JVC DLA-HD750 D-ILA Projector Page 2

In theory, I love this. The idea that consumers can simply push the THX Cinema mode button and get a reasonably accurate picture with no deleterious processing engaged has huge potential. There’s just a couple of rubs here. Even in THX mode, the projector defaults to an auto HDMI mode that clips above-white and below-black signals. When I engaged the Enhanced HDMI mode in the menus, the head and toe room came back, but then the default brightness and contrast settings weren’t correct anymore. That’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s exactly the kind of fuss that a THX mode is designed to eliminate.

The color gamut and color tracking were both quite good for out-of-box measurements in THX mode, but both needed work. There’s a bit of a dance that goes on between the color points and the color luminance values, and the results I preferred weren’t always what I expected. (See “Color Me Accurate?” sidebar.) Also, it’s a little disappointing that the THX mode locks users and calibrators out of the user-menu adjustments for gray scale and the Color-Management system. You can select one of the User modes and adjust the CMS, but then the THX mode will no longer be the standard for accuracy.

My last issue with this PJ’s implementation of the JVC’s THX mode is a real how-did-they-miss-this-one head-slapper. JVC’s remote includes direct, single-button access to every picture mode, save one. You guessed it. You have to dig in and manually select THX mode in the user menus. A single button push to THX rightness would’ve been swell.

Setup and Tests
I was anxious to fire up the DLA-HD750’s new and improved optics. Looking at white geometric patterns showed very good convergence at the center of the screen and diminishing alignment at the sides of the image. In addition, I saw an odd clouding effect around some white objects that could have resulted from some reflections or light scatter in the projector’s optics. Although single-pixel-width resolution bursts were clearly resolved, the overall focus was just a smidge off from what I saw with the DLA-HD100 and not as crisp as the best single-chip DLP designs I’ve seen. Comparisons revealed that very fine object detail was resolved just a bit better on the DLA-HD100, although this is really splitting hairs (the really fine ones that only A/Bs reveal).

After calibration, color tracking across the range was exceptional, and the custom gamma curves tracked their targets to virtual perfection. I dialed up a 2.3 gamma curve and found the results to be seductively film-like. White- and black-field uniformity, which is a bugaboo of some three-chippers, was also excellent. I looked at ramps and some computer animation known to accentuate banding or false contouring, and these revealed performance that was at least as good as the DLA-HD100 if not a little better. However, as with previous D-ILA designs, horizontal camera panning at the right speed causes an artifact that’s similar to false contouring. It only occurs with certain program material and with some test material that shows response-time issues with LCD flat panels. Other projectors, including some DLPs we’ve tested, are entirely free of these artifacts. This is seldom visible, so it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me.

As noted, the DLA-HD750 features a 16-step adjustable iris. The default Lens Aperture setting is 0, which is wide open. A setting of –15 offers the least light output and ostensibly the highest contrast. On my 80-inch screen, the white-window output at 100-plus hours on the bulb ranged from just over 20 foot-lamberts at 0 and 13.22 at my preferred –12 setting. I measured very carefully and found that I could open the iris to –12 without sacrificing contrast, so that’s where I left it. The DLA-HD750 isn’t a light torch, but it will produce plenty of punch on a screen that’s quite a bit bigger than mine in a room with solid light control. It looked terrific on Kris Deering’s 120-inch-diagonal screen in his black hole of a room, for example. (My testing was performed in the Normal lamp mode, but it also has a High mode that was not tested here.) There’s just no substitute for deep blacks.

The HQV Reon-VX video processor performed as I expected it to, which is to say excellent. Over HDMI, it did an outstanding job scaling standard-def signals to the PJ’s 1080p resolution, and it passed all of our 1080i high-def deinterlacing tests with flying colors, so virtually all incoming signals will look their best.

At the Movies
One of the first things I watched that caused much uplifting of jaw from floor was Horton Hears a Who on Blu-ray. Although this animation isn’t as photorealistic as Pixar, I was struck by how absurdly 3-D and real the bodies of water in this feature looked. I was practically reaching for a towel. There’s also a wealth of textural detail in the furry creatures and costumes in Whoville, even if it doesn’t always jump out to grab you. Inspired by what I saw with Horton, I checked in on the BDs of Ratatouille, Wall-E, and the Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1. The nighttime sequences in Ratatouille and the space sequences in Wall-E looked spectacular. They showed astounding, inky blacks, terrific shadow detail, and tons of dynamic punch. And Boundin’ from the Pixar Shorts disc again showed that freaky thing with the water. I hesitate to use the term natural with computer-animated imagery, so I won’t. Instead, I moved to The Dark Knight, which has as much low-light-level imagery as the title suggests. The nighttime sequences in Gotham and Hong Kong were spectacular. The dark imagery was rich in detail and high in contrast but naturally balanced at all times. The DLA-HD750 also resolved enough detail to show that the non-IMAX footage was ever so slightly enhanced to match. In my experience, this projector sets the standard for blacks and contrast. It bests even JVC’s previous designs by a subtle but palpable margin. (Note that some of the improvement could be due to the DLA-HD750’s more accurate, higher gamma curves.)

While I note that the DLA-HD750 didn’t focus quite as tight or eke out quite as much small object detail as the DLA-HD100 (or the very best single-chip DLPs I’ve seen), I do have to note that it always looked more three-dimensional when you took the whole image instead of focusing on its smallest parts (something that often escapes we reviewer types). The sensation of depth was a continual marvel. Chapter 6 of The Chronic: Prince Caspian had the spooky clarity and dimension that’s usually associated with material originated on HD video. The colors looked gorgeous. The pasty English complexions, bright red arrow feathers, blue water, and green foliage all looked superbly right and convincing. Caspian might have disappointed at the box office, but on Blu-ray, it’s some of the most sensational HD eye candy I’ve consumed.

Next, I moved on to a different world, literally. Werner Herzog’s peculiar and fascinating documentary of life in Antarctica, Encounters at the End of the World, also revealed more of the JVC’s might. Spectacular HD footage abounds here, but I was particularly struck by the lively but natural colors of the fleshtones and the North Face gear that everyone is outfitted with. People wear that stuff all the time up here in the Pacific Northwest, so it’s another real-world reference that the DLA-HD750 is just aces with. This projector feels very organic and is never digital looking when the material is up to the task.

The JVC DLA-HD750 is equipped like a flagship ought to be. The little touches add up to a significantly refined experience in every way. While the DLA-HD750 isn’t quite as sharp as the DLA-HD100 I’ve had for months, it is improved in every other aspect of its performance and especially color. I’ve been digging through my catalog of new and old favorites to watch on this rig in a way I haven’t in years. In other words, I’m enjoying movies more for being able to watch them on the DLA-HD750. That and the fact that I’m not letting JVC have this projector back are the two highest compliments I can offer a projector. The check’s in the mail!