Hands on: JVC e-shift2 4K DLA-X95R projector

posted on Sunday, 30th September 2012 by Steve May

projectors  home cinema  4K 

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JVC has enjoyed phenomenal critical and commercial success with its D-ILA home theatre projectors over the past few years, becoming a firm favourite with the CI trade in the process. Post IFA and CEDIA Expo 2012, the brand has revitalised its line-up, further refining its optical 4K image upscaling technology, now dubbed e-shift2. To learn more, Inside CI visited the brand's London HQ for a run through of the new models and a hands-on session with the DLA-X95R. 

Cosmetically, the new projectors look much the same as last years, but the line-up is more than just a range refresh; there are some significant improvements evident beneath the hood. The big story is the introduction of second generation e-shift technology and more powerful picture processing. The new e-shift2 mechanism employs a thinner, flatter lens, which gives a slight boost in brightness, says the brand. JVC also confirmed that it's planning to release an iOS control app.

JVC D-ILA e-shift2 projector line-up
The 2012/13 range comprises a new trio of e-shift models: the DLA-X55R (priced at £4,999), the DLA-X75R (£6,999) and the DLA-X95R, built from hand-selected components (at £9,999). There's also a regular, vanilla-flavoured model, the DLA-X35 for around £3,000. Both the -X75R and -X95R are ISF and THX 3D certified. All are 3D enabled.

This year, JVC is also migrating from IR syncing glasses to RF. This is a major boon for integrators. The RF dongle is an easy to manage plug-in module on the back of the projector. It offers robust signal distribution, ideal for those that need to rear project the PJ.

The new RF glasses, coded PK-AG3, are light at just 36g and have larger shuttering lenses than the previous PK-AG2 IR spectacles. They are USB rechargeable, typically taking around 2.5 hours to charge, for a running time of 50 hours.

What is JVC e-Shift 4K technology?
JVC's high profile 4K-slanted marketing prompted some debate at the preview. It could be construed as deliberate obfuscation, and potentially confusing for consumers interested in these products. The language the brand is using in its messaging would seem to indicate that these models offer comparable resolution to Sony's far more expensive VPL-VW1000ES. When challenged on this JVC's product specialist Steven Carter was clear: "No, these are not 4K and we're not claiming they are. At present there's no 4K source material, what we're doing is offering is offering higher image precision from 2K."

The thing to remember is that the process JVC is employing is entirely optical. Placed between the D-ILA device and the projection lens is an e-shift lens, which produces a offset subframe of the original image, theoretically doubling the vertical and horizontal resolution. It's this that JVC claims as a 3840 x 2160 resolution projected image. Improvements to this year's e-shifter lens mean improved circumference resolution, with a boost to 3D brightness of 120 per cent.

The allied picture processor is also much more sophisticated on these models, offering 21 x 21 pixel detection compared to a lowly 6 x 6 pixel detection introduced in 2011. There's also an improved analysis filter, for smoother gradations. Offering five levels of Multiple Pixel control and an eight-band filter, the new e-shift models are certainly able to draw more nuance and depth from the source. Separate 4K profiles for different sources are available to optimise picture processing.

JVC DLA-X95R projector performance
As it transpires, all this optical/marketing sleight of hand surrounding e-shift2 may well be an unnecessary distraction. Demonstrations of the DLA-X95R in full-flight are undeniably thrilling. This is an extraordinary projector capable of rich hues, deep blacks and explosive contrast. The projector's 2D performance is just scintillating. Does it look exactly the same as an upscale 4K image? No, it doesn't. But then it doesn't look exactly different either. In a 2K world, this projector hits it out of the park.

Demo footage of Marvel Avengers Assemble in 2D was drop dead gorgeous. Install one of these in your showroom, and consumers will be prepared to fight the Hulk to own one. Picture processing analyses the incoming signal and identifies low, mid and high frequency information, which it uses to extrapolate more nuance. The improvement in brightness this year, brought about by a change to the lamp and power supply, quickly becomes very evident.

The brand is also claiming improved 3D performance this year, with a crosstalk canceller and variable depth adjustment. The veracity of this proved difficult to judge, based a short clip of talking owls (Guardians of Ga'Hoole).

D-ILA technology has long offered best in class contrast, which means the models have never had to rely on a dynamic iris for visual snap. On these new models, the brand has pushed that dynamism further with the introduction of a new polarising wire grid, designed to ensure every pixel offers maximum brightness and contrast. The result is a tangible bump in the native contrast ratio. Both the DLA-X35 and DLA-X55R offer 50,000:1 native contrast, while the DLA-X75R jumps to 90,000:1. The range-topping DLA-X95R promises 130,000:1. 

Another refinement sure to find favour with installers is the provision of additional lens memory settings, to store custom focus, zoom and lens shift positions. There are now ten for the DLA-X95R and DLA-X75R, and five for the two step-down models. A Pincushion mode is also available to correct the image when projected onto a curved screen.

Overall, we are extremely impressed with JVC's new offerings, and we think it's clear that they're going to find a big audience throughout 2013. The banker model in the range is probably going to be the DLA-X75R, which offers a brilliant performance price ratio, but the availability of its bigger brother provides a helpful step-up for home cinema fans who don't want to compromise.

 

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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Posted by Petri Teittinen on 1st October 2012, 2:00 PM
A couple of notes... Firstly, previous generation of JVC 3D projectors already offered a crosstalk canceller - but it did virtually nothing at all. Secondly, if an offset subframe theoretically doubles the pixel count, how can JVC claim 4K, seeing as 4K has four times - not two - the resolution of 2K? (Disclaimer: I own a JVC HD950 and X70 projectors.)

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