Editor's Choice Award
Our Editor's Choice award goes to products that dramatically exceed expectations for performance, value, or cutting-edge design.
There has always been something appealing about JVC's "D-ILA" technology, which is their proprietary version of LCOS. On JVC's projectors, pixelation is virtually invisible, and they have always had a unique filmlike quality that surpasses that of LCD and DLP. Moreover, color precision on JVC projectors is always outstanding. But they have never captured much share of the home theater market due to features that were somewhat problematic-lower than average contrast, higher than average fan noise, unstylish casework design, high prices and expensive lamp replacements.
With the new JVC DLA-RS1, the truth has changed. In this one dramatic product release, JVC has swept all of these previous problems away. The RS1 is a 1080p resolution, D-ILA-based projector with extremely high contrast, very low fan noise, and the same pixel-free image with virtually perfect color processing we are used to seeing from JVC, all for a supremely competitive price of $6,295. The DLA-RS1 is without a doubt the finest projector JVC has ever made for the consumer marketplace.
ANSI lumens: 700
Contrast (full on/off): 15,000:1
Light Engine: 1920x1080, native 16:9, 0.7" three-chip D-ILA (LCoS), with a 200W UHP lamp.
Video Compatibility: 1080p/60/50/24, 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i. NTSC/PAL/SECAM.
Connection Panel: Two HDMI ports, one set of YPbPr Component inputs, one s-video port, one composite video port, one RS-232C port for service and remote control.
Lens and Throw Distance: 2.0:1 manual zoom/focus lens with manual H/V lens shift. Throws a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 10' to 20'.
Lamp Life: 2000 hours.
Warranty: Two years (90 days on the lamp).
Right out of the box, the smooth, clean lines and glossy black casework of the RS1 lets you know that this is not the JVC of old. The refined elegance of the casework is just a foreshadowing of the image you will see on the screen.
Install it anywhere. The projector is designed to accommodate any type of installation that your room demands-ceiling mount, rear shelf, or table top placement. Several features contribute to this flexibility. The RS1 is outfitted with a very long 2.0x zoom range on the lens that allows the projector to be placed anywhere between 10 feet and 20 feet from the screen for a 100" diagonal image (distance as measured from the front of the lens to the screen).
In addition, there is vertical and horizontal lens shift capability. In neutral position, the centerline of the lens intersects the center of the projected image. From that position you can move the picture up or down within a total range of 2.67 picture heights. Horizontal shift allows you to move the projected image to the left or right of center in a range equal to 35% of the picture width in either direction.
Air intake is on the front right bezel as you are viewing it from the front, and the exhaust vent is on the front left side. This design helps to prevent heat build-up if the projector is to be placed near a rear wall.
The lamp is accessible through a door on the side of the case, so lamp replacements can be accomplished without taking the unit down from a ceiling mount. (Lamp replacements are $379, which is normal for this class of product, and much lower than lamp costs on previous generation JVC products.) There is also easy access to the air filter on the side of the projector as well.
The connection panel is on the rear of the unit. It offers three inputs for higher quality video signals, those being two HDMI ports and one component video.
The RS1 is a relatively large projector, measuring about 18 inches square and weighing 25 lbs. It needs several inches of clearance from a rear wall to accommodate cable attachments to the connection panel. So keep in mind that a shelf about two feet in depth will be required if you want to do a rear shelf installation.
It is difficult to avoid rampant enthusiasm for this projector, so I will try to temper these comments with a minimum of superlatives. As noted above, JVC always (in our experience) does a first rate job with color. The DLA-RS1 comes precalibrated to D65, so no adjustments are necessary to get beautiful color balance right out of the box. Due to lamp variation from unit to unit, some users might want to make subtle adjustments to the default settings to attain perfection, but our test unit was dead on with no color accuracy adjustments required. We did find that color saturation was low on the default setting, and we boosted the color saturation control from the zero default up to +8. But the ideal adjustment may vary from unit to unit, and it will also vary depending on the type of material being viewed.
Brightness. For those who place a lot of stock in spec sheets, the brightness rating of 700 ANSI lumens undoubtedly raises a red flag since it is by far the lowest rating of any of the 1080p models we've seen lately. Based on that rating, you might suppose the RS1 is a relatively dim projector. But it isn't. In fact, the opposite is true-it is one of the brightest.
You get the most light output from this projector when the lamp power is set to high, and the zoom lens is set to maximum wide angle (shortest throw distance for any given image size). How close did the RS1 come to its 700 lumen rating? Believe it or not, our lumen calculation came to 699.87 lumens! And keep in mind, this is at D65 calibration. None of the other 1080p models we've reviewed recently were capable of this much light output in video optimized mode.
Now, many folks will want to run in low lamp mode. That will reduce lumen output by about 18.5%, so in low lamp mode (again, using the wide angle lens setting), the RS1 still produced a whopping 570 lumens. By the way, neither lamp life nor fan noise are likely to be factors in the decision to run in high or low lamp mode. JVC estimates a nominal 2000 hour lamp life in either mode. And with the lamp on high, fan noise is very quiet. When you drop the unit into low lamp mode, fan noise becomes for all practical purposes nonexistent. This represents a huge advantage over JVC's D-ILA projectors of the past which tended to be a bit on the noisy side. So the bottom line is that you can opt to run in either high lamp or low lamp mode depending on the brightness requirements of your screen size and room environment.
The biggest single factor influencing lumen output on this projector is not the lamp power mode, but rather the position of the zoom lens. Since the zoom range is a long 2.0x, it is not possible to get the same amount of light through the lens when it is extended all the way to maximum telephoto (for new readers, this is true of all long zoom lenses, not just the lens on the RS1). By shifting the lens from maximum wide angle to maximum telephoto, lumen output on the projector is curtailed by 32%. However, even at this dimmest of lens configurations, and in low lamp mode, the RS1 delivers 385 ANSI lumens to the screen. This is still brighter than some of the other 1080p models we've seen, and plenty of light to fill a 120" screen with great contrast and snap.
One final note on lumen output-the projector loses about 12% of its light output when the lens shift is set to the extreme ends of the lens shift range as compared to having the lens in the neutral position. That brought the lowest reading we could get from the RS1 down to 340 lumens (low lamp power, max telephoto, max lens shift). So all in all, there is absolutely nothing to worry about as far as the 700 ANSI lumen rating on the spec sheet is concerned.
Contrast. Few industry observers would ever have guessed that a D-ILA product from JVC would be the first product in the marketplace to achieve a genuine 15,000:1 contrast, without the fudge factor of a dynamic iris no less. And the RS1 is indeed capable of producing black levels rivaling the best in the business.
One should be aware that a totally black room is required to see the true potential of the RS1. Once you get into extreme contrast performance, any reflective surfaces in the room will cause light to bounce back onto the screen, thereby compromising black levels more than it will on a lower contrast projector. However, users who make the effort to darken walls and ceilings (in essence, replicating the environment of a quality commercial movie theater), will be rewarded handsomely.
There is sufficient contrast on this projector to forego the high contrast gray screens unless there is a lot of reflected light from walls, ceilings, and carpets in the viewing room. In a room where walls and surfaces are darkened and non-reflective, we prefer the white screens. In viewing on both the Stewart Grayhawk RS and the Stewart Studiotek 130, which is a 1.3 gain white screen, the latter produced the more vibrant and satisfying image.
Sharpness. The RS1's sharpness control has a range of -30 to +30, with a factory default at zero. Settings above zero introduce progressively more ringing and edge effects. But settings toward the softer end of the scale introduce excessive blurriness. We found a setting of about -5 to be the most satisfying. At this setting we put the RS1 up against the Mitsubishi HC5000, which is our reference test unit for sharpness in the 1080p category. We expected the HC5000, an LCD projector with more distinct pixel structure, to outperform any LCOS projector by a noticeable margin. In point of fact, though the HC5000 had a slight edge in sharpness with the highest quality HD material, the RS1 was surprisingly close-much cleaner and sharper than we had anticipated. In terms of overall image acuity, the RS1 is comparable to the DLP 1080p products in this price range (the Optoma HD81 and the BenQ W10000), and noticeably sharper than the Sony Pearl (VW50), which is the only other 1080p product in this price class featuring LCOS technology.
In the final analysis, the JVC RS1 surpasses all of the 1080p competition when its natural, filmlike characteristics are taken into consideration. This has always been the latent strength of JVC's D-ILA technology, and it shows itself in spades on this projector. For our taste, JVC has achieved the perfect balance between image sharpness and a natural, lifelike quality.
So is there anything wrong with it?
We've had a difficult time finding anything to complain about with the DLA-RS1. But we would not be doing our reviewer's duty if we didn't find something to point to as a deficiency. So for the record, let us note that the unit has manual zoom and focus, whereas some of the competing units are powered. In reality, this is of no consequence to most users. Once it is installed, and properly zoomed and focused, most users would never use the powered lens feature again. The exception would be if you had something other than a 16:9 format screen, say either 4:3 or 2.35. A powered zoom could enable you to zoom in and out to fill the screen based on the format of the video material being displayed.
A second item to note is this: The RS1 has two HDMI ports, but they are not HDMI 1.3 compatible. Some will undoubtedly think of this as a larger issue than it really is. We will see a flood of new projectors in 2007 that are 1.3 compatible, and we expect only a very few of them to even come close to rivaling the picture quality of the RS1.
If we really wanted to nit-pick, we could point out that standard definition pictures over component video inputs are overscanned about 3% on each side, 2% top and bottom, and there is no way to override this and set overscan to 100%. Yes, I'd like to see the picture on my Northern Exposure DVD totally full frame rather than with a bit of edge cropping. But in the grand scheme of things, this is close to irrelevant. The RS1's contrast and color saturation really outshines the competition with standard definition material in particular, and a slightly cropped image on the RS1 is superior to the full frame image on most competitive 1080p models.
Finally, there is no anamorphic squeeze mode provided onboard. So if you are interested in a 2.35 constant image height installation with an auxiliary anamorphic lens, you will need to invest in an external video processor to accomplish the required image squeeze.
JVC designers and engineers have done an outstanding job with the DLA-RS1. Not only is it the finest consumer projector ever made by JVC, it is uniquely outstanding in the new group of aggressively priced 1080p projectors. At $6,295, it is the most expensive in the group. But it performs like a premium-priced product, and it is certainly worth the money you invest in it. It was an easy decision to give the JVC DLA-RS1 our Editor's Choice Award, and as such it has our very strongest recommendation. With this impressive projector, JVC is positioned to capture a much greater share of the consumer home theater market in 2007 than it ever has in the past.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our JVC DLA-RS1U projector page.