JVC DLA-G150CL D-ILA front projector Page 2
JVC's remote may be a throwback to older, larger designs, but I like it. The layout is minimal and clean, and the buttons are easy enough to find in a dim room (although a backlight would help). Direct access to inputs is always a good thing—why make people cycle through unused inputs?
I don't understand why JVC can't provide some degree of vertical lens offset for the DLA-G150CL. It's available with the longer-throw GL-M2930SZG lens and would make installation much easier, particularly when tweaking the focal-length settings. A fixed 50% lens offset means the image will climb the wall as you zoom out, so having even 20–30% of additional vertical shift would be very handy when you realize the screen isn't in exactly the right position.
The menu couldn't be simpler. It's small and innocuous, it appears in the upper right of the screen, and it offers a fair amount of control over the image. For image-quality adjustments, the three gamma presets are Low, Cinema, and High. I found Cinema worked best for all video sources; it didn't look half bad with PC sources, either.
There are also three color-temperature settings, identified as Low, Medium, and High instead of correlating to absolute numbers. The middle setting is recommended for video projection, and in fact does approach D6500 at some point on a gray scale. For best results, an installer should use a color analyzer with a lookup table for a xenon arc lamp and set the DLA-G150CL's RGB drive controls with a stepped gray scale to pull the white balance closer to true D6500.
One oddity of the DLA-G150CL was the need to choose the correct aspect ratio when viewing 720p and 1080i HDTV signals. I'd expect to make such a switch with 480i and 480p material, but most projectors default to 16:9 for component HDTV. The good news is that the JVC accepts HDTV signals in the RGB format as well as component. You can enlarge 480i and 480p signals to fill the frame, or pass them through with a 1:1 pixel map. Anamorphic sources can be stretched to fit the width of the 4:3 panels, but you'll have black bars top and bottom.
The power zoom lens is tricky to focus, as I mentioned. According to JVC's Edgar Shane, product manager for the DLA-G150CL, the GL-M2920ZG, 2–3.1 zoom lens has tremendous depth of focus, making it compatible with both flat and curved screens. As a result, I spent some time holding down the Focus button wondering if I really had the image in sharp focus, or if the image was slightly soft. A couple of grid and text patterns from my PC did the trick.
I don't recommend using the DLA-G150CL's composite-video input if you can help it. The projector's comb filter was pretty ineffective; I observed lots of color moiré with the static and moving Zone Plate patterns from Video Essentials. There was an abundance of cross-color artifacts seen in the 300- and 400-line grids, too. Stay with the S-video or 3-wire component hookups if at all possible.
The projector's deinterlacing and motion-compensation circuits were average—certainly not up to the Panasonic DVD-RP56 with its Faroudja FLI2200 (DCDi) chip. The flag-waving and bridge sequences on Video Essentials had plenty of residual scan-line artifacts, and the internal 3:2 motion-compensation circuit was a bit slow in picking up the cadence at times. I strongly suggest using an outboard scaler with this projector. Any number of them support 1365x1024 output and have adequate deinterlacing and motion-compensation processors.
Compared to 480-line sources, HDTV looked best on the DLA-G150CL; scaler output rates of 720p, 768p, or 1024p should do the best job for you. JVC has engineered plenty of bandwidth into this projector; it held luminance and chrominance detail all the way out to 37.5MHz in both 720p and 1080i modes.
What hooks people on D-ILA projectors is their amazing rendering of color. Thanks to the xenon lamp and some calibration with my FSR CA-1 analyzer, flesh tones and pastels were pretty much right on the money. It's not much different from watching images from a good CRT projector, just brighter. HDTV from The Young and the Restless and 720p footage of the Academy Awards ceremonies were outstanding, with good detail and smooth color blending. In fact, I preferred the look of native 720p displayed on this projector to downconverted 1080i.
But there's always a catch, and two things came between the DLA-G150CL and better video. The first was the low contrast ratio that is typical of D-ILA devices and caused by high black levels. Those same high black levels masked shadow detail in dark movies like Men In Black and The Fifth Element, and made it tricky to watch footage from HD shows like Alias and CSI, which are shot with what's called high key lighting: bright highlights and deep shadows.
The second was the appearance of dynamic false contours, particularly at low luminance levels. I observed these with not only the MIB and The Fifth Element DVDs, but also with the previously mentioned HDTV shows and the demo D-VHS tape that came with JVC's HM-DH30000U D-VHS deck. The culprit was insufficient bit depth when sampling gray scales, another problem that might be overcome with a quality outboard video scaler.
I also noticed a bit of smearing in fast-motion sequences, similar to that seen on LCD TVs with insufficient pixel-switching times. This wasn't a big problem, but it did make some 720p and 1080i programs look softer than they should have. On the other hand, the high aperture ratio and indistinct delineations between pixels on the D-ILA devices are more pleasing to the eye than the more obvious pixel structure on conventional LCDs when watching a movie, as they resemble grain more than anything else.
JVC projectors are all about the color. Given time to fiddle around, you can get beautiful, CRT-like color out of the DLA-G150CL, although you won't see a correspondingly CRT-like grayscale. Choose your lenses carefully: the 420W xenon lamp is rated at a maximum of 1000 ANSI lumens using the 1.5:1 lens. That number will decrease with other lenses that have smaller apertures.
The DLA-G150CL is a diamond in the rough. To realize its full potential, pair it with a quality video scaler. (Faroudja has been doing some interesting things with D-ILA projectors that really improve scaling, deinterlacing, and gray-scale bit depth.) Even a basic 480p DVD player with the Faroudja FLI2200 or 2300 chips will make a big improvement.