JVC DLA-HD1 – 1080p Projector Review

May 14, 2007

JVC DLA-HD1

To say that JVC’s DLA-HD1 and DLA-RS1 have caused a slight commotion in the front projection community would be akin to describing a full fledged earthquake as a minor rumble. Every so often a product comes along that redefines our expectations for that price-point, the DLA-HD1 is just such a product. Why am I spilling the beans so early on in the review? Well I could be coy about it and build up to the crescendo but to do so in this case would be patronizing. No bones about it, this is the projector to watch (bad pun) in the 5k to 10k range.

Backing up a little bit to lay some groundwork around JVC’s D-ILA efforts in front projection, will aid in clarifying and emphasizing some of my observations with the HD1. JVC first announced development of a D-ILA display device back in the late nineties and of course have continued to refine the technology all the way up to (and beyond I’m sure) the introduction of the DLA-HD1. But what is D-ILA exactly? How does it differ from DLP based display devices?

D-ILA (Digital Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier) is a variant of LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) but unlike typical LCD panels which are transmissive i.e. allows light to pass through, LCoS, specifically D-ILA panels, are reflective. These reflective properties place LCoS somewhere in the middle of LCD and DLP. The panels are reflective just like DLP chips but instead of mirrors (DLP) the panels use liquid crystals to charge the individual pixels.

I mention this for two reasons, first to give a bit a background around the technology itself but just as important to help give some technological foundation for a rather important observation I made while reviewing the HD1, more on that later. As mentioned in previous posts, the search for the “perfect” display will likely never be fully realized, however as innovations in display technology march onward, many of us may find that happy medium between affordable and “perfect”.

Specifications: The JVC DLA-HD1’s specifications alone clue us into the fact that this is a serious display device, a display device for those who want something more than “adequate”. For example, the HD1/RS1 contrast ratio is rated at an incredible (nearly incredulous) 15000:1. Normally I’d file a number like that under the “maybe once, in a lab, under special circumstances” category but as I slowly came to realize, JVC appears to be more, much more accurate with their measurements, or should I say the reporting of their measurements than most display manufacturers.

I’m constantly comparing, re-comparing, and filing away observations in my mind to better help myself objectively qualify the measurements various display manufacturers report. In other words, I know when InFocus claims 1k lumens on a new projector I can generally take that to the bank whereas other manufacturers may not get such a quick pass, without at least cursory verification. Again I’ve come to the conclusion that JVC’s numbers are generally relevant if not spot-on and here’s why.

So many of these “specifications” are just that; numbers with no real relative reference implied or assumed. However the very first time I saw a star-field (common occurrence considering our collective geeky choice in films around here) I could see first-hand evidence of this 15000:1 contrast ratio. The black background was deep, dark, jet black and stars in the foreground were bright, pure, undiluted by any hint of gray; white. It was quite evident to everyone in the room as a matter of fact.

Aside from the HD1’s impressive contrast ratio, full 1920×1080 resolution, 1080p/24 input capabilities, 2x zoom lens, 2 HDMI inputs, horizontal and vertical lens shift and Gennum VXP video processor; the HD1 features a rather inauspicious specification that would seem to fly in the face of the over-the-top 15000:1 contrast ratio. The HD1/RS1 is rated at 700 lumens. Yes, I was thinking the same thing, isn’t that kind of dim for a projector of this caliber? As it turns out, nothing could be farther from the truth.

I’m not sure of it’s the phenomenal contrast ratio and or JVC is just being more truthful than other manufacturers when it comes to lumen ratings but the HD1 was easily as bright or brighter to our eyes as the projector that occupied the room previously. That projector was rated at 1800 ANSI lumens! So as you can see, numbers can lie, always trust the eye, hey that rhymes.

Before I get into the HD1’s particulars I promised I’d explain the difference between the JVC DLA-HD1 and DLA-RS1. In a nut shell, aside from the silver face-plate on the HD1, there are no differences save one. According to our regional JVC rep “the projectors are identical, except for the case coloring”. However the DLA-HD1 has a guaranteed 72-hour turnaround for repairs. Not bad in the peace of mind department if you ask me.

Setup and General Observations: Cosmetically the DLA-HD1 could best be described as refined, sophisticated and well, for lack of a better term, expensive looking considering the $6,295 asking price. The projector is easily as polished (looking) as projectors that retail for two to three times more. One thing in particular worth noting right up front is the HD1’s throw range, we were able to mount the projector in nearly the same spot as a projector with a long throw lens, quite a feat for a projector that can throw a 100” image from as little as 10’ away, needless to say you should be covered (within reason) regardless of where you need/want to hang your DLA-HD1.

Noise level, the DLA-HD1 is very quiet, perhaps not as near-silent as the Mitsubishi HC5000 but hardly loud by any stretch of the imagination. JVC’s claims a fan level of 27 dB which was on-par with my own cursory measurements. Suffice to say that once we reach these noise levels (or lack thereof) we’re really splitting hairs with objective differences in apparent noise levels.

The HD1 does have vertical and horizontal lens-shift however neither is motorized which in of itself is hardly reason for concern, as this is something you’ll hopefully only have to do once or twice. Focus and zoom are likewise non-motorized adjustments, handled from the lens collar but I do have a little trick to share with you that can be quite useful for focusing a non-motorized (focus) projector by yourself.

One of the minor luxuries a motorized focus allows is being able to walk right up to the screen and with the remote focus the lens until the individual pixels are razor sharp. Obviously without remote controlled focus and or having another person be your eyes as it were, this is a bit harder to pull off, at least by yourself. Enter the binocular trick, yeah a relatively inexpensive pair of binoculars can accomplish the same results as being able to walk right up to the screen and focus the projector remotely.

All I do is hold the binoculars in my left hand and focus in on a set of pixels, with my right hand I’ll reach up and grab the adjustment ring on the lens and fine tune it in while watching though the binoculars, works like a charm. Ok random otherwise unrelated rants notwithstanding, lets get back to the review. A bit about the supplied remote, the HD1’s amber, back-lit remote was quite nice. All the buttons were very easy to read even in a completely darkened room.

It became quite apparent during my time with the HD1 that the cost savings from omitting things like motorized lens shift and zoom were likely put to better use in the form of high quality optics and top-notch video processing. The HD1 (and RS1) utilizes Fujinon optics and a Gennum VXP processor. The benefits of the Fujinon optics materialized in the form of reduced chromatic aberration (even at extreme throw/offset distances) and the on-board Gennum VXP video processor proved itself quite capable of producing gorgeous images with a variety of different sources.

HQV Benchmark Results: Speaking of video processing capabilities I might as well get to the HQV benchmark results, no time like the present. All disc playback (both HD and SD) for this review was handled by a Toshiba HD-A2 with the latest (1.5) firmware upgrade. The JVC DLA-HD1 was the second projector I’ve reviewed with the Gennum VXP video processor but the first I was able to benchmark, so naturally I was anxious to see how it scored.

•Color Bar/Vertical Detail: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•Jaggies Pattern 1: Pass – Score 5 of 5
•Jaggies Pattern 2: Pass – Score 3 of 5
•Flag: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•Picture Detail: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•Noise Reduction: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•Motion Adaptive Noise Reduction: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•3:2 Detection: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•Film Cadence: Pass – Score (Combined) 40 of 40
•Mixed 3:2 Film, Horizontal Text Crawl: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•Mixed 3:2 Film, Vertical Text Crawl: Pass – Score 10 of 10
•Total Score:128 out of a possible 130

So, as you can see the Gennum VXP in the DLA-HD1 preformed quite well. Extremely well as a matter of fact, only missing a perfect score of 130 by two points but in real-world terms it actually performed better than the raw numbers indicate. During the 3:2 pull-down test the VXP actually locked onto the proper cadence faster than the HQV Reon equipped Mitsubishi HC5000, not bad considering how well the JVC i.e non HQV equipped projector readily handled all the HQV benchmarks.

Video Quality: Per usual, I started off with some SD-DVD’s specifically (as my review ritual dictates) ‘The Fifth Element’. Immediately I noticed something different about the HD1’s rendition of the Sci-fi classic, I don’t know if it was the HD1’s super-smooth motion reproduction or the color and light uniformity, but this was the most “cinematic” presentation I’ve viewed of this disc to date. The scene where Korben and Leeloo exit the ship on Fhloston Paradise was a sea of color, not just any color but deep, rich, accurate color.

From there I moved onto iRobot. From my first glimpse of the opening scenes, I was struck by how even, saturated and vivid the images on-screen appeared. I have to admit to being a self confessed HD snob but I wouldn’t have had any trouble watching the entire film again on the RS1. Now that’s not to say I wouldn’t have enjoyed a full-on high definition presentation even more, but the DLA-HD1’s ability to faithfully render standard definition source material to its fullest possible extent wasn’t lost on me. After all it will be years before we’re able enjoy the majority of our favorite films in high definition, any display that can make the best of current SD sources is a bonus in my book.

High Definition: Moving on to Universal’s reference ‘King Kong’ on HD DVD I found my self exploring chapter’s I’d long since forgotten about in favor of the now all too familiar ‘T-Rex battle sequence’, specifically the Empire State building scene toward the end of the film. The detail, black level, and flesh-tones were quite impressive. The biggest revelation however came in the form of the HD1’s ability to render subtle shades of secondary colors and even subtler shades of grayscale within those colors. Folks, this is as close as I’ve ever seen a digital display come to “no compromise” image quality. No, it’s not perfect but it’s knocking on prefect’s door with authority.

No, I didn’t make that last statement lightly. As a matter of fact I reached it after already having spent four days with the projector. That’s not to say I wasn’t impressed with it as soon as the lamp was warmed, but I try to temper my initial impressions of gear with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s easy to overlook flaws that present themselves later in the review process if you’re initially awestruck with the unit’s out-of-the-box performance. I was keen to not allow that to happen here and as a result I feel that I have a firm grasp of the HD1’s strengths and weakness.

Moving on to ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ on HD DVD; if you have seen an in-store HD DVD demo, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a preview of Chapter 14 from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. The clip from the demo disc always struck me as over the top in the color department (intentionally so, I’m sure) so I was anxious to see that particular scene on the HD1. The entire chapter was a knockout but in particular I couldn’t help notice how evenly saturated the primary colors were. This scene was great for demonstrating just how much color the DLA-HD1 could pump out and a testament to how far we’ve come from the dim, low contrast, under saturated front projection displays of the past.

Moving onto something a little different, (albeit somewhat related at least in the color department) I popped in Warner Bros. recent HD DVD release of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ (1962) and skipped forward to Chapter 18. Ah glorious Technicolor, amazing isn’t a word I toss around lightly but this title on the HD1 was just that, amazing. Rich, strong vibrant colors all with spot-on sharpness and clarity are the name of the game here, truly recommended, especially so if you’ve never seen it before.

I wanted to revisit another reference title to compare it with the HD1’s capabilities, namely Warner Bros. ‘Training Day’. It took me a few discs to realize it but the HD1 was doing something else (in addition too overall sharpness) that the Pearl didn’t exactly excel at, depth. Overall I felt that the HD1 matched the 3D-pop, sense of depth, whatever you prefer to call it, of all but the best 3-chip DLP projectors. Again, I was enthralled by how film-like, film based material looked, but without the loss of sharpness present in the Pearl.

Direct Comparisons: While I won’t go into exhaustive comparisons between the DLA-HD1 and the last two 1080p projectors I’ve reviewed (Sony VPL-VW50 and the Mitsubishi HC5000) I would be remiss not to layout some basic observations. I found the JVC DLA-HD1 to be on-par with the Mitsubishi HC5000 in sharpness, but perhaps just a tad softer. We’re talking about a 2-4% difference, i.e. negligible at best. However, even that observation is clouded by the fact my HC5000 review was with a 92” screen versus 110” for the HD1, it’s quite possible they were even closer in sharpness than this admittedly unscientific comparison allowed for.

In my earlier review of the Sony Pearl and Mitsubishi HC5000 I indicated that I preferred the Pearls black level over the HC5000’s but found the HC5000 was quite a bit sharper than the Pearl. Now I’ve found a projector that doesn’t necessitate any such compromise but what really blew me away about the DLA-HD1 was its black level, overall sharpness and its rich, vivid colors. In a nutshell at least with regard to the Pearl and HC5000, take the best attributes of both and combine them, add in even better black level and color performance and viola you have the DLA-HD1.

Summary: The front projection market (and consumer electronics in general) is an ever evolving example of the moving target, price versus performance paradigm. What’s a bargain today may be overpriced tomorrow but every now and then a product comes along that challenges the status quo as we know it. At $6,295 the HD1/RS1 offers a compelling reason to “get off the fence” and do so with the comfort that whatever happens in the next twelve to twenty four months you’ll still have a fantastic looking display that didn’t require a second mortgage to buy into.

What if anything on the horizon could challenge the DLA-HD1’s supremacy in the cost to performance 1080p marketplace? Outside of another revision from JVC itself (unlikely in the next 12 months) and or Sony’s upcoming replacement/companion to the Pearl; the VPL-VW60 (aka Amethyst), it’s hard to say. But I won’t even pretend to be able to read the front projection tea-leaves, however I wouldn’t have any problem recommending the DLA-HD1 to friends or family looking for that ultimate home theater projector, at or just under the 10k range.

To date the JVC DLA-HD1 is my new 1080p front projector to beat, in terms of cost to performance and overall image quality, I’d be hard pressed to even think of a suitable challenger much less recommend one. I look forward to seeing the HD1 bested in performance and price; I’m just not holding my breath until said blessed event occurs. I’m not all that fond of turning purple.

Product Details – JVC – DLA-HD1
Retail – $6,299 – Available now
Resolution – 1920×1080
Brightness – 700 ANSI lumens
Contrast – 15,000:1
Inputs – HDMI (2), Component (1), S-Video (1), Composite (1)
Display Technology – D-ILA (Digital Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier)
Native Aspect Ratio – 16:9



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Home Theater Projectors, Reviews


Comments

  • B.Greenway

    Alex, a DVI to HDMI adapter would probably work, not sure how the HD1 would react to having a non HDPC source come in over that input though. Of course HDCP compliant video cards are now on the market..

  • B.Greenway

    Alex, a DVI to HDMI adapter would probably work, not sure how the HD1 would react to having a non HDPC source come in over that input though. Of course HDCP compliant video cards are now on the market..

  • alex

    The JVC HD1 doesn’t have a DVI input for computers. I’d like to be able to use the projector for digital slide shows and computer gaming. Can a computer be connected to the HDMI input

  • alex

    The JVC HD1 doesn’t have a DVI input for computers. I’d like to be able to use the projector for digital slide shows and computer gaming. Can a computer be connected to the HDMI input

  • kevin

    This makes me want to get a new projector even though mine is only a couple of years old (and much more expensive at the time)!

  • kevin

    This makes me want to get a new projector even though mine is only a couple of years old (and much more expensive at the time)!

  • Chazz

    I have spent considerable time with the “three”; HC5000, VPL VW50, and the JVC. I also have compared the JVC to the $12k Yamaha DPX-1300, considered to be the finest single chip DLP (and considered by a few in the press as superior to the “three”). I will say for $6300 it’s a bargain. Of course, one would expect a three chip DLP to surpass, especially at the prices they command. However, the JVC in my opinion is superior to the InFocus 777, a three chip 720p DLP, for $3k less.

  • Chazz

    I have spent considerable time with the “three”; HC5000, VPL VW50, and the JVC. I also have compared the JVC to the $12k Yamaha DPX-1300, considered to be the finest single chip DLP (and considered by a few in the press as superior to the “three”). I will say for $6300 it’s a bargain. Of course, one would expect a three chip DLP to surpass, especially at the prices they command. However, the JVC in my opinion is superior to the InFocus 777, a three chip 720p DLP, for $3k less.

  • Carlton Bale

    I’d be interested to see how a 1080p DLP (single chip or three chip) would compare. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve done any direct comparisons, but in the past I preferred DLP over LCD and LCOS/D-ILA.

  • Carlton Bale

    I’d be interested to see how a 1080p DLP (single chip or three chip) would compare. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve done any direct comparisons, but in the past I preferred DLP over LCD and LCOS/D-ILA.

  • Sergey

    In Russia (where I live) it costs $9000=(

  • Sergey

    In Russia (where I live) it costs $9000=(