Choosing My New Projector

Choosing My New Projector

Following up on my last post, “It’s Time to Update My Theater,” I’m going to delve into the thought process that caused me to splurge and finally upgrade my projector.

 

As I mentioned, my existing projector was about 11 years old, and, while it still produced watchable pictures from Blu-ray and DVD discs, it wasn’t compatible with many of the new 4K HDR sources in my system, so we had just stopped using it. I was

toying around with ditching both the projector and my current 65-inch Sony flat panel and upgrading to a new 85-inch flat panel.

 

Why 85 inches? Well, that is about the current size limit before you start getting into ridiculously expensive pricing. For under $4,500, you can get a Sony XBR-85X950G flat-panel that has been universally reviewed as a fantastic display. This would provide a large screen image for viewing all the time, not just at night with the lights down. It would also handle HDR signals (and Dolby Vision) far better than a projector at any price could.

 

As this was a significantly cheaper upgrade option, I really considered it, but ultimately decided I would miss the truly large-screen experience of my 115-inch, 2.35 aspect screen.

 

We use the projector almost exclusively for movie watching, and having nearly double the screen real estate makes a massive difference, and is far more engaging than a direct-view set, even one at 85 inches. (Now, had the 98-inch 

Sony Z-series TV been a tenth of its price—selling for $7,000 instead of $70,000—that probably would have been my pick.)

 

So, having made the decision to stick with front projection, I had to settle on a model. I had a few criteria going in that helped narrow the search.

 

First, I wanted it to be true, native 4K resolution on the imager, not using any pixel shifting or “wobulation” to “achieve 4K resolution on screen.” This ruled out many of the DLP models from companies like Epson and Optoma. Nothing against them, I just wanted native 4K.

 

Second, it had to have a throw distance that worked with my current mounting location. Actually, this isn’t much of a concern anymore, and most modern projectors have an incredibly generous adjustment range on their lens.

 

Third, I needed a model that offered lens memory so it would work with my multi-aspect screen (92 inches when masked down to 16:9, and 115 inches when opened to full 2.35:1.) This allows the projector to zoom, shift, and focus for a variety of screen sizes at the push of a single button, and is crucial for multi-aspect viewing.

 

Fourth, it needed to integrate with my Control4 automation system. Sure, I could cobble together a driver, but it would never offer integration as tight as one that was meant to work with that particular model.

 

Finally, it had to fit my $10,000 budget. Unfortunately, this ruled out brands like Barco and DPI. I was super impressed with Barco’s Bragi projector, but, alas, it doesn’t fit in my tax bracket.

 

Basically, with these criteria, my search was narrowed to two companies: JVC and Sony. And primarily to two projectors: The JVC DLA-NX7 (shown at the top of the page) and the Sony VPL-VW695ES. (Were my budget higher, I would have added the JVC DLA-NX9 to that list, which has the primary advantage of a much higher quality, all-glass lens, but it was more than double the price. And while the less expensive JVC DLA-NX5 also met all my criteria, the step up NX7 offers more bang for just a little more buck.)

 

So, I did what a lot of people do prior to making a big technology purchase: Research. I read a ton of forum posts, read all of the reviews on both models, and watched video comparisons. I also reached out to a couple of professional reviewers and calibrators who had actually had hands-on time with both models.

 

The CEDIA Expo is a place where manufacturers often launch new projectors, so this past month’s show coincided perfectly with my hunt. Since both companies had models that had been launched at CEDIA 2018, I was eager to see what announcements they might have regarding replacements or upgrades. Alas, there were no model changes, which, in a way, can be a good thing, since it means both models are now proven, have had any early bugs worked out with firmware updates, and  are readily available and shipping.

 

I really hoped to check out both projectors at the show, but, unfortunately, no one was exhibiting either. (Apparently, CEDIA is not the place to show your sub-$10,000 models.)

 

Ultimately, two announcements at the show swayed me to pull the trigger on the JVC. First, the product manager I spoke with said the price was going up by $1,000 on October 1, so buying sooner than later would actually save me money. But more importantly, JVC introduced new firmware at CEDIA that would add a Frame Adapt HDR function that will dynamically analyze HDR10 picture levels frame by frame, automatically adjusting the brightness and color to optimize HDR performance for each frame.

 

Projectors historically have a difficult time handling HDR signals, and this firmware is designed to produce the best HDR images from every frame. This used to be achieved by using a high-end outboard video processor such as a Lumagen Radiance Pro, but that would add thousands of dollars to the system. When I saw this new technology demonstrated in JVC’s booth, I was all in.

 

In my next post, I’ll let you know if the purchase was worth it. (Spoiler: It totally was!)

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

3 Comments
  • John Bishop
    Reply

    CineLuxe = Luxury Cinema = a genuine cinematic experience. If that is the definition, or at least the goal then considering any TV, 85” or otherwise, is ludicrous in the context of a theater or cinema grade media room.
    Viewing geometry alone disqualifies all TVs (as do many performance parameters that are not accepted in cinema).
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————
    This week NATO, (National Association of Theater Owners), announced they will establish evaluation criteria for any new display technology to be considered for theatrical exhibition. They will review any technology that would vie for theatrical presentation of movie art. They say all stake holders will be included in the process, but certainly, NATO is taking appropriate charge over all things that impact the quality of theatrical exhibition.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————
    Like NATO, our process for evaluating image or sound hardware for residential cinema should also include technically valid and meaningful metrics that reveal a performance stratum useful to persons considering a ‘CineLuxe’ theater design at any price point, from entry level to reference performance.
    CE metrics and the criteria you list to narrow your projector search really don’t tell the performance story.
    For example;
    1. ‘I want native 4K, no e-shift or wobulation’; this is not a performance metric. resolution is, and test patterns such as line pairs, Luma & Chroma burst patterns, adjacent pixel checkerboards, and zone plates can show on-screen resolution by observation. These patterns take everything into account, imager, processing, and optics. And they don’t lie.

    October 5, 2019 at 12:46 am
  • John Bishop
    Reply

    E-shift does have a bad reputation, Faux K. It is an LCoS tech and it softens the image and creates various artifacts directly related to the poor pixel on/off response times of LCD derived imagers (measured in milliseconds). An impressive e-shift demo taking the model you’ve chosen, to 8K looked very good. But the content was ‘cartoon easy’, and it was specially prepared for the device. Wobulation was an RPTV tech, but TI’s new XPR mechanism allows 8 million pixels to be rendered on screen. The Barco Bragi uses a nearly 1” imager and a custom Barco derivative of XPR technology to not only render 8 million pixels on screen, but to address each with a simultaneous unique data word to control them. They behave on screen the same as native 8 million-pixel imagers do. They show under test a higher resolution than any imagers other than native 4K DLP chips, e.g. DCI 1.4”.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————-
    The optical quality of lenses is not defined by being glass, or having a given number of elements or groups. The MTF value is the meaningful metric, and 2” class lenses are tiny, like a point and shoot camera relative to pro gear. Resolution loss from entry level lenses shows up in the res patterns, often pixel structure isn’t visible on screen at all.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————-
    2. I need the throw range to fill my screen. Check
    3. ‘I need indexed lens memory for AR control’. All scope screens need AR control, ILM is one way, but it gives you the lowest on-screen resolution for the largest image. A native scope projector is the most advanced way, like the Barco family. They are 5K, 2160 x 5120 pixels, in scope, and render every AR at 2160p with perfect focus and geometry and instantaneous mode switching. ILM systems can be slow, and loose position and focus over time, sometimes every time you change AR’s. Anamorphic lenses can also be used, but a cinema grade anamorphic lens is higher than your budget for the whole projector.

    October 5, 2019 at 12:48 am
  • John Bishop
    Reply

    4. I need a Control4 module. Check
    5. ‘I can’t spend more than $10K’ OK, but the blog is CineLuxe, not CineBudget.
    In the CineLuxe category, I have 4 fully engineered systems hitting the Theo Kalomirakis’ RAYVA configurator featuring Mavericks Architectural Cinema Sound Systems by James Loudspeaker. All have masking Stewart Filmscreens driven by Barco DLP projectors. The entry level projector is a 3K native scope mercury lamp model (about 50% over your budget). All are native scope and the top 3 systems feature laser illumination, P3 color gamut and tone mapping that matches cinema exhibition with UHD content mastered from 600 to 10,000 nits. They auto-switch between Rec709 and HDR color space and auto detect aspect ratios for projector control, and outreach to screen masking control for 9 ARs.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————-
    The projectors are generally about 25% of the AV budget in these systems, which is a good rule of thumb for best performance per dollar. These are $75K to $300k and are designed to deliver professional cinema performance in their specific room sizes, from 1,500 to 6,000 cu’. They include acoustic treatment, lighting, power management, control, and full calibration.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————-
    Stories on CineLuxe should cover the aspirational systems as much as the budget limited, streaming source TV stories. The cinema experience is defined by theater exhibition’s best and translating that to our residential environs is not rocket science; but it is cinema science and that’s not the same as typical CE TV talk or reviewer’s metrics for budget projectors, screens, or audio components.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————-
    Protect your cinematic experience. At a fine art level, there is nothing like it!

    Best regards,
    John Bishop – President b/a/s/ bishop architectural-entertainment services
    Exec VP Mavericks Architectural Cinema div James Loudspeaker
    Director Cinema Experience Engineering RAYVA Theaters

    October 5, 2019 at 12:51 am

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