JVC DLA-X30 3D LCOS Projector
Price: $3,500 At A Glance: Class-leading black levels • Outstanding pixel sharpness • 3D performance lacking
Last May, I had the pleasure of reviewing the first 3D projector offered from JVC, the DLA-X3. At just under $4,500, it represented an amazing balance of value and performance. This year, JVC has made some radical changes to its projection line, including two new projectors with its e-Shift 4K upscaling feature. Replacing last year’s DLA-X3 is the DLA-X30, which adds lens memory to the package along with some new 3D options. But the biggest news is that JVC has lowered the price by almost 25 percent. So does last year’s amazing value become this year’s doorbuster? Let’s find out.
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
The DLA-X30 is a 3-chip, 1080p, 3D projector that uses three of JVC’s D-ILA panels. D-ILA is JVC’s take on Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS), which is also what Sony uses with its SXRD variant. This is a reflective technology that has a higher fill ratio (less space between the pixels) than LCD and DLP, and a much higher native contrast.
The DLA-X30 is very similar to the previous DLA-X3 in fit and finish, but there have been some cosmetic changes that I’m sure have to do with that price drop I mentioned. The most notable is the finish. Last year’s model featured a glossy black case that gave the chassis a piano black look. This year’s has a matte finish that doesn’t have the shine (or the fingerprints) that we saw with the X3. JVC has also eliminated the motorized door that slides in front of the lens. While I was a fan of the door (it keeps the dust out), it is certainly not a make-or-break feature. Everything else appears to be the same, including the button layout, connections, and general operations.
The back panel includes two HDMI inputs (v1.4a), a component video input, and an RS-232 port. You also get some trigger outputs and a 3D-synch port for JVC’s 3D emitter. Unfortunately, the DLA-X30’s purchase price does not include that 3D emitter, or the 3D glasses required for 3D playback. JVC did however include the new emitter (PK-EM1, $79) and updated glasses (PK-AG2, $179) in our review package. The new glasses have a slightly smaller lens and are lighter. They also feature an on/off switch; last year’s glasses would power on automatically when they sensed a signal and turn off when it disappeared. I actually preferred the weight and fit of the older glasses to the new ones, but performance-wise they seemed to be about the same. These new glasses may work better for those looking for a smaller pair with a lighter fit.
Setting up the DLA-X30 was a breeze. All of the JVC projectors feature motorized zoom, lens shift, and focus, allowing for easy installation in most home theaters. JVC provides internal patterns for all the lens functions, or you can turn them off and use your own setup patterns for dialing in the image. The internal test patterns were adequate for getting zoom and lens shift right for setup, but I used my own patterns for focus. The 2x-zoom lens focuses quite nicely, and the X30 was able to focus better than most of the projectors I’ve reviewed lately at or near this price point. Its pixel-level focus was even sharper than the recent Sony VW-VPL95ES I reviewed in March at over twice the price! Convergence of the red, green, and blue imagers was decent, but not spot on. Convergence on the left side and center of the screen was almost perfect, but the right side showed nearly a full pixel of red out from the grid. This was barely noticeable at my normal seating distance. I’d recently looked at another X30 a friend owns and its convergence was perfect across the screen, so obviously there will be some variation from unit to unit. Like earlier JVC projectors, the X30 has only a global convergence adjustment, and it cannot move the colors less than a full pixel at a time. That’s fairly coarse. JVC’s new, higher-end projectors, such as the DLA-X70 reviewed last month, offer finer convergence adjustments, both global across the entire screen and by zones.
Uniformity in white and black was excellent all around. This unit didn’t show any of the bright-corner issues I see at times with LCOS designs. The projector also didn’t display the streaking around bright objects that I saw with the X3.
New to this year’s line is the ability to have three separate lens memories. We’ve seen this on other projector designs over the last couple of years, and it does afford some nice options for home theater playback. Most notable is the ability to support a constant image-height screen. Using a 2.35:1 screen provides a wider image area, and the X30 allows you to zoom a 2.35:1 image to fill it while zooming in for a traditional 16 x 9 image. You could also use two screens, depending on how elaborate you want your setup to be. The X30 supports the use of an anamorphic lens with its internal video processing, even with 3D sources, but using the lens memory provides the ability to do a setup that is cheaper than an optional lens. I only had the chance to use the X30 with my 16 x 9 screen, but I did play around with the lens memory function and it worked pretty well. It records all the steps involved with the shift from one position to another, including zoom, focus, and lens shift, so it can take a bit of time to switch.
JVC’s onscreen menus appear the same as the X3’s, with some minor exceptions. In the picture setup’s advanced menu, there were some new options for 3D. This includes Parallax Adjustment and Cross Talk Cancellation (ghosting). Unfortunately, I didn’t find much value with either of them. The Parallax feature allowed me to temper some of the ghosting I saw with 3D images, but it would only fix the ghosting in one depth while making it worse in another. The ghosting adjustment menu had settings for colors and white level, but they didn’t do anything to reduce the ghosting I saw. They did make things brighter, so if you’re finding your 3D image too dim, this may be an option to brighten things up.
The DLA-X30 provides options for dialing in the grayscale and gamma. The Standard setting of the Gamma control was reasonably good, but I had to use a higher setting of the Gamma control to get the most ideal gamma tracking. I obtained a reasonably accurate grayscale with the Natural color profile and the 6500 color temperature preset, but the 6500 setting still benefitted from a little calibration work. The projector offers both high (Gain) and low (Offset) controls in a Custom menu to balance the grayscale using the color temperature presets as a starting position.