Editor's Choice Award
Our Editor's Choice award goes to products that dramatically exceed expectations for performance, value, or cutting-edge design.
The JVC DLA-RS10, and DLA-RS20 are JVC's newest models in a long line of D-ILA based home theater projectors. D-ILA, or Direct-drive Image Light Amplifier, is JVC's proprietary version of LCoS microdisplay technology. JVC's D-ILA home theater projectors have always had excellent picture quality. But those who remember back a few years will recall that contrast on those earlier units was modest by competitive standards, casework was boxy and bulky, fan noise was exceptionally high, and lamp replacement costs were extreme.
Those limitations are a thing of the past. The RS10 and RS20 deliver extremely high contrast, very deep black levels, and a beautiful picture with pure CRT analog characteristics. They come in elegant, high gloss black casework, fan noise is very low, and lamp replacement costs are competitive. They are not the least expensive 1080p projectors on the market, but their image quality cannot be beat. We are pleased to give both models our Editor's Choice Award at their respective price points of $4,995 and $7,495.
Differences between the RS10 and RS20
The RS10 and RS20 look almost the same from the outside. The actual differences between them are as follows:
Brightness. The RS10 is rated at 1000 lumens, while the RS20 is rated at 900 lumens. In fact, the RS10 is incrementally brighter than the RS20 in all operating modes, and the ratings are accurate indications of the relative brightness.
Contrast. The RS10 is rated at 32,000:1, and the RS20 is rated at 50,000:1. It is important to note that there are no dynamic irises on either model, so these ratings are not boosted by an iris that closes down on black scenes.
Manual iris control. Both models have manual irises which you can open or close to adjust light output. The RS10 has three iris settings, while the RS20 has sixteen. Thus you can fine tune the light output to a greater degree of precision on the RS20.
VGA input. The RS10 and RS20 have almost identical connection panels. The only difference is that the RS20 has a VGA input, while the RS10 does not.
THX certified operating mode. The RS20 has it, the RS10 does not.
Color Management System (CMS). The RS20 has it, the RS10 does not.
Specifications for the JVC RS10 and RS20
ANSI lumens: RS10, 1000; RS20, 900
Contrast (full on/off): RS10, 32,000:1 RS20, 50,000:1
Light Engine: 1920x1200, native 16:9 D-ILA (LCoS), with 200W UHP lamp.
Video Compatibility: 1080p/60/50/24, 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i.
Connection Panel: Two HDMI 1.3 ports, one 3-RCA component port, one composite video, one S-video, one RS-232c, and one 12-volt trigger. In addition, the RS20 includes a VGA port.
Lens and Throw Distance: 2.0:1 powered zoom/focus lens. Will throw a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 10 to 20 feet.
Lamp Life: 2000 hours
Replacement lamp price: $399.
Warranty: Two years.
Overview of Features
Analog picture quality. A lot of buzz has been circulating about the excellent contrast and black level of the RS10 and RS20. And while they are outstanding in this regard, if you focus on just these attributes you are likely to miss the point. The most vital feature that sets the RS10 and RS20 apart from the competition is not black level or contrast. It is the pure, analog quality of their image. They simply do not look like digital projectors-they look like high resolution CRTs. Of course, there is no way to discern this from reading the specs. But when you set up the RS10 or 20 against most of the other 1080p competition, you see a natural quality that most of the competition has a hard time replicating. It is analogous to the difference in audio depth between vinyl and CD. This elusive analog quality is Nirvana as far as the true videophile is concerned.
It is this analog quality that has caused us to give the Editor's Choice Award to both models. If there is any demonstration that could convince potential buyers they need to think beyond the specs, a side by side demo of the RS10 and RS20 against most other 1080p projectors would do it. The picture simply looks smoother, more natural, and less digital. You can't quantify this difference in specs. And still screen shots are worthless since the analog look of the image is obliterated in a single frame, pixel reduced screen shot. But when you see it in real life, the analog-like image quality is obviously superior to most 1080p competitors. For the videophile, this is what it's all about.
Brightness. The RS10 is rated at 1000 lumens, and the RS20 at 900. That may not sound very bright compared to specs on some competing models, but these projectors have another distinct advantage that you can't discern from the specs-they are very bright in video optimized mode.
On the RS10, the brightest reading we measured was 915 lumens. But the lamp on our review sample already had 150+ hours on it when we received it.. If we had been able to test a sample with a new lamp, it is likely that all of our lumen readings would have been higher by 5% to 10%.
The reading of 915 lumens was taken in Dynamic mode, with lamp on full and zoom set to wide angle. On most home theater projectors, moving to a precalibrated cinema mode drops lumen output to about 1/3 of its Dynamic mode. However, on the RS10, the Cinema 1 and 2 modes measured 775 lumens. That's not much of a drop from Dynamic, and still way too bright for most dark room home theater set-ups.
The good news is that the RS10 has a variety of options for reducing light output to a comfortable level. In any operating mode, switching from Normal to Low lamp will reduce brightness by 31%. And moving the zoom lens from maximum wide angle to maximum telephoto reduces brightness by 26%. That is a remarkably small loss for a long 2x zoom lens. Most 2.0x zoom lenses will cut 40% of the projector's maximum light potential at the maximum telephoto position.
In addition to controlling light with the lamp power setting and zoom lens position, the RS10 has a manual aperture that gives you further adjustment control. The optional settings are 1, 2, and 3, with 3 being wide open. Moving the aperture to 2 cuts light output by 30%, and moving it to 1 cuts light by 55%. The bottom line is that you can adjust brightness to just about anything you want, based on your screen size, screen gain, viewing environment, and personal preferences.
The same is true of the RS20, with some modest differences. We measured maximum light output in Dynamic mode at 839 lumens, and the THX and Cinema modes measured a still very bright 755-even less of a difference than on the RS10. The RS20 has the same low lamp and zoom lens characteristics as the RS10. But the manual aperture has more fine tuning capability. Instead of three settings, it has 16. You can incrementally reduce lumen output 2% to 3% with each closing click of the aperture. Zero is wide open, and -15 is minimum. At position # 15, you have reduced lumen output by 43% from the zero, wide open position.
If you don't need the maximum light output that the RS10 and RS20 can deliver at the outset, think about installing it with the lamp on low, and/or the aperture at some setting other than wide open. Then as the lamp's light output falls off over its life, you can compensate for it by opening the aperture and resetting the lamp to full power. That way you can maintain a relatively constant illumination of the screen over the lamp's life.
Contrast. The RS10 is rated at 32,000:1 on/off, and the RS20 is rated at 50,000:1. Lighting them up side by side in the dark, you can easily see the difference. The RS10's overall contrast and black level is extremely good, and the RS20's is better. We measured the RS10's full on/off contrast at 23,300:1, and the RS20 at 38,000:1. These are the highest native on/off readings we've seen on any 1080p projectors we've measured. The highest native full on/off contrast reading we've measured on any competing unit was the Epson Pro Cinema 7500, at 18,500:1.
Keep in mind that the RS10 and RS20 have no dynamic irises. Therefore, their contrast specs are based on native on/off contrast. Comparing them to full on/off contrast specs on competing projectors with auto-irises is not an apples-to-apples comparison. That's because on an auto-iris projector, the iris will automatically close down when the projected image is black, or dominated by black, in order to curtail light output and generate a blacker black. But the projector is never capable of generating that level of deep black in a scene with average light levels.
The ANSI method of measuring contrast is another way to translate a projector's contrast potential into a number. In this method we use a 16-square checkerboard, and state the average brightness of the white squares to the average brightness of the black squares as a ratio. This is great for telling you the maximum potential range between black and white in a given scene when the picture is 50% black and 50% white, which of course never happens.
On our test samples, we measured the ANSI contrast of the RS10 at 299:1, and the RS20 at 292:1. These numbers represent significant increases in ANSI contrast over the earlier JVC DLA-RS2, which we measured at 209:1. However, they are lower than readings we get from the current high contrast LCD projectors, which tend to fall into the 350:1 to 450:1 range, or DLP projectors, a few of which are now approaching 600:1.
There are two problems with all this contrast data. First, the numbers are in conflict-the high contrast LCD and DLP home theater projectors have advantages in ANSI contrast, but they all fall far short of the JVC models in native contrast. It is hard for the buyer to visualize what the picture would actually look like from these stats.
Second, the numbers are based on artificial abstract luminance values that don't occur in real video or film. Full on/off compares the brightness of a 100% white screen to a 100% black screen, and ANSI compares values within a checkerboard, but neither of these measurements translates directly to the average dynamic range you see in a typical film image on screen.
Therefore, after taking all of our artificial measurements, we like to set up two projectors side by side, feed them the same signal, freeze-frame on a variety of scenes, and use a spot meter to calculate the real ratios between black and white that the user actually sees in real life. They are not absolute measurements since the scenes we test are not test patterns with 0 IRE black or 100 IRE white. But they do give interesting insight into the comparative dynamic range of any two projectors in typical scenes. Ultimately they are the most informative measures of contrast that we take.
As far as the JVC RS10 and RS20 are concerned, the bottom line is this-they deliver extraordinary dynamic range and the best black levels we've seen. But contrast and black level alone are not the reasons to spend premium dollars on these models. You can get extremely satisfying contrast and black levels from projectors half the price. It is the analog characteristics of the image that sets them apart. The preoccupation with contrast data and black levels, unfortunately, deflects the consumer's attention from the more important issue at hand. Focusing entirely on contrast when buying a projector is like selecting a wine based on its alcohol content, without paying attention to a wine's more important but less quantifiable attributes of aromas, flavors, body, and overall harmony.
Color saturation and accuracy. Color performance is reasonably good in factory default modes, but a few adjustments were necessary to get our samples into optimum calibration. However, the user isn't going to need to worry about this. The RS10 and RS20 are sold exclusively by professional installers and specialty retailers who provide calibration services. So you can be assured it will be tuned up perfectly.
Sharpness. There are no deficiencies in sharpness on these models. You have all the controls you need to adjust image sharpness to a greater or lesser degree of acuity based on your personal taste.
Pixelation. One of the advantages of LCOS technology is very modest pixel structure, so that you get no screen-door effect. With 1080p resolution, we see very little problem with this on any projector at normal viewing distances. Nevertheless, the pixel structure on the RS10/20 is less visible than it is on competing LCD and DLP models, with the exception of the Panasonic AE3000, due to its smooth-screen filter.
Fan noise. In years past the older D-ILA projectors had very high wattage lamps that threw off a lot of heat, and fan noise was a big issue. Some will recall the JVC DLA-G15U from earlier in this decade, which had a 420-watt Xenon lamp, with a 1000-hour life, that cost about $700 to replace. Extra air conditioning was required to keep room temperature comfortable when that one was running.
Times have changed. The 200-watt UHP lamp used in the RS10 and RS20 has a 2000 hour life, and replacement cost is a more typical $399. This is more in line with competitive offerings. By comparison, LCD 1080p home theater projectors commonly use 160W to 200W lamps, and DLP models often use 250W to 300W lamps.
Connectivity. Connectivity is adequate but not exceptional. There are two HDMI 1.3b ports, and one each of component, one composite, S-video, and RS-232c.. There is a 12-volt trigger that many users will find helpful to automatically coordinate the activation of a motorized screen with the powering on of the projector. In addition, the RS20 offers one VGA port that does not exist on the RS10.
No frame interpolation. The one feature missing on the RS10 and RS20 is frame interpolation. Since it works so well on the Panasonic AE3000, we'd prefer to have seen a similar capability on these models as well. This is a controversial issue on which people have legitimate differences of opinion. However, the latent motion judder in 24 fps film that is often evident in 24p transmission is as objectionable to us as deinterlacing artifacts used to be until video processing capabilities evolved to minimize their presence on screen. Motion judder in film can be partially mitigated by transmitting in 60p, but the ultimate solution is a frame interpolation system that removes the judder without tampering with the film-like quality of the image. We would like to see this added as a user-selectable option in the next generation of D-ILA home theater projectors. The user may or may not want to activate it, but the option should be there.
Slow source selection. Switching input sources is a very slow process on these projectors. If you have your system set up with everything being delivered from an AV receiver to a given HDMI port, this is of no consequence. But if you have multiple sources connected directly to the projector, it can take a remarkable amount of time to get from one source to another. Complicating the issue is the fact that there is no direct access to each source on the remote. Rather, the Input button forces you to toggle sequentially through the series of connections until you get the one you want.
Inconsistent remote. Our sample of the RS10 has one of the weakest remotes, in terms of signal strength, that we've seen in a while. We needed to take care to point it precisely at the screen to get a maximum bounce for the projector to recognize it, and sometimes we gave up and pointed it at the projector. This constitutes a nuisance that a projector of this quality should not have.
Case color. The high gloss, jet black casework is beautiful, no doubt about it. This is a great looking projector. However, many people who ceiling mount their projectors on a white ceiling prefer to have a white projector in order to minimize its visibility in the room. This one will stand out. At these prices, having the option to select case color would be a nice touch.
The JVC RS10 and RS20 are home theater projectors for the discriminating videophile with some extra money to spend. They deliver the best overall image quality of any projector under $10,000 today. The only omission of consequence is a frame interpolation system. Of course this is new technology, and many videophiles do not consider it to be an important feature, as least as of yet. For those buyers, we cannot think of any other missing performance feature or attribute that would be a matter of concern. The slow input switching and the remote's weak signal strength are nuisances one can live with. So if you've got the money and the passion for video excellence, the JVC models are hard to beat. What you'll end up with is a picture that is as close to a high definition CRT as we've yet seen from a digital projector anywhere in this price range. And to the serious videophile, that is worth everything.
Selecting between the RS10 and RS20 is a matter of personal funding. For those who have the cash and want the best, the RS20 is it. For those who want to pay a premium for a high contrast, analog-like image, but don't want to pay an extra $2,500 for incremental contrast, the RS10 would be the better choice. Either way, you will end up with a very serious picture in your home theater.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our JVC DLA-RS10U projector page.