- Written by Kris Deering
- Published on 28 December 2007
There was a lot of buzz after CEDIA and CES this past January. The projector market has been going through a huge change over the last year and the evolution of this market segment has been amazing to say the least. The specs for projectors have improved rapidly and the prices have fallen nearly as fast, and most of the buzz centers around the LCoS/SXRD market. Sony re-invented the market with its 1080p "Ruby" SXRD, setting a new bar for what could be afforded in the $10K projector arena.
- Imaging Device: Three 0.7" D-ILA 1920x1080 Panels
- Brightness: 700 ANSI Lumens
- Contrast Ratio: 15000:1
- Gennum VXP™ Video Processing
- Lens Shift: Horizontal & Vertical
- Inputs: (2) HDMI, (1) Component, (1) S-Video, (1) Composite
- Accepts 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p60, 1080p24
- MSRP: $6,299.95 USA
After hearing a flood of enthusiasm for this product and glowing reviews from industry insiders and consumers alike, I finally got my hands on one for review.
I've had lukewarm experience with JVC's previous LCoS offerings. The HD-2K was quite popular and highly regarded among aficionados, especially after a William Phelps tweaking, but I'd seen variations of this projector from Faroudja and Meridian and while it looked nice, it never sold me. Contrast wasn't what you could get from a lot of other projectors out there at more attractive prices, and the image had a harder edge to it than I would prefer, and these were "tweaked in" models.
The HD-1 is an entirely different beast, and it's easy to see why it's become probably the most popular projector of its time. Looking at the specs for this product, it is easy to see that this projector has a lot to offer and would leave very few wanting. The HD-1 boasts a native contrast ratio of 15,000:1 with its new LCoS chip. This is a number that is almost unheard of in the digital projection arena without the help of a dynamic iris. It also features two HDMI inputs, Gennum video processing, a three-chip design for better color reproduction, and a very flexible throw range combined with full horizontal and vertical lens shift. The cherry on top is the price tag. Normally a spec sheet like this would almost demand at least a mid-teens figure, but I've seen this projector sold for less than $5K on the open market; simply amazing.
JVC released two projectors that are nearly identical. There is a professional model badged as the RS-1 and a consumer model badged as the HD-1. The only difference we could find is the color of the chassis. The RS-1 is completely black, while the HD-1 has a black case with silver trim. For this review, I received the consumer model HD-1.
The HD-1 has a wide array of features. The projector is a mid-weight unit as far as digital designs go. It is about average in size but not as heavy as the reference Marantz projector I had been using at the time. The case has an inlet vent on the right of the lens and an outlet on the left side. JVC designed an air path to go around the lens assembly to help keep noise down due to the fan. Fan noise is a big complaint from a lot of projector owners, and some of the newer models out there have come a long way in keeping noise down to an almost undetectable level. The HD-1 is pretty quiet in Low Lamp mode. I barely noticed it even with my head a few feet away, but it isn't the quietest design I've used to date. During quiet passages of movies I could still detect it in the background just enough to know it was on, but it was hardly intrusive.
Switching to High Lamp mode is another matter though. The fan increases speed quite a bit, and the projector's noise is a bit more objectionable. This wasn't a big deal to me, as I never required this much light output, but it is something to consider if you're a consumer who needs that kind of lumen output.
One of the handiest features of the HD-1 is its lens shift capability. The design allows for vertical and horizontal movement of the lens, a feature that can be quite handy during an installation. This is handled via two dials beneath the lens. Overall, the feature worked as advertised, but at times the knobs didn't seem to catch correctly and the lens would shift more or less than expected. I've seen this same issue with just about every projector I've used with this feature, but the flexibility makes up for the cumbersomeness.
The zoom and focus of the lens are adjusted using levers around the lens area. I wasn't that impressed with the operation of these levers, and it was easy to affect one while dialing in the other. I also thought that focus quality across the whole screen wasn't as good as some other projectors I've used in the past, including my reference Marantz VP11S1.
The back panel has two HDMI inputs, a feature that I always love to see on new projectors as it allows more flexibility when I'm reviewing other products. You also get the standard component, S-Video, and composite inputs.
The top of the projector has controls for power and menu operation. These were easy enough to use, but since I mount projectors on my ceiling, I rarely if ever operated them.
The New Look of LCoS
JVC developed a completely new LCoS chip for this projector line. They improved their native contrast to 20,000:1, but coupled with the polarizer for the three chips and the lens assembly, they are achieving about 15,000:1 on the screen. This is one of the only projectors we've ever seen that actually met or exceeded its advertised contrast ratio. We measured as high as around 19,000:1 in some areas of the screen and down to around 12,000:1 in other areas. This is actually one of my biggest complaints about this projector though. Uniformity in black is just not that great.
Because of the lens assembly, JVC is not able to have perfect uniformity across the screen. In this case, the corners are a lot lighter than the center of the image. I actually looked at several units during this review and the level of uniformity varied quite a bit from unit to unit, with some having only a slight uniformity issue in the corners, while others had it quite bad.
During most viewing this wasn't much of an issue. I saw the problem on occasion, but it was hardly distracting. I still feel that JVC needs to try and get a handle on the issue though. We were seeing the same issues with the Sony SXRD designs, and I think it would give any company a big leg up in this market segment if they could eliminate the issue and deliver consistent contrast across the screen.
Another improvement was refresh rate. Previous LCoS designs had a bit of a "swimmy" look to me. Trails weren't much of an issue, but most of the image had a smoothed out look to it. That wasn't a problem with this unit. Image pans looked as natural as the source would allow, and I was never distracted by a processed look that too many digital displays have.