While JVC has established a name for itself at the very highest, professional end of the projection market, it has never really broken the domestic scene. One or two projectors using the company’s proprietary D-ILA technology have come our way over the years, but none have made convincing enough arguments with their home cinema performances or prices to really get our attention.
Which is just one of the many factors that makes JVC’s new DLA-HD1 so startling. For as well as being built from the ground up with home users in mind, at considerably under £4k it’s also priced pretty aggressively considering the sort of specification it offers.
This specification includes, excitingly, a full HD pixel count of 1,920 x 1,080. Actually this spec becomes less surprising – but no less welcome, of course! – when you take into account the fact that JVC’s D-ILA technology was originally developed as a premium spin-off of Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) technology to satisfy a requirement by military simulators for higher resolution displays.
Even more eye-catching than the full HD spec, though, is the HD1’s claimed contrast ratio of 15000:1. This is the highest such figure we’ve ever seen from a domestic projector, and amazingly it’s achieved without any ‘dynamic iris’ trickery, whereby the image’s brightness is reduced when dark scenes are detected to improve black level response. In other words, you should be able to get high contrast and high brightness simultaneously from the HD1: a fact that promises pictures of unprecedented AV dynamism and range.
Actually, the 15000:1 claimed contrast ratio becomes more remarkable the more we think about it. For while D-ILA has historically had some real image strengths – especially in terms of its definition and almost complete freedom from video noise of any type – its single greatest weakness has been its black level response. Dark scenes, even on D-ILA projectors costing double what the HD1 costs, have tended to look greyed over and flat. So we have to wonder just what JVC has done to suddenly make such an apparent black level leap with the HD1.
The answer lies in two remarkable innovations. First, JVC has come up with a radical alternative to the traditional glass prism-style polarising beam splitter used by reflective-type projection technologies. Such prism-based systems are actually rather inefficient when it comes to light retention, allowing light to spill out into the optical engine and so reduce the potential for black level response. So JVC has gone back to the drawing board and come up with the Wire Grid Optical Engine.