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Having already seen and salivated over JVC’s high-end HD950 projector, we don’t mind admitting that we’re actually rather excited by the arrival on our test benches of the DLA-HD550. For this is JVC’s new entry-level model, delivering - we hope - the high performance standards we’ve come to expect from the brand’s proprietary D-ILA/optical wire grid projection technology for a startlingly aggressive price of just £2,995.
First impressions of the HD550 do nothing to suggest that it’s going to let us down. In fact, with its elongated gloss black body and vaguely elliptical shape, it’s pretty much identical to its £5,675 HD950 sibling. Though unlike the HD950, the HD550 is available in a white finish too.
The external similarities initially seem to extend to its connections, too. For it sports the same two HDMIs, the same component video input, the same S-Video and composite video inputs, and the same RS-232C port for system integration. Then it strikes us, though, that there are a couple of potentially important absentees. For there’s neither the 12V trigger output nor the D-Sub analogue PC input found on the HD950.
We appreciate that JVC needs to try and provide reasons for people to consider stepping up to the HD950, but removing the PC connection, in particular, really does seem a bit mean. Especially as D-Sub PC ports are sported by every other video projector we can think of right now - including some costing way less than the HD550.
PC users can, of course, get computer feeds into the HD550 via the HDMIs, but even a semi-serious user of the HD550 will likely already have both the HDMIs earmarked for other sources.
Turning our attentions to the HD550’s internal specifications, the potentially most significant differences find it claiming a contrast ratio of 30,000:1 versus the 50,000:1 of the HD950, and a brightness of 1,000 lumens that’s actually slightly up on the 900 Lumens of the HD950.
Before you get too deflated by the almost 50 per cent drop in claimed contrast, though, we should point out that the contrast figures JVC quotes are native, not dynamic. In other words, the HD550 can achieve 30,000:1 completely stably and consistently, without having to use a stability-reducing automatic adjusting iris like most rival projectors do. Which means it’s likely to still be mighty fine in the contrast department despite the drop in contrast ratio measurement from the HD950.
This high native contrast ratio is possible because of the HD550’s combination of JVC’s D-ILA chipsets (a refinement of old liquid crystal on silicon technology) and most importantly of all, JVC’s relatively Wire Grid Optical Engine. We’ve covered this engine in some detail in our review of JVC’s HD1 projector back in 2007, so we won’t go into it again here other than to say that obviously the HD550 uses a refined version of this engine.