JVC DLA-X590R D-ILA Pro­jec­tor

Eye opener.

Sound & Vision - - CONTENTS - by Thomas J. Nor­ton

TRUE NA­TIVE 4K PRO­JEC­TORS (those that de­liver full UHD res­o­lu­tion to the screen with no re­liance on pixel-shift­ing) are thin on the ground when it comes to prices that most home theater fans are likely to con­sider. As I write this, only Sony of­fers one model for as lit­tle as $5,000, the VPL-VW285ES (re­viewed in our Fe­bru­ary/march is­sue and also avail­able at soun­dand­vi­sion. com). To keep costs in line, JVC uses a pixel-shift­ing tech­nique em­ploy­ing three 1920 x 1080 “Full HD” D-ILA im­agers. (D-ILA is the com­pany’s ver­sion of liq­uid crys­tal on sil­i­con, or LCOS.) JVC of­fers three pixel-shift­ing 4K pro­jec­tors in the Pro­ci­sion line, rang­ing in price from the $3,995 DLA-X590R, re­viewed here, to the $7,995 DLA-X990R.

JVC’S cur­rent ver­sion of e-shift is e-shift5, the fifth gen­er­a­tion of the tech­nol­ogy. It’s said to an­a­lyze all of the pix­els in the orig­i­nal 4K source, to re­tain su­pe­rior sharp­ness and de­tail. E-shift is on by de­fault with any in­put, but it can be turned off with an in­put of 1080i or 1080p.

On the face of it, the e-shift tech­nique seems kludgy. But it works, and works amaz­ingly well, helped by the fact that the dif­fer­ence be­tween 2K and true 4K—at nor­mal view­ing dis­tances on do­mes­ti­cally sized screens—is far less ob­vi­ous than you might ex­pect. By fall­ing be­tween the two na­tive res­o­lu­tions, and be­ing ar­guably closer to true 4K than to 2K, pixel shift­ing of­fers more than just a taste of the 4K in the source.

There are ac­tu­ally six e-shift pro­jec­tors in JVC’S cur­rent in­ven­tory (not count­ing a spe­cial lim­it­ededi­tion model for the 20th an­niver­sary of the com­pany’s D-ILA tech­nol­ogy). The other three mod­els, in JVC’S Ref­er­ence line, carry model num­bers be­gin­ning with DLA-RS in­stead of DLA-X, but they’re iden­ti­cal in de­sign and price to the equiv­a­lent Pro­ci­sions. They dif­fer only in that the RS de­signs are dis­trib­uted di­rectly to cus­tom in­stall­ers rather than to con­sumers.

Fea­tures

The DLA-X590R is a close sib­ling to the pricier DLA-X790R (April is­sue and our web­site). I re­fer you to that re­view for a full de­scrip­tion of the fea­tures in the X590R, in­clud­ing a more de­tailed ex­pla­na­tion of pixel shift­ing. To keep this tome from run­ning past Fri­day, I’ll limit the fea­ture dis­cus­sion here to how the X590R dif­fers from the X790R.

It’s not a long list. The X590R of­fers the same two HDCP 2.2com­pli­ant in­puts (which can each ac­cept a full 18-gi­ga­bit-per-sec­ond band­width), the same ex­cel­lent, back­lit re­mote con­trol, and full 3D ca­pa­bil­ity—though the ex­ter­nal 3D syn­chro emit­ter ($99) and the 3D glasses ($179/each) are pricey, ex­tra-cost op­tions. (My sev­er­a­lyears-old JVC trans­mit­ter and glasses worked fine with the X590R, so if you’re a vet­eran JVC owner look­ing to up­grade, you should be good with your older 3D ac­ces­sories.)

Like that of the X790R, the lens of the X590R is fully pow­ered and of­fers lens mem­o­ries, but it doesn’t have a pow­ered lens cover. Also, this pro­jec­tor has fewer pic­ture modes and doesn’t of­fer ei­ther a THX pic­ture mode for stan­dard dy­namic range (SDR) or a BT.2020 color pro­file.

But I didn’t find any of these to be sig­nif­i­cant lim­i­ta­tions. The X590R does have both auto and man­ual iris modes.

The SDR gamma ad­just­ments are only marginally less flex­i­ble than those of the X790R, but they still of­fer cus­tom val­ues from 1.8 to 2.6 and the same fine-tun­ing ad­just­ments (Pic­ture Tone, Dark Level, and Bright Level).

HD/SDR

The JVC passed both 3:2 HD and MA HD (mo­tion adap­tive HD) in our stan­dard HD/SDR video tests, but it failed 2:2 HD (a not ter­ri­bly un­com­mon re­sult with other dis­plays). The pro­jec­tor won’t ac­cept a na­tive 480i in­put, which makes our stan­dard­def­i­ni­tion tests ir­rel­e­vant. It passed both luma and chroma res­o­lu­tion but clipped both above white and be­low black in the Auto (de­fault) set­ting of the In­put Level con­trol. It did, how­ever, ex­tend just enough be­low black to al­low for ac­cu­rate set­ting of the Bright­ness con­trol.

The JVC will fully dis­play be­low black and above white in the En­hanced set­ting of the In­put Level con­trol, but the cor­rect set­ting of the Bright­ness con­trols in En­hanced dropped to

–16 (from zero in Auto) and of­fered

no vis­i­ble pic­ture ben­e­fits. I stayed with Auto for this re­view.

Even out of the box, the pro­jec­tor looked good. JVC rates the lamp life at 4,500 hours in the Low lamp mode, though I sus­pect the ob­sessed videophile will want to re­place it at well un­der 2,000 hours, par­tic­u­larly for main­tain­ing peak bright­ness with high dy­namic range (HDR) con­tent. If you do re­place a still func­tion­ing lamp for this rea­son, keep it for a use­ful emer­gency spare. But re­mem­ber that a new lamp will also call for a new cal­i­bra­tion fol­low­ing its break-in pe­riod.

On my 96-inch-wide, 2.35:1 Ste­wart Film­screen Stu­diotek 130

screen (gain 1.3), with the iris set to man­ual in its max­i­mum set­ting and the lamp on High, the peak white level mea­sured 61 foot-lam­berts— af­ter I had racked up 100 hours for a pre-cal­i­bra­tion break-in! This was far too high for SDR, of course; I turned the lamp to Low and the man­ual iris to –13 or –14, drop­ping the peak bright­ness down to a still more than gen­er­ous 25 to 27 ft-l on my screen.

Oddly, nei­ther of the two Auto iris modes made any vis­i­ble change to the peak bright­ness or black lev­els rel­a­tive to the Man­ual set­ting. I stayed with man­ual mode through­out the re­view for both HDR and SDR.

Dur­ing those first 100 hours, I watched a broad range of ma­te­rial, in­clud­ing widescreen black-and­white movies from my dwin­dling col­lec­tion of stan­dard-def­i­ni­tion DVDS. One, Two, Three (an un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated Billy Wilder com­edy star­ring a bril­liant, manic James Cag­ney in his fi­nal lead role) and Sink the Bis­marck! re­minded me that, once upon a time, Cine­mas­cope movies were some­times shot in black-and-white. De­spite the limited res­o­lu­tion of 480i DVD (up­con­verted in my Blu-ray player, since the JVC won’t ac­cept na­tive 480i di­rectly), these discs looked nearly as good as the im­ages I see in my sad, lo­cal mul­ti­plexes. Ditto for the DVD of Byron Haskin’s 1953 ver­sion of The War of the Worlds.

Soon, though, I moved on to HD. The best Blu-rays looked out­stand­ing on the JVC both be­fore and af­ter I did a full color cal­i­bra­tion. Vic­to­ria & Abdul looked glo­ri­ous. The vivid col­ors in the royal court (par­tic­u­larly the early ban­quet scene) and the in­tri­cate de­tails in the pro­duc­tion de­sign were ex­cep­tion­ally clean,

crisp, and dy­namic. I pre­ferred to leave the e-shift5 fea­ture off with this and other non-4k films, as I had in my re­view of the DLA-X790R. E-shift sub­tly soft­ens HD sources, though it looks su­perb with Ul­tra HD 4K.

An­i­ma­tion looks im­pres­sive on most de­cent dis­plays, but it was even more eye-pop­ping than usual on the JVC. I had in­tended to sam­ple only a few key scenes from two of my fa­vorites, How to Train Your Dragon and its se­quel, but I was so blown away by the bril­liant col­ors and rich tex­tures that I ended up watch­ing them nearly all the way through. It cer­tainly helped that I was able to watch at peak white lev­els of around 25 ft-l. Of course, that’s a bit of a cheat; the­atri­cal pro­jec­tion is lucky to reach 60 per­cent of that fig­ure.

But I sus­pect the film­mak­ers wouldn’t ob­ject if they saw how amaz­ing their movies looked at that bright­ness level (which is still far less than what most view­ers ex­pe­ri­ence with HDTVS).

An­i­ma­tion looks im­pres­sive on most de­cent dis­plays, but it was even more eye­pop­ping than usual on the JVC.

It will come as no sur­prise to long­time watch­ers of the pro­jec­tor pa­rade that this model’s black lev­els were on the edge of be­ing un­read­able by our test gear. Most films fea­ture truly dark scenes, and that’s where JVC pro­jec­tors ex­cel. But that doesn’t mean the black­est blacks on the DLA-X590R are in­vis­i­ble. When the im­age fades to full black in a dark­ened room, you’ll still see it as dark gray—though it ap­proaches true black more closely if the full black screen fol­lows a bright scene more quickly than your eyes can ad­just. Some of the dark­est, most dif­fi­cult ma­te­rial—think the last hour of Harry Pot­ter and the Deathly Hal­lows: Part 2— could be bet­ter, but we’ve be­come spoiled by the black lev­els cur­rently achiev­able in the best OLED TVS. No pro­jec­tor can achieve that, re­gard­less of cost. The JVC’S blacks still set a stan­dard not yet ex­ceeded, in our ex­pe­ri­ence, by any pro­jec­tor sell­ing for the same price or less.

UHD/HDR

On my Ste­wart screen, the JVC en­tered HDR clip­ping at just un­der 190 nits (55 ft-l) with a 10 per­cent white win­dow. This doesn’t even ap­proach the HDR ex­pe­ri­ence achiev­able on a good flat-screen TV, a lim­i­ta­tion of all cur­rent pro­jec­tors. But it still pro­duced im­pres­sive punch on bright high­lights, helped to no small de­gree by the pro­jec­tion-sized screen.

While our sam­ple’s SDR performance was re­spectable out of the box, the de­fault HDR set­tings var­ied from the HDR PQ (gamma) curve in a way that will pro­duce a darker im­age over much of the bright­ness range be­fore the bright HDR high­lights kick in. I’ve no­ticed this on a num­ber of dis­plays; pos­si­bly, it’s done de­lib­er­ately be­cause it pushes peak white clip­ping to a higher level. A rea­son­able com­pro­mise, per­haps. But if the JVC’S HDR Gamma ad­just­ments (par­tic­u­larly Pic­ture Tone and Dark Level) are used, to­gether with test tools avail­able to most cal­i­bra­tors, the pro­jec­tor can be ad­justed to pro­duce a very close match to the PQ curve, which is how I watched it.

With its PQ curve cor­rected dur­ing a good cal­i­bra­tion, the DLA-X590R never dis­ap­pointed on a

di­verse se­lec­tion of HDR ma­te­rial. The com­puter-an­i­mated Trolls came across in bril­liant, wide-rang­ing, and deeply sat­u­rated color. Fur­ther­more, the JVC’S crisp de­tail ac­cu­rately ren­dered the felt-like tex­tures that dom­i­nate the movie’s art de­sign. And bright high­lights stood out against the oth­er­wise sub­dued light­ing of the darker se­quences. On this pro­jec­tor, the third act’s ban­quet scene vividly demon­strated both the movie’s gen­er­ous but sub­tle use of HDR and its over-the-top color pal­ette.

The JVC’S blacks in HDR were also good, though a bit less so than in SDR—AS you might ex­pect, given the High lamp mode needed for

HDR ma­te­rial ver­sus Low for SDR. In the­ory, the blacks should be the same, but the High lamp set­ting needed for the best HDR can more eas­ily leak light through the pro­jec­tor’s op­ti­cal path in dark scenes. Still, JVC has done a re­mark­able job in keep­ing this po­ten­tial is­sue un­der con­trol.

As promised by its 18-Gbps band­width, the pro­jec­tor will play

4K, 60-hertz ma­te­rial at a full 10 bits. The only such Ul­tra HD Blu-ray cur­rently on the mar­ket, Billy Lynn’s Long Half­time Walk, looked so amaz­ing here that it al­most tempted me to sit through the en­tire movie again. Al­most.

My 3D ex­pe­ri­ence with the X590R was brief. But the pro­jec­tor’s in­her­ent bright­ness pro­duced what might have been the best 3D pic­ture I’ve yet seen from any re­motely af­ford­able pro­jec­tor. Kung Fu Panda 2 was vivid, crisp, and re­ward­ingly punchy in the bright­est scenes, and nicely de­tailed in darker ones.

JVC vs. JVC

Luck­ily, the DLA-X790R was still in house. Af­ter touch­ing up its cal­i­bra­tion, I set it up for a face-off against the DLA-X590R by driv­ing both pro­jec­tors with a one-in, two-out Avpro­con­nect 4K HDMI split­ter.

While each pro­jec­tor had more than 100 hours on its lamp, the

X790R had about 100 hours more than the X590R. But I don’t be­lieve that this was re­spon­si­ble for the in­creased peak bright­ness avail­able from the less ex­pen­sive X590R, though this wasn’t ev­i­dent on SDR

ma­te­rial af­ter the iris set­tings were ad­justed to equal­ize the two pro­jec­tors’ peak bright­ness. (For SDR, the X590R’S iris had to be turned down con­sid­er­ably to match the out­put of the X790R.)

The brighter X590R out­did its sib­ling in its ren­di­tion of bright high­lights in HDR sources, when both pro­jec­tors were driven with wide-open irises in their High lamp set­tings. In the dark street scene in chap­ter 2 of Al­lied, for ex­am­ple, the bright street­lights, as well as the lights on the night­club in the dis­tance, stood out more bril­liantly on the X590R.

How­ever, that pro­jec­tor’s ad­van­tage in ren­der­ing bright high­lights, while ev­i­dent both vis­ually and by mea­sure­ment, was only ob­vi­ous in a di­rect A/B com­par­i­son. The X790R won the day in most other re­spects. In dark scenes in SDR (such as the starfields and cave scenes in Prometheus) and HDR (such as the night­time rooftop scenes in Al­lied), the X790R took the prize. While its blacks mea­sured no bet­ter than those of the X590R (due to the lim­its of our Klein color me­ter), the more ex­pen­sive pro­jec­tor did a bet­ter job in ren­der­ing the most dif­fi­cult black scenes. The dif­fer­ence was rel­a­tively sub­tle—the X590R’S blacks are still stan­dard-set­ters at the price—but it was vis­i­ble. A crit­i­cal videophile will see it.

I did no­tice that some bright an­i­mated HDR ma­te­rial looked a bit overblown in my pre­ferred set­tings on both pro­jec­tors. I also saw this oc­ca­sion­ally in live-ac­tion films. But it was eas­ily fixed by re­duc­ing the Con­trast con­trol by a few steps. (This will shift the cal­i­bra­tion, but not to a vis­ually sig­nif­i­cant de­gree.)

As noted ear­lier, the X790R of­fers a BT.2020 color pro­file, while the X590R does not. The for­mer’s BT.2020 pro­file (which I used in this com­par­i­son but did not use in my re­view of that pro­jec­tor) should pro­vide color that more closely ap­prox­i­mates P3 (the color found in most Ul­tra HD Blu-rays). It puts a color fil­ter in the op­ti­cal path; you can hear it snap into place. In the­ory, this should sac­ri­fice some light out­put. How­ever, I didn’t find the X790R’S peak bright­ness to be no­tice­ably higher with­out the BT.2020 fil­ter en­gaged.

As it turned out, when I con­sid­ered the X790R alone, its BT.2020 color pro­file ren­dered a color gamut closer to P3 than did the pro­jec­tor’s HDR color pro­file. This was more ev­i­dent by mea­sure­ment than by eye, but it was still worth­while. In­ter­est­ingly, how­ever, the X590R’S HDR color pro­file was very close to P3— far closer than the X790R’S HDR color pro­file. Go fig­ure. But nev­er­the­less, the X790R, in its BT.2020 pro­file, did pro­duce marginally deeper reds than the X590R (for ex­am­ple, Drax’s tat­toos and the red tips of Gamora’s long hair in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), as well as an over­all richer im­age. The X790R’S bet­ter blacks and con­trast also gave its im­age a more three-di­men­sional look—in both SDR and HDR.

Con­clu­sions

If my face-off had re­sulted in the cheaper pro­jec­tor fully out­per­form­ing its more costly sib­ling, the DLA-X590R could be de­clared one of the big­gest video bar­gains of the year. But in a way, it still is. The dif­fer­ences be­tween these two, while clearly ob­serv­able, shouldn’t be over­stated. And there’s much to be said for the less ex­pen­sive model when it of­fers performance within a hair of a pro­jec­tor that costs 50 per­cent more. JVC has an­other win­ner on its hands.

Most films fea­ture truly dark scenes, and that’s where JVC pro­jec­tors ex­cel.

While the JVC lacks a pow­ered lens cover, the lens it­self is pow­ered and of­fers mem­o­ries.

The 34-pound unit mea­sures 17.9 inches wide, 7.1 high, and 18.6 deep.

JVC’S re­mote is an un­clut­tered, back­lit model that proved easy to use.

The two HDCP 2.2-com­pli­ant in­puts can ac­cept a full 18-Gbps band­width.

Rounded edges give the JVC an at­trac­tive, pol­ished look.

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