Light output. The X30 is rated at 1300 lumens maximum light output. We obtained a maximum reading of 1275 lumens using 3D mode and the High Bright color temperature preset with the lamp set to High, the lens aperture open, and the lens at its widest angle. With these settings, the image has a marked greenish cast and black level suffers greatly compared to the projector's best performance. Changing color temperature from High Bright to the default 8500K does a lot to improve color and contrast while still producing 1030 lumens. This is the default image mode for 3D display, and its bright output is necessary to keep 3D video from appearing too dim or washed out. It could also be useful in 2D should you need to put a very bright image on the wall -- say, for example, you were picked to host a game-day party and need to wheel the X30 out into the living room.
3D mode is the only stand-out bright preset available; the X30 does not have a Dynamic mode as most other home theater projectors do. However, the projector's other image modes cover a wide range of light outputs. Stage mode produces 902 lumens, has a slight blue cast, and is perfect for rooms with mild ambient light. Animation mode, at 933 lumens, emphasizes sharpness and enables frame interpolation by default in an effort to make cartoons and other animated material look its best. Natural and Cinema modes provide two different takes on the same idea: a higher-contrast, more natural image. These measure 834 and 867 lumens respectively. These modes mainly differ in their handling of gamma.
The last image mode (aside from the projector's five User memory slots) is Film, which became our preferred mode for HD movies and video. At 839 lumens, Film mode provides the highest contrast, the most accurate color, and the most natural image of any of the X30's preset modes. Our preference was to use Normal lamp mode, which reduces light output by 33% to 562 lumens and drastically reduces fan noise. On a 120" diagonal 1.3 gain screen, Film mode with Normal lamp selected is just about perfect.
Contrast. One of the strong points of JVC's home theater projectors has always been their stellar black level, and the X30 is no exception in this regard. The projector has no auto iris, yet manages to put up some of the best black levels we have observed from this year's group. On a black screen, it can be difficult to tell if the projector is on -- there's none of the usual glow that one gets from a projector idling on a black image. In dark scenes, such as nighttime shots or fields of stars, the black level on the X30 trumps every other projector in this year's group. In brighter scenes, such as indoor shots without many extreme shadows or highlights, black level is competitive, if not the stand-out favorite that it is in darker scenes. Bright, highlight-rich scenes show solid black level performance, though not as good as performance with darker content.
As far as dynamic range is concerned, the X30 turns in an impressive performance. Subtle differences in shadow and highlight detail are reproduced accurately, and the image at times looks ready to jump off the screen. The X30's handling of dark scenes is particularly impressive, since there's no auto iris to drag down highlight brightness when black level drops into the basement. A scene such as a field of stars or even just a movie's ending credits will show the projector's maximum potential. When the average illumination level of the scene is higher, dynamic range decreases as black level brightens slightly.
The X30 will be a favorite with those who not only value deep, inky blacks, but also have theaters with the superior light control needed to take advantage of the X30's performance. Ambient light, even a tiny amount, can have a ruinous effect on black level and dynamic range. When shopping for a projector like the X30, it pays to light-proof your theater room before bringing the projector home.
Color. The default color settings on the X30 make the projector look a little warm. By our measurements, the default 6000K setting for Film mode actually puts out between 5400K and 5800K. However, some adjustments using our CalMAN software brought the projector in line with the Rec. 709 standard for HD quite nicely. When it comes to gamut, the X30 is already close to perfect. Our instruments indicate that the default gamut is close enough to the ideal that human eyes cannot tell the difference, so we left this alone.
Color gamut in Film mode.
Color saturation is more subdued than that seen on several other projectors' Cinema modes, but it does not look washed out or faded when viewed on its own. Indeed, the picture produced by the X30 is natural and life-like, though some users may elect to bump saturation up a few pegs according to their tastes. Changing the Color Space from Normal to Wide 1 or Wide 2 increases apparent saturation, but it also gives the image a slightly cartoonish, artificial aspect in some scenes.