DLA-RS400U Black Level Performance
Black level performance is pretty amazing. Oh it won’t match the RS500/RS600 for the extra $3000/$6000, but there is almost nothing else on the market that can touch it.
The $15K true 4K Sony VW665ES is one that comes close, or may be as good.
The two Epson laser projectors also come close but in a different way, (they best the JVC on black frames, but not on normal very dark scenes). I expect the Epsons could beat the JVC, but only if Epson allowed their laser engine to use "lamp dimming" techniques, so popular on many DLP projectors (I've strongly suggested Epson implement this, but, hey, who listens to the press). Overall I'd give this JVC the win vs. the Epson's but it's really close. I can’t think of any other projectors. Sony’s HW65ES is one nice projector, but no match for the RS400 / X550R when it comes to black levels and how much pop you get out of very dark scenes! The Epson 5030UB/6030UB, which sets the base level for serious black level performance. isn't a match for the JVC (fair enough, as that Epson is barely half the price).
Please note: I inadvertently has the Auto iris on 1 when I shot most of these images. That exaggerates the loss of black levels in these grayscale images.
The image player above shows 1080p images (and one 4K from Ender’s Game) demonstrating the black level performance. In addition, we have included, as usual, images from the competition using the Casino Royale / Bond, night train scene, which we (as always) over exposed, and converted to grayscale for easier comparison of black levels. Look at the brightness of the black bars. If comparing two images, if both have the same bar brightness, then the one with the darker overall image has the poorer black level performance.
Bottom line on Black level performance: Awesome.
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Dark Shadow Detail
As mentioned on the Special Features page, Auto 2 reveals dark shadow detail that Auto 1 crushes. For that reason, I strongly favor Auto 2. With Auto 2, dark shadow detail is really very good, but not the very best. I’ve played with several gammas but while that can help, I have spotted a little more very dark detail in the forest on a couple of other projectors.
Don’t get me wrong, in Auto 2 I’d still say that dark shadow detail is extremely good, just not quite excellent. It's tough having great black levels, that makes the darkest shadow detail much darker, harder to see than on a projector with "lighter" blacks.
Bottom Line on dark shadow detail: Auto 1 on the iris appears too contrasty on the darkest scenes, with loss of more than minimal dark shadow detail, however Auto2 provides very respectable performance with minimal loss of detail.
Next section is HDTV and Sports, however, those HDTV and Sports images directly below are not from the RS400U, but the RS600U, JVC's top of the line. Technically the RS600 is slightly better, but this should give you a pretty good idea, especially since our computer/tablet displays can't handle the full range of what these projectors are capable of. Somehow, I seem to have lost a batch of photos, and didn't realize it until after I had shipped the RS400U back to the dealer that provided it. (Another factor re these images - Ron uses a different camera than I do, although technically mine is the better one, also Ron tends to favor images slightly more exposed than I do.)
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HDTV and Sports
General HDTV and sport viewing was excellent. I watched a bunch of March Madness basketball using the JVC, along with viewing NFL football from games saved on my DVR. I had eShift4 working with a setting of 50 which provided a very crisp looking image. I did most of my sports viewing with Clear Motion Drive (CFI engaged), and with it turned off for all my other viewing. I watched general HDTV for several days, including (unfortunately) too much coverage of the Presidential race. Other programming, including concerts was far more rewarding. No picture to show from it, but my usual Amy Winehouse images looked great on the RS400U.
Since I failed to provide you with images from the RS400U, I'll say this: These RS600 images should be very similar - the differences in black levels just won't show on these scenes. But, the optics of the RS600 will be superior, so these images if you enlarge them, likely would appear a little sharper than the RS400U's. That said, no complaints about sharpness. eShift4 at 50 is still more subtle than the Epson LS10000 which is likely to appear to seem more "razor sharp", but at the same time, the Epson's image would appear a bit harder looking. (Not a terrible thing for sports viewing!)
Bottom line in HDTV: Plenty of brightness, vibrant colors, crisp looking image - the proverbial "what's not to like." One can always have more brightness for lights on viewing, but as the JVC is already pushing out 1500+ color and white lumens, there really aren't any seriously brighter, serious home theater projectors, that don't sell for 10 times the price.
Overall Picture Quality - 1080 and 4K
I am enthused. The overall picture quality of the JVC DLA-RS400U / X550R / X5000 is excellent. Let's start by summarizing 1080 resolution:
Out of the box color is really good, with gamma off a little, and a touch heavy on reds on the darker ranges. That's nothing not easily correctable with a standard calibration. Or, plug in our settings in our Calibration and Advanced calibration pages, which should get you even closer to ideal without spending for a calibration (not dead on, because lamps vary slightly in color balance).
Since all the color modes are similar in brightness, one mode is all you need, unless you want to set up a second one, less technically accurate but with more pop, for when you want some ambient light present.
When it comes to 4K content, Blu-ray UHD movies, (or at least all four that I have bought) not only offer 4K but HDR (High Dynamic Range). As discussed the settings out of the box are poor, but JVC's recommended settings (which we've included in our Calibration and Advanced Calibration pages) solve that issue. Color accuracy still isn't as good as even 1080 right out of the box, but "close enough," so it looks great. After checking with Ron, we're pretty sure there's no viable way to properly calibrate for the whole 4K, BT.2020 color space, and HDR at this time, but Ron tells me we should see that come to pass perhaps before year end. Don't worry, Ron's a pretty detail oriented guy and he's not complaining one bit about his RS600, so you should be pleased with the RS400 in 4K, etc. using JVCs settings.
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Bottom Line on Picture Quality: This is easy. At this point in time, the RS400U simply has the best overall picture quality of any projector I've encountered at it's price or less, and it can do battle with more expensive, excellent projectors like the Epson LS10000 and the far more expensive true 4K Sony projectors. Of course, the JVC isn't a true 4K projector, so the Sony's really do have superior detail and sharpness.
I could argue for the Sony VPL-HW65ES, which may have a touch more natural looking skin tones, but then that similarly priced Sony can't accept 4K content. If you aren't worried about that, the JVC still easily bests the Sony in black level performance, making it my current favorite projector around the price.