JVC DLA-RS440U Review – A Serious, 4K Capable Home Theater Projector - Special Features

August 19, 2018

/ By Art Feierman

JVC DLA-DLA-RS440 and X590 Special Features: 4K Capabilities, 3 DiLA panel design/black levels, Lens memory.

4K Capabilities

The DLA-RS440, handles essentially anything the 4K consumer world can throw at it.  That includes HDR and BT.2020/P3 color space.  I’ll address some of that in other sections, while starting here with the differences between various 4K capable projector types.  If you have been reading my 4K projector reviews, you can skip down.  

There is pretty much only one thing the JVC can’t do when fed today’s various 4K content:  It can’t do 1:1 pixel mapping, that is project one pixel for every individual pixel of data.  Only true 4K projectors can do that, such as the Sony line starting at $4999.  It uses its pixel shifting to double up on the usual “2 megabyte” images that 1080p creates.  With overlapping pixels and processing, the resulting 4.08 megapixels provides more detail than straight 1080p, although not dramatically so on 1080p content. 

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Far more realistic is comparing this projector projecting 4K content, vs a standard 1080p projector running 1080p content.  No contest.

photo of the opening scene in passengers
The opening of Passengers - deep blacks, colors in he nebula stand out well.

Because it inherently uses 1080 resolution panels, those pixels are the same size as any other 1080p projector. A true 4K projector would have pixels each half the diameter (and therefore ¼ the area), compared to 1080.  

In the middle, between the JVC type resolution (also the Epson 5040UB, and their LS10500), and true 4K are two other configurations.  Both achieve what is called 4K UHD. Still not true 4K with the smallest pixels, but both a bit better than the JVC’s.  There are what I call the entry level 4K UHD chip, which is also 1920x1080 but hits the screen 4X not 2X. That brings it up to qualify as 4K UHD, but same sized pixels.

Then there are the 2716x1528x2 DLPs, also 4K UHD, but with pixel size have way between the 1080s and the true 4Ks.

VW385ES doing Passengers opening

For comparison, this is from the Sony VPL-VW385ES, Sony's $7999 native 4K projector.

Got it? The main point is there is not a great amount of difference in sharpness between this JVC (or Epson) and the 4K UHDs, or even the entry level true 4Ks.

The perceived sharpness and detail differences, first of all are only really visible if you are sitting relatively close to the screen.  Unlikely you could spot a real difference if sitting 20 feet back from a 100” screen.  Even 1080p content looks extremely sharp at that distance/screen size.

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Three JVC DiLA LCoS Panels

JVC has long been a major player in the under $15,000 home theater projector space primarily because of their panels.  By comparison, Canon, Sony and a couple of others also make their own LCoS panels.  The key difference – JVCs have significantly higher native contrast and that translates into superior black levels.

Now these entry level JVCs – the RS440U and X590U, don’t even have native contrast that even approaches the panels they put into their two more expensive models.  Still this JVC produces excellent black levels better than any 3LCD or DLP projector I can think of (Epson’s more expensive LS10500 which is a laser projector, comes close).  While I use the less expensive Epson 5040UB as my benchmark for where really good black level performance starts, I’ve been switching back and forth, the difference varies from subtle, to the occasional really dark scene, where the difference is more pronounced when comparing – it’s “the Epson handles the scene, with impressive blacks…” vs. the JVC “ the blacks are deeper,  making the scene pop more.”  

JVC DLA-RS440 HDR Mode Post-Calibration P3 Saturation Sweeps inside BT.2020

Without the highest contrast panels found in their more expensive projectors, JVC enhances the RS440U/X590U black level performance with a good dynamic iris.  It’s very smooth, but can be caught pumping, on certain mid dark scenes, but even when it does do that (better if it didn’t), it was never jarring – that is, it doesn’t call your attention to it – scream at you – that this doesn’t look right.  Still some improvement could be made in the iris action.

The end result is still the best black level performance (no question) short of spending for JVC's next step up projector at $6999, which as mentioned is noticeably better, and the best I’ve seen under $50K.

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Lens Memory

Here’s a feature more and more $2000 and up projectors are offering.  But first, to have lens memory, you really must have a motorized lens system.  It allows you to choose (for movie fanatics) to go “widescreen.” We’re all used to the 16:9 aspect ratio that is HDTV, but we all notice that in the theaters, the image is wider, not as tall. (some exceptions, but mostly made-for-tv and animation – and really, really, old movies).

Lens controls to set lens memory, then retrieve them. (Or control using the remote.)

With lens memory, after you set it up (easy), you press one button on the remote and the image is sized to show the largest possible wide screen image on your widescreen.  That’s full width and height of the screen is filled.  

Press another button and the image adjusts to 16:9 so it still fills the screen but you get what in LCD TVs is called “black bars, “ which is no content on the far left and right sides.

I’m a wide screen user, In my case I’d rather have more sq. feet of projected image when watching movies than general HDTV, or my beloved football.

Bottom line, with this JVC you have the option to go widescreen.  You will find that most of this JVCs direct competitors that are not DLPs also offer lens memory, lots of zoom range, and lots of lens shift.

As to all those 4K UHD DLP projectors – sorry. There are no doubt some out there from luxury brands like SIM2, but almost certainly over $10K, maybe way over.  Of the dozen 4K UHD DLPs we’ve had here in the last year. Even the $8999 LED BenQ HT9050 has a manual lens.

Want the biggest possible screen for your movie viewing, go wide screen.

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