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JVC DLA-1 review: JVC DLA-1

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Editors' note, March 11, 2007 The rating on this review has been lowered from 8.1 to 7.5 due to changes in the competitive marketplace, including the review of the Sony VPL-VW200 and the DLA-HD100.

7.5

JVC DLA-1

The Good

Reproduces deep shade of black; solid video processing; excellent feature package; numerous picture adjustments, including LCoS panel alignment.

The Bad

Primary colors, especially green, are quite inaccurate, making overall color fidelity suffer.

The Bottom Line

The JVC DLA-HD1 projector does a lot of things very well at a reasonable price for a 1080p projector. If JVC were to improve color accuracy, it would be a world-class product.

JVC's first relatively affordable 1080p DILA (aka LCoS) projector has garnered a lot of praise on Internet forums recently. The DLA-HD1's coveted 1080p resolution, at a price somewhere between the Sony VPL-VW50 (aka the Pearl) and its big brother, the VPL-VW100 (aka the Ruby), may have something to do with it. From a setup and picture optimization perspective, the DLA-HD1's feature set is outstanding, and we really like its sleek design.

In most areas of picture quality, JVC's DLA-HD1 is certainly an excellent 1080p projector. If the company would improve on the primary and secondary color accuracy, green in particular, it would be worthy of CNET's Editors' Choice award. Unfortunately, this is the norm in our industry, and as a result, there are very few HDTVs of any type that can deliver truly accurate color. This is the main reason the 720p resolution Samsung SP-H710AE remains our reference projector. With that said, the JVC's other logical 1080p comparison would be to the Sony Ruby. The DLA-HD1 is superior to the Ruby in video processing, grayscale tracking, gamma implementation, light output, and panel alignment, and they are about the same price. As a result, the JVC is our favorite LCoS-based projector so far, but it still can't match the picture quality--specifically the color accuracy--of the best 1080p DLP projectors.

Design
This JVC projector is available in two versions, which are identical in every way aside from color. The DLA-HD1 is silver and black, while the DLA-RS1U is all black.

The lens is centered on the chassis, giving the projector a symmetrical look and making ceiling installation much easier. At roughly 25.5 pounds, it is rather heavy by today's projector standards. Even so, at just more than 7 inches high, the HD1's profile or footprint is quite small, giving it a sleek, streamlined look. Its attractive design lends itself well to many a family room as well as to dedicated home theaters, because it should be easy to integrate its elegance into a room's decor.

The remote control is extremely well designed and quite easy to use. Thankfully, it is fully backlit, making setup quite simple in a darkened home theater setting. There are direct access keys for all inputs, all picture modes (JVC calls them Image Profiles), and all picture parameters (Contrast, Brightness, and so on). Navigating the internal menu system is also quite intuitive.

Features
We mentioned the JVC's 1080p resolution at the outset, which enables the projector to resolve every detail of 1080i and 1080p sources, the highest currently available. Higher resolution is especially important in projectors, whose very large screen sizes are capable of really showing off the extra detail. As an LCoS-based unit--JVC calls it DILA--the DLA-HD1 employs three separate liquid crystal on silicon panels, which has the advantage of avoiding any possibility of the "rainbow effect" that some viewers of most single-chip, DLP-based displays can see (more info).

Setup features, which provide the ability to fine-tune the picture, abound on the JVC. For starters, a High Lamp mode opens the iris all the way for use with larger screens, while a Normal mode, for smaller screen sizes, will produce deeper black levels. A total of five selectable color temperatures are on board, including two user temps that add red, green, and blue color adjustments for tweaking the grayscale. There are also a total of six Image Profiles (picture modes), including three user modes. Three user memory profiles, and the ability to create memory profiles for the Cinema, Natural, and Dynamic Image Profiles, provide for ample memory slots.

By far the coolest feature, however, is Pixel Adjust, which allows you to converge the three LCoS panels so they line up with one another, improving the clarity of the picture. This is a first in the industry as far as we know, and it works well. Zoom and Focus features are manual at the lens assembly as opposed to electronic, and the zoom ratio is a generous 2.0:1, giving the projector a lot of flexibility in terms of placement in the room relative to the screen. Finally, in addition to vertical lens shift, the DLA-HD1 also sports horizontal lens shift, which is something we are used to seeing only on much more expensive projectors.

Connectivity options are adequate if not generous. There are two HDMI inputs, one component video input, an S-Video input, a composite input, and an RS-232 control port for touch panel remote systems such as Crestron and AMX. We were a bit surprised that it lacks a 12-volt trigger for electric drop-down screens.

Performance
As far as picture quality is concerned, the DLA-HD1 does many things very well. Its video processing is excellent, with 2:3 pull-down for film-based material. It also deinterlaces 1080i properly, preserving all the vertical resolution in 1080i HD material, which not all HDTVs and projectors can claim (see the Geek Box for more). Speaking of resolution, the HD1 also delivers all of the resolution in a 1080p signal at the HDMI and the component video input--many competing projectors roll off resolution at the component video input. Color decoding is accurate for HD and for SD. Black-level performance is also very good, as evidenced by the deep, rich blacks it reproduces on dark movie material.

The DLA-HD1, along with much of its competition, falls short in the area of overall color fidelity. While grayscale tracking and color decoding are both excellent, the accuracy of the primary and secondary colors are both way off the mark. In fact, it may have the worst green we have ever seen on any display device. Fortunately, this won't show up with all program material, but where it reared its ugly head repeatedly in our system was watching the YES-HD channel with Yankees baseball in HD. The grass on the field simply looked sick due to excessive yellow.

In our system, with an 80-inch-wide, 92-inch-diagonal Stewart Grayhawk reference screen, the light out was more than ample in the Normal mode. In fact, we had to take contrast down from the factory preset and ended up with just less than 15 footlamberts of light output. Grayscale tracking in the Low color temperature setting was reasonably close prior to calibration, and after calibration was very accurate. Looking at an all-white field, it was apparent that white-field uniformity, especially at the edges of the picture, was slightly compromised, but that is an issue with all LCD- and LCoS-based displays.

Black-level performance is indeed compelling on the JVC DLA-HD1. Black and very dark areas of the picture appeared deep, rich, and clean, with little or no visible false contouring or low-level noise. Chapters 4 and 28 of the HD DVD version of Batman Begins are two excellent scenes to evaluate blacks on any display. In the jail cell in Chapter 4, there was a lot of fine detail clearly visible in the walls, indicating good shadow detail. Again in Chapter 28, with Batman racing against time to save the girl's life, details in the shadows were impressive. Chapter 13 on the HD DVD of Seabiscuit, on the other hand, was problematic, as it showed primary and secondary colors throughout the chapter. The track building is cyan, for example, and the infield, of course, is green grass. These are the types of scenes that may bother viewers with a keen eye for color fidelity.

Blu-ray from our Samsung BD-P1200 player at 1080p output looked mostly excellent, with the exception of the aforementioned color issues. Casino Royale, an outstanding Blu-ray transfer, was as sharp as a tack, and the chase scene in the beginning, for example, looked snappy indeed.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 8084/6698K Average
After color temp 6676/6462 Good
Before grayscale variation 386K Good
After grayscale variation 85K Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.661/0.337 Poor
Color of green 0.291/0.695 Poor
Color of blue 0.146/0.040 Poor
Overscan 0 percent Good
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Yes Good
480i 2:3 pull-down detection Yes Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

7.5

JVC DLA-1

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7