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HTF Official Hardware Review: JVC DLA-HD100/RS2 D-ILA Projector

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#1 of 3 OFFLINE   Gary Murrell

Gary Murrell

    Supporting Actor

  • 675 posts
  • Join Date: Oct 20 2000

Posted April 09 2008 - 08:18 AM


My System Used For This Review

Introduction, Background, Equipment, Environment

JVC's introduction of the RSX/HDX series of proprietary D-ILA projectors is without a doubt a revolution in quality home theater projection, quite possibly the biggest ever. Over the years the CRT lovin' videophile inside of me has been anxiously waiting and watching the digital projection market to see when these smaller, light weight and nearly portable digital units would match the pure film playback picture quality of my beloved CRT units. I am happy to report that after this review I have great faith that the D-ila technology JVC is pushing will without a doubt replace CRT projectors in nearly all videophile setups, but does that me that your reviewer will replace his CRT projector?, you will have to read to see.

The latest D-Ila projector release from JVC for the home theater market is the DLA-HD100 and the DLA-RS2, the only differences between these units is that the later is marketed and dealt to professional dealers and ultimately customers. Many of you many be familiar with the famous JVC models RS1/HD1, although the units are very close and are nearly identical, the HD100/RS2 sports some nice upgrades over the previous models. The most important publicly acknowledged upgrades by JVC include a doubled contrast ratio of 30,000:1, a electronics image zoom and focus, HDMI 1.3 inputs and a image stretch feature to stretch 2.35:1 aspect films to fill the panel, thus enabling the projector to be used with outboard cinemascope lenses and optics without the need for a video processor of any kind.

For this review I want to first cover the conditions of the environment, setup, usage, comparisons and equipment that was used during this review. My personal theater system is in a 100% black environment with no outside lighting, one so black that Batman would be proud to call it his cave. A 100% black HT may not be aesthetic for everyone out there, but it is mandatory for a proper projection system and ultimately critiquing of such products. My display screen is a decently high-end model from Draper, a Cineperm model with M1300 fabric, around 83" wide. The Draper M1300 fabric is considered by many to be a reference white fabric for 1.0 to 1.3 gain systems, total perfection for CRT and in my opinion it worked out perfect for the HD100. My viewing distance is roughly 1.3x back from the 83" wide screen, a distance that requires a seriously good video system for one to obtain amazing picture quality and the immersion of size all in one package. I think the key component used for this review and ultimately the comparison with my CRT is the fabulous DVDO VP50pro scaler from ABT, I could cover the entire review here on this unit, but I will simply stop myself now. The HD100/RS2 while having a pretty darn good internal scaling system will benefit from a external scaler, so much so that JVC is in fact rebadging the DVDO VP50pro and selling it as a add-on scaler for this projector, so yes!, it is a worthwhile upgrade. Other components used were high quality Neutral Density 4x filters, a complete HDMI 1.3 video chain including the fabulous Onkyo PR-SC885P pre-amp, above mentioned DVDO VP50pro(with dual HD-SDI inputs) and the Panasonic DMP-BD30 BD player. Other various components were used as well including a Xbox 360 Elite, a Oppo DV-980H DVD player and even some SDI modified DVD players such as the classic Panasonic DVD-RP91. Lastly the CRT projector in question that is currently installed in my theater is the amazing NEC XG-1352LC, words cannot describe my love for this unit and the pure enjoyment I receive from it while viewing films. The NEC CRT has been fitted with a custom DVI input complete with HDCP capability from the infamous designer "Moome" in Taiwan and is 100% color corrected. The JVC HD100 and all video components were connected to a custom designed balanced transformer based power system that I constructed a few years ago, the balanced power transformer feeding the JVC unit is fed by a massive APC UPS unit that would enable the projector to run 45 minutes after a power failure or most importantly allow cool down of the bulb should my power decide to take a crap. The DVDO VP50pro was set for a 10-bit 4:2:2 YPbPr HDMI output, delivering the highest quality image possible to the JVC. My CRT at this time is limited to 8-bit RGB DVI which is a lower quality image, the afore mentioned Moome will soon be releasing a 10-bit HDMI input card for the NEC CRT but it wasn't available in time for this review.

Please do enjoy the review and comments below, hopefully as much as I enjoyed the entire process of putting them together.

HD100/RS2 Appearance, Build, Inputs, etc.

On arrival day UPS greeted me with a massive box that was decently heavy, the first thought that came to mind was "what is this", one look at the packing slip and I knew. When I opened the double boxed unit I was anxious to find that JVC was kind enough to send me a brand new in the box sealed DLA-HD100. The packaging the unit ships in is super heavy duty and adequate in every way, I don't see how this unit could get damaged in transit, although somehow people at shipping companies can always manage to destroy anything. Upon unpacking the unit I was struck by it's beautiful piano gloss black finish and immediately could tell that the unit is built very well. Taking a close look at the unit I noticed some important features like 2 huge IR sensors (one front and one rear) and a slew of inputs on the rear, most importantly 2 HDMI 1.3 inputs, I would suggest that in every case possible that one use the HDMI inputs versus analog brethren, HDMI is a huge video upgrade over analog component for HDTV applications. The unit also features some nice stable feet for mounting it on a table or shelf etc.(these feet are to be removed when the ceiling mount is attached). Below the lens on the front of the unit are two dials that control the shifting of the image vertically and horizontally (see more on this under setup and calibration). Overall I am very pleased with the build of the HD100/RS2 including the lens housing and mechanism, input quality and sturdiness (very important for HDMI), image shift dials and etc.

HD100/RS2 Setup and Calibration

The first thing I wanted to do before any setup was to put about 50 to 60 hours on the unit, so that it would have some time to settle in and show any image problems that may pop up. I did this over the course of about 4 or 5 days enjoying lots of HDTV material in the process. Physical setup of the HD100/RS2 is a total joke, people like me who have spent a big part of their lives perfecting the setup and calibration of a CRT projector are totally put to shame by the simple process of squaring up and leveling the HD100/RS2 to the screen, flipping the power switch on, adjusting the zoom/focus and finally image shift. Compared to a CRT setup, the JVC is simply far too easy for someone like me, I miss the challenge to be honest!!, although on some levels I can appreciate the simplicity of this. During the break in period of 50 some hours I took notice of a few things about the particular unit I had. Convergence was one of my worries and upon my first rough setup and install I discovered a decently sized vertical red offset of about half a pixel, in addition to a horizontal offset of both red and blue amounting to about .25 of a pixel (all at screen center). While this is not bad and isn't even close to being able to be seen from seating distances, the CRT lover in me needed improvement and I was able to get it in a strange way. I decided that the convergence issues could be related to the image shifting controls, so I tinkered around with offsetting the projector horizontally and vertically to the screen, in this process I was able to find a location that nearly removed all convergence errors that were noted above. In the end the projector wound up about 1/3 my screen size off center vertically and slightly lower than middle of my screen vertically, this eliminated my convergence problems down to less than .25 of a pixel at the center, while leaving a slight .50 pixel blue offset on the left 1/3 of the image, I was very happy with this. My unit had zero problems with some reported issues like bright corners or shaded areas and there was 1 single permanently lit blue pixel centered near the border of the image on the left side. Speaking on convergence, JVC really should step it up in regard to panel alignment adjustments, the current control is way too coarse in nature, we need .25 pixel adjustments bare minimum.

So after the hours had amassed it was time to calibrate. In addition to setup the HD100/RS2 is again a breeze to calibrate. The first thing to do is to make sure your setup is true and square, I did just that and my thrown ended up being nearly in the middle of the zoom range. Moving on to the actual image, I was pleased to find that setting the grayscale to medium and the gamma to custom/2.3 combined with some minor tweaking in the service menu and normal menu offsets I was greeted with a nearly perfect grayscale from top to bottom of the IRE range. My final image controls with the unit in stock form were -25 contrast, -3 brightness, -10 saturation, -8 sharpness, 0 DNR. One thing that needs mentioning is that many videophiles dislike the recent JVC D-ila projectors because they are grossly out of spec color wise, this is something I can attest to and as my measurements below show, they are totally out of spec (most importantly green is over saturated to a horrid degree and leaning towards blue). Being that all colors are oversaturated somewhat one can take the menu color control and tame it slightly, however what is truly needed in this situation is a CMS color calibration control. JVC has heard these complaints and it just so happens that the rebadged DVDO VP50pro they are releasing soon (RS-VP2) will allow the user to totally correct this with the flick of a switch in the menu. Yeah!!! When installing the neutral density filters I will be discussing below there will be some changes to the grayscale performance that will need to be adjusted for, the changes that were needed for the grayscale performance post ND filter were very slight and my contrast value went from -25 to +1. Everything else was pretty much identical calibration wise after adding the ND filter.

For users moving from CRT:

Lastly I want to touch on what in my opinion a valid setup tweak for those moving from CRT projectors combined with a close viewing distance from their screen, in those cases I would recommend a small very slight defocus of this unit to give a even smoother picture quality trait that CRT users have come to love. With the electronic remote controlled focus this is easily accomplished by using the internal green grid and adjusting focus until it is dead on and pixels are perfectly displayed, then simply tap down very quickly once or twice on the remote (this process needs to be done up at the screen). This defocuses the image about .5 to 1% and gives no reduction in image detail or sharpness but slightly hides that last extra pinch of digital detail due to pixel structure. If you are using a ND filter this is not necessary as it accomplishes this on nearly the same level albeit slightly more out of focus than this adjustment. This is very similar to calibrating a CRT projector while choosing a resolution to have its scan lines just meet but not overlap, this process takes away a pinch of detail due to no visible scan line structure, the same thing applies to the pixel structure of the HD100/RS2. Combined with my CRT history, excellent vision and a very close viewing distance I found this to be a very worthwhile tweak.

Posted Image

HD100/RS2 Video Quality on it's own

One word: stunning! Simply stunning. After calibration I decided to sit down with this unit with a variety of sources including Blu-Ray, SD DVD via Oppo 980h/SDI modified players, Windows Media HD clips and even some Xbox 360 via the Elite console. Starting with various Blu-Ray discs I included some of my personal testing favorites of: Species, I Robot, Last Samurai, Omega Man, Training Day, Die Hard, Fifth Element (remaster) and Basic Instinct. SD DVD's used were Sword of Doom Criterion, True Lies Japanese DTS Import, Live and Let Die/Thunderball latest 007 SE's and Cape Fear. Xbox 360 games tested were Call of Duty 4 and NHL 2008. WMVHD clips used were various demos ranging from caves to coral reefs to Terminator 2.

As I moved from each Blu-Ray film I was greeted with jaw dropping 3D image that was simply gorgeous at nearly all times, with absolutely zero signs that I was watching a digital image. The first thing that sticks out about the HD100/RS2 is the utter 3D aspect of the image, blasting you every second with a plethora of image detail that is unmatched via any analog video system like CRT. Inter-scene contrast is simple amazing lending yourself to sometimes forget you are viewing a screen and looking at a actual image there in your room. Colors as discussed above are oversaturated but I must admit at many times I found myself enjoying the image at hand so much so that I forgot about the color issues due to them being mostly green related. In fact I would go as far as to say that with proper color reproduction (via CMS or etc.) I would prefer the color performance on the HD100/RS2 versus even a color corrected CRT projector.

I can say that without a doubt that this is 98% of the time a CRT quality image in smoothness and film like appearance, only the pickiest of eagle eye videophiles would be able to tell the difference of this versus a CRT image. I have 20/15 uncorrected eyes and could make absolutely no sight of any digital manifestations of this image (such as pixel structure or noise), in fact I only made out some sheen and pearlescent type artifacts in one single test pattern, never once during video. Geometry is perfect as expected and lends to a 100% fluid life like image with no image panning issues that show up with bad geometry (like film credits). Moving on to other sources I was amazed to find that SD DVD's being processed by the DVDO VP50pro were simply amazing, this is one area that I was shocked to find so much different than many previous reports. With a quality system and components one can still achieve amazing SD DVD playback from high quality releases. Criterions Sword of Doom release (a BW film) was displayed with beautiful imagery throughout, showing off the perfect grayscale I had achieved. Xbox 360 via the elite console was simply too much of a good thing on a system of this quality and screen size. I rather enjoyed killing Arab baddies in middle eastern city streets but I think that had I played a few more minutes I would have had a seizure. I would seriously not recommend pilling up close to a massively big screen and playing first person shooters for any length of time, the image is so real and breathtaking with the latest 1080p games that it could cause effects to your health.

All the good, now time for some bad. There are only 2 small areas that I have problems with on this unit in it's stock form. That is black level (along with low light scenes) and image smearing/ghosting. Let me first touch on black level, this is without a doubt the best black level that has ever been seen on a digital by my eyes, but it still does not match the CRT or come very close to doing so in some extreme cases. Fade to blacks expose the elevated black level in a pretty bad way, but I actually find low level scenes (like chapter 5 from the Omega Man Blu-ray) to be the worst offenders for black level problems. There isn't really much to say in this regard other than the fact that they don't match up to CRT and the absolute black level one achieves on those systems. The second concern that I found was a very slight smearing of the image in some rare cases, this was mostly a concern on test patterns and on video games. The image ghosting and smear that I am referring to is similar to a LCD monitor that lacks adequate response time to deal with movement, but please don't let me confuse anyone with this matter and it's severity. I never once saw this during any critical viewing of films or other content save for the games and test patterns mentioned. I only mention it due to my extreme pickiness and it is there in some very slight instances.

Let me move on with the discussion going back to black level including low light scenes and fade to blacks. This answer to this problem is quite simple and I am happy to say comes much closer to solving the issue even for a diehard CRT fan, that answer is a 4x Neutral Density filter. With the ND filter installed on the HD100/RS2 the unit takes on a radical change that brings it to near CRT quality black levels including nighttime scenes (like the dark cityscape images in I Robot) and even fade to blacks. In fact with the 4x ND filter installed there was no perceivable difference in black level except in extreme forms of fade to blacks which favored the CRT. This was utterly shocking to me especially after seeing the fade to black performance with the ND filter, while not quite CRT in that area, it is around 90% of the black level quality, and very very enjoyable in this regard. The ND filter also improved low light scenes (like the early intro of True Lies in Switzerland) to 99% CRT performance and in some cases surpassing it due to the better inter-scene/ANSI contrast performance. There are some negatives to a ND filter that I need to hit on quickly. No matter the filter quality you do get some reduction in overall sharpness and detail, even more so than my manual focus tweak I talked about above, it is very slight and would be a none issue except for those moving from a razor like DLP or other super sharp display systems. I also observed what appears to be a slight muddying of the contrast ratio, taking a tad of that amazing mixed scene contrast away, again this is a none issue for those moving from a CRT where this is a known weakness of the technology. Lastly one must carefully choose a high grade ND filter and ultimately position it in such a manner that it doesn't cause reflections of the image back down into the lens on the unit, this can show up pretty quickly in film credits against the black background. Bottom line is this: without the ND4 filter on the HD100/RS2 I would under no circumstance even consider it as a replacement for my CRT, with the filter added I would without a doubt consider it and very seriously I might add.

No mistake made here, this little (I say little compared to my 200lb CRT) projector throws a image that would please any lover of video including diehard CRT'ers like me, with the ND filter installed the HD100/RS2 features near CRT quality blacks even including fade to blacks in some rare instances, combined with an amazing 3D image and ultimate detail levels it really is a knockout.

HD100/RS2 Video Quality vs CRT

So how does the HD100/RS2 ultimately stack up against a decent CRT like my personal NEC XG-1352LC?, pretty darn well in many areas, killing it in some, slightly underperforming in others and losing in a few places. Many of you will ask if I replaced my CRT with this unit, my answer to that at this time is no. While I would be 99% happy to own and use the HD100/RS2 any day of the week, I demand the absolute ultimate performance in a couple areas that the HD100/RS2 is just slightly lacking in. Those are: extreme absolute black levels, smoothness of image and handling of detail during movement. The two major areas are smoothness of the image and absolute black level, while the HD100/RS2 can't quite match the CRT yet in those areas, it comes very close at times and will only get better with each generation of product. On the other hand the JVC has the upper hand in some areas including: Image detail, 3D image properties due to high mixed scene contrast, and with the addition of a CMS system what I would call better colors versus CRT. I really do think we are very close to a D-ILA product from JVC that overcome CRT, possibly within a year or two.

For those interested, I am going to lay out a simple guide here that compares some basic differences between CRT and the JVC HD100/RS2 and how they ultimately stack up against one another:

Ease of use: JVC
Ease of setup: JVC
Ease of installation: JVC
Power usage: JVC
Quality of inputs and capability: JVC
Lack of mechanical sound and lowest heat production: JVC
Natural image sharpness and detail: JVC
Black levels (stock form and ND filter): CRT
Color production (stock form/CMS correction): CRT/JVC
Image movement & handling of detail during: CRT
Smoothness of image (IE: liquid image feel): CRT
3D WOW image factor: JVC
Inter-scene/ANSI contrast: JVC
Absolute/on off contrast ratio: CRT

Closing Thoughts

The JVC HD100/RS2 is without a doubt a top grade image that would please nearly anyone, it is the first digital I have had the pleasure of viewing that throws a image that is anything but "digital". If I were ultimately choosing a display for a environment that was to be used for viewing HDTV material, sports content, gaming, family entertainment, occasional movies etc. then the HD100/RS2 would be my projector of choice without a doubt. If one is searching for a perfect display that is for 100% film playback then this unit would nearly fit that bill as well, save for black levels in extreme circumstances and with a neutral density filter installed that issue is nearly resolved, so much so that many picky CRT users would be pleased. JVC certainly has a very exciting product here that is the future of high-end home theater projection. As we all know far too well most local cinemas have poor resolution and lackluster blacks, with the HD100/RS2 1920x1080p resolution and content available to fit that bill, I sometimes wonder if things are starting to look "too good".

Special thanks to Ron Epstein and Darin Perrigo [PG]62166133[/PG]

#2 of 3 OFFLINE   Michel_Hafner


    Supporting Actor

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Posted April 11 2008 - 07:00 AM

A ND filter would not work for me since it reduces white as much as black. The image would be too dim on my 3.5m wide 16:9 screen. Only even bigger On-Off contrast helps here. The colors can be dialed in 100% with the CMS of a Lumagen Radiance, by the way.

#3 of 3 OFFLINE   Gary Murrell

Gary Murrell

    Supporting Actor

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  • Join Date: Oct 20 2000

Posted April 12 2008 - 09:57 AM

yeah the light output is cut severly, it ended up perfect for my smaller screen size but I couldn't see a ND4 filter fitted unit doing any bigger, the upcoming JVC RS-VP2 (VP50pro rebadge) will take care of the colors as well, maybe we will see the control come to the DVDO VP50pro as well Posted Image