JVC DLA-RS1000 (DLA-NX5)
JVC has clearly heard this message loud and clear, decisively moving away from pixel shifting technology in their entire line up and offering industry leading contrast and superior optics at a price in line with Sony and other competitors. The DLA-NX5 is without question the price:performance leader in a crowded market and deserves an extremely close look.
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The DLA-RS1000 (also known as the DLA-NX5 when sold to consumer customers) is JVC’s most affordable native 4K projector with a 4096×2160 native resolution. This price point is significant since the DLA-NX5 does not rely on e-Shift technology to achieve its resolution, and includes many elements from more costly siblings like the DLA-RS2000 including a 0.69 inch D-ILA panel and an all glass 65mm lens.
Since 4K projectors hit the market I’ve been eager to get a JVC unit into my theater for review, but held off due to the lack of native 4K resolution. While JVC’s e-Shift technology allows a 1080p panel to produce a 4K image (affectionately termed Faux K) and is well liked by most customers, I had a hard time justifying this over Sony’s established native 4K lineup.
With their most recent revision of their projector lineup, JVC has brought native 4K to their entry level model in the DLA-NX5, and added 8K e-Shift to their top of the line NX9. The primary difference between the DLA-NX5 and its more expensive siblings are in contrast ratio and color gamut. The step up from the DLA-NX5, the $8999 NX7 offers double the claimed contrast ratio of the DLA-NX5, and also claims to reproduce 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut with a Cinema filter setting engaged.
Features & Specifications
The $17,999 NX9 takes things a step further with a further 25% bump in contrast, 8K e-shift and a 100mm all glass lens. It is worth noting that all three models support 3D, despite being released in 2019, which make them a very good investment for those who consider 3D an essential requirement for their system.
The DLA-NX5 is driven by a newly developed triple panel 0.69 inch D-ILA device that JVC has specifically created to offer improved contrast with non-laser light sources. The DLA-NX5 has two 18Gbps HDMI/HDCP 2.2 compatible inputs and features a 3 year factory warranty.
In typical JVC fashion no compromises are made when it comes to contrast and black levels, and the DLA-NX5 offers a native contrast ratio of 40,000:1 and a dynamic contrast ratio of up to 400,000:1 once the dynamic iris is engaged. The DLA-NX5 ships with a 17-element, 15-group all glass 65mm lens that is of very high optical quality compared to the lenses seen in Sony’s lower end units.
In terms of lens memory, DLA-NX5 offers 10 user-customizable picture memory settings, including lens shift and focus memory for those who like to watch in multiple aspect ratios or in a constant image height setup. From an HDR perspective, the DLA-NX5 supports HDR 10 and HLG HDR, and ships with an auto tone mapping algorithm, that JVC claims automatically adjusts picture settings based upon mastering metadata included in HDR content.
Unboxing & Build Quality
The DLA-NX5 arrived in a sturdy double box, well protected in transit from JVC’s offices to my home. In rather typical fashion, closed cell foam is used to cushion the DLA-NX5 and the projector itself is enclosed in a thick plastic bag.
The first thing I noticed about this projector as I removed it from the box was that it was extremely heavy, and larger than most projectors I had reviewed in the past. For those who are curious, the DLA-NX5 measures in at 19.75 inches wide, 19.5 inches long and 9.25 inches tall and weighs 43.2 pounds. JVC’s reputation for excellent Japanese build quality is no secret, and was clearly on display here. The included remote is nothing special, but is easy to use and feels nice in the hand.
Installation & Calibration
Hefting the DLA-NX5 onto my projector shelf was more exciting than anticipated due to its physical size and not so svelte weight. Due to the length of the DLA-NX5, my shelf was just barely long enough to accommodate it, so potential buyers may want to measure before ordering to ensure they can fit the DLA-NX5 without mount modifications.
Upon initially powering the unit on, I used the DLA-NX5’s motorized focus and lens shift to adjust the picture to fit my screen. A quick perusal of the OSD shows that the DLA-NX5 is quite intuitive to operate and shouldn’t require hours of intensive manual studying unless you enjoy that sort of thing.
After my last few reviews, I am beginning to reach the conclusion that most higher end display manufacturers have managed to achieve a very satisfactory level of color accuracy and image quality out of the box thanks to factory calibration procedures. While the DLA-NX5 could certainly benefit from ISF calibration, the benefit is far smaller than it once was for SDR content. These days, calibrators are spending a great deal more time dialing in and tone mapping HDR content. This will typically depend on having an external video processor like the Lumagen Radiance to take your system to the next level and is a costly investment.
JVC deserves credit for including an intelligent auto tone mapping algorithm in their firmware, and with a recent firmware update to the DLA-NX5, this has become substantially better. Before returning the DLA-NX5, I was given a pre-release copy of this firmware and was able to test HDR content with these improvements in place.
For the average home theater or film enthusiast, a basic calibration is more than sufficient these days and will yield excellent results for years to come.
Using my SpectraCal C6 colorimeter and a copy of Calman generously provided by Portrait Displays, I performed some quick baseline measurements of the out of the box picture modes and found that the Natural setting was quite close to reference. After performing a quick grayscale calibration, I was more than satisfied with the color accuracy of the DLA-NX5 and moved on to actual viewing.
In Use – Viewing Impressions
There is nothing quite like sitting down in your theater after installing a new piece of gear to explore content you’ve already watched or heard in a whole new way. I should note that this review was performed right after my time with Sony’s VPL-VW995ES, which as mentioned in that review attained a level of performance very hard to beat. Despite following a very impressive predecessor, the DLA-NX5 didn’t disappoint. It was immediately apparent that JVC’s entry level lens had much more in common with Sony’s top of the line ARC-F lens than Sony’s regular lenses. Image clarity, edge to edge focus uniformity and detail were all excellent and far superior to my trusty Sony VPL-VW675ES.
With 1800 lumens of light output the DLA-NX5 throws a bright, vivid picture regardless of the picture mode chosen. While it defaults to low lamp mode, the DLA-NX5 does not lack for brightness at all in this out of the box configuration. Switching to high lamp mode is an easy process but does make the out of the box picture settings slightly less accurate and for my purposes I found low lamp to be the preferred setting.
Viewing Impressions – SDR Content
With JVC’s long history of excellent contrast, the DLA-NX5 is no slouch with SDR content, and held up extremely well with a variety of titles that look excellent in both HDR and SDR. I began my impressions with Disney Pixar’s Coco, a tour de force of color and vibrant backgrounds that will remain my favorite demo disc for OLED displays for the foreseeable future. Throughout my demo, color reproduction was accurate and black levels were deep without any noticeable crushing of detail. Shadows and highlights were also well resolved, with excellent overall image quality.
I will note that despite being near perfect out of the box, JVC like many manufacturers persists in leaving their motion interpolation feature enabled by default even in the Natural picture mode. This feature called Clear Motion Drive must be disabled manually for accurate motion reproduction, particularly with 24 fps content.
Moving on to a test of contrast levels, I watched Passengers, a film that has some of the best space scenes in recent memory and will give any display (beyond OLEDs of course) a run for its money when it comes to demand for contrast. The opening scene of this film remains a benchmark for black levels, contrast and overall dark scene handling, as many lesser projectors will show their flaws in this segment. As the ship moves across a dark star field, iris pumping or visible brightness fluctuations from dynamic contrast algorithms are extremely noticeable. With the DLA-NX5, none of this was evident. Instead, consistent inky black levels were reproduced with a stable brightness level.
There really is no question that JVC remains the champ of contrast levels for front projection setups. The DLA-NX5 continues this legacy and extends it with excellent color reproduction and a wider color gamut. In use, this is particularly noticeable only in WCG (Wide Color Gamut) content mastered for HDR.
A Few Notes On HDR Performance Improvements
Just a couple of weeks prior to the end of my review, I was able to update to a pre-release firmware from JVC that incorporates their new Theater Optimizer (TO) algorithm to their Frame Adapt HDR engine. Rather than re-write their words, I’ll simply quote JVC’s press release below:
“Each projection home theater environment is unique, as is each projector. Image brightness varies from system to system, and changes over time. JVC’s new Theater Optimizer is a smart function that addresses these distinct characteristics.
Theater Optimizer allows the integrator or user to input the screen size and gain information, which varies depending on the theater design, and then calculates installation information such as lens
zoom position, and lamp condition and settings. It then automatically adjusts the projector for optimum tone mapping and brightness. By adding this function to Frame Adapt HDR, JVC allows each user to enjoy HDR10 content matched to the viewing environment without complicated
18-bit level gamma processing is maintained while the feature is in use, bringing out deeper blacks in darker scenes, and higher peak whites in brighter scenes, along with the most realistic color, to
reproduce high precision images with smooth gradations.
In response to user requests, the upgrade offers newly added settings and improved menu operations with this firmware update. Frame Adapt HDR brightness adjustment has been increased to five steps (previously three steps), and users can choose the picture mode according
to input signals.
Complicated individual manual settings that were required in the past are now eliminated. With the newly added functions, users can easily enjoy powerful HDR images with these JVC projectors.”
Viewing Impressions – HDR Content
Coco and Passengers are excellent candidates as both SDR and HDR review material, so I watched the same set of scenes from each with HDR enabled from my trusty Oppo UDP-205 and JVC’s Frame Adapt HDR with Theater Optimizer (boy, that’s a mouthful!) enabled.
I was immediately struck by the marked improvement in HDR from my now aging Sony VPL-VW675ES. In a variety of scenes, the DLA-NX5 had accurate, vibrant colors and significantly increased peak brightness without the red push or washed out color reproduction the VW675ES suffers without manual adjustment. As one would expect of a front projection picture without a laser light source, black levels are compromised slightly to enable the brighter highlights and overall light output HDR requires.
JVC’s expertise pushing the envelope in contrast performance for SDR over the past two decades is clearly paying off in the era of HDR. For many of my favorite demo scenes, particularly the bridge scene in Coco, the DLA-NX5 often makes you forget that you’re not watching a laser projector the contrast levels are so impressive.
With darker content like the opening sequence of Passengers, the DLA-NX5 is not as impressive in HDR mode, with noticeably “grayer” blacks and reduced overall contrast, an unavoidable downfall of lamp-based projectors. Despite this trade-off, the DLA-NX5’s picture in all but the darkest of scenes is immaculate and manages to retain very natural skin tones and color balance thanks to TO.
It’s hard to believe that it took more than a decade to arrange my first JVC projector review, however all things considered there probably couldn’t be a better time to have done so. JVC’s latest advances in color reproduction, contrast and their newly improved Frame Adapt HDR Theater Optimizer combine to result in a truly impressive image that accommodates the massive breath of content available today.
The DLA-NX5 is a substantial investment for any theater enthusiast and represents a meaningful step up in price from the Epson, BenQ and Optoma models most buyers consider today. Many of you are probably asking, why should I invest two or three thousand dollars more to step up to the DLA-NX5 from something more affordable like the Epson 5050UB? The short answer is that with these other projectors, you are not getting a true 4K picture. The aforementioned products all utilize a form of pixel shifting to deliver pseudo-4K or “FauxK”, and also utilize significantly lower quality lens materials that compromise picture clarity.
With JVC’s DLA-NX5, you’re paying for a projector that weighs almost double what the most expensive Epson models do, and much of this weight comes in the form of a massive all glass lens assembly, higher quality circuitry and a much more robust design. When you compare to the more affordable models, the differences in optics become so pronounced that the very same source material looks almost nothing alike. See the below screenshot showing the difference between true 4K UHD and “FauxK”:
Prior to the advent of 4K UHD and HDR I have been vocal about what I perceive as a lack of innovation in front projection. Many manufacturers recycle the same tired old DLP and 3LCD designs and continue to charge entirely too much for them. Thanks to the demands of HDR and WCG mastered content and the rise of OLED displays, projector manufacturers have had to step up to the plate in a big way and offer meaningful technology improvements.
JVC has clearly heard this message loud and clear, decisively moving away from pixel shifting technology in their entire line up and offering industry leading contrast and superior optics at a price in line with Sony and other competitors. The DLA-NX5 is without question the price:performance leader in a crowded market and deserves an extremely close look. If you can say still say no after doing so, color me surprised. Highly Recommended.
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