|JVC DLA-HD2K HD-ILA Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors HD-ILA Projectors|
|Written by Jeremy R. Kipnis|
|Saturday, 01 October 2005|
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Now that the market is heating up with respect to HDTV, and people’s attention is being drawn to the highest ASTC-approved HDTV resolution of 1920 x 1080p and the best way to display it, only JVC and Sony have come to market so far with commercial designs worthy of re-mortgaging your house. DLP 2K products are currently only beginning to be available at Texas Instruments-equipped movie theaters around the world, and LCD 2K products simply have not been very inspiring up to this point. JVC has, of course, been offering its LCOS (Liquid Crystal On Silicon) variation, D-ILA (Directdrive Image Light Amplifier), since 1998, but only recently have they offered a projector with a trio of 1920 x 1080p panels.
JVC’s D-ILA HD2K System ($19,995 MSRP) comes with a slide projector-sized light engine (created by JVC, measuring 11-3/4 x 5-1/4 x 14-3/16 inches), which has a black plastic exterior with manual zoom and focus controls above the lens. It also comes with a one rack space outboard scaler/switcher (produced jointly by JVC and Faroudja and most likely an early version of the current VDP-1080p). The light engine is capable of a reported 500 ANSI Lumens (a stated 2000:1 contrast ratio), thanks to its 250-watt UHP-NSH bulb, rated to create 40 to 200 inch wide images, which is expected to last 2000 hours, replacement cost $495. The unit features a medium-throw 1.3x manual zoom (1.8 – 2.35) 50 percent vertically offset fixed lens, and only requires one DVI-D cable from the scaler to the projector. The projector is light enough (13.66 lbs) that one person can set it up in less than an hour, even including the ceiling mount. And it comes from the factory set up better than most projectors with respect to color temperature and gamma, thanks to JVC’s new factory pre-calibration procedure of no less than 12,000 different picture-affecting adjustments.
By comparison, the Sony Qualia 004 ($30,000 MSRP) is massive. It comes in a sculpted silver, black and acrylic cabinet that looks more like a Lamborghini then a video projector and requires at least two people and several hours to hang properly from the ceiling. But it does have a motorized zoom, focus and vertical lens offset, critical for most installations! The resolution is the same (1920 x 1080p), but it features an internal scaler to accommodate all formats. Sony has only been offering this technology under its SXRD moniker for less than two years, too much applause and a lot of criticism. Yet, its sheer color fidelity, reported light output of 2000 ANSI Lumens, thanks to a Xenon bulb capable of a smooth daylight spectral response, and an available trio of lens options (from 1.43 – 2.8) has only disappointed a handful of professionals so far. I personally own two Qualias.
Certainly, anyone in the market for a top of the line video front projector, which costs as much as a new 2006 Audi Quatro, must consider either the JVC DLA-HD2K System or the Sony Qualia 004 for the time being. The difficulty is finding a fair demonstration of either and therein lie significant differences between the two companies’ design philosophies. JVC is still creating very technically adept professional projection devices, which more recently have been designed with the home theater enthusiast in mind. In the last five years, the quality of D-ILA images has improved enormously, providing a richer color gamut than those chosen for DLP or LCD projectors. But, until recently, the poor black level, shoddy gamma and drift in convergence and shading (uniformity of color over the entire screen) after a thousand hours have required many owners to send their units to William Phelps, JVC or myself to correct problems that customers should not have to deal with from products in this price range.
Sony’s recent SXRD products are not exempt from these faults either, as I reported in my review of the Qualia 006 rear projector. This is now also true of one of my two Qualia 004 projectors; it has lost convergence over time. But overall, the SXRD approach has yielded some extraordinary picture quality, rivaling 35mm film projected on the same screen and edging out earlier D-ILA designs. How does the JVC HD2K system stack up to or better the Qualia 004?
The JVC DLA-HD2K projector is quite light and diminutive in comparison to many expensive three-chip projectors available for the last few years. But it hides huge wonders in detail, depth of field, color fidelity, gamma and white balance straight out of the box. The 50 percent vertically offset fixed lens, like a number of other lenses, shoots only out of its upper portion (or lower portion, if mounted on the ceiling). Therefore, the projector must be placed or mounted so that the bottom (or top, if mounted on the ceiling) of the screen is nearly perpendicular to the center of the lens. There is no vertical (or horizontal) lens offset, so the screen and the projector must be in strict alignment, otherwise noticeable keystoning will occur which can be corrected using electronic keystone adjustment (not built into the projector).
Of equal importance is throw distance, which in the JVC’s case is 1.8 to 2.35 times the screen width. This means that, for a 10-foot-wide screen, the projector needs to be between 18 and 23.5 feet away, which is a bit restrictive. Consequently, I was not able to create a full 18 x 10.125-foot image in Ciné Lab 1, because my maximum throw distance is currently 26 feet. While this may not be a problem for some, and is corrected through the use of an after-market 0.8 lens adapter (available from JVC), I personally find the lack of alternate lenses at this level of price and performance ridiculous, especially as JVC has created many projectors in recent years that have many lens options.
Once you have established throw distance and projector height with the required 50 percent vertical offset relative to the screen, it is quite simple to mount the projector using the JVC ceiling mount. Connecting the external Faroudja based Digital Video Processor is done with one DVI-D cable. After this, manual lens zoom and focus are easily adjusted near the projector lens (a 10-group / 13-layer glass system) using internally-generated scaler test patterns, courtesy of Faroudja. The back apron of the Digital Video Processor features one set each of RGBHV (BNC), DVI-D HDCP-compatible, Component video (BNC), S-Video (mini-Din), Composite video (BNC) and a serial control (RS-232C). It has one DVI-D output for the projector and is set up for 1920 x 1080p/60 Hz only. Two remotes, one for the processor and one for the projector, are included. I must admit to missing multiple versions of the same input type, like having two S-Video and two component video inputs available.
Once you’ve connected your sources, the Digital Video Processor allows for switching and a wide variety of the usual video adjustments: contrast, brightness, color, tint, detail, all centered at 128 on a 0-255 scale. Other controls are available to enhance noise reduction, set up screen triggering, image position adjustments, etc., typical of most recent Faroudja processors, like the DVP-1080P. Four user memories are available to save your picture settings, should you create some handy profiles. Memories are automatically recalled for each input type.
The projector features a factory-adjusted color temperature setting for D6500 (D65) and two other user selectable settings (1 & 2), which only allow calibration of the gain (or white settings) for red, green and blue; bias (or black level) is predefined. There are also four selectable gamma curves (similar to the Qualia 004): Normal, A, B and Custom, which allow for some crude adjustments at the darkest end of the picture that are dwarfed by what is available using a laptop and JVC’s Gamma Correction Software, should you get adventuresome. Beyond this, everything input into the Digital Video Processor is up-converted to 1920 x 1080p using Faroudja’s best scaling algorithms. Color space is alternated from Rec. 601 for SDTV to Rec. 709 for HDTV, which has a slightly wider color gamut. It is suggested in the Faroudja DVP-1080P manual that the 1080P up-conversion is transparent, unless you make picture adjustments (contrast, color, sharpness, etc.), at which point everything is processed first at 1280 x 720P, reducing actual resolution to 720P for any 1080i original source. I believe this is the case in this system, which may bother some more than others, since the projector is capable of the full 2k resolution.