Posted on January 2, 2020 By Phil Jones
JVC LX-NZ3 Projector Review – Special Features: Laser Light Engine, Native 4K UHD Resolution, HDR Compatible, HDR Auto Tone Mapping
The LX-NZ3 utilizes JVC’s BLU-Escent™ technology, a blue laser diode array that provides the blue light and excites a yellow phosphor color wheel. The yellow light is then combined with the blue light to create white light. JVC rates its laser light engine at 20,000 hours (in High Power Mode). This provides years of worry-free operation. Normally you would have to switch out lamps every 3,000 to 8,000 hours but a laser can easily last over a decade without losing much brightness.
There are four modes to adjust the brightness output of the laser light source:
The LX-NZ3 when set to Variable LOW or HIGH utilizes Dynamic Laser Dimming. When the projector detects a “black frame” of information, it can shut down the laser engine to project a true black frame. This gives the LX-NZ3 a theoretical ∞:1 dynamic contrast ratio.
The LX-NZ3 utilizes a Texas Instruments 2nd generation DLP (0.47” DMD) chip to reproduce 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) resolution. To further sharpen the image of the LX-NZ3’s 4K DLP chip mirror array, JVC also utilizes pixel shifting. The projector can also accept signals up to [email protected] via a 18Gbps HDMI/HDCP 2.2 Compatible Input (HDMI #1).
Like all other DLP projectors, the LX-NZ3 has a sealed light path to protect the optics from the dreaded “dust blob.” Having a sealed light path prevents particles of dust from settling inside the light path and obstructing the projected image.
A 4K DLP projector like the LX-NZ3 cannot match the color saturation, native contrast, and black level of a 3-chip projector like the JVC DLA NX-5. The JVC’s new NX Series projectors uses their new 0.69inch 4K D-ILA (4096 x 2160) devices to produce a sharp, high-contrast image. In a dedicated theater, the NX-5 would be a great option.
However, if you desire a laser light engine in a 3-chip Home theater 4K projector, be prepared to spend significantly more than the LX-NZ3. While it can’t match the DLA NX-5 native contrast, the LX-NZ3 is a much brighter, more compact laser projector which retails for more than $1,000 less. Since the LX-NZ3 is a single-chip DLP projector you will never have any convergence problems because there’s nothing to converge so the image will remain sharp throughout the life of the projector.
In a room with higher ambient light, LX-NZ3’s higher brightness, longer lamp life, and lower cost makes the LX-NZ3 a compelling alternative to the JVC NX Series.
The HDR provides a major improvement in dynamic range as well as color. It lets you see more detail in the shadows and the bright areas and delivers more saturated lifelike colors.
There are two HDR standards, first is the PQ (ST2084). While there are three variations of PQ, most projectors are only compatible with HDR10 which is mostly used for UHD Blu-ray discs (4K movies), and recorded streaming content. Dolby Vision and HDR10+, like the more mainstream HDR10, are also based on PQ (ST2084). The only difference between the three PQ based formats is what type of HDR metadata is delivered to a video display to help it tone map HDR content to fit a display’s brightness capabilities.
The second HDR standard is HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) and it was developed for live broadcast. The LX-NZ3 supports both HDR10 and HLG. Since most HDR10+ and Dolby Vision content is either backward compatible with or available in HDR10 you can enjoy 99% of HDR content available on the market now and in the future.
HDR Metadata (MaxFALL, MaxCLL) can viewed under the LX-NZ3 Information Menu
LX-NZ3 will automatically select one of the five different preset PQ curves based on HDR Metadata
Users can manually fine tune HDR tone mapping based on their preferences
There is a variety of information embedded in HDR content that an HDR display uses to make picture adjustments. First an HDR Infoframe which triggers a display device to switch to the appropriate HDR mode. Next is metadata which a display uses to tone map HDR content. The two pieces of metadata that the projector’s video processor uses for HDR tone mapping are:
The average brightness of most HDR video frames are usually much less than 400 nits with a few peak highlights (sparks, flame tips, reflections) reaching up to 10,000 nits. Let’s discuss why tone mapping is needed.
HDR consumer content (4K blu-ray and streaming) is mastered for playback on a flat panel not a projector, so it’s produced at a variety of brightness levels ranging from 1,000 nits (292 fL) to 4,000 (1167fL) nits.
Most 4K HDR capable projectors can only deliver between 100 nits (29fL) and 200 nits (58 fL). This means no HDR compatible Home Theater projector can reproduce all brightness found in consumer HDR content.
As a result, HDR projectors utilize tone mapping which is a compromise between maintaining bright highlight details and delivering full screen brightness. When the HDR info frame is detected, most HDR projectors switch to HDR mode with a fixed tone map. It is basically one size fits all which hurts HDR performance.
This year JVC has introduced AUTO TONE MAPPING which automatically adjusts the projector’s HDR settings (tone mapping) to try to optimize HDR10 image quality. The LX-NZ3 uses the static HDR metadata to determine which of the five different preset PQ curves to apply. The goal is to better utilize the LX-NZ3’s brightness capabilities based on the content being shown.
Since the MaxFALL/MaxCLL metadata is based on the average brightness of the brightest frame and brightest pixel in the movie, certain scenes with lower than average frame levels can still look way too dark. The nice thing is you can fine tune the look of HDR to fit your taste by using the LX-NZ3’s Mapping Level adjustment. The projector can also display MaxCLL/Max FALL information under its menu.
In many cases the metadata is missing or incorrect so the LX-NZ3 might not have the right information to work with. Also, since the same embedded metadata (MaxCLL/MaxFALL) is applied throughout the entire movie, sometimes the tone mapping decisions made by the projector can be a little off.
Higher-end LCD and OLED TVs have been able to measure the HDR content frame-by-frame to generate accurate metadata dynamically for years. This summer, JVC added the capability to dynamically measure HDR metadata to their higher-end D-ILA projectors like the NX5, NX7 and NX9 which further improves the HDR performance of those projectors.
Even if the LX-NZ3 doesn’t offer dynamic HDR tone mapping, it is one of the few projectors on the market with AUTO TONE MAPPING capabilities which should make a notable improvement to HDR reproduction.
BTW, since HLG is based on a Gamma curve just like SDR, it does not need to be tone mapped by the projector.
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