JVC 4K UltraHD Projectors
We haven’t spent too much time talking about 4K projectors because, to be blunt, they’re just too expensive to be within reach for us, and for the majority of our audience. While they’re cool to think about, and maybe drool over, why spend too much time on them when you know you’ll never drop $28,000 on a projector? But what if they were a fraction of that cost?
At a recent stroll through our local Magnolia Home Theater store inside Best Buy, we happened across a JVC 4K projector for only $5000. The JVC DLA-X500R sounds like an amazing deal, but there has to be a catch. It turns out that when you read the fine print, JVC isn’t really selling 4K projectors, they’re selling simulated 4K projectors. The difference is subtle, but real.
JVC has three models in their 4K lineup, the entry model, DLA-X500R, for $5000. The mid-range DLA-X700R for $8000 and the top of the range DLA-X900RKT for $12,000. Magnolia carries them all, but they weren’t all available in our area; only the X500R. JVC points out very clearly on their website that these projectors, projectors in the Procision line, are not sold online. If you find one online, it isn’t coming from an authorized dealer.
The specs for all three projectors are fairly similar, with obviously some improvements in specs and technology as you move up in the models. We’ll go over the specs for the top of the line X900RKT to see if the same thing we noticed when we started to look into them, jumps out to all of you…
Did you notice that there’s no mention of a native 4K resolution? Only a reference to a 4K projected image and a set of 4K compatible inputs. As it turns out, if you read between the lines, these projectors aren’t truly 4K at all. Instead they’re a special blend of two 1080p imaging chips that work together to improve pixel density. The technology does an incredible job eliminating any notion of pixel lines in the image, like retina for your 120” screen, but not a true 4K image.
What the …?
So what exactly is JVC selling? They’re selling a future proof 1080P projector that outperforms almost any other 1080P projector in terms of image quality, but they aren’t selling a 4K projector. The secret is JVC’s e-Shift technology. E-Shift produces 4K levels of pixel density by utilizing two separate 1080P chips diagonally offset from each other by half a pixel. Pixel density, or Pixels per Inch, is great for producing very clear images with no visible pixel lines, but it’s different than resolution.
It turns out that since the projectors only have 1080P imaging chips in them, everything has to be converted to 1080P before being passed through e-Shift for the 4K-like display. Even the native 4K inputs have to go down to 1080P before being blast back out in Ultra density. The result is a very impressive 1080P display that approaches 4K in clarity, but from what we’ve heard and read, doesn’t stand up too well if you compare side by side with a native 4K display
The trade-off makes sense when you compare their prices with Sony, who is selling a true native 4K projector. After all, these projectors are 10 to 20 thousand dollars cheaper. But not for long. Sony has the new VPL-VW500ES available for around $10,000 that may force a change in JVC’s approach. But until more manufacturers are making 4K projectors for less than $5000, JVC will continue to have a marketable offering.
More than just pixels
But as with any TV or projector, resolution isn’t the whole story. There are so many other factors that go into how well a projector performs: contrast and black levels, color reproduction, smooth motion, the list goes on. When you consider contrast and black levels, especially at the $5000 price point, the JVC D-ILA technology is hard to beat. The quoted contrast ratios on the three projectors are 600,000:1, 1,200,000:1 and 1,500,000:1 Dynamic or and 60,000:1, 120,000:1 and 150,000:1 Native. That’s pretty awesome.
And the colors are great as well. The JVC LCOS technology, what they call D-ILA, has always been impressive, all the way back to the rear projection days of yore. (Yes, Braden still owns one). And that carries on in their projectors, and Ara owns one of those. Color representation is great; among the best you can get on a consumer-priced projector.
If you’re in the market for a new Home Theater projector and were thinking 4K was too expensive, you can pick up a pretty decent compromise in the JVC Procision lineup. They provide the inputs to natively watch 4K content when you can get your hands on some, while also converting your standard 1080P content into something quite impressive. Sure it isn’t 4K, but it’s every bit as good as a 1080P projector, with the e-Shift bonus for better pixel density. What do you have to lose?
Posted by The HT Guys, March 21, 2014 12:25 AM
About The HT GuysThe HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.
Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.
ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.
Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.