JVC DLA-RS2 HD-ILA Video Projector 
Home Theater Front Projectors HD-ILA Projectors
Written by Kevin Miller   
Sunday, 01 June 2008

JVC’s new DLA-RS-2 is the company’s new flagship 1080p-resolution front projector. It is a three-panel LCoS, or what JVC calls DLA (Digital Light Amplifier), which is a reflective variant of LCD display technology. The DLA-RS2 is the step-up from last year’s DLA-RS1, which remains in the company’s projector line-up at a lower price point. However, it improves in only one area of picture performance over the RS-1 with a higher contrast ratio, due mainly to better blacks. While the new projector adds some cool new features, it actually goes backwards in two key areas of performance. Higher contrast ratio on the RS-2 translates into a net loss of nearly 20 percent in light output from the RS-1, which was already marginal in this area. The new projector is conservatively rated at 600 ANSI lumens of light output, which means it will not drive large screens sufficiently. Also, the primary and secondary color points are extremely inaccurate and far worse than last year’s RS-1, especially red and green. Red, which is way beyond either the SMPTE or HDTV specifications, is responsible for extreme color over-saturation, which means you will need to dial down the color control significantly from where it should be set to get a semblance of natural-looking color. This is one of those rare instances where last year’s product, still in the line at a lower price point, is the better product.

In outward appearance, there are no design differences between the new DLA-RS2 and the older RS-1. It is a simple basic design, rather square in shape, neither particularly attractive nor high-tech looking, with a nice glossy black finish. It measures roughly seven inches high by 18 inches wide by 16-and-a-half inches deep, weighing a substantial 25-and-a-half pounds. Even given its size and hefty weight, the RS-2 has a relatively small footprint. The company wisely designed the projector with the lens in the center of the unit. This is a more symmetrical design that gives it a more attractive look and makes installing it on the ceiling relative to the screen easier than with units that have side-mounted lens assemblies.

The remote is an intelligent and ergonomically pleasing design. It is light and slender and fits in the hand comfortably, and the key function buttons like the menu and arrow keys are all located near the bottom in the center of the remote, easily accessible to the thumb. Some of the key function buttons are also located on the top of the projector. I was quite pleased to find that it is fully backlit at the touch of the light button on the lower right hand side of the unit. The GUI (Graphical User Interface), or internal menu system, is identical to last year’s RS-1, easy to navigate and straightforward to use.

Features and Connectivity
Electronic Zoom and Focus features, Customizable gamma, and a Vertical Stretch mode to accommodate an outboard anamorphic lens for 2:35:1 aspect ratio screen applications are all additions to the feature package over the original DLA-RS1 projector. Having electronic Zoom and Focus features is an added bonus, as this makes it much easier to tweak the projector once the final installation is complete. A Pixel Adjust feature allows you to make minor corrections to the panel alignment, which will sharpen up the picture slightly. An overscan feature that JVC chooses to call Mask is very useful in ridding the screen of compression lines created from cable and satellite boxes; the Mask feature should be employed for those sources. However, I do not recommend you use this for Blu-ray, as you should have zero overscan for that format to ensure you are getting all the resolution on the screen. As with virtually all digital projectors today, it does have selectable color temperatures, which include Low, Middle, High, Memory 1 and Memory 2. Two separate memories for grayscale calibrations will allow a trained and properly equipped technician to set up two separate grayscale calibrations. This will be very useful to movie aficionados with significant black and white collections, as they can have one memory set-up for 6500 Kelvins for color material and another set at 5400 for black and white material.

Connectivity options are reasonably generous. Two HDMI 1.3-compatible inputs head up the list, with one component video input as well.  One S-Video and one composite video input will serve for legacy video sources like VHS, S-VHS and Laserdisc. An RS-232 control port is on board for touch panel remote control programming purposes, but I was surprised to find no 12-volt trigger for electric drop-down screens. 

I remember liking last year’s DLA-RS1 with only one real exception: primary and secondary color accuracy. Unfortunately, the new RS-2 is even worse in this important area of performance. Another disappointing area of performance is how the projector handles film-based material. I tested film resolution with the Silicon Optix HQV test disc’s Film Resolution Loss test pattern in the HD DVD format, output 1080i to the JVC, and found a significant loss of resolution. This was not the case with the Video Resolution Loss test from the same disc. This means that a quality outboard processor like a DVDO VP50 would be a good match for the RS-2. The absolutely garish color points JVC has chosen for red and green in particular are my biggest complaint. Extremely oversaturated color is one of the nasty byproducts of this choice, which means you will have to turn down the Color control significantly in order to get colors to appear reasonably natural.

Contrast ratio performance is certainly way up from the previous model, but not without a price. Better blacks give the RS-2 superior contrast ratio, but it reduces the light output of the projector by nearly 20 percent. Normally that wouldn’t be that big a deal, but the original RS-1 was weak in light output from the start. If the RS-1, conservatively rated at 700 ANSI lumens, wasn’t bright enough to effectively light up a screen larger then about 92 inches diagonal or 80 inches wide by 45 inches high, then the RS-2, rated at a lower 600 ANSI lumens, certainly isn’t capable of driving anything larger than that. I got about 12.7 footlamberts of peak light output on my 80-inch-wide by 45-inch-high Stewart Filmscreen Grayhawk RS screen, which is just slightly over the specification for projected film in a movie theater. I consider this barely acceptable. I achieved this light output by setting the Lamp Power to High in the Func menu. This limited light output is acceptable as long as you resist the temptation to mate the RS-2 with too large a screen, which is a common mistake with front projectors in general. Unlike most projectors in this category, the RS-2 doesn’t have an Iris control or an auto Iris setting, which I consider a good thing, as that function really only gives the user the ability to impair the overall picture performance. 

White field uniformity is not good on most LCD-based displays, and the RS-2 is no exception. This will show up as blue and red splotching on bright white material, like clouds in the sky or snow and ice in the mountains. A good example of this is the beginning of Chapter Five of The Italian Job (Paramount Home Entertainment), where the guys are celebrating in the Austrian Alps, each with a bottle of DP. The snow-covered mountains in the background will show a bit of red and blue in some areas of the screen. Of course, there are a slew of other movies where you can also see this issue. Another example would be the ice rink in a hockey game that is supposed to be solid white, but with an LCD-based projector like the RS-2, it will appear with red and blue blotches in it.

I chose the five-disc collector’s edition of Blade Runner (Warner Home Video), recently released on Blu-ray, specifically to test the RS-2’s black level performance. Since most of the movie is set at night in L.A., it will serve as an excellent black level torture test for any projector. In the very beginning, the text on the black background practically jumps out at you because of the excellent contrast ratio when set up properly. There is no doubt the RS-2 is superior to its older, less expensive sibling in this area of performance. For clarity, I chose the awesome transfer of The Departed (Warner Home Video) on Blu-ray, as it is an exceptionally sharp-looking transfer. The beginning of the film starting with the diner scene, and moving to the police academy scenes with Matt Damon and Leonardo DeCaprio are exceptionally sharp. Skin tones did appear overly red after a thorough calibration. It forced me to dial down the color significantly from where color bars originally dictated the color adjustment should be set. This is a direct result of JVC’s color point choice for red. Green is also way beyond where it should be. Consequently, any natural object that is green, like grass, simply looks too intense or garish in nature.

The Downside
The RS-2’s inaccurate color is my biggest complaint. I don’t know why JVC and other manufacturers continue to give us primary color points that are way beyond what our system can deliver. It certainly doesn’t help in the quest for accurately reproducing a director’s film (read: artwork).

JVC could also improve on the internal video processing, specifically how it handles film-based material. Lastly, I would ask for more light output by way of a larger lamp, so the unit can light up somewhat larger screen sizes without being overdriven.

At this level of investment in a projector, I expect at least reasonably accurate color, if not dead-on to the system specifications, and the JVC’s reds and greens are simply too far away from our system references to be taken seriously. If I had my druthers, I would have JVC give us accurate primary color points, which would further reduce light output, and increase the size of the lamp to make up for the loss of light output. Compare this to the awesome Sony VPL-VW200, although considerably more expensive, that has an option in the menu to select a color setting that is exceptionally accurate, and you will see the world of difference accurate primary colors make in a home theater. Blacks and consequently contrast ratio on the RS-2 are exceptional, and the projector delivers on its 1080p-resolution promise, at least with video material. If JVC were to improve on the color accuracy of the RS-2, it would have a compelling product at an attractive and relatively uninhabited price point.
Manufacturer JVC
Model DLA-RS2 HD-ILA Video Projector
Reviewer Kevin Miller
Chipset 3-Chip
DVI Input No
HDMI Input Yes
# of HDMI Inputs 2
HDMI Version 1.3
# of Component Video Inputs 1
Native Resolution 1080p
Refresh Rate 24Hz

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