JVC DLA-X55 review

John Archer reacquaints himself with JVC's 4K e-shift technology, and welcomes its new, lower price point

The arrival of any new projector using JVC’s consistently outstanding D-ILA technology sets HCC's pulse racing. But it’s fair to say we’re even more flustered than usual at the delivery of JVC’s new DLA-X55 model.

Why? Because it makes the brand’s 4K e-shift technology available at a new, lower price point of £5,000 (versus the near £7,000 asking price of last year’s cheapest 4k e-shift projector, the DLA-X70). In fact, it even introduces a new iteration of the e-shift technology, cunningly dubbed e-shift 2.

For those unfamiliar with 4K e-shift, it’s essentially a clever attempt to give Full HD images the sort of pixel density you would get with a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) image. It does this by using two Full HD imaging devices positioned in sequence, with the second one half a pixel upwards and left of the first. This means images passed through the two imaging devices are made up from double the number of pixels they would be in a normal projector.

As we've said before, the DLA-X55 and other e-shift projectors aren’t true 4K machines. They can’t take in native 4K sources for starters. What JVC's e-shift technology definitely can do, though, based on past experience, is make images look crisper and more ‘dense’, avoiding the sensation of visible line structure and slight softness some HD projectors can suffer with when beamed onto large screens.

Improved e-shift

With e-shift 2, new upscaling processing replaces a previous two-band filter with an eight-band iteration able to apply greater correction to more areas of a 2D image. The new upscaling also operates at a 21 x 21 pixel detection level, versus the 6 x 6 level used previously, to produce improved results.

Also new is an area in the DLA-X55’s logical and well-presented onscreen menus for tweaking e-shift 2’s impact on the picture. Among the options available are themed presets (Film, HD, SD etc), within which you can further choose between Dynamic Contrast, Smoothing and Enhance options.

The effect of the e-shift tech should also be boosted by JVC’s usual improvement to the polarising optical wire grid engine so key to D-ILA picture quality. This apparently improves the sense of resolution and contrast (a native – repeat, native - ratio of 50,000:1 is claimed) while also boosting the DLA-X55’s brightness in 3D mode by up to 120 per cent.

And that’s not the only promised 3D performance boost. The new optical engine combines with new 3D circuitry – including improved proprietary Crosstalk Canceller processing - to deliver what should be clearer, brighter and less crosstalk-y 3D images.

As well as affordable e-shift, the DLA-X55‘s other claim to fame is its carriage of many of the fine-tuning features - including a full colour management system - previously only available on more expensive JVC models.

Another new feature on the DLA-X55 - for JVC, anyway - is lens memory. This enables people with 21:9 screens to establish five different zoom and focus settings for different video aspect ratios, so that they’re delivered optimally to the ultra-wide display.

Brilliant with Bond

Put to work with my just-arrived Skyfall Blu-ray, the JVC dazzles from the opening scene. Especially potent is the image’s dynamism, even when using one of the relatively ‘calm’ image presets, such as Film or Cinema. I'm used to seeing JVC’s D-ILA projectors excelling with the reproduction of dark scenes and black colours – this has been the foundation of their success since 2007’s ground-breaking HD1. But what I'm less accustomed to, especially on the brand’s more affordable models, is seeing these stunning black levels partnered by the high levels of brightness and colour vibrancy exhibited here. Numerous Sequences in Skyfall, such as those in MI6’s underground technology observation ‘bunker’, become truly mesmerising.

The way the DLA-X55 is able to deliver staggering black depth without weakening its new, higher brightness levels pays dividends when it comes to greyscale subtlety and shadow detail. With the Bond platter, this is especially apparent during the extended dusk/night shoot-out at Bond’s Skyfall home; you can see details in background walls and the moorland exteriors that get crushed out by projectors that depend on dynamic iris systems to deliver a convincing black level. And not needing to adjust its lamp output has a further benefit – with the DLA-X55 you won’t see any of the brightness ‘shifting’ that troubles many LCD and SXRD rivals.

I noted earlier the vibrancy of the DLA-X55’s colours. Yet neither are they over-cooked. Subtle is the word here, able to delineate without a trace of striping and tiny tonal nuances even during tricky sequences like the red-soaked shots of Skyfall burning against the night sky. The colour range is extreme too, ensuring that after a little tweaking nothing about the colour palette looks forced or unbalanced. JVC's e-shift 2 technology is likely playing a part in this flawless colour handling, given its delivery of more ‘pixels’ per inch.

There’s no doubt that e-shift 2 helps the Skyfall Blu-ray appear crisp and detailed. The shots of 007 looking across Whitehall show high levels of detail in skin tones, clothing and background brickwork. And e-shift 2 also delivers on its promise of removing any visible pixel ‘grid’ structure. This makes movies feel more ‘real’. You forget about the technology at play, and focus on the image itself.

By £5,000 PJ standards, motion handling is sublime. The DLA-X55 carries a Clear Motion Drive system for reducing judder, but I don't think you need it. Motion in its native form looks clear and natural.

These superb 2D results were achieved with the X55’s lamp set to ‘Low’, at which level the projector runs impressively quietly.

Stereoscopic star

A run-through of Dredd 3D continues the good news as the JVC's 3D performance proves an improvement over last year’s models. Crosstalk is now almost non-existent. Just occasionally I spotted a faint ‘echo‘ of dark image elements if they appeared against a very bright backdrop. Colours appear rich and bright in 3D mode too; the Full HD resolution delivered by 3D Blu-rays is excellently reproduced; there’s more brightness than previous JVC 3D PJs have delivered; and you also get a lovely, natural sense of 3D depth.

The only issue I had with the DLA-X55’s 3D performance - aside from the much louder running noise - was the appearance of some slight double edging and periodic stuttering when showing tracking/panning shots.

The bottom line is that I've fallen in love with the DLA-X55. It delivers unprecedented picture quality for its price point. Grab an audition at once!


£5,000 Approx

Highs: Sensational 2D picture quality; very good 3D images; good setup flexibility

Lows: Minor motion flaws with 3D; runs a touch noisily with lamp set to normal; out of the box picture presets could be better; a little bulky

Performance: 5/5
Design: 4/5
Features: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5