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Review: JVC RS420

Although JVC’s recent home theater projectors have been a big hit with video enthusiasts and movie lovers, serious gamers have tended to pass them over in favor of competing units with lower input lag. This involves a serious tradeoff, as no other popular projector brand can match the JVC’s native contrast. The new RS420 includes a provision to slash that latency, allowing it to be used and enjoyed even by hard core gamers, and recently Cleveland A/V owner Chris Majoros arranged for a new RS420 to temporarily replace an older but still great JVC RS40 in my tiny home theater.

Since this setup uses a very small screen, the RS420 was really too bright out of the box. After switching the lens aperture to manual and reducing it to it’s lowest setting, things were looking pretty good in Natural mode. Blacks, though not as dark as what I’ve seen on JVC’s other models, were very uniform and neutral. There was an abundance of detail, which in fact appeared to be somewhat exaggerated, and the image showed plenty of pop and excitement. Watching Trolls on Blu Ray with my family was a very enjoyable experience, although when the ending credits rolled, I was surprised to see a downward streaking effect on white letters set against a black background. It was almost as if the letters were dripping or leaving a faint trail underneath them. The effect was visible again with test patterns and could also be visible on certain graphics, though it was never noticed on normal video content.

Switching to the Cinema picture mode seemed to make the detail a bit more natural, and the image was impressive enough that even people who believe projectors could never match a good direct view display might have second thoughts.


Natural and Cinema modes were measured with the only change being to turn the lens aperture to manual and reduce the value to it’s lowest point, which is how each mode was viewed before calibration. Natural mode had excellent white balance and grayscale tracking, though the gamma showed a compression of mid to bright levels. Colors were oversaturated, especially reds. Light output was still higher than what is generally recommended on my 76” diagonal neutral gain screen.

Switching to Cinema mode, the gamma was more even but lower overall, which can reduce the sense of depth in the image. The levels of the color was too low, but this tended to balance out the exaggerated saturation or purity of the colors.

Calibration software is provided by JVC which, for the RS420, required a different build than what I have successfully used on other recent JVCs. It also requires use of either a Spyder5 or an i1Pro2 meter. I used a Spyder5, which I have used with other JVCs and I correct with a much higher grade reference spectro.

The JVC autocalibration software did not provide satisfactory results on the RS420, producing a strong reddish tint to the dark level white balance. Repositioning the meter, reloading initialization settings and rerunning the procedure did not help. I used HCFR to double check my Spyder5’s accuracy, and have used the same meter to successfully calibrate other recent JVCs, so the meter and procedure were not faulty.

Thankfully, the RS420 was still able to be calibrated well with more normal methods, in this case CalMAN and a Jeti 1211 / Klein K-10 combo. In addition, the RS420 JVC autocal software can be used for certain functions including importing custom gamma curves, which was done successfully for HDR mode.

On/off contrast, measured with a Klein K-10 (with fresh black calibration) reading off screen after calibration, was 25056:1. This number, though lower than other recent JVC models, is better than the native contrast produced by any other popular home theater projector brand.

In HDR mode, the RS420 behaves differently, and superior to, the RS 400/500/600 models when receiving an HDR signal. It brings up an exclusive HDR picture mode, which does not lock into gamma D as in those models. In other words, it’s possible to import a custom gamma into the HDR mode, and each time the RS420 is fed HDR, it will go to that mode and recall the right settings and gamma.

Fortunately, the default HDR gamma is also significantly improved over the 400/500/600’s gamma D, producing an excellent HDR image even before calibration and without special settings.

The measurements shown below, taken with a multiplier to normalize to 1000 nits, are much better than they appear at first glance for a front projector displaying HDR.

Calibration did help out, making an already excellent HDR image even more refined and natural. Green and cyan didn’t quite reach out to full saturation of DCI P3 in a BT.2020 container, but the error levels are extremely low.

Input lag measured just 35.5 with the Low Latency setting enabled, and 122.5 otherwise.


JVC has made important and very commendable strides in input lag and HDR performance with the RS420. Though it’s not without it’s shortcomings compared to JVC’s other models, it along with it’s sister models are the highest native contrast projectors usable for serious gamers, and they are going to give an outstanding image with both normal HDTV and UHD Blu Rays.
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