Having name-checked JVC's DLA-HD100 in our review of the Sony VPL-VW200 projector last week, we thought we might as well strike while the iron's hot and present our anticipated review of JVC's star turn right away.
Obviously this means we'll have covered two premium projectors in a row, but don't worry; if you're not interested in a projector and/or you don't have the small matter of at least five grand burning a hole in your pocket in these credit-crunching times, we promise our next video display review will focus on something considerably more ‘mainstream'!
Anyway, returning to the rarefied ground of the HD100, it's a product that warrants a bit of background information before we get down to any testing nitty gritty. Essentially it's a step-up sibling to JVC's truly ground-breaking DLA-HD1, a projector which used an innovative new ‘wire grid optical engine' to produce quite probably the finest pictures we'd then seen on any projector in its sub-£4k price bracket.
The key points about the Wire Grid Optical Engine are these. First, it makes use of a new smoothing technology at the construction stage that reduces imperfections in the liquid crystal alignment process. Why? Because that should help keep a lid on the amount of contrast-reducing stray light bouncing around inside the optical system.
Next, the Wire Grid Optical engine replaces the normal prism device for splitting light into colour (a notoriously light-inefficient approach) with a flat device featuring an inorganic reflective polarising surface and aluminium strips arrayed along the top. This ‘wire grid' approach considerably reduces the angle dependency of polarised light, meaning you end up again with far less unwanted light spillage and, as a result, much enhanced brightness and black level response.
For instance, remarkably the HD1 boasted a completely native contrast ratio of 15,000:1 - one of the highest figures around on any projector, never mind one costing the relatively affordable (by quality projection standards) price of £3,500. The ‘completely native' bit of that last sentence is highly significant too, as it means that this sky-high contrast ratio figure was achieved without resorting to the ‘sneaky' dynamic iris tactics employed by most rival technologies, including Sony's VW200, whereby the most extreme contrast is only achieved by dimming the projector's brightness during dark scenes. In other words, with the Wire Grid system you can theoretically get maximum brightness and maximum black level response at one and the same time - a situation which delivered one of the most dynamic pictures in the projection world, especially while viewing dark scenes.