After years hovering around on the periphery of the home cinema scene with its proprietary D-ILA technology, JVC suddenly dived straight into the middle of things in 2008 when it launched its DLA-HD1 projector to huge critical acclaim.
In fact, the HD1 was so ground-breakingly excellent that as we set about its successor, the DLA-HD350, we can’t help but wonder if JVC has really managed to eke out any substantial performance improvements.
The HD350 certainly looks better, at least, as a glossier, slightly sleeker black body plays host to a heart-warmingly large and serious-looking lens and barrel.
It’s only got the same connectivity, though, meaning that while you get a respectable two HDMIs you don’t get a dedicated D-Sub PC port or a 12V trigger output for automatically firing up a motorised screen.
Contrast up, brightness up
The HD350 gets back on the improvement trail, though, with its quoted brightness and contrast measurements. Brightness is reckoned to be up to 1000 Lumens from the HD1’s 800, while the claimed contrast ratio has been doubled, to 30,000:1.
The extra brightness should help the HD350 work more comfortably on large (100in plus) screens than the HD1, as well as helping images look more dynamic. As for the extra contrast, we were positively salivating at the prospect of what this might do to the HD350’s picture quality when we remembered how stunning the contrast was on the HD1.
Happily, our salivating turns to drool – messy business, this projector reviewing – once we try the HD350 out with a few treasured Blu-rays. For it’s quickly obvious from watching a cluster of very dark scenes that its contrast, or at least its ability to portray black colours convincingly, is nothing short of sensational.
No fade to grey
There’s scarcely a trace of the greyness that can blight black colours on rival technologies, yet dark scenes also retain plenty of the subtle shadowy detailing that helps give them a sense of depth.
Even better, unlike most of its rivals (especially LCD models), the HD350 can produce its sensational black colours without having to perpetually adjust its brightness output to suit the source material. This inevitably helps images look more stable and generally more dynamic than those of practically all rivals at the £3,000 or so level of the market.
The HD350’s colours look markedly better saturated than those of the HD1, too, while elsewhere it presents HD sources with absolute precision and clarity, and betters the HD1 at handling standard definition thanks to its Silicon Optix HQV Reon-VX video processor.
Other good things
Added to all the glories covered so far are impressively crisp motion handling, startlingly little running noise provided you use the low lamp output mode, and a complete lack of any technology-related interference (eat that, DLP and your rainbow effect).
But – ah, there always has to be a but – the HD350 could still be even better. For while its colours are much improved, they’re still prone to the occasional curious tone – including some slightly orangey skin tones even when the people being shown aren’t David Dickinson.
With this in mind, it would have been nice if JVC had managed to include a decent colour management system among the HD350’s otherwise actually quite flexible setup features. Ah well. Maybe next time, eh?