Editor's Choice Award
Our Editor's Choice award goes to products that dramatically exceed expectations for performance, value, or cutting-edge design.
Last March JVC started shipping the DLA-RS1, a 1080p projector featuring D-ILA technology (JVC's proprietary version of LCOS) with a high native contrast ratio of 15,000:1. This month, the DLA-RS2 comes to market, offering even higher performance at a higher price. JVC will continue to market both models at two different price points.
The differences between the RS1 and RS2 can be summarized as follows:
1. The contrast rating on the RS2 has been boosted to 30,000:1 native (that is, this rating is not inflated by the effect of a dynamic iris, as it often is on competing units.)
2. The contrast improvement on the RS2 derives from improved light polarization wich reduces light scatter into the lens. The net effect is that contrast and black levels are improved, but actual lumen output is reduced by about 18%, as measured against comparable operating modes on the RS1 (on our two particular test units).
3. Powered zoom and focus has been added to the RS2. On the RS1, the zoom and focus controls are manual.
4. The RS2 has a Vertical Stretch function for high definition signals to accommodate an anamorphic lens, whereas the RS1 does not.
5. The RS1 is HDMI 1.2 compatible, and the RS2 is HDMI 1.3.
6. The RS2 has an overscan adjustment for component video inputs, so that a 100% full frame picture can be obtained. On the RS1, overscan automatically cropped the image from analog signals by 2.5% on each edge without the ability to adjust it.
7. Current MSRP on the RS2 is $7,995, and the RS1 is $5,495.
ANSI lumens: 600
Contrast (full on/off): 30,000:1
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.
Data Compatibility: SXGA, XGA, SVGA, VGA
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.
Replacement lamp cost: $399
Warranty: Two years (90 days on the lamp).
The DLA-RS2 is essentially an RS1 with a few refinements and modifications. Both projectors are 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. They offer a long 2.0x zoom lens that allows them 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, vertical lens shift allows you to 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 34% 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 $399, 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 RS2 is physically identical in size and looks to the RS1. It measures 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.
Out of the box, our RS2 had a visible bias toward green and was not particularly well color balanced. Sharpness was a bit overdriven for our taste as well. But there are ample controls on color temperature to tweak it up, and it has the capability to deliver an excellent, beautifully balanced picture once calibrated. Folks who are spending this much money on their projector will most likely want to get it professionally calibrated, but any home theater hobbyist who is familiar with color controls will be able to make adjustments to get an extremely satisfying image.
Deinterlacing and scaling is identical on both units, and it is first rate. It appears no changes were made to the video processing circuitry.
Fan noise is equal on both models, which is to say very quiet in normal lamp mode. In high lamp, fan noise increases to a more noticeable whisper if you are sitting next to it, but still nowhere near the fan noise that came from JVC's earlier generation D-ILA projectors. High altitude mode increases the fan to compensate for thinner atmosphere, and the manual recommends putting the unit into High Altitude mode if operated above 900 meters, or about 3,000 feet. This is a lower tolerance than most projectors we see, which typically recommend High Altitude fan settings above 4,500 to 5,000 feet elevation. Fan noise in High Altitude mode is about the same as it is in High lamp mode, so not really a big cause for concern if you need to use it.
Though they are identical in so many ways, the two key differences in image between the RS2 and RS1 are related to brightness and contrast. Side by side, the RS1 is somewhat brighter--no meter is needed to tell the difference. Highlights are more brilliant, and due to its brightness, in some scenes with average or above average light levels it has the impression of being equal to the RS2 in contrast. However, in darker scenes, the RS2 clearly achieves much deeper black levels. That may be hard to imagine, considering that the RS1 is already an outstanding performer in this regard. On a black screen with white rolling credits, the black background is obviously blacker on the RS2, while the whites on the RS1 are brighter.
Related to the RS2's incremental contrast is the fact that the RS2 has deeper color saturation. But the RS1 does not look in any sense washed out in comparison. Basically, the difference to the eye is that a saturated object will look more saturated on the RS2, but a bit brighter on the RS1.
JVC publishes very conservative specs when it comes to ANSI lumens--700 lumens on the RS1 and 600 on the RS2. JVC would probably better off not publishing a lumen spec at all, as a few other vendors have done. The reason is that the lumen specs as published by the various projector manufacturers are based on different operating assumptions, and they cannot be used for "apples to apples" comparisons. However, the consumer has no way to know that. So many buyers might reasonably infer that a projector rated at 1200 ANSI lumens is brighter than one rated at 600. In theory that is the case, but in actuality, once most projectors are set up for optimal video performance, their real lumen output is only a fraction of the theoretical rating. In JVC's case, the brightest video optimized operating modes will produce very close to the rated specification. Thus, despite carrying the lowest lumen specification among home theater projectors, the RS1 is in reality one of the brighter of the home theater projectors under $10,000 on the market, and the RS2 is not that far behind it.
On our test units, in an optimized mode in which the RS1 is producing 550 ANSI lumens, the RS2 delivers about 450 ANSI lumens in the same configuration. So in comparing these two particular test units, the RS2 is less bright by about 18%. Nevertheless, due to its extreme contrast and excellent color saturation, the RS2 is still plenty bright enough to successfully light up a 160" diagonal screen with an HD DVD, Blu-ray, or HDTV source in a dark viewing environment. As one would expect, standard definition materials look relatively dull by comparison. So if you are going to view a lot of SD material, we'd suggest keeping the screen size to about 120" for best results.
Additional factors which influence overall lumen output include the lamp operating mode, which can be either Normal or High. High mode boosts light output by about 22% over Normal mode. There is no affect on anticipated lamp life, which is 2000 hours no matter which mode you run in.
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 RS2). By shifting the lens from maximum wide angle to maximum telephoto, lumen output on the projector is curtailed by 32%. That may sound like a lot, but it is really not much compared to other 2.0x zoom lenses that can cut light by as much as 45%. However, even at this dimmest of lens configurations, and in low lamp mode, the RS2 delivers over 300 ANSI lumens. This is still plenty of light to fill a 120" screen with great contrast and snap, again due to the latent strength of its contrast and color saturation.
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 (middle) position. The extreme ends of the shift range would be required for most ceiling mount placements. On the other hand, a ceiling mount may enable you to place the projector closer to the screen, and thereby use the brighter end of the zoom lens. So there are these trade-offs to consider.
Our preference for most set-ups would be to set the projector back as far as possible on a rear shelf, maximizing the throw distance and minimizing the lens shift offset. This enables you to keep the cone of projected light to a minimum angle so that light strikes the screen from edge to edge in as close to perpendicular as possible. This produces the most even illumination of the screen.
So is there anything wrong with it?
In the review of the DLA-RS1 last March, we indicated several items that might be considered deficiencies in that model. First was the lack of powered zoom/focus--not really a huge issue for most users since you set it up once and forget about it. But most projectors in the higher price ranges have powered zoom/focus, and the RS1 did not. We also noted that the RS1 was not HDMI 1.3 compatible, it did not have a vertical stretch mode to accommodate an anamorphic lens, and there was no way to override the automatic overscan of analog signals.
On the RS2, all of these issues have been addressed. It has powered zoom/focus, it has HDMI 1.3, it has a vertical stretch mode, and it has the ability to reset overscan to 100%. So we are getting to the point where there is not much left to complain about. The only thing left to make it essentially perfect would be to have it fully precalibrated to ISF standards, so all you have to do is turn it on. But heck, for true home theater enthusiasts, half the fun of having a high performance video projector is getting into its menus and controls, and tweaking it up exactly to your standards and preferences. So yes, our RS2 was not properly calibrated out of the box. How much of a weakness is that? We will leave it to your discretion.
The DLA-RS2 -- A Projector for the Videophile
The DLA-RS2 is priced somewhat higher than the other 1080p models we've been reviewing this fall. The target market for this model is clearly the purist videophile who wishes to spend more than the typical consumer to get the very best possible performance.
One should be aware that a totally dark room with non-reflective walls, ceilings, furnishings, etc, is required to realize the maximum potential of any super-high contrast projector. 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 with the RS2.
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 (a 0.9 gain high contrast gray screen) and the Stewart Studiotek 130 (a 1.3 gain white screen), the latter produced the more vibrant and satisfying image with the RS2 as it did with the RS1.
In the final analysis, the JVC RS2 surpasses not only the RS1, but all of the 1080p competition anywhere near or below its price range 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 impressive fashion on the RS1 and RS2 series of projectors. For our taste, JVC has achieved an ideal balance between image sharpness and a natural, lifelike quality.
Last spring it was an easy decision to give the JVC DLA-RS1 our Editor's Choice Award. The RS2 is a step up in performance, clearly surpassing the RS1 in contrast, black level, and color saturation. In our view it is certainly worth the extra money just for the incremental improvements in picture quality alone. The new features of powered lens, HDMI 1.3, and anamorphic lens compatibility are just icing on the cake. Thus, it is an equally easy decision to give the JVC DLA-RS2 our Editor's Choice Award as well.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our JVC DLA-RS2U projector page.