JVC DLA-X500R D-ILA 3D Projector Review Highlights
For the 2014 model year, JVC has introduced their third-generation e-shift technology that creates 4K images from a 2K light engine. They’ve also reduced the LCoS pixel gap by 40 percent and increased light output by 20 percent over last year. These projectors will accept 4K signals too making them fully compatible with future Ultra HD disc players and movie servers. Not only that, you get 3D, lens memories, and frame interpolation for improved motion resolution.
You can compare and contrast more of our Secrets’ projector reviews here.
In the current review, I will be discussing the value-priced DLA-X500R. For $5,000 you get all of the above plus a full color management system with world-beating black levels and contrast.
JVC DLA-X500R D-ILA 3D Projector Highlights Summary
- Least expensive 4K-capable projector on the market
- Outclassed in contrast performance only by JVC’s own X700R and X900R
- Greater light output than last year’s models
- Improvements in e-shift technology mean fewer artifacts and greater clarity
- Reasonably accurate color without calibration
- Motorized lens controls with generous shift and zoom make for easy installation
Introduction to the JVC DLA-X500R D-ILA 3D Projector Review
As a journalist, I get to see the steady evolution of products as companies make incremental improvements to their model lines each year. I’ve chronicled that with annual reviews of Epson projectors but I have not had that opportunity with JVC’s excellent D-ILA displays.
JVC DLA-X500R D-ILA 3D PROJECTOR SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: D-ILA 3-chip LCoS Projector
- Native Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Native Resolution: 1920 x 1080
- e-shift Resolution: 3840 x 2160
- Anamorphic Lens Support: Yes, 2D & 3D
- Lens Throw Ratio: 1.4 – 2.8:1
- Lens Shift: 80% Vertical, 34% Horizontal
- Brightness: 1,300 Lumens
- Contrast Ratio: 60,000:1
- Image Size: 60″ – 200″
- Inputs: 2 HDMI 1.4a
- Control: RS-232, RJ-45, 12v Trigger Out
- Lamp Power: 230 Watts
- Rated Lamp Life: 4,000 Hours in Low Mode
- Dimensions: 7″ H x 17.9″ W x 18.5″ D
- Weight: 32.3 Pounds
- Warranty: 2 Years
- MSRP: $5,000 USD
- 3D Emitter: $100 USD
- 3D Glasses: $180/pair USD
- SECRETS Tags: JVC, JVC Projector Reviews, JVC DLA-X500R, D-ILA, 3D Projectors, Liquid Crystal on Silicon, LCoS, Projector Reviews 2014
When I was offered JVC’s new DLA-X500R to review, I jumped at the chance to compare it to my long-time reference projector, Anthem’s LTX-500, also known as a JVC DLA-RS20. I reviewed this in my Flagship Theater review back in 2009.
That projector is five years old now but in my opinion it’s still superior to pretty much anything else I’ve seen. The X500R should, by all accounts, blow my venerable Anthem out of the water.
JVC has added quite a bit to their products in the last five years. First and foremost is 4K resolution. OK, it’s not true native 4K. The imaging chips are still 1920 x 1080 resolution. But this year, JVC introduced the third iteration of its e-shift technology that simulates 4K through a sophisticated pixel-shift process. If you remember the wobulation technique used by Texas Instruments to turn a 960 x 1080 pixel image into a 1920 x 1080 one, it’s a similar concept only in this case; the pixels shift diagonally to effectively quadruple the total pixel count.
What else has JVC added since 2009? Well, there’s 3D of course, as well as frame interpolation and lens memories. These are all things I like to check out but probably won’t tempt me into an upgrade. What I’m most interested in is e-shift and the deep blacks D-ILA projectors are famous for. Let’s take a look.
The Design of the JVC DLA-X500R D-ILA 3D Projector
JVC calls their imaging technology D-ILA (Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier) but we know it just as well by its common name, LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon). It’s similar to LCD in that three chips, one for each primary color, are used along with a UHP lamp to create the image. The difference is in how the light is directed from the bulb to the lens.
In an LCD projector, light is passed through the three imaging chips one time on its way to the lens. The chips, like the LCD layer in a television; act as a light valve. The individual crystals are twisted to either admit or block light. This is the main reason why LCD projectors are usually brighter than their LCoS counterparts. But since a heavy polarizing layer is needed to maintain image integrity, the pixel gap as shown on the screen is fairly large. This results in what’s known as “screen door effect.”
LCoS attacks that very problem by using a reflective layer behind the chip so the light passes through it twice. This makes the pixel gap extremely small. In fact, JVC has shrunk that gap another 40 percent with this year’s model line making it pretty much invisible on-screen. Since the light is passing through the liquid crystal layer twice, overall output is reduced. To get the same footLamberts on the screen, an LCoS display has to use a more powerful lamp than an LCD one. And there’s only so far you can go with wattage before heat becomes a problem.
This year’s JVC projectors are externally the same as last years. The chassis as fairly large and at over 32 pounds, heavy too. If you’re upgrading from a lightweight LCD model, make sure your mounting system is up to the task. If you use a shelf, there are four large feet that are independently adjustable for precise leveling.
The lens is center-mounted with a large metal trim ring around it. Everything is finished in a matte-black plastic; a great choice for dark theaters. Lens controls are all motorized so there are no dials or levers to clutter the front or top panels. Shift and zoom are quite generous so you should have no problem adapting the X500R to just about any small to medium-sized theater. Ventilation is accomplished by two intakes on the rear and two exhausts on the front. I didn’t see any light leakage from them at all. The fan is almost silent at the lamp’s low setting and still fairly quiet on high.
Around back is a small control panel that just has the basics; power, menu navigation, and input toggle. Speaking of inputs, there are only two HDMI 1.4a ports. JVC has completely eliminated the analog circuitry. Control can be accomplished via Ethernet or RS-232, and there is a single 12v trigger out. The only other input is for the 3D emitter which is a small plastic piece that syncs with the glasses via RF.
The $100 emitter is tiny and won’t be noticed at all once plugged in. The glasses are light and comfortable; as they should be given their lofty $180 price-tag. These items are sold separately unless you buy the $12,000 X900R which includes the emitter and two pairs of glasses.
The glasses charge via an included USB-mini cable. You can use your computer or an appropriate wall-wart to juice them up fully in about 90 minutes. Pairing requires two presses of the power button on the right earpiece. After 60 seconds of inactivity they will power down automatically.
The remote is similar to past JVC projector wands. At the top are discrete power keys. The input selector is a single toggle which isn’t a big deal since there are only two inputs. Following that are buttons for quick access to things like 3D and Clear Motion Drive. In the middle is the menu navigation. Rounding out the control pad are picture mode keys and buttons for gamma, color temp, color profile, and the picture adjust menu. The handset is fully backlit and very powerful. I had no trouble bouncing my wishes off the screen. The X500R’s chassis has IR receivers on the front and back.
Setup of the JVC DLA-X500R D-ILA 3D Projector
The X500R was installed right-side-up on a stand behind my seating. I got my first taste of its astounding image quality when I put up a crosshatch pattern for focus and alignment. Squaring and sizing the picture was a breeze thanks to a fully-motorized lens control. Focusing however was a revelation. Normally, I tweak focus until I can clearly see the pixel gap. This projector however has none whatsoever. Even when I got close enough to the screen to leave a grease spot with my nose, I couldn’t see any gap at all! It was actually a bit difficult to set focus but after some back and forth tweaking, I had it.
The menu system is quite changed from my 2009-vintage Anthem LTX-500. Let’s take a look.
All the important controls are accessed from the Picture Adjust menu starting with the Picture Mode. Selecting that takes you to another screen where you can choose not only the mode but also engage Clear Black (subtle edge enhancement in black transitions), Lamp Power, Lens Aperture (2 Auto modes and Manual), and rename the four User modes. The preset modes include Cinema, Animation, Natural, Stage, and the aforementioned User 1-4. All calibration parameters can be adjusted in all the modes. When a 4K signal is input an additional mode appears called appropriately, 4K. Many adjustments are locked out here including the CMS.
When you switch to 3D, the picture mode appears to stay the same but it is in fact a separate adjustable memory. Once you make your changes they will always be there when you send a 3D signal in that particular mode. Something I’ve always loved about JVC projectors are the individual memories for color gamut, color temp, and gamma. You can create your own presets for these parameters and call them up in any picture mode you want. This is extremely handy when you want to mix and match standards like say a Rec.601 gamut and D54 white point for black and white movies.
If you’re looking for the e-shift controls, they are found in the MPC Level sub-menu. You can turn it off if you like. There are also sliders here for Enhance, Dynamic Contrast, and Smoothing. They make subtle changes to gamma and are best left alone for the sake of accuracy. I never had occasion or need to turn off the e-shift.
Moving downward we have the Clear Motion Drive which is JVC’s term for frame interpolation. It has Low, High, or Off settings. Rounding out the menu is Brightness, Contrast, Color, and Tint.
The next menu won’t need much attention except for the Input Level option. By default its set to Auto and it will clip signal information above white and below black. If you want to see this detail, you’ll have to change it to Enhanced. There’s also a Super White setting which restores the above white levels but still clips black below level 16.
The third menu, Installation, is where you’ll find the lens memory feature. It allows you to set zoom, shift, and focus options then save them to one of five memory slots. This is perfect for those using a cinemascope screen without an anamorphic lens. Once the movie starts, simply select the memory for widescreen and watch those black bars disappear off the top and bottom of your screen.
The only other thing I checked out in the remaining menus was the Pixel Adjust function. If you see any color tint in a white field pattern, or color fringing around fine image details, you can fix it with this convergence control. While it effectively addresses these issues, it will reduce resolution. My sample had perfect convergence already so I didn’t need to make any adjustments.
To calibrate the X500R I chose the Natural mode and created custom setups for color, color temp, and gamma. There is more detail on this in the benchmark section. In my theater, Low lamp power was enough to get me to 18 footLamberts peak output which is plenty of light. It also means there is virtually no fan noise. The High setting increases fan speed but it’s still pretty quiet.
JVC included a 3D emitter and a pair of glasses with my press sample. I plugged the emitter into the back of the X500R and charged the glasses via USB from my computer. Pairing the glasses requires two presses of the power button once the projector is in 3D mode.
Now that everything is properly tweaked, let’s watch some movies!
The JVC DLA-X500R D-ILA 3D Projector In Use
The image from the X500R must truly be seen to be believed. I’ve seen many adjectives written about the other new JVC models like intoxicating, addictive, and compelling. Yeah, it’s all those and more! Oh, and don’t forget breathtaking. Contrast is on another level from any other projector I’ve seen to date. And that’s without the excellent auto-iris. Even in its native state, it was like watching a giant plasma TV in my theater.
Dune is a classic sci-fi flick from 1984 that has been given an excellent treatment on Blu-ray. That being said, it long pre-dates the digital age and therefore has plenty of soft imaging, film grain, and obvious use of compositing in its special effects. The opening scenes in the Emperor’s palace were quite a surprise to me. All the actors are dressed in black costumes and the background is a brightly-lit gold. Everyone literally popped out from the screen; like it was 3D only it wasn’t. This is contrast and clarity at its finest.
Of course this projector will show you the bad as well as the good. During the sequence in Paul’s quarters, when Gurney approaches from behind to begin shield practice, the image suddenly goes soft just before the body shield effect comes into play. It didn’t impact my enjoyment of the film but when a display renders detail this well, you’re going to see some things not necessarily intended to be seen.
I tried both the 3D conversion feature and the Clear Motion Drive (frame interpolation) during this film. I experienced a nice surprise when I watched scenes from Dune in 3D. While darker material didn’t look any different, the brighter sequences rendered a decent 3D effect. This is about the best conversion I’ve seen outside of a 4K television.
Clear Motion Drive has been on JVC projectors for several generations now. It makes a noticeable improvement in motion resolution but the net effect always looks flat and un-natural to me. The X500R has two settings, Low and High. Even the Low setting was too much for my taste. There were no artifacts like screen tears present, which is a good thing.
Turning to Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel, gave the X500R a chance to strut its stuff with a reference-quality transfer. It didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Again the characters just popped from the background in a way I truly haven’t seen before. There is plenty of deep dark material in this film and at no time did I see a loss of detail. This is truly the first display that I can say matches contrast performance with my Pioneer Kuro plasma TV. And as you’ll see in the benchmarks, the numbers support my perception.
Casino Royale is a great film to watch for its warm natural color and its excellent black & white opening chapter. During said opening, I saw lots of film grain which softened detail somewhat. In this case, perhaps the X500R’s clarity was a little TOO good! Once the film switched to color, the grain went away and all I saw were lush saturated hues and more of that phenomenal clarity. The brightest portions had a virtually endless sense of depth and dimension that was truly compelling.
Star Trek Into Darkness comes in both 2D and 3D versions so this was my chance to make a back-to-back comparison. I always go for the first part that takes place on a very red alien planet. The X500R’s accurate color ruled the day here as those reds looked entirely believable and loaded with detail.
Dropping in the 3D disc, my first impression was that the gamma had gone a little bright. A check of my settings confirmed that I was still set to 2.4. The only change I made was to kick the lamp into its High mode. I won’t go as far as to say it looked washed out but there was definitely less contrast in the mid-tones. My luminance measurements showed a peak output drop of 84 percent so it makes sense that some of that brightness loss was at fault. It made the image no less excellent though when I marveled at some of the cleanest and deepest 3D I’d seen in a while. There are brighter 3D projectors out there but none have this kind of contrast.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 3D is the first 3D Blu-ray I ever bought. As such, I’ve watched this film on every generation of 3D display up to the current day. It’s a good test of crosstalk and depth. I had already measured a ridiculously low figure of .39 percent so I didn’t expect to see any ghosting, and I didn’t. I also saw more depth than ever. And even though e-shift is not available in 3D, the image is sharp enough that I was fooled into thinking it was.
I did experience two ergonomic issues with the X500R. First, the HDMI handshake process was extremely slow when changing input resolutions, refresh rates, or signal formats. This is problematic when wading through the previews and ads that introduce most Blu-ray titles. Every time the signal changed, the projector went dark for as long as 30 seconds while it tried to lock on. The second issue involved the 3D glasses. The instructions say you only have to pair them once but for me that was not the case. I had to power them up, hold them within one meter of the projector, and press the button again to pair every time I watched 3D content. After talking to JVC, they informed me that this is not normal behavior. The glasses should remain permanently linked with the emitter even when changing it to another projector. I obviously received a defective pair.
The JVC DLA-X500R D-ILA 3D Projector On The Bench
I installed the projector right-side-up at a 12-foot throw distance. Test gear included Accupel DVG-5000 & DVDO AVLab TPG pattern generators, i1Pro spectrophotometer, Spectracal C-6 colorimeter, and CalMAN 5.2 software. Measurements were taken off the screen; Carada Brilliant White, gain 1.4.
I measured both the Cinema and Natural modes and found Natural to most closely match Rec.709 color and a D65 white point. You can calibrate any mode on the X500R; no controls are locked out for 1080p signals.
If you don’t plan to calibrate the JVC, the Natural preset is your best choice. Grayscale errors are slightly red but not visible to the naked eye. The average Delta E here is 1.7; well below the generally accepted threshold of 3.0.
Gamma was measured against the new BT.1886 standard. Many displays will not conform to this slightly changed curve. For an explanation of the differences, please refer to my review of the BenQ W7500 DLP projector (insert link). The default gamma preset is called Normal and you can see by the chart it has a few problems. The peak at 10 percent and dip at 90 percent will actually crush a little detail even when the brightness and contrast controls are adjusted. I’ll show you how to fix this below.
Here are the out-of-box color measurements.
Natural mode defaults to the Standard color profile. It’s pretty good except for some under-saturation in red, magenta, and blue. You can see JVC’s engineers have upped the luminance for those colors to compensate. The net result isn’t too bad but for a display of this caliber and price point, it could be better.
After calibration of the gain and offset controls, the grayscale tracking is almost perfect.
Starting with a base color temp of 6500K in the color temp menu, I was able to improve the grayscale accuracy to near-perfection with only small adjustments. The controls don’t interact so it’s an easy result to achieve.
There’s no multi-point gamma control like I’ve used on past JVC projectors so fixing those issues required me to measure several presets until I found one that worked. If you want the BT.1886 curve, select Custom and enter a Correction Value of 2.4. That will result in the measurement recorded above. If you find this gamma a little dark for your taste (I didn’t), just change the value downward.
In the past you had to purchase the $8000 JVC model to get a color management system. Now you can get it on the $5000 one but there’s a caveat; it doesn’t work all that well.
You can see this chart is greatly improved over the pre-calibration result but it’s not from changes made to the hue, saturation, and luminance controls. All I had to do was select a custom color profile and turn color management on (it’s off by default). This tightened the chart up nicely; which is good because no other adjustments I attempted would make things better. So the bottom line is the CMS’ adjustments won’t improve color beyond simply turning it on.
JVC projectors are renowned for their native contrast and the latest models are boasting the highest numbers yet. To get any native black level measurements at all, I had to set the bulb to High and open the iris up all the way. When I did so, the peak output was 28.5307 footLamberts, the minimum black level was an astounding .0016, and the overall contrast ratio was 17723.9 to 1.
If you close down the iris, engage either auto iris mode, or return the bulb to its Low setting, the black level becomes immeasurable. Displaying a black field will close down the auto iris to the point where you can barely tell the projector is on. To say this is an astounding result is to engage in understatement. The X500R is the first display I’ve measured that can match black levels with a Pioneer Kuro plasma TV.
Black levels in 3D are also immeasurable, even with the bulb on High. I recorded a peak output number of 4.5379 fL which is 84 percent below the 2D number. This is about average for all the 3D projectors I’ve reviewed. The only one that measured significantly higher is the Epson 5020UBE I reviewed last year which peaked at 11.468 fL.
The X500R crops one pixel off the bottom of the image in all signal modes. To see above white and below black signals Input Signal must be set to Auto or Enhanced. Standard will clip information below 16 and above 235 no matter what the format. The 2:2 pulldown failure is a common one, but it barely passed the 3:2 test. It took about a second to lock on and maintained the lock thereafter.
I added a new DVDO 4K pattern generator to my test kit just in time for this review. It supports resolutions up to 4096 x 2160 at 24p and 3840 x 2160 at 24, 25, 30, 50, and 60p. The latter will only work in a 4:2:0 signal format. All of these resolutions are also accepted by the X500R over HDMI. I didn’t have any actual 4K content to play but the test patterns rendered properly in all 4K variations. With 2160p signals at 60 Hz, the display is locked into a special 4K picture mode that eliminates the CMS, gamma, and iris controls. Since the majority of UltraHD content is likely to be film-based, 24p is all you need and the X500R is fully adjustable when receiving a 2160p/24 signal.
Conclusions about the JVC DLA-X500R D-ILA 3D Projector
- World-beating black levels and contrast
- Improved light output over previous models
- Superb clarity and sharpness
- Decent out-of-box accuracy
- Motorized lens controls enable precise image alignment
- CMS does not work properly
- No multi-point gamma control
- Slow HDMI handshake
- Dim 3D
- Glasses require pairing every time you watch 3D
So just how far has JVC come in the last five years? Well there’s no doubt that the X500R beats my Anthem in the black level and contrast department; not by a ton but certainly enough that I could see a difference. I think that I was more impressed with e-shift though. The clarity and crispness of the image was something I had not seen in my theater before. Even the Runco and Samsung projectors I’ve reviewed with their high-end optics could not match the detail and depth of the picture I saw from the X500R.
I like to review products that offer a lot of value and this projector is a great example of that. Yes it does cost a bit more than the Epson 50-series models and it won’t put out quite as much light but if you have the right room conditions, the image quality is truly worth the extra coin.
As you can see from the tests, accuracy is not quite perfect but it’s pretty close. I encountered a few small errors in color and gamma which I could not fix. The CMS is there but it doesn’t work well enough to achieve that last elusive one percent. None of this reduced my enjoyment of simply watching movies though. Even when I just wanted to view a few scenes, I found a lot more time passing by than planned.
The star of the show has to be the X500R’s incredible black levels and contrast. I’ve always wished for a brighter JVC projector and this one improves upon its predecessors. You wouldn’t want to hang it in a sports bar but if you have a room where all light can be eliminated, you’ll be rewarded with the best image this side of a Pioneer Kuro. I’ve always maintained that dynamic range is the most important element of imaging science and JVC obviously agrees with me because they’ve managed to push the envelope beyond what most thought possible.
For a small to medium-large theater, I can think of no better choice than any of the 2014 X-model JVC D-ILA projectors. That you can get that incredible quality for $5000 is just icing on the cake. The X500R receives my absolute highest recommendation.