JVC DLA-G150CL D-ILA front projector TJN Comments
I was able to spend a few days with our photo sample of the JVC DLA-G150CL, using it with my 80-inch-wide, 16:9 FireHawk screen.
I calibrated it with the Photo Research PR-650 spectroradiometer. The gray-scale results were not quite as good as PP's—his are shown in the "Calibration" sidebar, mine ranged from about 7900 kelvins at 20 IRE and 7100K at 30 IRE to 6373K at 100 IRE. After gray-scale setup and proper calibration of brightness (using a PLUGE pattern) and contrast (just short of the point where details at and near peak white start to crush together and become hard to resolve), I measured a peak (100 IRE) output of 13.5 foot-lamberts. This surprised me—the D-ILA technology has a reputation for unusually high brightness. It certainly looked bright, but my screen is not all that large. A reading of 13.5ft-L is impressive by CRT standards, but it ain't Cancun at noon. Put that same picture on a 9-foot-wide (108 inches) screen and suddenly you'll see a peak white output of 8.6ft-L. (The change in output is directly proportional to the ratio of the areas of the screens.)
Nor was my peak contrast measurement all that impressive at 360 peak (a full 100 IRE field vs. the black field produced by an open input). This is comparable to the contrast produced by Sony's new VPL-VW12HT LCD projector (review in progress), as were other contrast measurements, such as ANSI (16-square checkerboard).
The bottom line is that the JVC's subjective brightness was only slightly greater than the Sony's, and its blacks and black-level details—judged both from the measurements and by viewing typically challenging, low-contrast program material—were comparable but certainly no better.
The JVC produced a remarkably smooth-looking yet detailed image, likely due to its high-resolution 4:3 chip and the very small gaps between pixels in the D-ILA technology. But the 4:3 chip, combined with the projector's gray blacks, created a problem with widescreen images: a distinct gray halo all around the active picture area. I strongly recommend at least a foot of black masking above and below the screen, and perhaps half that at the sides. Even then, you might find the stray light distracting. It will certainly reflect off of any center-channel speaker placed below the bottom of the screen; you won't want one with a light-colored grille or with uncovered, bright metal drivers. True 16:9 LCoS chips (LCoS is the generic term for D-ILA) are already in the technology pipeline from several companies, and will eliminate this problem. For us, they can't come soon enough.
There was also considerable light leakage out of the projector case itself, both on the right side (facing the lens) and bottom. And audiophiles should carefully judge the noise level of the JVC for themselves. I found it more obtrusive than PP did. It's much quieter than earlier D-ILAs, but clearly noisier than many of the latest, home-theater–dedicated DLP and LCD designs.
My sample of the DLA-G150CL put out a respectable post-calibration image, but I wasn't overly impressed—I've seen the projector look much better at a number of public demonstrations. The quality of the picture seemed to vary quite a bit with the average picture brightness, and not always in the ways typical of a projector with so-so blacks. I suspect the DLA-G150CL needed better internal adjustment of its red, green, and blue gamma settings. (Gamma is the relationship between the level of the input video source and the brightness of the image, and is generally a nonlinear function.)
JVC D-ILA projectors have traditionally had extensive internal adjustments that allow the experienced technician to fine-tune the picture in a number of ways (and the inexperienced to destroy it). Our photo sample—not the sample PP reviewed—had about 300 hours on it when we got it, so it's possible that at some point someone did some less than optimal fiddling with it.
There's a lesson here: Perhaps more than most digital projectors, the JVC DLA-G150CL must be carefully set up to perform at its best, and can look sub-par when it isn't. That setup unfortunately involves more than the typical gray-scale calibration that your average calibration technician, ISF or otherwise, has been trained to perform.—Thomas J. Norton