It’s the start of a promising new year, and this year, as never before, the image quality you can pack into your home theater just keeps getting better. In the dim recesses of my addled mind, I recall a time when the minimum price point for anything approaching a watchable image was about $15,000. Although a few home theater projectors still live at that rarefied price point, we’re just getting through a recession, and most people spend half that or less on their light cannon.
In fact for well less than 10 large, you can get a fantastic home theater projector that will put any of the projectors from “back in the day” on the trailer in a hurry. Two of the leading contenders for your home theater projection dollar are new JVC Pro DLA-RS50U Reference Series, and Digital Projection’s M-Vision Series Cine 260-HC 1080p. Both pretty much kill about anything that you could by at any price only half a decade ago.
How time flies. I got the opportunity to fire up these two guys to compare what two of the best examples of their
respective technologies can throw up on the screen. No, they’re not the best, but for the vast majority of people, the picture from either will be far and away the best they’ve ever seen, and will likely kill any lingering misconceptions they may harbor about front projection being fuzzy and washed out.
Both of them sell for approximately the same price. It’s about the point where diminishing marginal returns keep the vast majority of projector buyers from venturing beyond. In this case, it’s about $8,000, give or take a latte or two.
The Contenders -
JVC Pro DLA-RS50U Reference Series
The new JVC Pro DLA-RS50U Reference Series home theater projector is a continuation of their acclaimed line of HD-ILA home theater projectors. It uses JVC’s LCOS HD-ILA imaging technology, and is one of the first projectors under the magic $10,000 price point to support that 3D capability that everyone’s dying for over in flat panel TV land. Although, as this is written, JVC has been experiencing a low stock level of 3d glasses and the IR emitters necessary to synch them to the projector. One othe3r 3D problem has reared it’s ugly head. The JVC has had problems with 720p SBS 3D format. That would be no big deal, except that it’s used by ESPN for their 3D broadcasts, which will obviously be popular.
As with all the JVC units, the RS-50U is a 3-chip design, with an imaging ship for each color. This avoids the necessity of a color wheel that follows single chip projectors around like a ball and chain. Sans color wheel and sequential color display, the image displayed by 3-chip projectors is typically artifact free and exhibits a much greater sense of depth, all else being equal.
Something else that sets the JVC apart from most other projectors on the market is their 120HZ refresh rate, when others use only 60Hz. If you remember the difference when we made the refresh rate transition in LCD TVs, you’ll know why that is nothing but an improvement. Less eye fatigue, smoother motion, and a better sense of solidity are all traits of the faster refresh rate.
As noted earlier, this projector can bring 3D into your theater too. Another benefit of the JVC unit is it’s almost total silence. You can sit within a few of feet of the JVC and not be able to hear that it is on. If you’ve ever lived with one of those projectors whose fans spent time doing their best leaf blower impersonation, you’ll be overjoyed at how far noise abatement has come in new projectors.
JVC RS-50U Specifications & Features:
• 1920×1080(x3) 0.7-inch D-ILA devices
• 3rd generation optical engine with improved wire grid polarizer
• Industry leading native contrast ratio: 70,000:1
• 1300 ANSI Lumens
• Upgraded 120Hz Clear Motion Drive for smooth action scenes
• 16-step lens aperture
• 7-axis Color Management System (R,G,B,C,M,Y and Orange)
• 99 custom screen-mode presets
• Various color profiles including rec.709/D65, Adobe, sRGB, and DCI
• Frame sequential full 1080p for each eye
• No special screen needed for 3D
• Accepts all modern 3D formats (Blu-ray, side-by-side, top-and-bottom)
• THX® Certified for 3D — a world first!
• Dual HDMI 1.4a inputs, PC input
• Remote control via LAN, RS-232C, IR
• Newly designed remote controller
• V: 80%/H: 34% motorized lens shift
• 1.4:1 to 2.8:1 lens throw
• Motorized lens cover
Digital Projection M-Vision Cine 260-HC 1080p
Digital Projection has been a recognized leader in front projection technology since the dawn of the DLP chip itself. Indeed, DPI built the first DLP projector. If you’ve ever watched the Academy Awards on TV, you’ve seen DPI projectors in action. They were chosen to cast their images on the jumbo screens you see on stage.
Such prestigious installations as the U.S. Air Force research center and the Carter Presidential Library are home to DPI projectors, along with some pretty impressive home theaters. They have a huge variety of different projectors, for applications ranging from budget home theaters, to digital cinema, to cost no object projection displays for the military, medical applications, and NASA.
The M-260 has a very nice looking aluminum case that wouldn’t be out of place in a race car or jet fighter. It doesn’t have the smooth, polished look of the JVC’s plastic case, which some people prefer, but I’m partial to the rugged, but very well made case found covering the DPI unit.
• 920×1080(x1) TI DarkChip3™ DMD device
• Native contrast ratio: 3,000:1
• 2,000 ANSI Lumens
• Dual HDMI 1.3a inputs, PC input
• 15-pin female HD-DSUB computer input (VGA)
• Remote control via RS-232C & IR
• Newly designed remote controller
• V: 80%/H: 34% motorized lens shift
• 1.4:1 to 2.8:1 lens throw
What The Pictures Looked Like -
These two projectors are a stark reminder of why choosing a projector is an application based activity. Despite the prestigious reputations enjoyed by both manufacturers, there were stark differences in the image from both of these units, and a definite brightness advantage of one over the other. It’s also a reminder why brightness definitely isn’t everything when selecting a home theater projector.
Brightness is, however, darn nice to have if can’t or don’t always want to control the light. For family room, rec room, or other installations where you’re going to have a significant amount of ambient light, the brighter projector will provide a more satisfying image. Ditto for those cases where you are using a larger screen, such as anything over 100” dia. In these cases the fact that the DPI unit has 2,000 ANSI lumens, compared to the JVC’s 1,300 is readily apparent. The image veritably pops off of the screen, and is much more satisfying when you’re watching with some lights on in the room.
Control the light and enjoy your theater with the lights extinguished, as God and the SMPTE intended however, and the equation swings the other way in a hurry. The deftness with which the JVC’s handled the dimmer image areas can really be appreciated when watching with the lights off. It gave a much more satisfying picture with no room light, and the wonderful subtitles in the darker areas of the screen could be seen.
The DPI, while exhibiting very good black levels, just couldn’t match the JVC for absolute black in the areas that were supposed to be utterly without light, and in the dark gray shading and detail. It’s black areas simply weren’t as black, and dark areas with details that were easily visible when watching the JVC, was more of a amorphous, dark area when watching the DPI.
The RS-50U also demonstrated a much richer, more saturated color palate compared to the M-260. That was a bit of a surprise, as most DLP projectors excel in this area. It is only in comparison to the JVC that the Digital Projection unit suffers though. It’s colors simply don’t have the richness and depth possessed by the JVC.
Due to the 3-chip design and the 120Hz refresh rate on the JVC unit, the image really did look as if we’d brought in a 35mm film projector, except without the noise and grain one expects from a true film presentation. Once you’ve had a 3-chip, either in LCOS or DLP, it’s hard to go back.
I was impressed by the smooth, film like image the JVC put on the screen, a 45” x 80” Screen Innovations Reference sporting Gamma Maestro HD 1.1 fabric. “Film-like” is a cliché, I know, but I’ve always been a fan of JVC projectors, and this is the best I’ve yet seen from the marque. The 3-chip HD-ILA produces a lack of motion artifacts, tight pixel structure, and an excellent color palette.
JVC’s have made a reputation on their inky black levels and the excellent dark gradients, which reveal low light details and subtle shading not found in many other projectors you’ll find that don’t have a set of reels and a shutter. The new RS-50U will do nothing but enhance their already stellar reputation.
I enjoyed the M-260′s very well made aluminum case and overall excellent construction quality, plus the impressive number of candles it could throw up on the screen. In just about every other aspect however, it was the new JVC RS-50U that emerged victorious. Better blacks, better grays, better color, a smoother overall image, lack of a color wheel, and its nearly silent nature all combined to give the JVC the win, at least for me. The fact that you also get 3D capability is just icing on the cake.
Today’s Final Thought-
The DPI M-Vision Cine 260-HC is a very nice projector, and had I not seen the JVC RS-50U I would have been happy to give it a coveted spot in my home theater. Once the HD-ILA unit switched on though, the contest was over, and the JVC RS-50U emerged victorious. If you have a very large screen, or are in a room with high ambient light, look at the DPI, otherwise it is JVC all the way.