JVC DLA-X3 3D Projector Reviewed
By: Adrienne Maxwell,
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A debate rages--nah, let's dial that back to "exists" - in home entertainment circles as to whether 3D in the home is really necessary. Perhaps the one category where 3D capability makes obvious sense is the front-projection market, since that category best replicates the experience of going to the movies. If people embrace 3D in the movie theater, then they'll embrace it in the home theater, right? JVC is clearly banking on that to be true, as six of the eight projectors in the company's 2011 line are 3D-capable.
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The DLA-X3 (and its professional-market counterpart, the DLA-RS40) is the entry-level model in the 3D line. With an MSRP of $4,499.95, this D-ILA projector has a 1080p resolution and a rated 50,000:1 native contrast ratio, and it features the HQV Reon-VX processing chip, 120Hz Clear Motion Drive, two anamorphic lens modes, a 220-watt UHP lamp, and motorized zoom/focus controls. JVC has opted to go the active 3D route with its projectors: The DLA-X3 uses frame-sequential technology, in which the projector alternately flashes a full-resolution left-eye and right-eye image. Active 3D requires special glasses that contain shutters that open and close in sync with the signal to direct the appropriate image to each eye. In this case, you also need a 3D signal emitter that connects to the projector and communicates with the glasses. JVC includes neither the glasses nor the emitter in the DLA-X3's package. The PK-EM1 signal emitter costs $79, while the PK-AG1 glasses cost $179 each.
Stepping up to the DLA-X7 ($7,999.95) or DLA-X9 ($11,999.95) will get you THX and ISF certification, as well as a higher contrast ratio, a more advanced lens aperture system, and more thorough color management. The top-shelf X9 has a listed 100,000:1 contrast ratio and includes two pairs of glasses and the 3D signal emitter (as it should for a $12,000 projector), plus a longer warranty of three years, compared with two years for the DLA-X3.
Setup & Features
In its design and build, the DLA-X3 certainly feels like a more substantial piece than you'll find in the entry-level, sub-$3,000 category. It's a beefy unit that measures 17.9 x 7 x 18.6 inches and weighs about 32 pounds, but the high-gloss-black finish lends a bit of elegance to distinguish it from your basic boxy design. The lens is mounted in the center of the unit, and two curved ventilation ports run along each side. Buttons for power, input, menu, and navigation are located on the back--next to a connection panel that includes dual HDMI 1.4a inputs, component video, RS-232, a 12-volt trigger, a remote control port, and a port to connect the optional 3D signal emitter. The connection panel lacks lower-resolution analog ports like S-video and composite video, and it also omits the PC input that you get on the higher-end X7 and X9 (the step-up models also add a LAN port for network control). The DLA-X3 has a motorized lens cover that automatically opens when you power up the projector and closes when you shut it down. The included remote control is fully backlit and has a clean, logical layout. You get dedicated input buttons, as well as direct access to many of the most desirable picture controls.
Physical setup was incredibly easy in my room, thanks to the DLA-X3's motorized 2x zoom, motorized focus, and generous lens-shift capabilities (+/-80 percent vertical, +/-34 percent horizontal). The projector also has adjustable feet, onscreen patterns to aid with position/focus, and horizontal/vertical keystone correction, and you can configure it for front or rear projection and a ceiling or table mount. I placed the unit on an equipment rack about 4 feet high, directly behind my seating area, 14 feet from my 75-inch-diagonal Elite Screens theater screen.
The DLA-X3 lacks some advanced picture adjustments found in the step-up models, but it still provides the essentials to fine-tune the image--beginning with nine picture modes (three of which are user modes). No, you don't get the THX mode found in the X7 and X9, but I found that both the Film and Cinema modes provide an excellent base image. Within each mode, you can choose between 10 preset color-temperature options (from 5500K up to 9500K, plus a high-brightness mode) and access RGB gain and offset controls to tailor the white balance. There's also a solid selection of gamma presets and custom options. The DLA-X3 offers two ways to adjust the projector's light output: You can select between a Normal and High lamp mode and precisely adjust the lens aperture (with 0 being wide open and thus the brightest, -15 being the darkest). The one area where the DLA-X3 is a bit lacking is in color management. This projector does not include the seven-axis system found in the step-up models, which lets you independently adjust all six color points plus orange; rather, you can only choose between Normal, Wide1, and Wide2 color spaces. I stuck with the Normal mode for 2D content, as I found it to produce the most natural-looking color.
JVC's 120Hz Clear Motion Drive includes five different options, and the user manual kindly explains what each one does. Modes 1 and 2 insert black frames between existing frames to reduce motion blur, while Modes 3 and 4 use varying degrees of frame interpolation to reduce motion blur and film judder. There's also an Inverse Telecine mode that's designed to reduce judder by first deconstructing the 60Hz film image back to the original 24 frames and then converting it to 120Hz. Leave the CMD control off (which it is by default), and the projector simply duplicates frames to get to 120Hz.
The DLA-X3 has three just aspect ratios: 16:9, 4:3, and a Zoom mode for non-HD sources. A separate Mask control lets you add 2.5 or 5 percent overscan, if desired. The projector also offers two anamorphic modes, for use with a separate anamorphic lens that allows you to view 2.35:1 films with no black bars on the top and bottom. Mode "A" stretches the image vertically, and mode "B" squeezes it horizontally.
Finally, there's 3D setup. As I mentioned above, you need to connect the optional 3D signal emitter to the DLA-X3 in order to communicate with the glasses. This is an IR-based emitter that has a 3-meter cable that allows you to position it for optimal communication. Unlike other glasses I've used, the PK-AG1 glasses don't have an on/off switch; just put them on when the 3D signal appears on screen, and you're good to go...which is convenient but seems like it would quickly drain the battery. Then again, given how often people will likely forget to use an off switch, it's probably a push. Also different from the 3DTVs I've tested, the DLA-X3 does not automatically switch to a special 3D picture mode when it detects a 3D signal. You have to manually switch to the 3D picture mode, if you wish to use it. This mode is set by default to the High lamp mode and brightest lens aperture to improve brightness, which is compromised by the shutter glasses. It also has a slightly higher color temp to compensate for the glasses' yellowish-green tint. Of course, you can adjust these and other parameters, just as you would with a 2D image. The only function you cannot access is Clear Motion Drive, which is locked in the off position. The DLA-X3 does not include any advanced 3D adjustments, such as the ability to change the image depth or perspective. It also lacks the 2D-to-3D conversion found in many 3DTVs, although I've been less than impressed with that feature thus far.
This was an easy review to do because the DLA-X3 is just an easy projector to like. A houseguest arrived right around the time I set up the JVC, and we watched the Salt Blu-ray disc (Sony Pictures) before I had even performed basic picture adjustments using Digital Video Essentials (DVD International). All I did was switch from the default Natural picture mode to the Film picture mode and cue up the movie. I often found my thoughts drifting away from the film itself and landing on, "Man, that's a nice-looking picture." Rich contrast with excellent blacks. Great detail. Natural color. A clean image. Of course, when I did get around to that DVE disc, I was able to make some quick adjustments that resulted in an even better-looking picture.
Read more about the performance of the JVC DLA-X3 3D projector on Page 2.