 4K capable projector we have yet reviewed under $5000 with the exception of the Sony VW285ES.  For some of you, that’s really important!

Now let’s recap a bit.  First, while those much lower cost, lamp based 4K UHD DLPs are sounding pretty inferior from my previous few paragraphs, do remember two things:  The sell from half to 2/3 the price of the JVC, and they will be slightly sharper.  (There are always trade-offs).   The important things to remember about sharpness though:

If you aren’t sitting relatively close you won’t be able to tell a difference in sharpness between most of these – let’s say 18-20 feet back from a 100” screen.  But at 8-10 feet from the same screen you’ll start seeing differences in sharpness.  Or rather you will see differences in perceived sharpness.  We never see the pure capabilities of these projectors they are all running to some degree or another, various sharpening, detail enhancement and dynamic contrast algorithms   .  (In that regard, the Epson UBs tend to look a touch sharper than the JVCs, but also a touch harder looking on closeups of faces, etc.  (We’re talking subtle differences in both cases.)

Gaming Projector?  Before I forget, this JVC RS440 is not a suitable gaming projector for those who count yourself as serious gamers, playing fast games like FPS and racing.  I played with it as much as possible but never could find settings to get the input lag down to 100ms, but we consider “acceptable” for serious fast gaming to be no more than in the 50 millisecond range.

 Sure it’s find for most SIM games, Candy Crush, and Risk, and other slow games, but for COD, Fortnite, auto racing, etc. the JVC is considered very slow due to it having a lot of input lag.  (Many of these 4K UHD DLPs are slow, but, on the other hand some are faster.  I can’t remember most of the input lag times, but with the JVC over 100 ms, consider that the Epsons – considered good gamers, only have mid 30 millisecond lag.  If you love this JVC for all it does great, great.  But if you are also a serious gamer save some money for a second, faster projector built to be a very good game projector.)

JVC RS440U and X590: The Bottom Line:

The RS440 isn’t about gaming, it’s about putting the best image possible up on the screen for the price, and that price, I remind you is $3999 list.   For that you simply get the projector with the deepest blacks short of spending almost double for a more expensive JVC or one or two other possibles like the $15K Sony, and Epson’s $6999 laser LS10500 (discussed elsewhere in this review).

Combine that will pretty impressive out of the box picture quality, the ability to be properly calibrated, and a massive feature set, and it is basically the best overall serious home theater projector under $6K.  There are brighter, there are more affordable, but anything that comes close, either comes up a little short, like the less expensive Epson 5040UB.  (I tend to think of the 5040UB as a “poor mans” RS440.  Not quite as good in most areas (better at some thing s though) but less than 2/3 the price.   

If you’ve got a proper room, care about having a great picture and you can’t spend $6K and up, start with this at the top of your short list.

Pros

Best black level performance anywhere near the price

4K Capable with resolution of 1920x1080x2 using pixel shifting

Supports HDR (HDR10 and HLG) for expanded dynamic range – more “pop”!

Supports BT.2020/P3 and gets very very close to achieving P3 color! great for lamp based)

Excellent placement flexibility – should work in almost any room, placement wise.

Supports 3D (optional 3D module and glasses)

Picture quality right out of the box, definitely better than most

Lens Memory for working with wide screens for you movie fanatics

CFI – smooth motion, and many other image enhancement controls

Excellent remote control – in terms of layout, range and backlight – the Trifecta of remotes

Full color controls, calibrates easily

Considering Price, and Value, my favorite 4K capable under $5000 projector so far

Excellent picture quality and user experience is a “proper” theater or cave.

3 year parts and labor warranty – better than most

Cons

  • Too much input lag to be a good gaming projector
  • Could be sharper – virtually all the 4K UHDs will look slightly sharper, if you sit close
    • The Epson UB also looks a touch sharper, but also a touch harder looking on close-ups (if you are sitting close).
  • Larger than most (far larger than most of the DLPs)
    • Bigger than the Epsons, but same as the Sonys
  • Black levels may be best for the price, but still could be better – closer to their higher end models

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