Which company makes the best projector? That’s a question any home theater enthusiast planning an upgrade from a flat-panel TV to the much bigger-screen viewing experience a projector provides will regularly find themselves asking.
The answer, at least according to the results of the 2022 Projector Shootout, an event hosted in New York City last weekend by area AV retailer Value Electronics, is JVC.
The Shootout pitted a number of the best 4K projectors against each other, with all major brands represented. Notably, the focus of the competition was on long-throw projectors, though a separate event was used to evaluate ultra short throw models in a manner similar to the Laser TV Showdown where I served as a judge earlier this year.
For the past two decades, Value Electronics has hosted a similar event for flat-panel TVs. That particular Shootout gathers the best 4K TVs and lines them up for a side-by-side evaluation by a group of expert judges. (This year’s winner: Sony’s XR-A95K QD-OLED, a fine-looking TV by any standard.)
The procedure for the projector evaluation is basically the same as for TVs, with each model set to its most accurate picture mode and then optimized for both standard and high dynamic range viewing. To ensure an even playing field, all displays are fed the same test patterns and movie scenes using a video distribution network, and each projector is paired with an identical projection screen.
The 2022 Projector Shootout grouped the long-throw models into three price categories:
- JVC DLA-NP5 D-ILA ($6,999 / £6,999) [Winner]
- Sony VPL-XW5000ES SXRD ($5,999 / £5,999)
- Epson ProCinema LS12000 LCD ($4,999 / £4,399)
- LG AU810PB DLP ($3,999 /£3,999 )
- JVC DLA-NZ8 D-ILA ($15,999 / £15,795 ) [Winner]
- Sony VPL-XW6000ES SXRD ($11,999)
- JVC DLA-NZ7 D-ILA ($10,999 / £10,999 )
$25,000 - $30,000
- JVC DLA-NZ9 D-ILA ($26,000 / £25,400 ) [Winner]
- Sony VPL-XW7000ES SXRD ($28,000 / £14,999)
Analysis: Which JVC projector is the best choice?
A clean sweep for JVC, clearly, though it looks like Sony put up a good fight, with its projectors in the budget and mid-range categories trailing just slightly behind the JVC in the overall scoring. Considering that the XW6000ES in the mid-range category, and the XW6000ES in the budget one, are priced lower than the JVC models (by $4,000 in the case of the XW6000ES), there’s a strong value proposition to be made for either model.
The JVC DLA-NZ8 that won the mid-range category tops our list of the best 4K projectors, so we’re not surprised to see it taking home an award. Does its DLA-NZ9 big brother, the overall top scorer in the Shootout, really merit a $10,000 bump-up in cost?
Both of these laser light-driven models use native 4K D-ILA (JVCs term for liquid crystal on silicon) display chips along with the company’s 8K/e-shiftX tech to effectively display images at 8K resolution. (The HDMI 2.1 ports on both projectors can accept an 8K-resolution video input.) They are 120Hz-capable, making them an excellent option for gaming with a PS5 or Xbox Series X console. Both projectors also support HDR10 and HDR10+ high dynamic range sources, and are equipped with JVC’s extensive range of HDR-specific features, including Frame Adapt HDR dynamic tone-mapping and Theater Optimizer, a function that takes into account the size and gain of the specific projection screen being used to further fine-tune HDR presentation.
The main difference between the two is peak brightness, with the NZ9 specced for 3,000 lumens and the NZ8 for 2,500 lumens. Both models also have slightly different native contrast ratio specs, with the NZ9 rated at 100,000:1 and the NZ8 at 80,000:1.
I had the chance to view actual 8K footage projected by the DLA-NZ9 on a 124-inch screen in a demo put on by JVC at CES 2022, and the image quality was nothing short of breathtaking. If the NZ8 can achieve even 75% of that level of performance – and based on accounts I’ve read of the Shootout, I have a feeling it can – it would be the projector I’d want for my home theater.
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Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine.
When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.