JVC DLA-RS4500 D-ILA Laser Projector Review Page 2

Like most projectors on the market, the DLA-RS4500 comes with a bevy of different video processing “enhancements.” Among them is frame interpolation, which works with all incoming signals, including 4K HDR—though even in its lowest mode, I detected a bit too much of the soap-opera effect with motion. The projector also has a new low-latency mode for gamers. Image lag has been an ongoing issue for the JVC line, though I’ve never personally had much issue with it in my limited gaming use. This new mode makes it a non-issue and doesn’t seem to have any effect on the quality of the image, though the frame interpolation function can’t be used at the same time.

JVC reports that their HDMI sync times have improved versus earlier models with this new design, but I’m reluctant to back up that claim. While there may be some small improvement, syncing video signals with the projector still takes much too long compared with other projector brands I’ve used. I hope this is something that JVC will concentrate on with future designs, as it can be quite frustrating, depending on your input source (or when you have to deal with test discs). If you can feed the projector a constant input resolution and frame rate, you can eliminate a lot of the issue, but this typically means converting video sources with an AVR or video processor before the projector, which may not always be an option.

217jvcproj.rem.jpgIn Use
JVC’s new flagship is a bit of a conundrum when it comes to evaluation. At $35,000, it represents a massive increase in cost compared with the already excellent line of projectors JVC offers below $10,000. There’s a reason those projectors are often compared directly with models we’ve reviewed that cost upward of $20,000, and it would be difficult to ignore them in this writeup as well. They represent a really high bar in performance, and with the boost in light output that we saw last year across the line, they can be used in a lot of large-screen applications and still offer fantastic brightness and contrast performance. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the tremendous increase in fine detail with true 4K material that this projector brings to the table.

The DLA-RS4500 is by far the sharpest projector I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. The new lens, coupled with native 4K imaging chips, made a more profound difference than what I was expecting compared with my reference DLA-X750R. Fine image detail really goes to a new level, and I found myself constantly distracted (in a good way) by the small details that popped out from some of the newer 4K eye candy available on the market today. Ultra HD Blu-ray titles like Lucy and The Revenant delivered small object detail that my DLA-X750R just couldn’t quite manage (though it came closer than you’d expect for a 1080p design!). Having previously reviewed several of the native 4K projectors from Sony, I wasn’t expecting to see a big difference with 4K content here, but the new JVC shined over and over again with my collection of UHD Blu-ray titles. Razor-sharp titles like Sicario and Pacific Rim had my jaw on the floor, while lesser discs like Oblivion and Underworld showed the limitations of their capture and transfer. This is a projector that will really test the quality of the sources it’s fed.

Another highlight of my time with the DLA-RS4500 was the opportunity to view a first for UHD, the 4K/60 frame-per-second HDR presentation of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Shot in 4K at 120p, this was supposed to be a showcase title for the future capabilities of Hollywood. High frame rate is part of the UHD spec, so I was anxious to see if Ang Lee pulled it off better than my experience with the 48-fps version of The Hobbit that I saw in theaters. Unfortunately, he didn’t. The film had a lot of the same qualities that I didn’t care for with The Hobbit, namely no sense of what I’d call cinematic quality and ultra-sharp video that looked like something that you’d see on daytime TV, not in a feature film. It also didn’t help that the film was pretty lousy on all other fronts, with a heavily scripted feel and lackluster performances. But the DLA-RS4500 had no issue at all with the frame rate or resolution and delivered the film flawlessly.

Viewing 1080p material was also a revelation. The internal scaling of the DLA-RS4500 is some of the best I have ever evaluated, cruising through even the most difficult test material. In my reviews of Sony 4K projectors, I have remarked on their poor performance with 1080p-based test patterns, but that was anything but the case here. The JVC displayed the same demanding patterns with aplomb, resolving even the most difficult cases with razor precision on my 120-inch-diagonal Stewart StudioTek 100 screen. A great example was the recent documentary View from a Blue Moon from the folks at Brain Farm. The film focuses on pro surfer John Florence and his life on the North Shore of Hawaii. The video quality was nothing short of staggering. Since 1080p content is still the most available type on the market today, it’s extremely important that 4K projectors display it with as little compromise as possible, and this one does it better than any other 4K projector I’ve used to date.

The interest in 3D seems to be waning among manufacturers, but last year’s models from JVC took a big step up in 3D performance over prior models. The DLA-RS4500 also does a great job here, and the added brightness goes a long way, but its default settings produced a bit too much ghosting for my tastes. I had to reduce the crosstalk settings in the 3D menu to nearly all the way down before I saw the crosstalk go away in most of the material I viewed. I’m personally still not a real fan of 3D (I get eye fatigue, and I generally don’t like wearing the 3D glasses and enduring the light loss). But if 3D is important to you, it is still handled well by JVC’s latest design.

HDR
I’ve reviewed a couple of HDR-capable projectors now from JVC and Sony. I chose not to comment on that performance, as HDR playback on projectors was more of a work in progress (and really almost a beta-level implementation). Since then, both JVC and Sony have improved their HDR, and this is the first chance I’ve had to see JVC’s completely new HDR mode and operability.

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Unlike the last design, when the DLA-RS4500 detects an HDR signal, it switches to the HDR picture mode immediately. The preset uses the HDR color gamut, gamma curve, and high laser mode, though any of these can be changed or tailored to fit. The HDR color gamut is a wider gamut than BT.709, but it falls short of the BT.2020 color profile because it doesn’t use the filter that comes into place to increase the saturation coverage. Looking at gamut coverage with the HDR mode shows a loss of saturation in red compared with the BT.2020 mode, but the latter mode’s filter cuts light output by 40 percent. This makes it difficult to get accurate color performance while still maintaining a bright picture for larger screens. In fact, with the BT.2020 profile selected, I could only achieve about 30 ft-L on my screen in high laser mode with the aperture fully open. I can achieve the same with my reference projector in low lamp with the dual aperture system fully open. Hopefully future designs will be able to figure out a filter closer to what the other line uses or possibly leverage different laser solutions to increase saturation without sacrificing brightness.

The rest of the setup for HDR was a breeze. Obviously there are no standards for HDR playback on projectors, but I’ve found that you can still dial in a fantastic image nonetheless with some readily available test patterns. The new gamma mode for HDR is far better than the “Gamma D” of previous models, and the default values are more in line with the suggested values from before. But one major plus is that the dark level adjustment (a control that adjusts the bottom end of the gamma) no longer raises the black floor of the projector, allowing you to bump up the low end of the image without sacrificing blacks.

This does wonders for HDR playback and eliminates the darker look that so many complain about. I hope we see similar performance from the rest of JVC’s updated line that incorporates this new HDR profile. Subjectively, HDR viewing was easily the best I’ve seen from a projector to date. The wider color gamut and increased luminance easily outshined the standard dynamic range Blu-ray counterparts with nearly every movie I watched, and since the laser dimming is still enabled, you don’t have to sacrifice as much of your black floor to enjoy them as you do with the standard line of JVC projectors. I still hope we see a true calibration standard emerge for HDR playback on projectors, but this one is nearly plug-and-play out of the box and delivers some sublime HDR imagery.

Wrapping It Up
Reviewing flagship projectors in this kind of price range is always difficult. While most consumers can’t afford to buy a projector that costs the same as a midsize car, others can and do all the time. And although I’ve seen quite a few projectors in this segment of the market, I haven’t seen any that can match the performance of the DLA-RS4500. I can’t ignore how good JVC’s standard 1080p line is for most applications, or that it delivers the better contrast performance that has made JVC a sought-after name in projection. But, this model’s refinements in setup, fine detail, and HDR, as well as the simple wonder of the final picture on the screen, are something to behold. If you’re out to get the best-looking 4K and HDR from a projector, I can’t see much in the way of competition at or near this price point. I hope JVC continues to refine this design, but for now you’d be hard-pressed to find a better 4K image out there.

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COMMENTS
drny's picture

Now you went and did it. I don't play Lotto, but I'm tempted to start playing since I will be foolishly dreaming on getting my hands on this amazing 4k projector.
I collect both UHD 4k Blu-rays and 3D Blu-rays (as well as standard bluray) movies.
I am the guy obsessed with viewing the same film over and over, in order to catch every nuance of visual and audio detail in a scene.
In reality my only hope is that the technology on the RS4500 trickles down to more affordable 4k model line up.
Let's hope that within two years JVC provides us with most the goods found in this state of the art Projector for a real world affordable $4-5,000 version.

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