As I said above, the fact that this year's model switches automatically into a correctly configured HDR picture mode with UHD BDs makes for a much more user-friendly experience. I watched clips from a variety of UHD BDs--including The Revenant, Sicario, The Martian, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, and Batman vs. Superman--and every time, with every player, the X970R switched correctly into HDR mode. When I measured the projector in HDR mode, it served up 52.4 ft-L, or 179.6 nits, with a full white field. That's not as bright as the 65 ft-L put out by the Epson 6040UB I recently reviewed. Then again, the Epson can't give you a wider color gamut when putting out that level of brightness. You have to choose between brightness and P3 color. With the JVC in HDR mode, you get both--and the result was a very engaging viewing experience, thanks to the improved dynamic range, excellent detail, and rich color. I got so used to the gorgeous well-detailed UHD discs that, when I switched back to 1080p BDs, everything looked somewhat soft.
One last performance note: JVC did not include the 3D emitter and glasses with my review sample, so I could not do a 3D evaluation. I don't imagine the 3D performance will vary much from last year's DLA-X770R model, aside from the minor brightness improvement. Here's what I wrote last year: "I tested out the 3D performance with my favorite demo scenes from Life of Pi, Ice Age 3, and Monsters vs. Aliens. There are only two 3D picture modes, of which the THX mode is the most accurate and natural-looking. I saw no obvious crosstalk, and the improved light output helps to offset the image brightness that's lost through the active glasses. Overall the JVC's 3D image looked clean, crisp, and well-saturated. I was aware of a bit more flicker with the JVC glasses, which can be a distraction if you view 3D content in a room with some ambient light."
Here are the measurement charts for the JVC DLA-X970R projector, created using Portrait Displays' Spectracal CalMAN software. These measurements show how close the display gets to our current HDTV standards. For both gray scale and color, a Delta Error under 10 is considered tolerable, under five is considered good, and under three is considered imperceptible to the human eye. Click on each photo to view the graph in a larger window.
The top charts show the projector's color balance, gamma, and total gray-scale Delta Error, below and after calibration in the THX mode. Ideally, the red, green, and blue lines will be as close together as possible to reflect a neutral color/white balance. We currently use a gamma target of 2.2 for HDTVs and a darker 2.4 for projectors. The bottom charts show where the six color points fall on the Rec 709 triangle, as well as the luminance (brightness) error and total Delta Error for each color point.
We also measured the projector in HDR mode. It measures a maximum brightness of 179.6 nits at 100 IRE in full white field. To the right, the top chart shows the HDR mode's EOTF (aka the "new gamma") tracking; the yellow line is the target, and the JVC (gray line) tracks fairly close. The bottom chart shows how close the DLA-X970R gets to the DCI-P3 color gamut. Although the larger Rec 2020 triangle is the ultimate goal for UHD, no displays can do it right now, so we use DCI-P3 as the current target. This projector comes closer to P3 than other recent models we've tested, such as the Sony VPL-VW675ES and Epson 6040UB; the red, green, and blue points all have a Delta Error under three, and cyan is the least accurate with a DE of 4.3.
The X970R's downsides are the exact same ones I had for the X750R last year. This projector does not support Dolby Vision, although no other 4K-friendly projectors do, either. It's very slow to switch between different resolutions, and it doesn't accept a 480i signal. The latter is only a concern if you prefer to use the source direct mode on your Blu-ray player or cable/satellite box. You can easily get around these problems by locking your source to a set resolution (ideally 4K on your UHD player).
The X970R's video processor didn't handle 1080i deinterlacing as well as other displays I've tested. With the 1080i cadence tests on the Spears and Munsil 2nd Generation Benchmark disc, the DLA-X970R correctly detected a 1080i film cadence (although it was slow to do so), but it failed at 1080i video and other cadences like 5:5 and 6:4. You probably won't see too many artifacts in film-based 1080i HDTV shows, but video-based 1080i content could be another story. Again, if you lock your source device to a 1080p or 4K resolution, this won't be a concern.
The X970R lacks a USB input, which is now a common feature on many front projectors and can serve multiple purposes, including media playback, firmware updates, and powering wireless HDMI dongles like the DVDO Air.
Comparison & Competition
The main competitors to the JVC DLA-X970R, price-wise, come from Sony and Epson. The DLA-X970R's $9,999 price lands it in the middle of two of Sony's native 4K projectors: the $14,999 VPL-VW675ES and the $7,999 VPL-VW365ES. You can read Brian Kahn's recent review of the VPL-VW675ES here: Like the JVC, it supports the HDR10 and HLG formats, but it doesn't have full 18-Gbps HDMI inputs, and its color points are further off the P3 mark than the JVC. It has a lower rated light output at 1,800 lumens, but real-world numbers were comparable. The VPL-VW365ES, meanwhile, supports only HDR10, doesn't do P3 color, and is rated at 1,500 lumens.
Epson's $7,999 Pro Cinema LS10500 is a pixel-shifting model that uses a laser light source and supports HDR10 and P3 color. As I mentioned above, Epson also offers the pixel-shifting $3,999 Pro Cinema 6040UB that supports HDR10 and P3 color, although not in the same picture modes.
Purely from a performance standpoint, JVC's DLA-X970R projector is an easy recommendation. It produces a beautiful image with both 4K and 1080p content, combining deep blacks with improved light output, accurate color, and a vastly improved HDR experience compared with the previous JVC generation.
It's when you add price into the equation that things get more complicated. Yes, the JVC is $5,000 cheaper than Sony's native 4K VPL-VW675ES while offering comparable (and, in some respects, better) performance. If you're working with a more modest screen size, the Sony's step up to native 4K probably won't be that obvious of an advantage; so, in that sense, the DLA-X970R is the better value. Where it gets really tricky, though, is when you compare the DLA-X970R with JVC's own $6,999 DLA-X770R. On paper, the only performance spec that differentiates the X770R from the X970R is a 100-lumen decrease in brightness. With the X970R, you do get hand-picked optics to ensure the best possible performance, as well as a longer five-year warranty (three years for X770R). Are those three elements really worth $3,000? I suppose that depends on the size of your screen and your bank account. If it were my money being spent on a high-performing UHD/HDR-friendly projector, I'd first take a serious look at JVC's DLA-X770R, which I think more successfully hits the trifecta of performance, features, and price.
• Check out our Front Projectors category page to read similar reviews.
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• Visit the JVC website for more product information.