JVC DLA-X700R review: The best projector picture we've ever reviewed

One note before I proceed. I always perform direct comparisons between projectors I have available on the same screen. Usually doing so involves manually blocking the light from all of them except one, then blocking that one and unblocking another, so I can compare the same scene. Comparing the two JVC projectors was much easier since they both responded to the same "Hide" (video mute) command from the remote control. Thus I was able to toggle between the two with the press of a button, allowing quicker, better direct comparisons on the same screen.

Comparison models (details)
JVC DLA-X35 D-ILA (LCoS) projector
Epson Home Cinema 5030UB LCD projector

Black level and white level: The JVC DLA-X700R delivered the punchiest, highest-contrast image of any projector I've ever tested. That said, in direct comparison against the second-best, JVC's DLA-X35, it wasn't mind-blowingly superior. Both JVCs handily beat the Epson 5030 in this area, however.

My first test material, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," is a black level torture test. In the scenes of the assault on Hogwarts, the X700R did appear a bit darker than the X35 in the darkest areas, but I really had to strain to tell the difference. Details in shadows were almost identical, from the robes of the wizards to the extremely dark shot of the castle on the hill.

A bit later, in the somewhat brighter Room of Requirement scenes, the X700R further widened the distance between it and the X35. The highlights, for example the necklace and the reflections from the furniture, appeared brighter while the black levels remained just inky, providing more contrast and punch. Switching gears to the early scenes of "Drive," another dark tour de force, the contrast advantage of the X700R was even more apparent, again the result of brighter highlights and blacks that remained deep and inky.

The advantage intensified in bright scenes, like the driver's family ride along the LA river, where the X700R really outshone its cheaper brother. Spot measurements confirmed it was visibly brighter in highlights, despite the fact that they were both calibrated to the same maximum light output and gamma targets. I was using the Auto iris setting on the X700R, a feature the X35 lacks, and the X700R's new D-ILA engine might also be a contributor.

Outside of a direct comparison, however, I'd be hard-pressed to pick out which one was which in terms of contrast; the X35 is just that good. Shadow detail between the two JVCs was equally superb after calibration, although I'd give a very slight edge to the Epson here -- a small victory in the face of the JVCs' distinct advantage in black level.

As expected, however, the Epson did enjoy its own marked advantage in light output over the X700R, and even the X35 was a tad brighter than its JVC line-mate. With a full-screen white pattern in the brightest default picture modes (Stage for the JVCs and Dynamic for the Epson), the X700R measured 32.7 fL while the X35 measured 39.1 and the Epson a whopping 82. In lumens, a measurement that eliminates the variable of my screen, that works out to 1.074, 1,284 and 2,694 lumens, respectively (thanks to Chris Heinonen for the lumens calculator).

Color accuracy: Here's an area where the more exact calibration controls of the X700R seemed to pay more dividends, and combined with its extra punch, which also translated to an advantage in color saturation. Its color outperformed both the X35 and the Epson.

The lushness and saturation advantage was immediately apparent after the driver's family stopped alongside the brook, for example, where the warmth of the golden-hour trees and grasses, along with the sun-touched skin of his wife and kid, looked more realistic and satisfying than on the others.

In terms of measurements the X700R did fall very slightly short of the X35's grayscale, but both averaged below the nominal threshold for perception (delta errors of 3). Its main color issue was in blue saturation, something the CMS couldn't address. As blue color errors are typically the least-visible in program material, I don't consider it a major issue--especially because bue luminance was still below Delta 3.

Video processing: The X700R's e-Shift technology is essentially fancy video processing, and while it has its good and bad points, the latter outweigh the former to the extent that true videophiles--you know, the ones who pay eight grand for a home theater projector--will likely want to leave it diabled. Happily, JVC provides the option to do just that in the "MPC" (Multi PIxel Control) menu, along with a few other controls. For the record, we conducted the tests below with those MPC controls, namely Enhance, Dynamic Contrast, Smoothing and NR, zeroed out in an attempt to most closely preserve the source material.

The main advantage to e-Shift in my testing was the elimination of the visible pixel grid when seen from very close distances. From a seat about 7 feet from my 120-inch diagonal screen (around 70 percent of the screen's diagonal) I could barely begin to make out the faint grid of pixels in some material on the 1080p-only X35, or when e-Shift was turned off on the X700R. Turning it on rendered the grid invisible until I got to about two feet from the screen. Of course, most setups will have seating further back than 70 percent of the screen's diagonal, rendering the most visible advantage of e-Shift essentially moot.

Even from that close distance I didn't see any increase in visible detail when I engaged e-Shift, or when I switched back and forth quickly between the X35 and the e-Shifted X700R. I looked carefully at some of the most detailed, revealing scenes from "Sarsara," for example the monks' mandala in Chapter 4 and the cliff dwellings in Chapter 5, and there was no real difference in sharpness or resolution.

On the other hand I did notice a couple of small artifacts seemingly caused by e-Shift. As the camera moved over the prayer wheel right before the children spin it (9:26), a horizontal edge of the gold scrollwork shimmered slightly--an effect that disappeared when I disabled e-Shift or watched the X35. I also saw more movement and shimmer in the slats of the computer monitors (18:35) with e-Shift on. Yes, both were subtle, and the only artifacts I saw in program material over hours of viewing, but combined with the artifacts I witnessed in test patterns, I'd recommend disabling e-Shift for peak performance unless you're sitting quite close or very sensitive to pixel grid effects.

Turning to test patterns I noticed e-Shift impaired the projector's motion resolution in certain settings. When I engaged smoothing (aka the Soap Opera Effect) by turning Clear Motion Drive to the Low position with e-Shift turned on, motion resolution dropped. In Low the projector mustered 600 lines with e-Shift off and 300 with it on. On the other hand e-Shift didn't have any apparent effect on my standard motion resolution test in either the Off or High Clear Motion Drive settings. Still, if you're sensitive to motion blur and want to use a smoothing setting to offset it, either avoid Low or turn off e-Shift.

I also subjected the JVC to a variety of motion patterns from the "Spears and Munsil HD Benchmark," and in Low and High positions e-Shift generally created more artifacts. In the demanding 48 pixel-per-frame Resolution patterns, for example, there was more breakup in both modes with e-Shift engaged. In the Off position, on the other hand, these patterns looked pretty much the same whether e-Shift was on or off.

In case you're wondering, with film-based sources I prefer the overall look of Low to High, and Off to either one. The JVC reproduced the cadence of 1080p/24 without a hitch when in the Off position. In the other two positions, as usual, smoothing was quite pronounced, and occasionally introduced haloing and other artifacts in program material.

The X700R also offers an "Inverse Telecine" mode under Clear Motion Drive, designed to extract proper film cadence from 60i/60p images, namely DVD and TV, originally shot on film. In test patterns, including our standard HQV de-interlacing test and a series of more demanding tests from "Spears," the JVC did quite well. I didn't see any difference between its performance in Off or Inverse Telecine mode, however, so we'd just leave it turned to Off.

The X700R's input lag measured a pathetic 125ms, which is nearly the worst we've ever tested. I used the post-calibration User mode for this test since the projector lacks a dedicated Game mode. Disabling e-Shift or Clear Motion Drive didn't have any major effect.

4K sources: One of the advertised benefits of JVC's e-Shift-equipped projectors is the ability to accept 4K sources. I don't have many such sources on hand, but I used what I could to evaluate whether there's any benefit to 4K compared to 1080p sources on this projector. In short, I didn't see any.

Thanks to David Mackenzie of HDTVTest, I have a few pieces of the same footage in both 4K (3,840x2,160) and 1080p (1,920x1,080) format, which I used to compare the e-Shifted X700A directly to the standard 1080p X35. I connected each to separate computers playing back the same piece of content simultaneously at native resolution and, thanks to the Hide function described above, switched quickly back and forth between the two to compare. Aside from differences in color, they looked basically the same -- there was no additional detail discernible in the 4K version.

For what it's worth the color difference was marked, however, with the X700R looking quite a bit more saturated, and seemingly less accurate, overall. I suspect that has something to do with my calibration for standard 1080p not translating well for those particular 4K sources. Regardless, my main takeaway is that, based on the limited content I compared, there doesn't seem to be much benefit to feeding the X700R a 4K source compared to a 1080p one.

Bright lighting: As I said with the X35 -- and it applies even more in the higher-performance X700R's case -- it's a huge waste of this projector's potential to have any lights on in the room. If you must, however, know that it's not going to fare as well as something like the Epson or the BenQ W1070. On our 120-inch diagonal Stewart StudioTek 130 screen, the image predictably looked very washed-out, and glare from the overhead lighting was visible.

It's worth noting that the JVC doesn't have a mode obviously designated for brighter viewing environments; the closest I saw was "Stage." Fan noise is also pretty loud on the JVC you engage the "High" lamp power modes, which is a prerequisite for bright-room viewing. Long story short: if you don't have a room you'll be keeping essentially lightless for most of your projector viewing sessions, skip this home theater powerhouse and get a cheaper, brighter projector.

3D: Although not quite the equal of the bright, nearly crosstalk-free Epson in this arena, the JVC X700R was a very good performer with 3D sources -- and equal in general to the X35. I checked out "Hugo" (still one of the most demanding 3D Blu-rays with its complex shots and extreme depth), and that bugaboo of active 3D, crosstalk, was comfortably minimized by both JVCs.

As Hugo's gaze falls on Georges Méliès from his perch behind the clock, for example, the tinker's sleeve and collar show only a bit of the double image. Later, as Hugo reaches for the toy, his popped-out hand again showed only minimal ghosting. Same for the tuning pegs on the guitar (7:49) and the head of the inspector as he threatens Hugo (44:27). Both JVC projectors looked basically identical in terms of crosstalk, but neither reduced ghosting quite as well as the Epson.

Color and black levels were very good in the default THX 3D setting (we don't calibrate for 3D sources). JVC's specs were quite comfortable, even over my prescription glasses, and I preferred their fit to Epson's glasses somewhat. The JVC glasses also fit much better than the flimsy Samsungs. On the other hand the Samsung glasses' picture quality wasn't markedly worse than the JVCs'.

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.001 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.21 Average
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.283 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.263 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 1.588 Good
Avg. color error 2.051 Good
Red error 1.646 1.305 Poor
Green error 1.305 Good
Blue error 2.328 Good
Cyan error 1.168 Good
Magenta error 3.125 Average
Yellow error 2.328 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 900 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 300 Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 125 Average

JVC DLA-X700R CNET review calibration results

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