Projector Reviews

JVC DLA-RS20 – and HD750 Home Theater Projector: First Look!

UPDATE: The JVC DLA-RS20 Review has been posted.

Greetings all!

The first thing I want to say, is that I would have liked to spend a bit more time familiarizing myself with the JVC DLA-RS20 before writing this, but then, this, afterall, is a “first look”.  Please note, the JVC HD750 is essentially the same projector as the RS20, but sold by a different JVC division.  While some specs are a little different, that’s likely just due to the different marketing departments (you know: “Hmm, what number would sound best as a contrast spec”?)

JVC DLA-RS20 projector – great placement flexibilty and image performance

Mike was a little behind the curve getting the JVC RS20 calibrated, so I didn’t get it back until yesterday afternoon.  Not his fault, though.  We both agreed that for the JVC RS20, that CMS (color management system) adjustment was absolutely necessary.  We normally restrict our calibrations to the usual Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, and grayscale balance (and identifying the best gamma settings).  That meant more work for Mike.  When Mike brought it back, I immediately got to play with it in my newly dark painted (dark rust color) theater, with some ambient light coming in.  That was followed by extensive viewing last night.  Extensive, as for much of the time between 7pm and 3:30 in the morning – a long session, for sure. During that time I viewed segments on Blu-ray disc, from The Black Knight, Hanncock, Space Cowboys, Pineapple Express, and Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Let’s start with the basics.  the DLA-RS20 is a little smaller than the older RS2 and RS1 projectors.  It’s got a shiny black piano finish with a little gold trim on the top center and around the lens.  The HD750 is a little different cosmetically.  The RS20 is also quieter than predecessors – claiming only 19db in low power mode.  In full power mode, the JVC seems to be about average, or a little louder than average, but still well below some of the noisier projectors.  The DLA-RS20 claims 50,000:1 contrast (with no dynamic iris!), and 900 lumens.  It has a 2:1 zoom lens, and lots of vertical and horizontal lens shift.  While the RS20 does have internal processing support for an anamorphic lens and sled (and 12 volt trigger), when I last spoke to JVC about this a month or more ago, they didn’t have an anamorphic lens solution, The one they recommend for the older RS2, won’t work physically, because the lens is more recessed on the RS20.  No doubt, a anamorphic lens solution will surface shortly, and I will touch base again, with JVC to see if they have any solution yet.

Several things are new for the RS20, starting with the focus, zoom and lens shift all being motorized.  From an input standpoint, all the jacks are located on the left side (if looking from the back), instead of in the back on those older JVC home theater projectors.

One thing I really like about having everything motorized, is this:  Normally, with a rear shelf mounted projector and a 16:9 screen, when watching a typical 2.35:1 Cinemascope movie, you have letterboxes at the top and the bottom.  With the RS20, I simply brought up the lens shift control, and dropped the image down far enough, so that the bottom of the movie image became aligned with the bottom of the screen surface.  That leaves the letterbox at the top (and above it, more screen not being hit by light from the projector, and the lower letterbox light hitting below the screen.  With the great black levels. the letterbox light is completely invisible on my fairly dark front wall.  This lowers the entire movie image, closer to eye level – a real plus in my opinion, not to mention that one is more likely to notice the lower letterbox on a screen than the upper one.  That is great feature, for those who can take advantage of it.  My only regret, relating to this, is that there is no way to save different lens shift settings.  Now that would be nice.

In fact, what would be even better, is if the projector recognized signal types as some projectors do (like the Epson’s).  With some projectors if you switch from say a 24fps movie source to a 1080i source, the projector will remember, and change preset modes.  This RS20 does not seem to do that, that I have noticed so far.  With my Epson 1080UB, for example, if I switch from my PS3 (with the projector in TheaterBlack1, to my cable box for HDTV sports, the projector would remember and switch to Dynamic mode automatically.  A nice touch.  Oh well. If that’s my biggest complaint, then there’s nothing serious to complain about!

The basics:  when we reviewed the JVC RS2 last year, it exhibited the blackest blacks of any projector we’ve reviewed.  As expected, the RS20 does the same.  It’s been quite some time since I’ve had an RS2 here, but it’s safe to say that the JVC RS20, and therefore also the HD750,  is at least as good as the RS2.  Blacks were very dark, providing those “rich inky blacks” most of us crave.  A quick side by side with the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB (who’s blacks are some of the best out there), shows the RS2 still easily beats the Epson, though not as much as the Epson beats, say the Sony HW10 or Sanyo PLV-Z3000, on very dark scenes.

The RS20 sports a color management system, something lacking in my older RS1.  Good thing, too, as it is needed.  The JVC RS20 is also THX certified, and has a pre-calibrated mode, aptly named THX.  I spent some time viewing in that mode, (it allows only minimal image adjustment (for example brightness, contrast, color saturation, and tint, but no color temperature controls, gain or offset.  And THX does not allow access to the Color Management System (CMS), or gamma.

The THX mode looks very good, but I favor our calibrated Cinema 2 mode, which ended up somewhat similar.

When I first viewed the DLA-RS20, “out of the box”, colors were definitely rich, and pretty accurate, but in general, noticeably oversaturated.  This issue can be helped by simply reducing the Color Saturation control (from a default, I think, of -5, to at least -12, and probably -17 is even better.  The issue, though comes from the individual colors being oversaturated, and that’s where CMS comes in.  The green, for example, is so oversaturated, that Mike ended up adjusting the green saturation to -25 out of a -30 to +30 range.  In other words, almost all the way down.  Without dealing with the over saturation skin tones are over saturated to the point of having an orange, almost day-glow look.

Once calibrated, though (including using the CMS) which I consider necessary, (so far), the RS20 produces a gorgeous image.  The Gotham at night scenes from The Dark Knight (whether the IMAX or standard format scenes) were excellent.  Blacks were as good as I’ve seen on a non-CRT projector, and the bright areas did not appear at all compressed.  One does see a little compression of the brighter white lights in those scenes, when viewing projectors using dynamic irises, such as the PT-AE3000 and the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB.  The end result is that the JVC’s night Gotham scenes have a truer, more dynamic look.

Daylight scenes did a very good job with sunlight, you definitely get the feeling of a “bright sunny day”.

Shadow detail looks very good, but I haven’t had a chance to do side by sides against a couple of other projectors, which will allow me to further clarify how good it handles dark shadow detail.

Next: Brightness – Quite honestly, finding about about brightness is one of the things I have been most interested in.  A year ago, I had considered replacing my JVC RS1 with an RS2, but, alas, the RS2 simply did not have the lumens – the horsepower – to fill my 128 inch diagonal, 16:9 Firehawk G3.  As a result, I have stuck with my RS1.

Lo and behold!  The JVC RS20 is much brighter than the RS2.  with Mike’s new metering equipment and software, which has been turning up much lower numbers than our old Optic One sensor and Avia Pro software.  Despite this, the RS20 measured far more lumens with the new gear, than the older RS2 did with the old.

Most of the preset modes measure between 700 and 850 lumens.  The one exception is Cinema 1 which has a color temp of 5800 for viewing black and white movies.  The rest are all at least 722 lumens (Cinema 2).  THX mode almost matched Dynamic mode (837 vs 844 lumens) within the accuracy of the measuring equipment.

This tells you two things.  The RS20 is about as bright, or actually slightly brighter, than the original RS1, far brighter than the RS2, in best mode.  The other is that, like the other JVC’s it is not significantly brighter in its brightest mode.  By the way, switching from High lamp mode (full power) to Normal (low power), drops brightness by about 1/3.  Also of note, the RS20 has a manual iris, with settings from 0 to -15.  0 being the brightest.  If you don’t need all the lumens (smaller screens, etc.), reducing the iris opening will not only darken the image overall, but technically cause a slight improvement in black levels.

What does all this mean?  The RS20 can handle larger screens in “best” mode, such as my much larger than most folks, 128 inch high contrast gray screen. This really works for me, and many others.  For other viewing, though, with more than minimal ambient light present, the RS20 is still below average in brightness.  I’m a big sports fan, and don’t like watching in a really dark room.  Whether those who also want some ambient light, and have larger screens, your room, screen surface and viewing preferences will be the deciding factors as to whether the RS20 has enough brightness for you, for sports and general programming.  I do believe that my recent paint job to my room, finally darkening dramatically, walls and ceiling, has made a big difference.  I was always a bit unhappy with my RS1, in terms of brightness in my room for sports – adequate but wishing for more.

This is important – the darkening of my room, makes a huge difference in the daytime.  The darker walls reduce the ambient light leaking in from my closed shades, and bouncing off light walls and ceiling.  That makes the ambient light issue a much, much smaller issue.  To get the room ambient where I like it, (not to dark) for sports, it is now under my control, by adjusting room lighting upward.  End result, I put on about 15 minutes of a saved football game, yesterday afternoon (first item when the projector came back), and was happier with the RS20, than I have been with the RS1, with the old white walls.  Hopefully that’s useful info for those who still have light colored walls (and can do something about them).

Back to the matter at hand, which is:  So, what do I think?

Like the guy who fell off the top of the Empire State Building was heard yelling, all the way down:  “so far, so good.  So far… so good… So far…”

I have much more viewing to do, but as of right now, I’m most pleased. Sufficiently so, that I figure the probability of replacing my RS1, with the RS20 in the next month or so, to be extremely likely.  I love the black level performance.  The colors and color saturation, post calibration are gorgeous, etc.  Of course everything’s not perfect.  I’m not thrilled with the remote control.  It’s range is limited, and that can be annoying, as well as the action of pressing on some of the buttons.  And of course I wish it had a lot more lumens in its brightest mode.  On the plus side, not already mentioned, I like the gamma presets, and the ability to customize your own, including different gamma characteristics for each of the primary colors, which can be saved into any of the three Custom gamma modes (in addition to the provided Normal, A, B, and C gammas.

Assuming no real issues pop up during further, more critical viewing and in doing my side-by-side comparisons, the JVC RS20 looks to be one outstanding projector.  The price point is high compared to most of the other projectors we review, but, so far, I am pretty sure, for those that can afford one, that they will consider it worth the extra money!

I’m hoping to publish the full review Monday night (which probably means Tuesday night).  I should be able to also post the RS10 review 3-4 days later, as some of the work with that one will be going on concurrently.

OK, that’s it for now.  Go easy on the questions, as the less time I spend speculating on what I don’t yet know, the sooner I will have the real answers and the sooner the review will be published.

Hang in there! -art

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