JVC DLA-X3 3D £3600
22nd Mar 2011 | 09:30
JVC's affordable 3D lightbox ushers in a new era for D-ILA home projectors
JVC DLA-X3: Overview
JVC has built a towering fan base around its D-ILA projectors. They've earned a reputation for industry-leading black levels and image clarity, yet crucially are not the most expensive in the market.
Now the brand has upped the ante by making its entire 2011 range 3D-compatible. The buzz about these three models has been so great, JVC sold out its entire first shipment almost immediately after they were announced.
Perhaps this is because JVC's proprietary D-ILA technology offers several benefits over LCD and DLP. The extraordinary contrast they offer is native and not dynamic. This means that a D-ILA projector does not require an automatic iris to manage light output; there's a uniformity of deep blacks and peak whites in every frame, with no mechanical iris hunting from scene to scene.
The DLA-X3 reviewed here is the cheapest model in the group, yet it claims an impressive 50,000:1 native contrast ratio. Naturally it also helps that the unit is attractive.
The centre-mounted lens and symmetrical air vents give it a neat, balanced look. All the input terminals are at the rear, allowing for straightforward installation and cable runs. These air vents (protected by what looks like chicken wire) are larger than we've seen before, principally because the new 220W Short-Arc High Efficiency UHP mercury lamp runs hotter than previous bulbs.
One reason why the projector throws out more light, around 1,300 ANSI lumens, is so that it can compensate for the filtering effect of 3D spex. JVC quotes a lamp life of around 3,000 hours in Normal mode.
The DLA-X3 should fit most home cinema spaces; it's able to throw an image up to 200-inches across within a projection distance range of 3.01m to 6.08m.
JVC DLA-X3: Features
3D and more
It's not just 3D compatibility that's new for 2011. JVC has fundamentally redesigned the D-ILA optical engine on the X3. A new device driver and wire grid mean even less pixel visibility. The result is an astonishingly smooth and cinematic image, with astounding black levels.
Also new this year is the provision of Adobe RGB, DCI and sRGB colour profiles, expanding the projector's appeal beyond mere Blu-ray playback. Gamers and digital photographers take note.
Despite an obvious long-term commitment to 3D, both with its projectors and, increasingly, its camcorder lines, the provision of a separate 3D sync emitter (PK-EM1) strikes me as a little short term. Unlike Sony, which has built the sync transmitter into the lens barrel of its own 3D projector (the VPL-VW90ES), JVC has elected to keep the unit separate, meaning you'll need to hardwire it directly to the rear of the projector yet somehow accommodate it within your install.
The reason given is that 3D is being sold as an optional extra in most sales territories. However, JVC UK has elected to include the transmitter and a pair of glasses as standard.
The projector supports frame sequential 3D Blu-ray, Side-by-Side 3D as used by Sky and other broadcasters, plus other formats you'll probably never need. Googlers should be aware that the X3 has a sibling model from JVC's Pro division, the DLA-RS40.
Outside of the nomenclature there's no difference in the product. Similarly, the DLA-RS50 and DLA-RS60 correspond to the DLA-X7 and DLA-X9 respectively.
JVC DLA-X3: Performance
I was expecting the DLA-X3 to be a wow and I wasn't disappointed. This is home cinema on a near professional scale. Motion picture resolution is excellent; JVC's proprietary double-speed Clear Motion Drive technology has been tweaked to better reduce motion blur, and now offers the choice of both frame interpolation and black frame insertion techniques.
You'll find these lurking under the Mode settings. Modes 1 & 2 utilise black insertion between frames, while Modes 3 & 4 use frame interpolation. Even if you choose not to use Clear Motion Drive, the projector is largely free from panning judder.
As a 2D full HD projector, the X3 is fabulously good for the ticket price. Images are richly detailed, with excellent black levels and intense colours. Shadow detail and textures create image depth, even without the need to don 3D glasses.
A standard scrolling test pattern, without the projector's Clear Motion picture processing engaged, delivers a native moving resolution of less than 700 lines at 6.5ppf (pixels per frame). With Blu-ray footage, this translates to a naturalistic cinematic picture.
However, engage Clear Motion (I preferred Mode 1 from the several available) and detail bristles up to 1080 lines. This translates to a super-crisp image. I did note a slight, left-hand shadow on our scrolling test image, although this was not apparent on real world footage.
When I increase the speed of the scrolling pattern to 12.5ppf, image detail is still held, but that greenish shadow became more prevalent.
The wider colour gamut offered by the projector needs to be treated with caution. Wider gamut may seem a good idea, and look nice on a chromaticity chart, but switched on some hues become far too vivid (particularly red) with standard HD content. Perhaps some might like it for video games (if you want to add a level of glam to FPS gore), but for movies? I don't think so. My advice is keep colour on the Standard setting.
As a standard-def projector, the model also shines. Interpolation is excellent and the model aced our jaggies tests. Good news if you have a large DVD collection.
The projector's 3D performance raises some issues, however. To compensate for light lost through the JVC-branded ExpanD 3D glasses, there is a dedicated 3D mode in the menu. Activate this and the projector immediately boosts colour and brightness; the lamp similarly leaps to its High setting with a corresponding increase in fan noise.
Although the optimised 3D mode works well with some content, I actually felt it was often too glary. With Ice Age 3, the image was bathed in an icy glaze. A better balance could be obtained with the settings fine-tuned for 2D.
Which brings us to the ongoing phenomenon of crosstalk: regretfully, I have to confirm that the DLA-X3 does suffer from double-imaging. This became immediately apparent on the positive parallax credits of Monsters Vs Aliens, as well as the positive parallax verticals of the accompanying church steeple.
Similarly, when Scully comes out of cryo at the beginning of Avatar (3D Blu-ray), it's also evident on the fins and struts of his space ship. It's worth noting that the projector offers no specific onboard parallax control, unlike Sony's rival VPLEW90ES. You can't tune out double imaging in the foreground or minimise crosstalk manually. What you see is what you get.
On the plus side, the 3D images can be as bright as you want and there's demonstrable depth to its stereoscopy. It's worth noting that the Clear Motion Drive picture processing is switched off when the projector is handling a 3D source, and you can't manually opt to activate it.
JVC DLX-X3: Test data
Power consumption: Watts
White screen: 230W
This amount of energy consumption is common for a projector of this size.
Test footage: 230W
As we have come to expect from most projectors, power output does not change when watching live footage. Switch the bulb to "high output" and energy consumption jumps 307W.
Very good real world contrast ratio from this JVC. Contrast ratio jumped to 73,468:1 using the 3D setting.
Colour accuracy: 6289K
High Bright: 7701K
This JVC projector has a lot of user options available. We were able to achieve a perfect white temperature of 6500K using the wide variety of colour options available.
JVC DLA-X3: Verdict
The DLA-X3 is a seriously desirable home theatre projector, with a 2D performance that's ridiculously fine for the money. The DLA-X7 and DLA-X9 models may offer superior contrast, but there's nothing here to really grumble about.
Black level performance and fine detailing remain top dollar. The X3 is also well built and at 20dB, whisper-quiet in operation.
Its 3D performance is similarly exciting, although there remain some issues with performance and execution. The separate sync transmitter is inelegant, and there's also that thorny issue of crosstalk. Many viewers will doubtless be able to ignore the latter (3D is currently little more than a fun diversion, after all), however, I still feel there is work for JVC to do in this area.
It'll be interesting to see how the step-up THX-rated models compare.
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