JVC DLA-HD1 1920x1080 Home Theater Projector Page 3
But unlike the Sharp, the JVC can deliver this low black level while set up for a higher peak white output. In other words, the JVC can be, simultaneously, both brighter on bright scenes and darker on dimmer ones than the Sharp. In both respects the JVC is also slightly superior to the Sony Pearl. And unlike the Sony, it does not use a dynamic iris to achieve those deep blacks.
Sharp: The black level capability of the JVC is, indeed, directly competitive with that of the $11,999 Sharp XV-Z20000 (which like the JVC does not have an auto iris). Overall, however, the Sharp XV-Z20000 still has the best combination of deep blacks and consistent scene-to-scene contrast ratio I've yet seen on a digital projector.
While the JVC could match or even exceed the Sharp in its measured black level and peak contrast ratio, and on many scenes looked every bit as good, there were some scenes in which the prize clearly went to the Sharp. Blacks could turn a little gray on the JVC in scenes with dark foreground details and strong backlighting. For example, in the 2005 King Kong there's a sequence in which Kong is rampaging in Times Square just after breaking out of the theater. In one shot, just over half the screen is covered with Kong's head and shoulders, with a bright neon sign above and behind him. On the Sharp, Kong's fur remains a dark gray, with its detailing still evident. On the JVC, the fur is still nicely detailed, but it's a lighter, paler gray. In another example from chapter 43 of the same film, there's a night shot of a New York street as Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), backlit, walks slowly toward Kong. It's intercut with shots of the big ape. Again, the Sharp looks a little more dimensional in this scene, with better apparent contrast.
Although the Sharp's picture did"pop" a little more realistically than the JVC's, the difference, more often than not, was elusive. Comparative (not absolute) measurements suggest that the Sharp has superior ANSI contrast (which shows how well the blacks and dark grays stay dark in the presence of bright areas in the image), but the JVC has better peak contrast (peak white output divided by the level of video black). This might be one explanation for the visible differences I saw on some real program material, and why those differences could come and go on different scenes.
But at a shade over half the price of the Sharp, the deep black and contrast ratio performance of the JVC can only be described as amazing.
On most program material, I also found the JVC to be a hair sharper than the Sharp. This was surprising, because while both projectors clearly responded to the 37.1MHz video burst on my AccuPel test pattern generator (tested in HDMI), the response of the JVC at that frequency was down a bit in level compared to the Sharp.
There's also the issue of rainbows. Like all single chip DLP projectors, the Sharp will occasionally show them. They weren't as distracting to me as on some DLPs (and single-chip DLPs, in general, are far better at suppressing rainbows than in early DLP designs). But the three-chip JVC will never flash a rainbow.
But on much of the program material I watched I could switch back and forth between the Sharp and the JVC and not be able to make an easy, clear call as to which I preferred. And when I did see a difference worth commenting on, the far less expensive JVC sometimes came out on top. The more time I spent with the JVC, the more excited I became at its combination of performance and value.
Sony: In my First Look I concluded by deduction that the JVC was sharper than the Sony Pearl. No further need for (elementary) deduction now; I was able to spend the better part of a day directly comparing the JVC to the Sony, using 1080i high-definition material primarily from HD DVD. A 1080i source, rather than 1080p from Blu-ray, was used to include the 1080i-to-1080p conversion of each projector in the evaluation.
As with the Sharp comparison, both projectors were driven from the same source using PureLink's HD-150, a superb 1-in, 5-out HDMI distribution amplifier. The images were projected onto the same screen, and the light alternately blocked or passed from each projector. This enabled an instantaneous switchover from one to the other. I was very careful to calibrate each projector for optimum setup, and was fortunate to be able to get the peak white output of the projectors to within 1fL of each other.
It was shocking just how closely the two matched. When viewed on its own without a direct comparison, the Sony still showed itself to be a very fine projector—the best available (in my opinion) for under $5,000. I had no complaints about its image in any respect. But on a direct comparison to the JVC, the latter pulled ahead in three areas.
First, the JVC was sharper. But not by a huge amount. Contrary to the popular Internet myth, the Pearl is not soft. Soft-er, but that's not the same thing. In any well-transferred film, there are well-focused shots and those that are slightly"off." You'll never spot these variations in a typical movie theater with its typical crappy projector, cheap projection lens, and a mass-produced print, which is why filmmakers can get away with it. But play a good high-definition film transfer through the Sony and you'll see these differences easily.
So while the resolution differences between the Sony and the JVC, even in a quick switch from one to the other, do not jump out and grab you by the throat, you can see them if you look closely. And even subtle differences in sharpness can have a cumulative subjective impact over time.
The Sharpness differences between the Sony and the JVC might have been at least partially due to the fact that the Sony sample in the comparison was misconverged by a full pixel (to the right) in red and a half pixel (to the left) in green. This is factory-fixed in the Sony and cannot be corrected. The JVC was not perfectly aligned either (as discussed earlier) but the error it its case was much smaller, and irrelevant in the important center of the image. Both projectors, incidentally, performed equally well on our standard 1080i luma resolution test.
Second, the JVCs shadow detail was better. While the deep blacks of both projectors were very similar and hardly worth picking a fight over, the JVC was better at bringing out subtle, slightly brighter highlights in most dark scenes. This is almost certainly due to the brightness compression in the Sony's dynamic iris. When the iris closes down on dark scenes, it also chokes off these highlights a bit, too—not enough to compromise the picture significantly, but enough to limit the way in which those highlights can enhance a scene.
And third, the JVC's image was more vibrant and three-dimensional. The above two characteristics likely contributed to this, together with slight differences in the gamma of the two projectors. And, again, the Sony by itself did was not obviously lacking here. But the JVC simply came out on top.
The differences I saw between the Sony and the JVC in my comparison were very similar to what I've seen from the two projectors in JVC's very public demonstrations. But they were less obvious. I suspect (he said, modestly) that I took more time in optimizing each projector, and matching their setup where such adjustments did not compromise the performance of either of them. I'd also say that the differences in the prices of the two projectors were representative of their performance differences. If you kick in just a bit more cash, the JVC gives you that extra kick toward (unattainable) perfection.
The Bottom Line
I'm not sure if all of the individual details I've mentioned here adequately convey just how impressed I am with the JVC's overall performance. You really have to see it to appreciate it. I've lived with it for several weeks now, and it hasn't failed me yet in the way it presents the pristine images available from the best program material. It even appears to get the best out of average sources (though some programming, clearly, will always be hopeless).
No projector I've had in house since my days of reviewing 9" CRTs (now four years past) has provided a bigger double-wow experience—"wow" for the quality of its images, and"wow" for its amazingly affordable price. The JVC's image is bright and compelling. Nothing odd, such as digital artifacts, ever limited my enjoyment. The best standard definition discs looked close enough to HD that they would likely fool many an average viewer, and HD wove its expected magic.
In short, the JVC DLA-HD1 is, without question, the best projector I've yet laid eyes on for under $10,000.
Sharp, crisp image
Superb blacks and shadow detail
Quiet (but not silent)
Lacks separate high and low color temperature adjustments
Color points could be more accurate