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Commentary Projectors

JVC's new 4K projectors will give your TV an inferiority complex

The company's cheaper 4K projectors arrive in October. One is even 8K… sort of.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

JVC just announced three new projectors, all with native 4K resolution. That may not seem like a big deal, but enthusiasts have been waiting for more reasonably priced 4K projectors from the company for years. Its D-ILA technology has been lauded, by CNET several times, for having some of the best image quality available in projectors. This is largely due to their excellent contrast ratios, bested only by OLED TVs which are only available at screen sizes up to 88 inches -- about half the size you can get from a home projector.

The new projectors are priced from $6,000 to $18,000. (That starting price converts to about £4,600 or AU$8,400.)

Before you faint, though, consider that JVC previously only sold one native 4K projector, and it cost as much as a midsized sedan. In addition to the two lower-priced native-4K projectors, the top-end model features JVC's resolution-enhancing e-shift technology, for an 8K equivalent resolution. All three projectors use a trio of 0.69-inch 4K D-ILA chips (also known as LCOS) with a native 4,096x2,160-pixel resolution, have motorized lens shift and an automatic iris.

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JVC's DLA-NX9/RS3000.

JVC

8K-ish

A quick explanation of JVC's model numbers: They sell the same projectors in different "channels," so depending where you shop, you might see a projector marketed as the "DLA-NX9" or the "DLA-RS3000." These are basically the same model, despite some slight cosmetic differences. 

In other words, the three new projectors have six model numbers. This can be confusing, so I'll refer to each of them by both numbers.

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The JVC DLA-NX9.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

At $18,000, the DLA-NX9 (DLA-RS3000) is the most expensive of the new offerings. It's the first to use e-shift with 4K chips, which adjusts the pixels diagonally to put 4x the native resolution on the screen. Previously JVC used this technology to get 4K resolution on screen from 1080p chips. Now it's effectively upscaling a 4K image to 8K, generating a resolution of 8,192x4,320 pixels. This upconversion is done internally, though, so even if you somehow had an 8K video source, you wouldn't be able to input it into the projector. 

To get that resolution and 2,200 lumens on screen, the NX9 (RS3000) has a huge 100mm all-glass lens. A claimed 100,000:1 native contrast ratio might not seem like much, but JVC has always been more reserved in their contrast ratio claims. In my and others people's measurements, D-ILA has the best native contrast ratio of any technology other than OLED.

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JVC's CEDIA 2018 lineup.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The other two projectors skip the e-shift, but still have 4K-native resolution. Both have a smaller 65mm all-glass lens. The $8,000 DLA-NX7 (DLA-RS2000) has a claimed 80,000:1 contrast ratio, and 1,900 lumens. The $6,000 DLA-NX5 (DLA-RS1000) has a 40,000:1 claimed contrast ratio, and 1,800 lumens.

jvc-rs2000

The JVC DLA-RS2000.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

In addition, all three projectors feature Auto Tone Mapping, which JVC says will automatically remap brightness settings to compensate for any of the projector's limitations versus the specific brightness needs of any given HDR content. (Here's why you shouldn't expect great HDR from a projector.) Given that projectors are significantly less bright than TVs, this tone mapping is vital to be able to display HDR content without visible issues in the video.

All three projectors have HDR10 and HLG support, but no Dolby Vision.

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The JVC DLA-NX5.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Eyes-on

JVC launched the projectors this past week at the CEDIA show in San Diego, where I was able to see 4K HDR content on the DLA-NX9 (DLA-RS3000) projector first-hand. I watched the demo twice: Once while I was about 12 feet away, another when I was about 8 feet. The screen was a 160-inch, 1.3-gain, 16x9, Studiotek 130 from Stewart Filmscreen. 

The image was incredible -- as you'd hope for $18,000. Depth, detail, and color that rivaled OLED in everything but brightness. OLED TVs, not to mention the much brighter LCDs, have several times greater light output. That's not to say this image wasn't bright, it was a massive image that still packed a punch. It's easily one of the best projector images I've seen.

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A screen cap using my Pixel 2 of the RS3000. 

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

In a separate room, the JVC reps had a RS1000 showing Fate of the Furious on a 9-foot wide, 2.35:1, 1.3-gain Screen Innovations Pure White screen. The room was partially open to the show floor, so it was much brighter than a typical home theater. It still looked good and I was impressed to see that it was bright enough to handle ambient light. But when the point is showing off JVC's contrast ratio and black levels, this seemed like an odd choice -- like demoing a Toyota Prius by racing it around a track at top speed. Interesting, sure, but perhaps not highlighting its strengths.

I shot the above photos of the projection screens using a Pixel 2 phone. Like any image on the web, this doesn't give an accurate impression of the resolution and experience of seeing it in person. But I can tell you that from both 8 and 12 feet away you can make out tiny details like the hairs on the tiger's nose. Like all high-resolution images, it's the textures you notice the most. In addition, the depth and punchiness of the image was incredible. 

The firewalker image at the top of the page was also shot with a Pixel 2, but in person it exhibited excellent black levels with bright highlights and rich, vibrant colors throughout.   

JVC is expecting to ship the new projectors at the end of October. Note that the 1080p-native DLA-X790 will stay in the line, but get a price drop, from $6,000 to $4,000.     

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