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JCV DLA-RS500U

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Chad B review JVC RS500 RS600

I admit it: I'm a JVC projector fan. With the introduction of the RS2U in 2007, JVC attained nearly CRT quality black levels and dark scene contrast, along with a level of focus, geometry precision, and other refinements the mighty CRTs had a very hard time matching. Unfortunately, those first few models from JVC were frustratingly dim, often struggling to produce 6 to 8 fL on typical home theater screens.

When the RS40 was released in 2010, JVC's seductive contrast was finally projected with enough light output for digital cinema like brightness on moderate sized home theater screens. In fact, my personal RS40 was still displaying a beautiful picture in our small home theater up until last week, when Chris Majoros, owner of Cleveland AV, offered to lend me an RS400 for evaluation. Interestingly, the RS400 isn't the only projector Chris is excited about at the moment; when I told him I had calibrated both an RS500 and an RS600 late last week, he couldn't wait to hear how they had turned out. JVC fans from all over are wondering if these brand new models, with their even higher light output and contrast capability, will satisfy the upgrade itch.

While the new JVCs feature a 4K/HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 compatible input, they utilize native 1080P panels, utilizing a technology they call 4K e-shift4 to get the resolution to emulate 4K as much as possible. My testing showed that, while they did not resolve single pixel wide horizontal or vertical lines at 4K, the e-shift4 did a very good job of smoothing 1080P pixel structure without artifacts or softening. In other words, fine detail in 1080P images appear more like they are being upscaled and displayed on a native 4K panel, at least up close. While I had seen previous versions of e-shift cause shimmering and artifacts in moving fine patterns, e-shift4 remained clean, smooth, and detailed in the RS500 and 600.

Both models are very quiet in low lamp mode, though turning the e-shift on adds a bit more noise. However, they are larger and heavier than most current home theater projectors. They have very flexible lens shift and throw, and the lens shift should only be used after squaring the projector up with the screen. Do not try to physically aim or point the projector toward the screen; just square it up and use the lens shift to align the image. The RS500 was placed at an almost freakishly long distance from the screen, while the RS600 was mounted at a more typical throw distance.

The RS600 was evaluated on a large 2.8 gain, retro reflective Da-Lite High Power screen, a material known for achieving impressive gain with no hotspotting and minimal texture provided the projector isn't mounted too high. The RS600's lucky owner, Gary, has an affinity for big, bold, and bright images; and his room does get some ambient light during the day. I had previously calibrated a JVC RS4910 in Gary's room on the same screen, coaxing 23.1 fL out of high lamp mode.

The RS500 was also evaluated on a fairly large screen, though this was not a high gain material. Mike, owner of the RS500, was already floored with how 4K clips looked, and had enjoyed many Blu Rays played on his Oppo BD player upscaling to 4K, using popular picture settings he had found online for the RS500.

Before calibration:

The RS600's out of the box THX mode, measured in the Before calibration column, put out 44-45 fL at 100% white, with headroom for whiter than white to at least 109%. The grayscale tracking was mediocre before calibration, with a violet hue in dark shades turning into a cool, bluish white balance at bright levels. Gamma was a little high at the dark end, which means dark objects would be too dark, making details hard to see. Color saturations were generally pretty good, though skin tone simulations were pulled toward red and purple, making faces look too sunburnt. Contrast ratio, measured with an i1D3 profiled off a Jeti spectro and reading a few feet off the lens with LLH set to maximum exposure time and manual lens aperture fully open, was 30,730:1.

The online settings were not a particularly good match for Mike's RS500, with before calibration white balance being visibly violet and reddish. As with the RS600 in THX mode, gamma hinted at crushed shadow detail, and skin tones were pulled strongly toward red. Taking a look at some familiar screencaps revealed a rich picture, with great contrast, but sunburnt faces and a rusty, warm overtone. Light output was a more typical 12.9 fL, and contrast ratio, measured with the same method as above, was 25,720:1.

Uniformity:

Looking at a black field, the RS600 had a visibly lighter area around the lower left corner. It almost looked like a bit of ambient light leakage in the room, though that was not the case. This lighter black level could be seen in darker movie scenes, though how much of an issue it is in the real world will depend very much on the owner and the particular traits they do or do not gravitate toward. Unfortunately, there were some problems here even above black, with whites looking cooler and focus fuzzier in that corner. I was able to remedy the focus nonuniformity by just slightly defocusing the rest of the screen (my subjective estimation would be by about 5-8%), though the cooler white was still visible in the lower left.

The RS500 showed very slightly lighter corners, though I really had to be looking for them on a black field to notice. It also showed a bit of sensitivity to focus in the lower left corner, but I was able to get good focus across the screen by concentrating on the lower left corner and cross checking with the center. Overall, I was impressed by the RS500's sharp focus. White and gray fields looked commendably uniform; any uniformity issues seemed very insignificant to me.

Whether these uniformity differences were random or due to something more predictable I can't say at this point, though I would recommend caution if you are sensitive to these issues.

Calibration:

I calibrated both the RS600 and 500 with JVC's autocalibration software and a Spyder4 colorimeter, and made further adjustments after profiling a colorimeter to my reference spectroradiometer and measuring the results in CalMAN. The autocalibration procedure can take some getting used to, so I spent a lot of time acclimating myself to it and trying different methods, especially with the RS600. The colorimeter was facing the lens while the spectro faced the screen near the viewing position along the viewing axis, and linearity and accuracy of the meter profile was verified.

The results were very good, with color saturation accuracy better than what I have been able to achieve with conventional calibration methods on past JVC models. Neither model showed any serious color accuracy issues after calibration. I know of no other displays other than a handful of discontinued plasma flat panels that can match this level of color accuracy.

Their contrast ratios also improved somewhat after calibration, since I don't like to throw contrast ratio away for whiter than white headroom all the way to 109%. Contrast ratio estimations were between 35,000:1 and 40,000:1 with the manual lens aperture all the way open for maximum light output and WTW headroom to about digital level 240. Contrast ratio can increase significantly with lower lens aperture settings when less light output is required. There is no other consumer technology currently produced, other than OLED flat panels, that can match this superb black level and contrast without significant side effects and gimmickry.

While past JVC models have looked great with Clear Motion Drive turned off, switching it to low helped the motion look authentically film like without distracting stutter. The MPC level enhancer made my reference images look grainy at settings above about 2, and I kept all the MPC settings very mild. Turning up the MPC controls can give a Darbee-like enhancement effect if desired.

Impressions:

The RS600 was calibrated to a very high light output, and there was some graininess in the image that might have been exaggerated by that choice. However, I do not think that all of the graininess was due to the light output. It's image had a majestic sense of pop and power, and skin tones were spot on. Overall color and contrast were superb. 3D was free of crosstalk, and the measurements showed the RS600 had the brightest and most accurate 3D mode of any front projector I've calibrated. I did notice some flicker, especially in 3D mode, though it didn't amount to anything much beyond a curiosity. There was a lot to like, though the slight graininess and uniformity issues, along with a very long 12+ hour calibration session, tempered my enthusiasm a bit.

The RS500 showed a remarkable image, especially with some 4K demo clips. While my brain knew I wasn't seeing full 4K resolution, it still looked like Ultra HD. This former Sony G70 and Electrohome 8500 Ultra owner could find no real flaws or weaknesses in the image.

JVC has upped the brightness significantly this model year, but whether that amounts to a brighter image, an ability to go larger, or even better contrast from closing the lens aperture is up to you. With industry leading color and contrast, that's some awfully yummy icing on the cake!
 
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