|JVC DLA-HX2U D-ILA Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors HD-ILA Projectors|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Thursday, 01 September 2005|
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Since the first days of commercially available digital projectors, I have been a convert. A mere four years ago, I owned an older Sony seven-inch CRT video projector paired with the all-time classic video processor, the Faroudja LD100. The picture looked smooth and film-like. It also had no brightness, barely being able to light up a 100-inch 4:3 Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 130 screen, and switching inputs was a nightmare. Working on the projector required a professional technician, which means that in order to keep the sucker converged, I needed a trip from Dr. Feelgood every three to four months. While having a big screen to watch hockey games was cool, the work needed to get such a video picture was trying, to say the least.
All of this changed in 2002, when I invested in a Madrigal Imaging MPD-1 video processor from Madrigal (parent company of Mark Levinson, Lexicon and Proceed). The projector was the latest in digital video technology being powered by hand-picked D-ILA chips, which was provided thanks to a partnership between JVC and Harman (who owns Madrigal). The difference was night and day. Many industry people who saw my projector were impressed as to how much better, brighter and more accurate it looked than its predecessor. The new projector looked like it was six times brighter than my CRT. The colors on the D-ILA seemed accurate. And after a William Phelps tuning, the contrast was a measured 525:1. For fourth-generation digital projectors being tested in real-world circumstances, this was very high, and I was very happy.
Owning the Madrigal projector and Faroudja NRS video processor at its nearly $40,000 price tag proved to be enjoyable yet difficult. In the real world, the investment in the projector a short two years later yielded me a whopping $5,000 for the projector and the matching Faroudja NRS video processor. The first-generation projector had no DVI or HDMI inputs for digital signals coming from digital video sources like HD-DVRs or D-VHS decks. The bulb life was about 1,000 hours, but what wasn’t reported was that after the first 100 hours, the measured contrast of the projector dropped noticeably. Anyone with a critical eye would want a new bulb after 400 to 500 hours and that required a professional installation. To suggest the Madrigal MPD-1 wasn’t a landmark improvement over my original video rig would be to misstate the situation. My new rig was incredible and I enjoyed the hell out of it, but when watching “The Sopranos” in HD you couldn’t help but wish for more: more contrast, better black levels, less fan noise, cheaper bulbs.
The JVC DLA-HX2U is JVC Professional’s second from the top of the line video projector. It represents two generations of progress on the front of D-ILA video projector technology. At $8,995, this projector is priced more than 50 percent less than JVC’s flagship projector, the critically acclaimed HD2K, which competes with Sony’s QUALIA 004 for incredible video projectors at $30,000. In terms of my budget, I no longer could stomach $30,000 projectors, so after careful consideration and advice from my video guru friends, I made the investment in an HX2U for my reference theater.
Out of the box, the projector is noticeably smaller than my old Madrigal Imaging MPD-1 D-ILA projector and is very easy to handle.. The styling is updated and the buttons are more easily accessible than my old Madrigal projector. The projector remote is dramatically improved over the past units, allowing easy switching from input to input, as well as set-up, which includes zooming, some keystone adjustments and far beyond. There are some submenus that can cause confusion for the casual user. It is possible for the end user to install such a projector, but for $8,995, it is reasonable to expect to have a custom install firm come in and make your projector sing for you. The hardest part of my install was getting the mounting hardware to work right on an angled ceiling. With a custom cut piece of wood installed, my Vantage Point bracket worked like a charm. On a flat ceiling, it would have been a breeze.
The HX2U boasts a reported 1500:1 contrast ratio, which is much higher than the 600:1 than my Madrigal projector was measured at when shipped from Madrigal. We’ll get more into the contrast game later, but it was easy to see how there were going to be brighter whites and blacker blacks on this new projector. The fan noise, a critical flaw of my old projector, must have been improved by fivefold on the HX2U. This sucker runs cool and quiet, which is a dramatic improvement over earlier D-ILA projectors.
The three-chip set-up on this projector does a true 16x9 aspect ratio at 1400x788 pixels. The older projectors were 4:3 chips, but could squeeze a 16x9 picture onto your screen, although it wasn’t really optimized for such functionality. The HX2U is designed for home theater applications and thrives on HDTV and D-VHS source material.
JVC has radically improved their internal video scaler from earlier models to now include their D.I.S.T. (Digital Image Scaling Technology). No longer do you absolutely need black box video processor although some like the new DVDo allow for impressive upscaling and multiple HDMI switching capabilities. In my case, I am anxiously waiting to see what the 1080p video card for my Meridian 800 DVD player looks like, complete with Faroudja’s latest processing. I know the HX2U isn't a 1080p projector but it will be interesting to see how Faroudja's latest scaling will effect 480i material at 1080i on the HX2U. When I move into my new, dedicated theater in early 2006, I will run both the new Meridian card and one of these new long-run HDMI cables from Pure Link that allow you to send 1080p-quality video over long runs of fiber optic cable. Some are as long as 100 feet. Until recently, HDMI or DVI cables were only reliable up to 10 or 15 feet.
Another key improvement in the HX2U is a user-accessible bulb replacement, which no longer requires one to remove the projector from its mount. Nothing is more of a pain than having to disable your projector every 1000 hours of use to get a new bulb installed. Invariably, this will happen near the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup Finals, creating unneeded stress. Now the bulb lasts hundreds of hours longer, is cheaper and easier to replace. These are dramatic improvements that are greatly appreciated.