JVC DLA-RS440U Review – A Serious, 4K Capable Home Theater Projector-Picture Quality

August 19, 2018

/ By Art Feierman

RS440U Projector Review – Picture Quality: Out-of-the-Box Picture Quality, Skin Tones, Black Levels, Dark Shadow Detail

Out-of-the-Box Picture Quality

Other than the brightest mode, JVC modes all look to offer various degrees of color accuracy, but overall very good looking picture quality. That said, there is definitely some room for improvement, so you might want to try our published settings…

To give you an idea how good they are, in addition to the few general uncalibrated images here, look in the Skin Tones section below.  There you can see the same HDTV image on each of the JVC’s modes, both calibrated and not, for comparision.

Skin Tones

Those same brighter modes, with all that pop and wow, aren’t perfect on skin tones, often they are oversaturated at least a little, but then that’s the goal when you have selected a mode that is geared to cut through a lot of ambient light.  You can take any of those modes and dial them back down, but remember, these are the modes for looking spectacular. Some of these modes might give you a bit too much contrast too, but even the Victoria Secret models (only HDTV) looked really good in those modes.

Photo and Caption Player

Switch to the better modes, and skin tones are more natural. But the BenQ improves with our calibration settings to be even better, and typically a little warmer.

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While all our images are compromised and never look as good as the projected image (for many technical reasons), our skin tone collection gives you an excellent idea of what to expect.

All the HDTV sports images were taken in either Vivid TV, Sports or Football, with more than a little ambient light present.  The other HDTV images focused on skin tones (except 4K from Netflix), were taken off the projector using either our best mode for non-4K or the user mode labeled by Eric - 4K HDR when he calibrated the projector.

JVC RS440/X590 Black Level Performance

Now we get to JVCs best known attribute. They have been legendary for having great black level performance going back about a decade to their RS1, the exact predecessor (with many generations in between), really the first projector I can think of that had exceptional black level performance. JVC later came out with an RS2 (then the RS10, RS20…), with even better 1080p panels which allowed for even deeper blacks.

I have seen nothing anywhere that can beat JVC’s more expensive models. Even the RS440 and X590, manage to beat just about everything else under say, $12,000.

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The photo and caption player, of course, has several general scenes with images I often use, and the usual long sequence of our Bond night train scene, with comparison images with the competition. (All are intentionally heavily overexposed, and converted to greyscale to make things easier to figure out.).

The short version is when it comes to producing very dark blacks, at under $4K, this is the leader of the pack. The Epsons – 5040UB and 6040UB come close, but I just ran the 5040UB side by side (well – really the 5040UB above, the JVC below) for comparison.

The JVC has it, but even the Epsons are a dramatic step up from the average 4K UHD DLP in this regard. (Acer’s laser 4K UHD, the V7860 does have some pretty good blacks, the exception.) Other than that, the JVC easily bests the black levels of Sony’s two 1080p projectors. When it comes to Sony’s 4K projectors, the JVC easily beats the entry level ($4999) VW285ES with its native 4K panels (which does impressively well without a dynamic iris).

The $7999 Sony – the VW385ES, improves on its sibling, by adding a dynamic iris. It still comes up a little short, I put it right with those two Epsons.
Then finally, also a few thousand more than the JVC, is Epson’s laser LS10500. Overall black levels aren’t as good, but it does black frames, so when a scene for whatever reason is supposed to be black the Epson shuts down the lasers completely. No light hits the screen at all! Yet overall, I’d slightly favor overall, the end result of this JVC. I can live fine with either’s performance. That’s it, except I do believe Sony’s VW885ES – at $15K rivals this JVC. Of course, it too, is native 4K, while this JVC is merely a 4K capable, lower res pixel shifter. Get up into Sony’s $25K native 4K laser projectors, they should match, probably beat this JVC.

Why are great black levels important? It’s relatively easy to reproduce typical medium and bright scenes, overall, the differences between sub $1000 entry level, and most $5K and $10K projectors (we’re not talking 4K), are slight. But first really dark scene, and the difference becomes huge, looking dramatically better on the dark scenes. Enough said. This is the JVC RS440U’s forte. There are other trade-offs but it is this where it really stands out.

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Black Level Performance and Dark Shadow Detail

No issues here, either.  The limits to dark shadow detail come down to the coarseness of the controls – between the two best results.  Either you end up, crushing just the tiniest amount of the deepest near blacks, or you end up with a smidgeon more overall brightness if the control is set one higher. That’s pretty typical.

In the photo player are some of the usual images, but definitely also look at the Bond night train in the section above, where you can compare with "the competition". 

The JVC handled the darkest scenes extremely well, capturing virtually all of the darkest details.

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