JVC DLA-X590R D-ILA Projector
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.