Setting the HD550 up is in many ways pleasingly similar to the procedures we employed with the HD950. Particularly welcome is the provision of a 2x motorised zoom – a degree of flexibility that makes the HD550 much easier to accommodate in different room sizes than many of its rivals.
It’s also got motorised focus and image shifting, with this shifting possible in all four directions: +/- 80 per cent vertically and +/-34 per cent horizontally. It’s handy, too, that JVC throws up a simple grid test pattern to help you calibrate the focus, image shifting and zoom tools.
Happily, the HD550 has a more wide-ranging set of picture fine-tuning tools than previous entry-level D-ILA projectors. Particularly welcome are a Gamma adjustment comprising both presets and self calibration options, and three lens aperture settings, so you can adjust the image’s brightness/black level balance.
It’s good to find JVC’s Clear Motion Drive on board too, since this does a neat job of reducing judder without generating too many unwanted side-effects – provided you accept its limitations, at least, and don’t try to run it on a high setting with fast-moving stuff like sports footage.
However, there is one fairly significant problem. Namely that unlike the HD950, the HD550 doesn’t have any real colour management tools. As noted before, we guess JVC needs to hold back a few things to justify the price gap between the HD550 and HD950. But we also can’t forget that most of the HD550’s price peers – not to mention a number of cheaper models like Panasonic’s £2,100 PT-AE4000 – carry sophisticated colour fine-tuning tools.
The lack of colour tools means its no surprise to find the HD550 lacking the THX and, especially, ISF endorsements earned by the HD950.
Making the lack of colour fine-tuning all the more annoying is the fact that the HD550’s pictures could definitely benefit from a little colour tweaking. For on occasion we couldn’t help but think that some colours – especially rich reds and greens, plus the occasional subtle skin tone – looked a touch over-wrought and out of kilter with the rest of the mostly natural colour palette.
We’re pretty confident that we could have massively reduced, maybe even completely resolved this issue if we’d been provided with the tools to do so by JVC.
However, it’s now reality check time. For the occasional slightly rogue colour tone is the only noteworthy weakness that we can come up with on the HD550. For overall, it’s really quite preposterously good for a £3,000 projector, once again suggesting that JVC’s D-ILA technology is the one to beat at this price level.
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