Usually the arrival of any new JVC projector is a cause for celebration. However, on paper the JVC DLA-X90 we’re looking at today could be an unusually hard sell despite being JVC’s flagship 2012 model. For, rather than introducing any radical new features over the mid-range - and brilliant - JVC X70 model we tested back in March, the X90 is to some extent ‘just’ a fine-tuned version of its substantially cheaper sibling.
Essentially what JVC has done with the X90 is hand-select only the very best quality optical components for the X70 as they’ve rolled off the production line and syphoned them off to build X90s. Clearly the suspicion is that this will deliver only an iterative improvement in picture quality that will struggle to justify the three grand extra the X90 costs over the X70. Indeed, we can imagine really die-hard cynics even starting to whisper "snake oil" under their breath.
But JVC does actually have some numbers to back up its claims for just what a difference selecting the best components can make? Well, it has a number: 120,000:1. This is the native - repeat, native - contrast ratio JVC claims to have measured from the X90, and it compares very promisingly indeed with the 80,000:1 claimed for the X70.
A 50 per cent increase in contrast would look good in any circumstance, but it’s positively mouthwatering when you’re talking about projectors capable of producing such stupendous contrast ratios without having to resort to any dynamic iris ‘trickery’ like the majority of other digital projectors do.
JVC further claims that using only the finest components will lead to an improvement in the convergence of the images of the three DLA chipsets at the JVC DLA-X90’s heart - something that could prove particularly important on the X90 given that it sports JVC’s new e-Shift technology.
First seen on the X70, e-Shifting essentially sees HD pictures being reproduced twice, the second image being shifted one pixel diagonally up from the first one, the idea being to essentially double the number of pixels that create the image and thus improve that image’s sense of density and perceived brightness.
JVC likes to claim that e-Shifting results in a finished resolution for its X70 and X90 pictures of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. We suppose in one sense this is true. But this certainly does not make the X70 or X90 true 4k projectors in the way that the Sony VW1000ES is. For the e-Shift system doesn’t actually add any real picture information to HD sources; it’s not an upscaler, just a pixel ‘doubler’. JVC’s e-Shift projectors can’t even receive true 4k-resolution sources either, much less display them in their native resolution.
We’re not intending to knock e-Shift here, by the way. On the contrary, its abilities were generally much appreciated on the X70, and as noted a couple of paragraphs ago we have even higher hopes for it on the X90 given the potential greater precision of its optics. We just want to make sure nobody thinks they’re buying into the full 4k dream by getting an X70 or X90.
Nth degree calibration
While the vast majority of the X90s differences from the X70 come from the grade of its optical components, the X90 does have one extra feature the X70 does not: the facility to calibrate its colour profile via a PC connected to a built-in RJ45 port, courtesy of proprietary software you or an installer can download from JVC's website. This clearly opens the door to the X90 becoming a firm favourite among professional installation companies, as well as allowing the sort of serious cinephile likely to spend £10k on a projector exactly the sort of nth degree fine tuning they’ll probably desire.