The DLA-N5 takes JVC’s customary contrast prowess and adds in both beautifully realised native 4K resolution and a game-changing new HDR dynamic tone mapping system. The results are nothing short of glorious.
- Beautifully cinematic picture quality
- True 4K playback
- Easy to set up
- Runs a little noisily in HDR mode
- Not as bright as some projectors
- HD upscaling could be better
- Review Price: £6495
- Native 4K D-ILA projector
- HDR frame by frame tone mapping
- 3D support (needs optional glasses and synch transmitter)
- HLG and HDR10 HDR support
- Low latency gaming mode
The JVC DLA-N5 is something home cinema fans have been dreaming of for years. Namely a reasonably affordable projector that combines JVC’s excellent, contrast-rich D-ILA technology with a true (rather than pseudo) 4K resolution.
JVC DLA-N5 design — Big and heavy
As usual with JVC D-ILA projectors, the DLA-N5 is a bit of a monster. Its footprint is very large and it also stands much higher than most rivals.
It does wear its bulk pretty tidily, though. All of its corners and edges are tastefully rounded off. The vents to either side of the huge, centrally mounted lens housing are neatly integrated. And the stripe down the centre of the top edge breaks up what might have otherwise been a pretty dreary stretch of heavy duty plastic.
People with blacked out cinema rooms will probably want the black version of the N5. A cuter white version is also available for those who want to install an N5 into a more ‘lifestyle’ environment.
The DLA-N5 is even heavier than it looks. It’s a brave (or stupid) person who attempts to lift this projector into place without help.
While its bulk and heft might not make the N5 easy to manhandle, they do point to some serious, high-quality innards. Dominated, of course, by the trio of 0.69-inch native 4K D-ILA chips.
The N5’s remote is a bit plasticky. It sensibly keeps its button count pretty low, and the classy-looking backlighting makes it easy to use in a dark room.
JVC DLA-N5 features — Native 4K picture
The main attraction of JVC home cinema projectors has long been their D-ILA optics. The combination of D-ILA chips and a so-called Wire Grid Optical Engine that prevents unwanted light from entering the optical array has delivered class-leading black levels for years now.
In the DLA-N5’s case, the D-ILA arrangement delivers a native contrast ratio of 40,000:1. All rival projection technologies to date would need to use dynamic irises or lamps to achieve the claimed contrast ratios of that magnitude. But the N5 reckons it can do it without needing to use any potentially distracting automated light output adjustments. Though if you do opt to use the N5’s dynamic contrast features, its claimed contrast ratio leaps to a phenomenal 400,000:1.
Home cinema fans keen to get their hands on the lush contrast of JVC’s D-ILA projectors, though, have in previous years been faced with a frustration. Namely that the vast majority of JVC’s home cinema projectors haven’t supported native 4K resolutions.
In fact, only the hugely expensive £35,000 JVC DLA-Z1 has previously provided a native 4K resolution. All the brand’s more affordable models have used ‘e-Shift’ technology to produce a pseudo 4K resolution which only doubles the pixel density of 1080p feeds.
This resolution limitation of JVC’s otherwise excellent projectors has become more frustrating with every passing year, given that Sony started selling native 4K home cinema projectors back in 2012.
Mercifully, JVC’s latest range gives fans the true 4K support they’ve been craving. All of its three D-ILA optical chips (one each for red, green and blue) carry 4096×2160 pixels.
This 4K resolution is actually slightly higher than the 3840×2160 resolution found in 4K TVs and used by pretty much all 4K sources. But the projector will still play 4K content on a native pixel for pixel basis rather than scaling images to its marginally higher line count.
The JVC DLA-N5 also supports high dynamic range playback in the HDR10 and HLG formats. There’s no support for the Dolby Vision or HDR10+ ‘dynamic’ HDR formats – but it’s the same deal with all other projectors we’ve tested to date.
Joining the N5’s phenomenally high contrast ratio in helpfully unlocking HDR’s impact better is a solid claimed peak light output of 1800 lumens, and new frame-by-frame dynamic tone mapping. This analyses incoming HDR images – drawing on MaxCLL and MaxFALL metadata many HDR sources carry — so the projector can continually optimise its pictures.
Other processing features include not one, but two, motion ‘enhancement’ systems. JVC’s Clear Motion Drive targets judder with frame interpolation, while a new Motion Enhance feature adjusts the way the D-ILA optics are driven based on the nature of the motion in any given scene.
To ensure that the 4K resolution of its D-ILA chips isn’t lost en-route to your screen, the N5 uses a 65mm 17-element, 15-group all glass lens.
Gamers will be pleased to hear that the N5 carries a low latency mode. This reduces the time it takes the N5 to produce its pictures down to a handy 24ms.
Finally, 3D fans will be happy to know that the N5 supports 3D via a wireless RF transmission system. You just need to sort yourself out with JVC’s PK-AG3 3D glasses and PK-EM2 3D Synchro Emitter.
Set up — Offers plenty of flexibility
The DLA-N5 is fantastically flexible and easy to set up. For starters, all the zoom, optical image shift and focus features are motorised, so you can sort them all out while remaining on your sofa.
The unusually high 2x optical zoom joins with good amounts of vertical and horizontal image shift to make it easy to adapt the projector to almost any size or shape of room.
If you want to take your installation to the next level, the N5 provides a comprehensive suite of calibration tools for professional installers. Or you can ‘auto-calibrate’ the projector yourself if you have an optical sensor and the necessary PC software installed.
The DLA-N5 performs so well that its pictures are pretty tolerant of different picture settings. The only things I would definitely recommend are you use the new dynamic tone mapping features with HDR content; that you turn off the Clear Motion Drive when watching films; and that you remember to turn on the Low Latency mode when gaming.
JVC DLA-N5 performance — 4K looks absolutely spectacular
So does the N5’s native 4K resolution really make a difference? Yes it does. The spectacular 4K images on the Blade Runner 2049 4K Blu-ray look gorgeously detailed, textured and refined. Much more so than they ever have on any previous ‘e-Shift’ JVC D-ILA model.
Clever though the latter generations of e-Shift models have undoubtedly been, the sort of epic screen sizes projector fans want clearly reveal the difference between native 4K and the sort of density-boosted HD images e-Shift technology provides.
In fact, while I disagree with people who say 4K can’t make a difference on relatively small TVs, the N5’s new native 4K chops remind me in no uncertain terms that true 4K’s impact is at its greatest when pictures are BIG.
As with any video technology, though, resolution is only part of the overall picture. In fact, if other aspects of a picture aren’t up to scratch, they can wipe out any resolution benefits. So it’s a relief to find JVC’s switch to native 4K resolution with the DLA-N5 doesn’t seem to have compromised other, long-admired aspects of the brand’s picture quality.
Its legendary black level performance remains outstanding. Dark scenes appear with practically none of the grey mist over them you get to some extent with all other projectors. Shadow detailing is high and consistent, too, with no black crush.
The DLA-N5’s superb black levels aren’t just present with relatively mild-mannered SDR content, either. They remain intact when you’re watching HDR, too, despite the extra brightness HDR demands.
What’s more, the DLA-N5 can deliver its outstanding black levels with total stability. If you don’t use the dynamic contrast features there’s no hint of flickering light levels, and no sense of bright scenes looking noticeably punchier than bright parts of predominantly dark scenes.
This glorious stability and baseline brightness consistency between bright and dark scenes makes the N5 a fantastically immersive watch.
If I had a consistent criticism of past JVC D-ILA projectors, it would be they haven’t been bright enough to handle HDR convincingly. While the N5 still doesn’t go as bright as some rivals, its vastly improved HDR suggest previous HDR shortcomings may have have had more to do with light management than a fundamental lack of brightness.
The extra punch and dynamism of the N5’s HDR pictures with dynamic tone mapping enabled is immediately obvious. The brightest points of HDR images look more intense without compromising JVC’s always reliable black levels. Even better, the new tone mapping system enables the N5 to push for these more intense peaks, while also allowing HDR images to enjoy a higher baseline brightness level.
Previously JVC projectors – the Z1 aside – have gone for a pretty low baseline level of brightness, since this has been the only way their limited light output could accommodate a sense of the extra light range HDR brings. The new dynamic tone mapping enables the DLA-N5 to be much cleverer with the way it handles HDR on a frame-by-frame, scene-by-scene basis. We’ve also found when similar technology is applied to OLED TVs, this makes a huge difference to how impactful HDR looks.
It’s worth noting that even with the DLA-N5’s dynamic contrast tools in play to boost the appearance of HDR, the image still actually looks remarkably stable. Presumably the continual fine tuning happens so quickly, or so subtly, that your eyes don’t notice it in real time.
Being able to maintain higher brightness levels for HDR helps the N5 produce more vibrant, but also natural HDR colours. The quality of JVC’s D-ILA colour management system – which the brand has been refining for over a decade – ensures this new vibrancy never looks out of control, or causes subtle tones to become lost or over-exaggerated. On the contrary, the way colours look on the N5 makes you feel like JVC’s D-ILA colour management has been waiting for the HDR tone mapping system to catch up.
The new native 4K resolution also plays its part in the JVC DLA-N5’s outstanding colour performance. With four times the pixel density to play with, you essentially get four times as much refinement in colour blends and skin tones.
Motion, meanwhile, looks clean and credible on the N5 without needing the help of JVC’s motion processing features.
There are other projectors out there that can pump out more brightness with HDR content. However aside from JVC’s own step-up DLA-N7 and DLA-N9 models, none of those projectors can combine their extra brightness with the black level performance the N5 gives you. And with HDR the dark stuff is actually at least as important as the bright stuff.
Not surprisingly given how well it handles the challenges of HDR, the JVC DLA-N5 looks gorgeous with SDR too. The only rider I’d add is that its upscaling of sub-4K images is only fair to middling. Detail enhancement is quite good, but the processing doesn’t seem as adept at locking out source noise as the upscalers found in the best TVs. If your source equipment has its own 4K upscaling built in, try giving that a whirl to see if it delivers better results than the N5’s upscaler.
The only other negative thing I can think of is that the N5 runs much more noisily in HDR mode than SDR mode. The extra cooling fan racket, though, is so smooth you quickly learn to ignore it. Provided, anyway, that you don’t have to sit too close.
The DLA-N5 doesn’t have any built-in speakers, and I wasn’t able to obtain the necessary glasses and transmitter to experience its 3D talents.
Should you buy the JVC DLA-N5?
If you can afford it, then yes you should. The way it combines JVC’s customarily awesome projector contrast with a native 4K resolution and excellent new HDR tone mapping makes it all but irresistible.
If you can’t afford the DLA-N5’s £6,495 asking price, then Sony’s VPL-VW270ES can be had for around £4,999. This doesn’t give you such impressive contrast, though. If you’re looking for a more ‘lifestyle’ projector option, LG’s HU85LS ultra short throw laser model tucks right up against your wall and adapts nicely to both bright and dark room conditions.
The £2,500 Optoma UHD65 and £2,550 Epson EH-TW9400 are both excellent mid-range DLP and LCD ‘pseudo’ 4K projectors respectively. Or, finally, if you’re feeling flush, JVC’s DLA-N7 delivers more peak brightness and HDR impact for £8,500.
Score in detail
Image Quality 10
|Native Aspect Ratio||16:9|
|Contrast Ratio||40000:1 (native), 400,000:1 (dynamic)|
|Full HD 1080p||Yes (actually 4k)|
|3D Ready||Yes (no glasses included)|
|Max Diagonal Image Size (Inch)||200|
|Lamp power (Watt)||265|
|Ethernet||Yes (for control purposes)|