Best In Class Award: JVC DLA-RS20
Simply stated, the JVC DLA-RS20 is the best 1080p projector we've ever reviewed.
Is it perfect - no, but it is not only extremely good in almost every category we consider, but it is also better in many of those categories, than any other projector. Some projectors are particularly good at some things, whereas the RS20 is extremely good at almost everything that counts.
Black level performance is unmatched. Shadow detail is definitely very good. Sharpness is on the high side of average for 1080p projectors, but then none of them is weak in this area. It can't quite match the sharpness of the best, but for most of us, is close enough as to not matter.
And then there's brightness. In "best" mode it is almost the brightest projector around. In "brightest" mode, however, the JVC is only average. Still, I find it sufficient enough for my large room, with 128" HC gray Firehawk screen, with acceptable low to moderate ambient lighting I favor for sports viewing. For viewing movies with the room fully darkened, it is brilliant, bright enough, in fact, that even with my large, not bright screen, I occasionally dial down the brightness with the manual iris. Most of the projectors in this entire review, don't even have the lumens to fill my large screen for movie watching, at least not in their "best" modes.
The biggest complaint I have about the RS20 is in terms of calibrating it. It is probably the trickiest calibration job I've encountered. Due to their somewhat funky CMS (color management system), we had to seek some outside help to get the most out of the DLA-RS20. We strongly recommend that those buying an RS20 make a point to have their calibrator read our section on calibration, and the links about calibrating it that we have provided. Our settings do, however work splendidly. I took the final results of the review unit's calibration and dropped them into my own new RS20 which arrived last week. I then put the two projectors side by side, and they were almost identical. I couldn't peg one as better than the other, just very, very, slghtly different.
Bottom Line: The JVC RS20 gets my highest commendation. If I wasn't sufficiently dazzled, believe me, I could have easily waited another year, getting by nicely with my older JVC RS1! I've already got almost 50 hours on the RS20 and have enjoyed every minute of it, whether watching movies, sports or those great looking Discovery HD (and similar) channels with superb imagery.
Best In Class Award, Runner-Up: JVC DLA-RS10
Well, the JVC DLA-RS10 isn't the best thing around, as its big brother, the RS20 has that honor. But, it is a close second. This is the second year running that the two JVC LCoS projectors have swept the two top spots.
Last year, though, there were three distinct trade-offs. The RS1 (and RS1x) were noticeably brighter than the RS2 (the reason I didn't buy an RS2 was not enough lumens for my room). The RS2 had even better black levels, and the last difference was that the RS2 cost significantly more.
This time around, the two projectors are almost identical in brightness, but the other two differences remain the same: The RS20 wins in black level performance, and the RS10 is a couple thousand dollars less!
None of the other projectors reviewed can match the RS10's black levels (except of course the RS20), however a few come close. There's the lower cost Epson UB, BenQ's W20000, and the Planar 8150 is pretty good too.
The real dilemma for most people considering the RS10 is balancing budget with performance. Think of the DLA-RS10 as the product in the middle.
It costs a chunk more than the excellent, but not as refined (in picture quality) Epson UB projectors, and it saves you a similar chunk compared to the RS20.
The main thing is this. Compared to those other two, the JVC RS10 (for those that can afford), by my take, is worth the difference over the Epson. On the other hand, if you are looking for the very best performance, one could say that the RS20 is worth the difference over the RS10.
As an owner of an older Epson UB, and one who just sold my JVC RS1 for a new RS20, my best advice, is this. The RS10 is a great performer. If you can't quite afford the RS20, the RS10 should thoroughly please you with its performance. And that's why it gets our Runner-up award
Special Interest Award (tie): InFocus IN83
The InFocus IN83 is all about the great color accuracy, and natural image. Of all the projectors I've reviewed, the IN83 still, in my opinion does the most natural, accurate skin tones, and for that matter, great color across the board.
That's the most important great thing about the IN83. The other major strengths include its brightness, both in "best" and "brightest" modes. There isn't anything significantly brighter anywhere near its price, and most competitors are no where near as bright. The other key strength is an exceptionally sharp image. I loved watching my college football on the IN83, filling my 128" screen - the picture was always razor sharp, and had plenty of lumens even with the amount of lighting I like on when friends are over. (If only my new JVC RS20 had the brightness of the IN83 in "brightest mode", I would be even more thrilled with it.)
With all that praise you may wonder why it's not a Best In Class winner. Here's the scoop: Black levels are only average, and not up to any of the ultra-high-contrast projectors. That puts it at a distinct disadvantage when watching content with a lot of very dark scenes. The other downside is the typical, limited placement flexibility of a DLP projector. The 1.2:1 zoom lens, no lens shift, and a lot of vertical offset, limit you to ceiling mounting.
All that brightness, may not benefit a lot of potential buyers. Because of the large amount of vertical offset, the projector needs to be mounted well above the top of the screen (about 18" above a 100" screen). One reason to want a bright projector is to tackle larger screens - say 120" diagonal and larger. The IN83 has the power, but if you don't have a fairly high ceiling, you won't be able to mount the projector high enough to be practical. For a 120" screen, if you are willing to have the bottom of your screen surface only two feet up from the floor, you'll need a ceiling height of at least 9.5 feet.
I should note that it was a close decsion between the IN83, and another excellent DLP projector, for this award. The other being the Planar PD8150. The Planar does have more placement flexibility (thanks to lens shift), and better black levels, but ultimately the almost flawless color performance, especially in terms of skin tones, and the lower cost won the day for InFocus, despite the Planar's very good out of the box color accuracy.
The IN83 therefore receives a Special Interest Award. A bright, sharp, great picture (black levels notwithstanding), but a projector that won't work for a lot of people due to limited placement. Still, if it will work in your room, and you can live with black level performance that was considered excellent 2 and a half years ago, go for it.