The world of projectors is divided into two types: DLP and LCD, with protagonists of both schools slugging it out. But there is a third option - D-ILA, invented by JVC. It uses the output of three LCD-like panels, which are combined to give a full colour output, without the complication and unwanted side effects of a DLP type colour wheel.

Where D-ILA scores over LCD is that the 3D structure of the optical chip means that the switching controlling each pixel is built into a substrate behind the reflective display layer. Each pixel butts directly onto its neighbours, which all but eliminates the 'grid' overlay that LCD is so prone to, and which also affects DLP to an extent.

The DLA-HX2 is the middle in a range of three models, sandwiched between the DLA-FX21 business projector and the DLA-HD2KE high-end home cinema model. According to the accepted definition, the HX2 qualifies as an HD Ready projector. It will natively support 720p input signals and it will play the high res 1,080i inputs, which are made progressive internally and then converted to a resolution the display can handle.

Inputs most important to a home cinema audience include component video, encrypted DVIHDCP (interoperable with HDMI) and of course composite and S-video. A wired external control can be used and a trigger is fitted for screen operation. The projector is chunky and looks rather industrial but a carrying handle is included. Also, hardcore movie fans aren't going to worry what the casing looks like once it's been installed.

Performance

It looks great on screen, but it was obvious from the outset that contrast is not as strong as comparable DLP projectors. The picture looks slightly softer, and lacks a little impact. But despite JVC's coyness about the output brightness, there's plenty of optical power for typical surroundings, and it will even cope in rooms with some ambient lighting.

Colour reproduction (which defaults to the D65 standard) is natural and organic, with excellent skin tones, and a very clean, filmic quality. The only criticism is that blacks are slightly tinged with grey due to the modest contrast ratio.

Best of all however is the superbly smooth image. Even standing next to the screen, the picture is smooth and silky, with hardly any of the pixel structure you see with other projectors, and this is directly attributable to the way that D-ILA works. Motion artefacts are also well handled, with a touch of blur but generally no visible jerkiness.

The only remaining criticism is that the HX2's cooling fan is on the noisy side, and with the relatively long throw lens fitted, this is a projector that properly belongs on a shelf behind the viewing plane, or on the ceiling directly above.

Without doubt, this projector steals a march on conventional LCD projectors, and even on DLP in certain areas. If the contrast ratio could be improved, and the fan noise tamed, this would be a class-leading projector. Even as it stands, it belongs on any shortlist of 'best at the price', especially if you tend to sit close to the screen and don't want to be disturbed by the pixel structure. Alvin Gold