Projector Reviews

Best Home Theater Projector Report 2013 – Image Quality 3

$3500 - $10,000 Home Theater Projectors

Right, the SIM2 Nero 3D2, scene from The Fifth Element

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JVC DLA-X75R and DLA-X95R

True, we haven’t seen the DLA-X75R here.  But we did have a good run with it’s genetically superior DLA-X95R “identical twin”.

These two JVC’s still have the best blacks of any projectors we’ve played with, ever.  OK, sure the $25,000 Sony 4K can get blacker, but the JVC will have those exceptionally dark blacks, even in the brightest of scenes, which no projector dependent on a dynamic iris can match. Dark shadow detail is very good, but definitely not the very best based on our viewing.

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Calibrating the JVC was pretty straightforward, and the bottom line is that the THX mode provides very good color right out of the box.  But since you are a discerning home theater enthusiast, or just someone with the ability to throw a lot of money at a projector to make sure you have a great one that impresses, the thought of NOT having the X75R projector calibrated, makes little sense.

Skin tones are especially natural, although the Sony competition might have a slight edge, both are great.

Of course dynamic features like JVC’s e-shift2/MPC will make the image seem sharper, but will reduce the naturalness of the picture.  The more you use the dyanmic feature. the less natural.  That’s always going to be a trade-off.

I summarized with this comment about the DLA-X95R when I reviewed it. It really says it all:

“The JVC DLA-X95R is the whole package when it comes to having a great 2D projector sporting a great picture. Not only is the color really good, but add in the blacks, the better than most, dark shadow detail, and it’s hard to find fault.”

Image above from the JVC DLA-X95R, the Victoria Secret Fashion Show

So, what does the JVC X95R bright to the picture quality equation, compared to the X75R projector?  Clarity!   Twice in past year’s, I’ve seen predecessors of the X95R / X75R combination.  One of those two times, I had both base and “best components” projectors simultaneously.  When I had that opportunity, the real, visible difference seemed to primarily be the optics.  The X95R is going to get the best of the lenses, and it makes a difference.

A tale from the editor:  I’ve always been into photography, and have owned a great many SLRs and dSLRs over the decades.  When I had Nikon cameras “back in the day”  I had the standard Nikon lens (probably 55mm, can’t recall), for a couple of years, then had the opportunity to buy a used, far more expensive standard focal length lens for relatively cheap.  Basicallly I had two lenses that were extremely similar.  But, especially with fine grained films, (and doubly so when in black and white), there was a visible improvement in detail/clarity with the fancy optics. Those two lenses were very different in optical design.  In this case of two JVC projectors, , it’s the same lens design, but there will still be a visible difference by having the best of breed lens in the X95R.  -art

Do you need to spend the extra $4K for that additional image clarity?  That is for you to decide.  Just understand, with the DLA-X95R, you get the same picture as weith the X75R, except, it’s better.

Optoma HD8300

The HD8300 is a repeat from last year.  Optoma’s HD8300 projector is a really solid mid-priced DLP projector. To start, right out of the box: “Overall, Cinema is but a touch thin on red, but skin tones still look very respectable, before calibrating the projector.”

There’s more from the review, the image does earn attention:  “Color is great. Skin tones, football fields, action flicks, romantic comedies, Lady Gaga, neon signs, starships, even beer commercials, all look pretty impressive. When I consider the HD8300 overall, the projector has some shortcomings, but, when I think of the image itself, the HD8300 does a great job.

I also like watching sports and HDTV with limits of brightness and screen size being the only concern. Nice and sharp, and a good CFI for smooth motion.  Folks this is a great picture on a projector designed for a dedicated home theater.

Black levels are very good among DLP projectors but not up to the current crop of JVC and Sony projectors. The dynamic iris action is smoother than on some earlier Optoma’s and not normally a problem.

Runco LS5

The main thing to say is that the Runco LS5 has perhaps the most natural looking picture – the projector that may well be most invisible all the under $10,000 projectors in this report..  Yet, the LS5 does not have world class blacks, nor the very best dark shadow detail.

This says it all about out of the box performance: “In Native lamp, the projector looked about as good as most other projectors – after we calibrate them.”

The picture is what the Runco is all about: “for those most concerned with filling their theater with a beautiful image, no rough edges.”

This is a relatively simple projector, not a lot of fancy features, but in the under $10,000 price range, you’ll be hard pressed to find a projector more natural, even if others can best it in areas such as black level performance, or with fancy image enhancement tools.  A very fine projector for the “purist”   I’ve had a few people ask me about this projector.  A couple bought used ones.  They all bought LS5s knowing that an Epson or Panasonic for half the price would be “dripping in advanced features” by comparison.   I recall two Runco LS-5 buyers telling me how pleased they were with their purchases, well after the fact.  At least one of them was a seasoned projector enthusiast who had previouly owned several projectors.   (That’s the best I can recall!)

Runco LS10d

Ah! You thought I liked the image quality of the LS5?  Here’s how I started off the Out Of The Box section of the Runco LS10:  “Stunning…First time I set it up it just knocked my socks off. Why? The differences between the “out of the box” Cinema and Mike’s calibration of Custom 1, are small.”

And as you might expect, it only got better from there. “Sure skin tones look great, and that’s not all that hard on brighter scenes, but maintaining that natural skin look in darker scenes is often a real challenge.” I went on from there to compliment the skin tones in those darker scenes. Black levels are very good, but despite the expensive “real estate” they probably can’t quite match Epson’s $2600 HC5020UB.  (On the other hand, the LS10D is brighter calibrated than many lower cost projectors can muster at the brighest.)

A bit of praise (well it is an over $20,00 projector): “From my perspective, (compared to this Runco) superior blacks of, say the top of the line JVC projectors, just isn’t enough to make up for the even better skin tones, (especially in darker scene lighting), and the sheer extra brightness that makes you feel like you can feel the heat, when the sun’s shining.”

SIM2 Nero 3D2:

The dealer is going to calibrate it for you, you probably don’t have a choice.  Post calibration:“the Nero’s skin tones are about as believable as I’ve seen…” not to mention when describing overall picture quality: “Post calibration, great.” Other words like natural and believable are common in the review.  This is one of SIM2’s more “affordable” 3D projectors (ouch!)  That said, I recall 3D color being rather good (usually we don’t worry too much about great 3D color, as it’s rare.)   This is another one of those natural / invisible type projectors.  I don’t have the money to rationalize the value of the Nero 3D-2, but I understand that in this case, the big bucks will get you a sweet image.  Of that I’m sure.

Sony VPL-VW95ES

“All considered, the general color and skin tones in several modes are really good for right out of the box.” That after noting that the presets were all a bit cool, measuring around 7000K. We were much more impressed with the VW95ES’s picture than the old 90ES it replaced, but in the category of “out of the box”, last year’s Sony was a bit better.

After that, however, the VPL-VW95ES improves over the 90ES in most ways.  “The flesh tones of the VW95ES projector are one of its great strengths. Perhaps it’s the accurate color gamut Mike has pointed out, but the Sony does really great on skin tones on bright scenes. Running the Sony side by side against the lower cost Epson Home Cinema 5010, resulted in the Epson looking really good, but the Sony was just more natural.”

Sony VPL-VW95ES – scene from Red:

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I wasn’t quite as happy with skin tones in dark scenes where they did pick up some extra red, but they still very good.  If I was owning it, I would have asked Mike to readjust some of the calibration.  Calibrating a projector is part art, part science.  Unless you do things in the exact same order, it’s unlikely you would get the same results twice as some color and other controls overlap each other.

When it comes to black level performance, my take was, and is, that only the JVC’s – the X75R and X95R projectors have slightly better blacks, so that’s high praise.  Shadow detail is good but hardly exceptional in the class.

Missing in terms of image quality, is the latest Reality Creation system found on the newer HW50ES and the 4K VPL-VW1000ES.

Finally:  “Pre-calibration, very good. Post calibration, great,” is how I started my Overall Color and Picture Quality section in the review.

This concludes the general image quality section, but we’re not done. Below we look at all the same projectors from a standpoint of watching sports and general HDTV.

The image below is from the movie The Hunger Games, the projector used is the JVC DLA-X95R

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