JVC DLA-X5000B/W FIRST LOOK
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: Since the mostly unhappy IFA experience described below I've had the opportunity to spend time with a pre-production X5000 in my own test room that produced a much more satisfying experience. So hopefully the X5000 will continue to improve ahead of a full review in October/November.]
It’s been quiet for way too long in JVC’s projector division. The brand hasn’t shown us any new models using its once class-leading D-ILA technology since the start of 2014, sailing past its customary end-of-year announcement slot last year and getting close to ignoring 2015 too.
But then, out of the blue, a couple of days before IFA, I got a message inviting me to take a look at some new JVC projectors at the brand’s IFA booth. With memories of the glories of past JVC projectors suddenly flooding back, I took JVC up on its invite as soon as I decently could.
It turned out after being ushered into JVC’s blacked out IFA booth that our demo was actually going to be restricted to just one of JVC’s three new models: the DLA-X5000B/W. The mid-range X7000B/W and flagship X9000B/W weren’t deemed quite ready to show off yet – and the X5000 I was shown is still very much a preproduction sample. Worryingly, all three projectors are supposed to be launching in November!
I didn’t actually mind that the X5000B/W was the model I got to see. After all, its relatively affordable £4,000 price tag makes it likely to be the range’s most popular model. The X7000B/W and X9000B/W models will cost £5,700 and £8,500 respectively.
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Aesthetically the X5000B/W doesn’t appear to have changed from JVC’s previous X500 model. You still get the same attractive glossy finish – in a choice of white or black – plus the same well-built and reasonably compact bodywork, and the same venting systems down each of the projector’s sides.
The X5000B/W’s connections don’t initially look significantly different to those of the X500 either. However, the X5000B/W’s HDMIs are hiding a key step forward, in the shape of full HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 compatibility. This means that as well as being able to accept 4K, the X5000B/W can take in high dynamic range (HDR) feeds.
Even better, the X5000B/W’s HDMIs are specified to deliver a transfer rate of 18Gbps – enough to support 4K 4:4:4/36-bit colour reproduction at 24 frames per second versus just 4:2:0/10-bit from Sony’s new HDR/4K-capable VW520ES projector.
As I settled down to see how the X5000B/W is shaping up, the news was broken to me that I wouldn’t be able to see any HDR playback, as JVC hadn’t managed to find any HDR content. As well as being disappointing, this announcement immediately made us feel a bit worried about how ‘on the pulse’ JVC is now, given that HDR was arguably the biggest AV message from the IFA show. Sony had not only sourced HDR content for its VW520ES demo, but also built almost all of its demonstration around it.
The content we could watch comprised some classic stock 4K UHD demo material showing pretty locations, close-ups of flowers and the like, plus the Blu-ray of Oblivion so that we could get a feel for the X5000B/W’s 'upscaling' capabilities.
Why did we put upscaling in inverted commas? Because the X5000B/W doesn’t enjoy a native 4K resolution. Instead it uses a technology called e-Shift to deliver a pseudo-4K effect by positioning two 1920x1080 imaging devices sequentially but offset diagonally by half a pixel.
The fact that even the new flagship X9000B/W uses e-Shift tech rather than going for a native 4K resolution really does feel like a disappointment, given that Sony has had an affordable native 4K projector for more than a year now. Ever the technology optimists, we’d convinced ourselves that the reason for JVC’s unusually long absence from the projector scene was that it was polishing up some native 4K D-ILA chipsets. Sadly, we were wrong.
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Unfortunately the X5000B/W’s lack of native 4K chops made its presence known right away during our preview. The native 4K content really didn’t look significantly more detailed or sharp than the HD footage. Where a true 4K projector could reveal individual leaves on trees, for instance, after downscaling the footage to 1920x1080p for feeding through the e-Shift system, the X5000B/W can only manage a slightly fuzzy general green area.
We said when testing JVC’s previous e-Shift projectors that what they did in terms of adding detail then wasn’t as good as a native 4K image, but now the gap between e-Shift 4K and native 4K seems to have grown. This is presumably because Sony has advanced the native 4K cause while JVC appears to have stood still with e-Shift.
There’s also a subtle sense of noise in the X5000B/W’s playback of 4K content that we’re now unused to seeing – and which we’ll become even less willing to tolerate once Ultra HD Blu-ray finally rolls into town. Colours also lack that sense of definition and tonal subtlety that’s now recognised as a key part of a great 4K image.
As for the upscaled Oblivion footage, here again noise was an issue, as we could see fizzing interference over areas of very fine detail like the debris around the crater Cruise lands his ship in near the film’s start. And again the level of detail and sharpness visible on the X5000B/W was no match for the sharpness of upscaled HD pictures as shown on a genuine native 4K display.
We additionally spotted a couple of noticeable vertical motion ghosting errors in Oblivion – one of which even persisted once the projector’s motion processing was turned off, suggesting that it may be an artefact of the e-Shift system.
As if all this wasn’t disappointing enough, the X5000B/W’s contrast performance didn’t look to be as strong as that of previous JVC models. Really dark parts of the image seemed quite a bit greyer than expected. In fairness this may have been down to JVC using an over-reflective screen or the fact that despite being blacked out, its demo room reflected quite a bit of light off its side walls. However, a glance at the X5000B/W’s specifications reveals that its claimed contrast ratio is considerably lower than that of its predecessor.
JVC hasn’t completely lost its touch, though. Colours are bold, brightness is high but also extremely stable, and even in its reduced form the X5000B/W’s contrast is impressive for a sub-£4k projector.
We should also remember that this was a pre-production model, and that it will likely cost at least £1500 less than the native 4K Sony VW320ES, and potentially £4,000 less than Sony’s HDR-capable, native 4K VW520ES model. So arguably it isn’t fair to compare the X5000B/W with Sony’s new models.
The low price tag couldn't entirely make up for our disappointment about what we’d witnessed in JVC’s IFA demo booth. If what we saw really was representative of where the X5000B/W and its new siblings are at, and JVC isn’t able to improve things between now and November, Sony may be able to put clear air between its new projectors and those of its arch rival.
JVC DLA-X5000B Unboxing Video
Features & Specs
The X5000 includes a number of features, some of which have appeared on previous generations and some of which are completely new. First of all the X5000 uses a new 265W high power lamp, so those hoping for a laser light source will be disappointed. However the brightness has been increased to 1,700lm, which JVC claim will allow the projector to deliver images in rooms with ambient light but if you want to take full advantage of its inherent dynamic range, then a darkened room is preferable. Perhaps due to this increased brightness, the claimed contrast ratio has taken a slight drop to 40,000:1 but, as with the previous generation, the X5000 includes a user-selectable Intelligent Lens Aperture to boost the contrast further.
JVC claims that the increased brightness and inherently deep blacks of the X5000 means that it can simultaneously reproduce brighter highlights and darker details in scenes, making it compatible with HDR (High Dynamic Range
) content. Although we have seen a demonstration of JVC's HDR capabilities, we were not in a position to actually test this feature, so how effective it is in practice remains to be seen. However the previously mentioned inclusion of both HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 is crucial and the fact that they can handle transfer rates of 18Gbps and 4K signals such as 4K60p 4:4:4, 4K60p 4:2:2/36-bit and 4K24p 4:4:4/36-bit gives the X5000 an excellent degree of future-proofing.
Another disappointment for some people this year is the fact that JVC's projectors still aren't native 4K and continue to use 1080p D-ILA panels. However the X5000 does include JVC's e-shift4 technology, which creates a greater perceived level of resolution by shifting each pixel 0.5 pixels diagonally. In addition it can use this technology to create a higher resolution image when receiving a 4K signal and e-shift4 has been optimised for 4K60p and the increased brightness of the projector. The X5000 also includes the latest version of Multiple Pixel Control which is part of the Super Resolution technology developed by JVC using a proprietary algorithm that has been optimised for 4K content.
In addition the X5000 includes the latest version of JVC's Clear Motion Drive frame interpolation technology which adds a new Motion Enhance feature. JVC claim that this has been developed to minimise the motion blur significantly by optimising the drive of the D-ILA panels and that it's also compatible with 4K and 3D signals. As with previous generations, the X5000 supports active shutter 3D, includes a lens memory control, which is very useful if you use a 2.35/2.40:1 screen, and pixel alignment feature. There's also an Auto Calibration feature, along with a 6-axis colour management system, a 2-point white balance control and 12-point manual gamma adjustments. However, unlike the more expensive X7000/X9000 models, the X5000 doesn't support the full DCI colour space.
The X5000 has some great future proofing with HDMI 2.0a inputs, HDCP 2.2 and support for HDR.
Picture Settings - Out-of-the-Box
The X5000 includes JVC's usual menu system, which is sensibly laid out and relatively easy to navigate with related features grouped together. We chose the Cinema Picture Mode and the Standard Colour Profile (which should be closest to the current industry standard of Rec.709), along with a Colour Temperature of 6500K and a gamma of 2.2. You sometimes need to bring the Brightness control up a notch or two to retain all the shadow detail but this will probably depend on your viewing environment. As you can see from the measurements below, even after a very simple setup the X5000 delivered an excellent out-of-the-box performance.
The greyscale tracking was generally very good, although there was a slight excess of green energy in the middle part of the image and a slight deficit of red. This could, on occasion give whites a slight push towards yellow but it was barely noticeable. However the gamma curve was tracking our target of 2.4 very precisely, which is good to see. The colour performance was even better with the Standard Colour Profile measuring very close to Rec.709 and overall errors at or below the visible threshold of three. There was a slight over-saturation of red and green, and thus yellow, but the luminance measurements were spot on and overall this is a great out-of-the-box performance.
JVC DLA-X5000 Picture Settings
Picture Settings - Calibrated
The X5000 includes extensive calibration controls, starting with a two-point white balance control that we used to correct that slight over-saturation of green in the greyscale. We only had to bring green down slightly and increase red a touch and before long we had a reference greyscale performance from the X5000. The error measurements were all well below the visible threshold of three and most were below one. The X5000 also includes gamma calibration controls but since it was tracking our target curve of 2.4 very precisely, we didn't need to use them.
The X5000 also includes a full colour management system with controls for hue, saturation and luminance. Interestingly JVC have dropped the rather pointless orange control from previous generations but the CMS still includes the three primary colours (red, green and blue) and the three secondary colours (cyan, yellow and magenta). We used the CMS to dial in the already very accurate colour gamut to deliver what, on paper at least, appeared to be a reference performance with errors that were now all below one.
However when looking at actual content the greens and reds appeared under-saturated and the reason was obvious when we ran the saturation sweep which measures at 25, 50, 70 and 100%. In using the CMS to bring the measurements into line on the previous set of graphs, the controls had adversely affected the performance of red and green at lower saturation points. We then switched the Colour Management off and ran the saturation sweep again, resulting in the graph shown above. As you can see, although green, red and yellow are over-saturated at 100%, they track very accurately at lower saturation points. So in actual fact the best approach for calibrating the review sample was to just reduce the saturation of green and red slightly and tweak the hue of magenta, which then resulted in a very accurate colour gamut across all the saturation points.
As we mentioned in the out-of-the-box section we chose the Standard Colour Profile because it was closest to the current industry standard of Rec.709. However these standards are now in the process of changing
and future 4K formats like Ultra HD Blu-ray
will probably use the DCI colour space that is currently used in the cinema. The X5000 has a wider native colour gamut which you can access by turning the Colour Profile off on the projector and we measured this against the DCI colour space. As you can see in the graph above, the X5000 can deliver 87% of DCI which means you won't be able to take full advantage of any wider colour gamuts used in the future, although you'll get some benefit.
JVC DLA-X5000 Video Review
It's an indication of the seismic changes happening in the consumer electronic industry that, at the moment, we aren't able to fully test certain aspects of the X5000 performance. Although we do have some HDR
demo clips, we had no actual way of sending them to the projector. As we mentioned in a previous section we have seen demonstrations of HDR with JVC projectors but until UHD Blu-ray
arrives it's going to be difficult for us to test some of these features. Thankfully our new Murideo Fresco Six-G test generator
arrived just in time to save the day and although we couldn't test the HDMI 2.0a input's ability to pass HDR metadata (Murideo will be adding that feature soon), we could test every other aspect of the HDMI input's performance and confirm that it does indeed support HDCP 2.2 and can handle transfer rates of 18Gbps, along with 4K signals such as 4K60p 4:4:4, 4K60p 4:2:2/36-bit and 4K24p 4:4:4/36-bit.
We were also able to use the Fresco
to generate 4K test patterns to judge how effective the e-shift4 was with an actual 4K source and we were pleased to see that the X5000 could accept both 4096 x 2160 and 3840 x 2160 resolutions. We were able to compare the same test pattern in both 1080p with and without e-shift4 and then in 4K with e-shift4 and the results were impressive. The e-shift could take the 1080p pattern and make it appear that bit sharper and more defined without adding unwanted artefacts or noise. When we switched to the 4K version of the same pattern the image was noticeably sharper than the 1080p version, although as a result of how the e-shift4 combines two images to create the 4K resolution, there were some moire artefacts that wouldn't be present if the pattern was shown on a native 4K projector. However if we pulled up normal images that wasn't an issue and the X5000 delivered an impressive level of resolution given its inherent limitations.
There have been reports that e-shift4 introduces more noise into the image than previous iterations, perhaps due to the increased brightness, and although we didn't have an X500
available to make a direct comparison, there didn't seem to be any more noise present. We have always found that e-shift is very source dependent, so if you feed it a pristine transfer like Tomorrowland
or Jurassic World
the results are very clean but if you choose a film with more inherent grain the e-shift can emphasise this. We always think that it's best to experiment with the e-shift to get the best results and ideally you want that increased sense of resolution without the image appearing over-processed. Of course there will be those that would rather just turn the e-shift off, which is always an option and the X5000 is just as impressive as a 1080p projector. As usual, e-shift is not applied to 3D content which is the standard 1080p for each eye via active shutter glasses.
Of course Ultra HD is about more than just increased resolution and HDR, there's also 10-bit colour depth, which the X5000 supports, and wider colour spaces. As you will have seen in the calibration section the X5000 supports 87% of the DCI colour space, which means that you will at least be able to benefit from some of the increased gamut in Ultra HD content, if not all of it. However when it comes to the current standard of Rec.709, the X5000 delivers an excellent performance with natural colours. It also delivers a very accurate greyscale and gamma performance, so regardless of what you're watching the results are excellent. The video processing is as impressive as always, although clearly when it comes to a projected image the better the source, the better the results but the X5000 was able to make standard definition watchable even if we rarely do these days.
Naturally the big selling point of a JVC projector is its native blacks and contrast ratio but, despite the claimed contrast ratio actually being lower than the previous generation, we actually found that the performance was comparable to the X500 and certainly superior to the X3
we had available for comparison. We respect JVC for being honest about the contrast ratio performance in their marketing and specifications but we'll take a small reduction in favour of all the other benefits that the X5000 offers this year.
As with the previous generation, the X5000 also includes a dynamic iris which will undoubtedly divide opinion between those who swear by it and those that feel it's unnecessary. We ran the notorious scene from the final Harry Potter film
where Voldemort's army amasses on a hill top overlooking Hogwarts. It's a very dark scene that is composed primarily of blacks and shades of grey, making it a difficult test for any dynamic iris system. We have to say that the JVC handled it very well and managed to bring out peoples faces a little better, although overall we still preferred the native contrast ratio. Regardless of which setting we chose there were scenes where we could see the DI slightly crushing blacks or pumping the image to boost the contrast performance, although it was very minor. Ultimately it will come down to personal preference, there's certainly no harm in experimenting to decide which setting you prefer and the DI could be very useful if you're using the X5000 in less than ideal conditions.
When it comes to motion handling the D-ILA chips in the X5000 are still based upon LCD technology and thus suffer from that technology's limitations. The native motion resolution was around 400 lines but obviously you could get that up to the full 1080 by using the Clear Motion Drive frame interpolation feature. However this immediately makes the image appear too smooth, so we would never use it with film based content, although there is room for experimentation with other content like sports. JVC have added a new feature this year called Motion Enhance which is designed to reduce motion blur. However despite repeated testing, we really couldn't see any perceivable improvement in terms of motion blur when we used the feature. The motion blur appeared the same regardless of whether the feature was on or off, so we ended up just leaving it off.
Finally for those that are still interested, the X5000 delivers a fantastic 3D performance. The projector certainly benefits from the increased brightness and delivered images that were detailed and full of depth, whilst still remaining largely free of any crosstalk. The 3D in Gravity
looked stunning, with the bright white spacesuits offset beautifully by the blackness of space. There are moments of deliberate high contrast and negative parallax that the X5000 handled well, although there was a hint of crosstalk as Marvin the Martian floated through the ruined space shuttle cockpit. However the highly negative parallax sequence of spores floating through the air in Avatar
was delivered without any crosstalk and our recently purchased extended cut of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
looked stunning. However we noticed that, when watching another 3D title, the CMD (frame interpolation) feature was being applied despite the fact it was turned off. We found that turning CMD on and then off again fixed the problem but it's clearly a bug in the firmware and we've reported it to JVC.