Not everyone 'gets' 3D. Indeed, there are days when we're not sure we totally need it. But not so today.
At the root of our sudden 3D love-in is JVC's new DLA-X7 3D projector. We thoroughly enjoyed the brand's entry-level and ridiculously good value DLA-X3, but the step-up X7 really does take quality to another level.
Not that the qualitative leap is obvious from the outside. For, at first glance, it appears identical to the X3, with the same large, vaguely elliptical body shape, impressively polished finish and striking racing car-style vents down either side.
The X7 does weigh slightly more than its sibling for some reason, but really the only obvious external sign of the X7's step-up status is the addition of a little THX logo on its upper edge.
For dedicated home cinema fans, of course, this logo is potentially very important, as it shows that the X7 has been officially endorsed by the third-party quality assurance group. What's more, the logo refers to the machine's performance with both 2D and 3D, meaning THX was convinced about such key 3D issues as brightness, colour and crosstalk noise.
While I'm on the subject of endorsements, the X7 joins the X3 in being supported by the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF), which considers the projector flexible enough to be professionally calibrated by one of its experts.
Among the tools available are fuller colour management tools than you get on the X3 (including a unique option to adjust the picture's orange balance), a 12-point gamma adjustment system and lamp output and manual static iris settings.
The colour management system is a little unusual in its presentation, but you can get it to bend to your will after a little experimentation. It's pretty likely, however, that most people buying this projector will have it installed professionally.
The X7's more basic tools – motorised image shifting, focus and optical zoom – are impressive in terms of range and the finesse with which you can fine tune them.
And it's decently connected, with its twin v1.4 HDMIs, D-Sub PC port (the latter not found on the X3), RS232, LAN port and 12V trigger port. We always wish for a third HDMI on projectors at the X7's level, but JVC is hardly alone in sticking with two.
One other notable connection is the port that enables you to add JVC's external 3D transmitter. For, unlike Sony's VPL-VW90ES active 3D projector, JVC's models don't incorporate the necessary 3D transmitter within the main projector chassis. This might annoy some, though the flexibility it offers in terms of being able to optimise IR transmission angles could be quite handy for some room installations.
More annoying is the fact that JVC only includes one pair of active shutter glasses as standard in the UK (though this is more than you get if you buy the X7 in most other European territories).
Peruse the DLA-X7's quoted specifications and you'll notice that while it has the same 1300 ANSI Lumens of maximum brightness as the X3, it promises a 70,000:1 contrast ratio compared with the X3's 50,000:1. And with JVC's D-ILA projectors that these are native contrast figures.
In other words, you should be able to enjoy a truly extreme contrast performance without seeing the sort of distracting brightness 'jumps' you get when other projectors use dynamic irises to achieve better contrast.
And so it proves. Just as we've found with so many JVC D-ILA projectors before, the X7 can deliver a contrast range that's nothing short of awesome.
The main contributory factor to this is the X7's superlative black level response. We simply haven't seen a better black colour from a projector costing less than five figures. Deep, rich blacks don't look forced or dominant, thanks to the appearance of genuine shadow detail and subtle colour differentiation within even the darkest areas.
We felt on occasion as if the X3's black level response wasn't quite as good as that of JVC's previous equivalent model. Perhaps this was a result of JVC having increased the X series' brightness output by 30 per cent, to counteract shutter 3D's tendency to reduce brightness.
With the X7, though, you get the best of both worlds: a significant brightness boost over last year's equivalent HD950 model, but also a black level depth at least as good as that of its groundbreaking predecessor. Not surprisingly, this combination makes for an image of frequently jaw-dropping dynamism.
It's also a combination that serves the X7's 3D playback extremely well. Where last year's DLA series would have left 3D looking muted and dull (if they'd been able to display the new format), the brightness boost in JVC's current range means the X7's 3D images look punchy and richly coloured. As with any serious projector, a completely blacked out room gives the very best effect.
The JVC DLA-X7 also suffers even less with crosstalk ghosting noise than Sony's VPL-VW90ES. In fact, it seldom bothered us at all, even during scenes such as the notoriously tricky Golden Gate Bridge sequence in Monsters vs Aliens, which was extremely impressive.
Even better is the sheer size of the X7's 3D pictures. Seeing great 3D movies such as Despicable Me and Avatar delivered well on a screen more than 100-inches wide is enough to win over even the most die-hard 3D sceptic. We've seen it happen.
Our biggest gripe with the X7's 3D playback, though, doesn't involve its picture quality. Rather it's the relatively loud running noise the projector kicks out when using the high-brightness 3D preset. It's not unbearable, but it could be enough to persuade some people to sacrifice brightness and switch the lamp power output to its lowest level, which greatly reduces cooling noise.
Power consumption: Watts
White screen: 235 Watts – An expected power consumption from such a potent projector – 'high' lamp mode increases it to 305W
Test footage: 235 Watts – No change in power use with movie footage
Colour temp: Kelvin
Presets: A range of CT presets that we measured as being slightly off. But you can create your own user setting to achieve 6,500K
However impressive the X7's 3D pictures might be, 3D viewing will probably only occupy a small proportion of your total viewing time (unless you're James Cameron). So it's handy that the X7 is also a terrific 2D projector.
On top of its impressive handling of dark sequences are punchy whites that are a big step forward from last year's models, intense colours and clean motion handling, even without resorting to the provided motion processing circuitry.
We also commend the X7's freedom from distracting video noise and its terrific sharpness, which did full justice to the exceptionally detailed Blu-ray transfer of The Social Network.
The big question for the X7 now is whether it can really justify costing nearly twice as much as the X3. We think it can, because it delivers a marked improvement over its cheaper sibling.
It'll be interesting to see how the flagship X9 can be even better.
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