JVC’s home theater projectors have a good reputation among the installers I talk to, and my own experience with their products has also been very good . The company’s current lineup includes projectors priced $11,999 to $3,4999 with 1,300 lumen light output, so most home theater builders can find one to fit their budget and room. For this review I’m focusing on one of JVC’s mid-priced projectors, the DLA-X700 model, which sells for $7,999.
Like several other JVC projectors, the X700 uses three DILA (LCOS) chips and a standard 230W NHS projection lamp for its light producing nervous system. Over the past couple of years, JVC has been promoting a technology called eShift, which takes the image produced from the three 1920 x 1080 resolution ships and processes it into a 3840 x 2160 (or 4K) on-screen image. The difference with this year’s models is they are now able to accept native 4K content, so when you connect a 4K source (which is a whole separate issue) you can get 4K on the screen. Of course, any 1080p signal you send into it will also get processed to the 4K onscreen resolution.
Speaking of that onscreen experience, the JVC DLA-X700 has more going on than just more pixels. JVC reduced the pixel gap (the space between each pixel in the image) which means that there’s less chance you’ll see any grid even if you get very close to the screen. JVC says that it also made the image brighter while improving contrast ratio.
JVC makes setting up the X700 easy. It includes motorized lens shift both horizontally and vertically, plus motorized zoom and focus. Once you’ve done the proper measurements and installed the projector on its ceiling mount, it should take only a few minutes to get it synced up with the screen. In my case, I sat the unit on a projection table, so within minutes of getting it out of the box I had the image perfectly squared up.
If you’re integrating this projector into a home theater with an automation system (and you should), note that it includes RS232, and IP control for automation systems, plus a 12 volt trigger in case you want to synchronize a motorized screen.
I admit I sometimes prefer manual adjustments, rather than motorized ones, because in past projectors some of the motorized controls had been a little too aggressive. It can be aggravating when trying to focus a projector, but the motor overshoots your button presses. That wasn’t the case with the JVC DLA-X700. The controls were sensitive enough, yet measured to allow precise tweaks. Built-in grid patterns insure that you get a perfect alignment on every corner. You can adjust most of the settings with a smart phone app or the remote.
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Once the picture was centered and focused, I got into the video controls menu, which is vast, but easy to use. JVC offers a very complete color management system, plus grayscale adjustment, and a long list of picture modes, including THX (and THX 3D). It’s also ISF C3 certified which means your installer or calibrator can dial it in perfectly for your room in different viewing situations. Another perk is the lens memory which lets you seamlessly switch aspect ratios depending on your movie or screen shape. Finally, you get Dynamic Iris control (low, high or off) which allows the electronic iris control to enhance the projector’s contrast.
I set the X700 in front of my 120-inch (16:9) Seymour Screen Excellence 4K screen (.95 gain). This is a woven acoustically transparent screen, and as such, lets a little light pass through. I was interested specifically to see how bright the projector would be on this screen since its 1,300 lumens is about 1,000 lumens less than the LCD projector I normally use.
After spending some time tweaking the projector with test patterns, and trying some of the picture modes, it was eminently clear that this was one of the best looking projectors I’ve used in a long time. JVC’s LCOS technology has a reputation for dependably deep blacks, and I wasn’t at all disappointed. In the Blu-ray Star Trek: Into Darkness, the space scenes were deep, yet nuanced. Sometimes in the race for deep blacks, you can lose out on detail. Not so here. Spock’s coal black hair, for example, showed plenty of texture. The shadows and dark corners inside the space ship showed smooth gradation and detail.
OK, so it can do black, but what about the opposite? Getting a very dark picture from the X700 doesn’t mean you sacrifice in the bright spots. JVC claims a contrast of 120,000:1 without the iris turned on. With the iris engaged, JVC calls it over 1 million:1, which sounds ridiculous, but in practice, it looks amazing. During some of the deep space fights between the two starships, the screen is filled with bright white flashes on a dark space background, but the picture does them both perfectly.
Color fidelity and saturation is another area that the X700 excels. Star Trek is a colorful movie, from the red sort-of-trees in the alien planet of the opening scene, to all the various colors of the Star Fleet uniforms, to the rainbow lens flair that J.J. Abrams is so fond of, this JVC projector was able to gorgeously reproduce that vibrant pallet. In fact, I switched back and forth between my other projector, and was startled at the difference.
Resolution and sharpness were strong points, as you’d expect from the 4K onscreen resolution, but does that 4K thing matter? From my seating distance (about 9 feet from a 120-foot screen), I see no pixel grid on a 4K projector (or a 1080p projector), but I think JVC’s processing does add a smoothness to the image. You can also get extremely close, up to a couple of feet, before you start seeing space between pixels, but no one watches a screen that size from that distance. The true benefit, I believe, is that more pixels, with a narrow pixel gap, are going to better fill the space. I also tried out a little 4K material, and that looked great, but unless someone pointed out to you that it was 4K, you’d probably not jump out of your seat from the picture difference.
So, finally, about that brightness… Today, while 1,300 lumens is more than adequate for any dedicated theater and most multipurpose media rooms, it doesn’t sound as bright on paper as some of its competitors, particularly the affordable LCD projectors on the market. In practice though, and when set properly for the room, the JVC X700 was extremely bright in both light and color scenes. In fact, the high contrast and richness of the colors makes it appear brighter than what you’d think by just looking at specs alone. Don’t let number be your guide. Depend on the picture.
The JVC DLA-X700 3D projector is an exceptional home theater projector. At about $8,000 it’s a big price step from many of the popular LCD and DLP models, but if your budget allows, it’s worth checking out. One thing to keep in mind though, if you are interested in 3K, you’ll need to purchase the 3D emitter and glasses separately, as it doesn’t come with any.
JVC DLA-X700 3D Home Theater Projector
• eShift (4K resolution from 1080p LCOS chips)
• 120,000:1 native resolution (higher with iris on)
• 1,300 lumens
• THX & ISF modes
• Motorized lens shift
• Lens memory
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