JVC DLA-X35 review: Serious picture quality, meet serious value

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture settings: The JVC's selection is very good, albeit not quite as comprehensive as that of many projectors. Its numerous picture presets all relatively inaccurate, but customization options abound. The one exception is the lack of a color management system, which meant I couldn't adjust color much beyond the standard Color and Tint controls.

I appreciated that the custom gamma control allowed me to hone black and white levels to near-perfection -- it essentially acts like a multipoint grayscale control. Speaking of black levels, the "lens aperture" control is basically a static iris, and reducing it from the default fully-open position allowed substantial improvements in black levels.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity: The back-panel complement is standard, with two HDMI and one component-video. The sole omission compared to the Sony is an analog PC input. There's also an RS-232 port for custom remote control systems, a 12-volt trigger for accessories like retractable screens, a wired remote port, and the proprietary connection for JVC's 3D emitters.

Picture quality
In a word, "spectacular." The combination of a huge image and the JVC's excellent black levels and color produce the kind of experience that blows away any mere television. Compared to other projectors we tested, the JVC runs circles around the models half its price or less, as it should. It meets its match with the Sony VPL-HW50ES, however.

Prior to calibration the Sony's default picture settings are clearly better than anything JVC offers. If the X35 has one big weakness, it's the relatively inaccurate state of its image prior to any adjustment. The best setting, Film, couldn't begin to climb the heights of accuracy achievable by a professional calibration. And no, I don't post picture settings for this or any projector, because the screen introduces too large (pun intended) of a variable.

In a dark room, after calibration (which is how we compare all displays), there's very little that separates the two projectors. Black levels are identical, color accuracy leans very slightly toward the Sony although not enough to make a visible difference, and the same goes for motion resolution and other aspects of video processing. Yes, the Sony's numbers are a bit better in the latter two categories, but in person and to our eyes, despite diligent A/B comparison, it's a toss-up. The same goes for 3D. The only picture-quality advantage the Sony has is in brighter viewing environments, which all self-respecting projector aficionados should avoid.

Comparison models (details)
Sony VPL-HW50ES SXRD
BenQ W1070 Single-chip DLP
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3020 LCD

Black and white level: In case you're wondering about the list above, rest assured that the cheaper BenQ and the Epson couldn't begin to compete with the JVC and the Sony, and the biggest advantage was in black levels. The ability to convey a convincing shade of "black" is the chief ingredient in picture quality, especially in a completely dark room. The two higher-end LCoS-based projectors excelled in this area, and both looked extremely close to one another.

There were some minor differences though. In Chapter 12 of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2," for example, we saw a difference in shadow detail between the Sony and the JVC. The details in the hillside and the black cloaks of the army appeared just a bit better defined on the Sony, with the slightest bit of extra information visible. These differences were exceedingly minor, however, and by no means did the JVC "crush" low-level detail.

I took advantage of the manual iris controls of both the Sony and the JVC to maximize black level performance (I avoided Sony's auto iris, which produced a less-natural image to my eye despite heightened "pop") yet still achieve my target light output of 16 fL (footLambert). Directly comparing the depth of black between the two it was impossible to see a difference, and indeed, both measured almost exactly the same in our 0% test. During very dark scenes they both produced an equally compelling, inky shade of black on our screens, and as scenes lightened they both delivered the same superb level of punch and contrast. I spot-checked different scenes with an extremely sensitive handheld light meter to see if there were any differences in black, and there simply weren't.

The Sony delivered somewhat higher light output. With a full-screen white pattern in the brightest default picture modes (Stage for the JVC and Bright TV for the Sony), the JVC measured 39.1 fL while the Sony measured 45.3. In lumens, a measurement that eliminates the variable of my screen, that works out to 1,284 and 1,488 lumens, respectively (thanks to Chris Heinonen for the lumens calculator).

Color accuracy: The DLA-X35 is an extremely accurate projector. Its Standard color mode comes quite close to the Rec, 709 HD standard, and its grayscale and gamma are superb with a bit of tweaking. Its measured and subjective color easily beat the BenQ and the Epson. It doesn't deliver the same level of out-of-the-box picture as the Sony however, and after calibration it wasn't quite as accurate according to our measurements. Its worst color error was in green, the brightest and most visible primary color, while the Sony's was in blue, which is the least. In both cases, however, even the worst measured errors barely breached the normal threshold of human perception.

To the eye, the two higher-end projectors were again nearly identical -- and superb. Watching "Tree of Life," the skin tones of the kids on Chapter 14 looked vibrant and natural, while the green grass and blue sky looked as realistic as I could ask for. Switching back and forth between them, the JVC did show a slightly redder quality to the skin of Mrs. O'Brien, however, and maybe a touch too much green in the grass. These differences were so subtle however that, even knowing about them, I couldn't tell one projector from another in a blind test.

Near-black on the JVC was again quite neutral -- unlike the BenQ and especially the Epson -- and once again, it was tough to see any difference between it and the Sony. Indeed, near-black measured nearly identical for color between the two, and far below perceptible error levels.

Video processing: Film purists will have nothing to complain about in this area. The JVC reproduced the cadence of 1080p/24 without a hitch when we turned its Clear Motion Drive to the Off position. It's notable that the JVC lacks the "Film Projection" mode of the Sony, but since that mode introduced flicker we didn't appreciate, it's no big loss in our book.

When we engaged Drive, the JVC, as expected, introduced the Soap Opera Effect and also nearly doubled its motion resolution (reducing blur). In our view, that's a poor trade-off for film-based sources since we find the SOE distasteful.

With other sources, like sports or reality programming, the blur-sensitive viewer might think about leaning more toward the Sony, which has faster 240Hz processing that allows it to best the JVC's motion-resolution result. But in a couple of my favorite tests for motion resolution using real material from the FPD Benchmark Blu-ray disc, a metronome and a shot of cars passing quickly by a static camera, it was impossible to discern any real difference between the two.

Neither the JVC nor the Sony showed any beyond the merest hint of solarization -- banding in what should be smooth transitions from bright to dark areas -- during the punishing Creation sequence from "Tree of Life."

Bright lighting: Honestly, it's a huge waste of this projector's potential to have any lights on in the room, but if you must, know that it's not going to fare as well as a brighter unit like the Epson or the BenQ, or even the Sony. On our 120-inch diagonal Stewart StudioTek 130, the image predictably washed out, and glare from the overhead lighting was visible.

It's worth noting that, unlike the Sony and many other projectors the JVC doesn't have a mode obviously designated for brighter viewing environments; the closest we saw was "Stage." The Sony is also significantly quieter than the JVC when you engage their respective "High" lamp power modes, which is a prerequisite for bright-room viewing. If you intend to use your projector in mixed lighting, I recommend the Sony over the JVC. But if you're going to do that very often, you're probably better off getting a cheaper, brighter projector than either.

3D: The JVC is a superb performer with 3D, and once again we found little difference between it and the Sony. My battery of crosstalk tests from "Hugo," including the floating hand as Hugo reaches for the mouse (5:01), the tuning pegs on the guitar (7:49), and the face of the dog (9:25), were equally clean on both units, with at worst the merest hint of the double-image. The difference we did see between the two boil down to things that can be resolved in calibration, and we don't calibrate for 3D. The JVC does offer slightly more options for the calibrator in 3D, however, namely the ability to adjust the manual iris.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.002 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.23 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.7864 Good
Near-black error (5%) 0.243 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.762 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.592 Good
Avg. color error 2.0985 Good
Red error 2.502 Good
Green error 3.716 Average
Blue error 0.862 Good
Cyan error 1.769 Good
Magenta error 1.688 Good
Yellow error 2.054 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 600 Average
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 300 Poor
Input lag (Calibrated mode) 87.1 Poor

JVC DLA-X35 CNET review calibration results by

Don't Miss

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Where to Buy See all prices

JVC DLA-X35B

Part Number: DLA-X35B Released: Nov 1, 2012
MSRP: $3,499.95 Low Price: $4,399.00 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Nov 1, 2012
  • Type D-ILA projector
  • 3D Capable Yes ( 3D glasses sold separately )
  • Native Resolution 1920 x 1080
  • Weight 32.63 lbs
  • Image Brightness 1300 ANSI lumens
  • Image Contrast Ratio 50000:1
Hot Products