- Written by Chris Heinonen
- Published on 19 June 2013
Introduction to the JVC X55 Projector
Even for those of us with dedicated home theater rooms, we probably make some small sacrifices to livability and décor over performance sometimes. Our walls might be a dark shade, but not a really dark, totally neutral Munsell grey, or our carpet is the somewhat lighter color that was already installed in that room. We keep the gear out in the room instead of hidden away in a closet so that changing a Blu-ray disc is easier to do. Really, these things typically wind up having very little effect on the image you see on the screen, and they make your room feel a bit more inviting than a black hole in the ground.
All of which brings me to, of all things, the JVC X55 projector. With their updated e-shift technology, a full-featured CMS, and black levels that are untouched by other projector manufacturers, it is capable of some truly stunning images. The kind of images that will likely have you painting that room, covering the carpet up with a dark rug, and putting electrical tape over the LEDs on your system components to prevent any little thing from entering the room to distract from its performance.
JVC X55 PROJECTOR SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Three-Chip Digital Projector
- Panels: Three D-ILA
- Native Resolution: 1080p
- Inputs: 2x HDMI 1.4a, 1x Component Video
- Light Output: 1200 Lumens
- Contrast Ratio: 50,000:1
- Refresh Rate: 120 Hz max, 96 Hz for 24p Content
- Control: 12V Trigger, Remote In, RS-232, Ethernet
- Zoom: 2x Motorized
- Lens Shift: 34% Horizontal, 80% Vertical, Motorized
- Warranty: 2 Years
- Dimensions: 7" H x 18" W x 18.5" D
- Weight: 32.4 Pounds
- MSRP: $5,000 USD
- SECRETS Tags: JVC, D-ILA, Projectors
Design and Setup of the JVC X55 Projector
The JVC X55 is a large beast, shipping to me in a box that checked in at almost 50 lbs. The large lens sits dead in the center, with a pair of air exhausts on the sides of the projector. All the controls and inputs are placed on the rear of the projector. This and the air intakes on the rear mean you can't place it right up next to a wall, but that shouldn't often cause an issue. The 3D has been updated from an IR emitter to an RF emitter, which mounts on the back of the X55 and sticks out a couple of inches as well. Both glasses and the emitter are optional accessories.
Setting up the X55 to align with your screen is made very easy by JVC. The leveling feet are large and easier to adjust than on any other projector I've used, making it very simple to get it level. As the X55 features lens memory, lens zoom, focus and shift are all controlled by the remote, so you can do them from your seat and then fine-tune focus at the screen to get them ideal. You can save up to five different positions, making it easy to work in a constant image height setup like I have. Aligning the projector and dialing in a few memory positions took me no longer than a half hour to do.
The X55 is the least expensive JVC that features their full CMS system. You can configure a two-point white balance, choose from 14 different gamma selections, and adjust seven different colors, the primary and secondary colors along with orange, along a 3-axis CMS system. JVC now allows you to control their projectors with an iOS application, which can perform almost all the menu options except for adjusting the custom white balance. It isn't incredibly responsive, but it allows you to configure all the settings without any menus on screen that can cause test patterns to display incorrectly. JVC also has one of the best remotes, with fast access to everything and it is well backlit.
Prior to calibration, I used the JVC X55 in the cinema mode to break it in, with a white balance set at 6500K. As I found later, this measured incredibly well and is where I'd recommend for people to start. I used the JVC X55 with a 122", 2.40 Screen Innovations Solar 4K 1.3 gain screen. With a 1.78 ratio image this gives me a 96" diagonal image for a size comparison.
The JVC X55 Projector In Use
The first thing I threw on the X55 was Zero Dark Thirty, which I hadn't had a chance to see in theaters and was highly looking forward to. Watching it on the X55, the only term I could come up with was reference quality. The image from ZDK is typically nothing short of stunning, with fantastic detail, rich, bold colors, and wonderful textures throughout. All of the gritty, dark scenes were captured, and any flaws in the makeup and fake wounds would have been easy to see. The skin tones sometimes would be slightly reddish, but just barely. Very impressive was the raid on the Bin Laden compound at the end of the film. The twin helicopters fly through a dark mountain canyon at night, and it looks amazing on the X55. The black level is better than any projector I've had in my home, and all this without any dynamic iris. I'm glad I waited to watch this at home, as the theater might have not done this film the justice that the JVC X55 did to it.
I tried flipping on the MPC Film Mode, which enabled e-shift with a few adjustments available. Once enabled, it seemed to be just slightly smoother on screen, but not in a way that was covering up details. I didn't notice any obvious halos or edge enhancement going on, and putting myself right up next to the screen I didn't notice any pixels at all. From my seated position it might have looked just slightly better, but with a delay switching between e-shift being on and off, I'm not certain I'd notice a difference if I came in blind.
Skyfall also has a reference quality image, as many movies being shot digitally on the Arri Alexa camera do. Scenes that open on Shanghai and Macau feature bright neon and office lights set against a dark nighttime city, and look absolutely amazing. This kind of inter-scene contrast can't be pulled off with a dynamic iris, where the shrinking of the iris to darken the blacks will also reduce the highlights. On the X55, the bright lights just popped off the screen, and really look amazing. On the scene where Bond surprised M inside of her house, he's hidden away deep in the shadows holding a drink glass. I'd estimate on most projectors, the glass he is holding would have been hidden in muddled shadows, but the depths of the X55s black level allow it to be rendered well. As digital cameras advance, allowing for greater and greater dynamic range in scenes, projectors like the X55 are keeping up and allowing that dynamic range to make it to your screen.
Drive is a title I keep coming back to, with its opening scenes that are filled with blacks and shadows, and a few scenes that show off the native contrast of a projector. The X55 comes out and passes this test as well as anything. From the texture of his driving gloves in the shadows, to the ski mask on the robber in the backseat, everything hidden away in the shadows came out looked great. Some disagree with me on the quality of Drive as a film, but that gorgeous look and soundtrack keep drawing me back in and it looks great on the X55.
For 3D I went to my live action reference, Hugo. Unfortunately 3D is an area that the JVC X55 comes up a bit short. While capable of amazing blacks, it lacks the massive light output that really drives great 3D projectors. The image of Hugo lacked pop and didn't have much depth on screen as a result. I can get more pop by turning the Crosstalk Cancelation control to the maximum setting, but this attempt at removing crosstalk causes a ghosting pattern to appear instead which is very distracting. Crosstalk was much improved over last year's model, so that is one good thing for the JVC.
3D content also simple has to be viewed in high lamp mode to have any level of brightness at all, and the high lamp mode on the JVC is very loud. It's loud enough that I would make sure I can run it in low lamp mode unless I'm going to keep it in an enclosure that will reduce the noise. I frankly don't care about 3D at all, and so this didn't bother me with the JVC in the slightest, but if you do watch a lot of 3D, then the X55 isn't the projector for you.
The JVC X55 Projector On The Bench
With our receivers and display bench, the JVC handles everything perfectly. All color spaces come across well, with no loss of luma or chroma detail. Blacker than Black and Whiter than White content come across if you adjust the HDMI Input settings appropriately. Deinterlacing also passed with flying colors as well. With e-shift enabled the JVC does much better with test content than it did last year, showing that the improved algorithms they implemented for it seem to pay off. The one test that didn't perform as well with e-shift enabled is the Ship video on the first Spears & Munsil test disc. The ropes on the ship had a bit more aliasing, but also a bit more edge enhancement added that could be seen with some white halos around them. Turning off e-shift removed this issue, and I didn't see it on any films, but since this is actual video content, you could run into it sometimes in action.
Calibrated from 11' away, I managed to get 409 lumens out of the JVC X55 in low lamp mode. As I found high lamp mode to be too loud in an open room, this is what you might expect to see. Running in 3D mode, which uses high lamp, I got 919 lumens on the screen, which comes up short of the 1200 lumens spec. With these you can use a screen calculator, like the one at http://www.eliteprojectorcalculator.com/, to determine the light output on your own screen.
Before calibration, I used a color temperature of 6500K for white, and the Cinema mode for color, along with a custom gamma with a value of 2.3. Taken together, these result in some pretty good out of the box numbers. Gamma is almost perfect, and the grayscale is good with the dE staying below three, but there is certainly a blue-green shift that you can see in the charts. Since the dE is still below 3 this won't be immediately apparent, and likely will only really bother you with a black and white film. The contrast ratio here was 8805:1, and these grayscale numbers are quite good.
Colors are good but not excellent, with green showing the largest error of any primary or secondary. This is due to a hue shift where pure green has a bit of a yellow shift to it. Luminance values are very good, and that's the most important thing to see here.
On the Color Checker test, we see a very good result. Only the final teal/cyan bar is above a dE of 3.0, indicating great performance everywhere in the gamut, not just on colors that are typically measured. The average dE2000 of 1.458 is truly low for something that isn't calibrated at all, and shows the care that JVC puts into the X55. Things get even better when we look at the saturation data, where we see some issues at 100% saturations, though still usually below 3, but the lower saturation values are even better. I think for a great number of people, you could be happy with the JVC X55 out of the box, though your room and screen will influence the results you get of course.
After calibration, the grayscale on the X55 manages to improve quite a bit. We can remove that blue-green tint that we saw and get our average grayscale dE down below 1.0, with only a couple very dark samples even hitting a dE2000 of 2.0. Our gamma suffers a tiny bit, but not that much. Doing this does reduce the light output a good bit, as green is almost three times as bright as blue and red combined, so in the interest of a bright image you might want to accept a slightly higher error at 90-100%, say a dE2000 of 2.0, in order to get 1-2fL more off of your screen. At least as the bulb ages and you have to calibrate again, you can know that's an option.
The contrast ratio measured here was a very nice 14,321:1. I also begin to run into the limits of measurements here as dark screens are getting very tough to do accurately, and even the smallest error on a black reading can affect the contrast ratio by a couple thousand.
Color improves a bit, with some small adjustments in the CMS leading to all the dE2000 values falling below 3.0. Green is more accurate, with less of a yellow cast to it, and the luminances improve some but they were already quite good.
Our Color Checker data is even better now, with a dE2000 average of only 1.15, and only one bar even hitting 2.0 with nothing coming close to 3.0. Saturations also improve a slight bit on the whole, and I really find nothing to complain about here with the quality of the JVC after calibration. Out of the box it is excellent, and calibration improves it by a small but measurable amount. It is a fantastic performer on the bench.
Looking at the uniformity of the brightness across the lens, the JVC X55 does very well. There is a slight drop-off on the left side, but it's not large and I wasn't able to notice it in use. Overall this is the most uniform projector I have tested thus far, but I'm still early in using this measurement.
Conclusions about the JVC X55 Projector
Living with the X55 for a few weeks, I come off overall highly impressed with the unit. If you value contrast above everything else, and the ISF finds it to be the single mode important element of an image, then the JVC is untouchable. It also has a default mode that is very, very accurate and can be made almost perfect with calibration. The lens memory and setup options make it a very flexible projector to install, and from a usability standpoint it is top-notch. The real proof is how often I just got lost watching the thing and marveling at the images that it can produce on my screen.
Despite all of this good, it also has a couple of issues that make it a projector I can't universally recommend. After calibration on my 96", 1.3 gain screen, I got just 18 fL of light on the screen. This is slightly over the correct amount, but projector bulbs age, and with only 18 fL at the start it gives me nowhere to go from there. It also makes it so that if I use Lens Memory to fill the 2.40 screen, I'm dropping well below that 18 fL level. Couple this with the fact that the high lamp mode is very loud to use, and I have trouble recommending it with very large screen unless you are running a high-power (2.0+ gain) material.
This might also be a sample issue, as another person I know with an X55 had the opposite color balance issue I did, and managed to get over 25% more light output than I did. I'm still not sure that gives me enough headroom for my 2.40 screen long term, but it is better than what I found. 3D isn't a strong suit for the JVC, but really to get great 3D you are best served with a DLP projector, and the JVC is decent for a non-DLP model.
From a straight 2D perspective, if you have a screen size that works well with the JVC, I'm not sure what projectors out there can produce a better image. Shadow detail and black levels simply don't get better, and for $5,000 the projector is really packed with features. When you go out to pick one up, make sure to stop and get some black paint for the walls and electrical tape to cover up your component LEDs, as you won't want anything to distract you from how amazing the JVC X55 can look in an ideal environment. Once your friends see the image on screen, they'll forget all about the total black décor.