Review: JVC DLA-X90R 3D HD Projector

Ready or not, here comes 4K. . . sort of. Having maxed out HD resolution years ago and flogged the 3D horse ’til everyone got bored and went back to their coffee, TV manufacturers are now going above and beyond. Above and beyond the ATSC HD maximum resolution spec, that is, to 4K.

When used in reference to digital cinema projection, a 4K image is 4,096 pixels wide by somewhere around 2,160 vertical. The vertical resolution varies depending on the aspect ratio and specific digital format. That variation means there’s no “true” 4K, which is how JVC can get away with using the label for its 3,840 x 2,160-resolution projector

Except the DLA-X90R actually isn’t 4K. The D-ILA chips inside the projector have a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels. Through a technology that JVC calls e-Shift, the 1080p image is first upconverted internally, with each pixel in the display then — for lack of a funnier-sounding word — wobbled slightly, a process that increases onscreen resolution to 3,840 by 2,160 pixels, or four times that of standard full HD. Native 4K content isn’t yet available (not that the X90R could accept it), but even so, it’s at least theoretically possible that this Faux4 (TM GM, 2012) process could increase visible resolution.

Setup

The DLA-X90R shares its overall chassis with the past few JVC front projectors, so there are no visual surprises. It’s a glossy black box, with a few cut angles for “flair.” Art Deco meets KITT from Knight Rider. Like other JVC projectors past and present, the X90R offers significant horizontal and vertical lens shift to ease installation. All aspects of the lens are motorized, so you can stand at the screen and get everything exactly lined up. New for this year are lens memories so that if, like me, you have a 2.35:1 screen, you can set both a 16x9 mode and a zoomed-out 21x9 mode and rapidly switch between them for TV or movie viewing.

Setting focus led to my first stumble with the DLAX90R. There are no pixels! At least that’s what I first thought. If you’ve ever set up a projector, you know that the best way to set focus is to look for the edges of the pixels onscreen to verify sharpness. Not seeing any pixels, even up close, led me to believe that with Faux4, the higher resolution made the pixels too small to be useful. Further testing revealed two other factors to be the problem. The first was that the motorized focus has extremely coarse steps — it was nearly impossible to get it precisely focused using that method.

The other issue was surprisingly poor panel alignment. With any 3-chip projector, tiny shifts in the red, green, and blue panels can lead to onscreen convergence errors, which limit resolution. JVC offers both pixel and sub-pixel panel-alignment adjustments, but I still couldn’t get it perfect. (These adjustments are probably fine with 1080p, but inadequate with e-Shift.) While the situation was frustrating, I ultimately don’t think it had an impact on performance.

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