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Take, for instance (and most spectacularly) its black level response. Quite simply it produces the deepest, richest, most natural black colour we have seen from such an affordable projector. And if you think this is unnecessarily hyperbolic, just play on it any really dark film scene, like the attack on the fort by the Black Pearl in Pirates of The Caribbean, or pretty much anything from the Dead Space console game, and be amazed at how profoundly black the picture gets in place of the usual grey we’d expect to find at this price point.
Even better, this superbly cinematic black effort is completely stable, since the D-ILA technology doesn’t depend on a dynamic iris continually increasing or reducing the overall image brightness level. Its 30,000:1 contrast ratio claim is a native figure, remember, not one measured dynamically.
The fact that the exceptional black levels are produced without needing to reduce overall brightness levels helps the projector deliver more shadow detail in dark areas too, which makes dark scenes look more natural and more consistent with bright scenes in terms of depth and clarity.
If the first D-ILA Wire Grid projectors had an issue, it was that they weren’t particularly bright. This issue has been much improved for the HD550, enabling it to deliver punchier pictures and drive larger screens. In fact, due to the projector’s freedom from dynamic iris technology, we’d argue that its pictures frequently look brighter than many rival projectors claiming much higher Lumens outputs.
The HD550 is also extremely talented at bringing out fine detail in HD sources, and for rendering them with exemplary - but not forced - sharpness. It’s a huge bonus, too, that the D-ILA technology doesn’t generate seemingly any motion artefacts. In fact, when there’s lots of motion going on, pictures looking pretty much as crisp and as sharp as they do when the image is largely static. At least provided you haven’t got the Clear Motion Drive set too high.
Although we started in a negative vein concerning the HD550’s colours, we should also say that while the odd tone might not be quite accurate, the good ones look very good (believable and vibrant), and benefit from a pleasingly deft touch when rendering blends.
One final key entry in the HD550’s plus column is its running noise - or lack of it. For if you set its lamp output to Normal rather than High, it runs almost silently. JVC quotes a figure of 19dB - way lower than the sort of racket produced by many affordable projectors - and this figure appears to our ears to be entirely reasonable. Running noise does jump up quite a bit if you go for the High lamp output, but most users won’t feel this necessary unless their room has a little ambient light to contend with.
JVC’s D-ILA technology has done it again. As with almost every D-ILA Wire Grid projector before it, the HD550 sets new standards for its money. There’s still room for improvement, with JVC stubbornly refusing to give its entry-level models a couple of key features (a PC input and a colour management system) that would make them pretty much perfect for their money. But even so, if there’s a better way to spend £3k right now, we’re struggling to think of it!