JVC DLA-NZ7 D-ILA Laser Projector Review

JVC DLA-NZ7 D-ILA Laser Projector Review


JVC DLA-NZ7

4K D-ILA Laser
Projector

Projector Central Editor's Choice Award

Editor’s Choice Award

Our Editor’s Choice award goes to products that dramatically exceed expectations for performance, value, or cutting-edge design.

Price

$9,999

Pros

  • Solid-state laser light source
  • 3-chip, native 4K LCoS design
  • Outstanding black level and contrast
  • Effective dynamic tone mapping for HDR
  • Extensive image adjustments

Cons

  • Requires calibration

Our Take

You’ll need to tune it up for a truly accurate image, but the laser-driven DLA-NZ7 delivers the outstanding picture quality we’ve come to expect from JVC in a solid-state projector that never needs lamp replacements.

JVC DLA NZ7 frontrightangle

The evolution of JVC’s highly regarded LCoS-based D-ILA projectors has been nothing if not slow and steady. The company was late to the 4K party, at least compared to their LCoS rival Sony, and relied for several years on 1080p imagers combined with their e-shift pixel-shifting technology before launching their first consumer native 4K projectors in 2018. Those lamp-based projectors, including the DLA-NX5/RS1000, DLA-NX7/RS2000, and DLA-NX9/RS3000 have been exceptionally well received by reviewers and enthusiasts, and have undergone some significant updates that added value for new users and existing owners. When the line was introduced, JVC became the first manufacturer to add Auto HDR functions that read the static metadata in HDR10 programs to optimize the image, but this later gave way to an even more successful “Frame Adapt” dynamic HDR tone-mapping scheme. Then, with another update last November, the company added Theater Optimizer, which further enhanced the projectors’ performance with customization based on the individual user’s installation details, such as their screen size and material and lamp usage. What’s been missing from JVC’s line, except for a single high-end prosumer model, has been laser projectors that need no lamp replacements.

That will change this fall following JVC’s announcement of a new line-up of laser projectors that not only bring the usual benefits of a solid-state light engine but also a number of key advancements that can’t be boasted even by Sony’s recently updated models. Furthermore, JVC’s pricing of its laser projectors is notably aggressive next to Sony’s.

Features

As reported earlier, the new JVC consumer line-up will consist of three new laser models plus the existing lamp-based, entry-level DLA-NX5/RS1000 at $5,999. The new flagship, at $24,999, is the DLA-NZ9/RS4100 (with the RS Reference Series designation used for the integrator channel per JVC’s usual approach). It’s a 3,000 lumen projector that, like the other new laser models, uses JVC’s third-generation BLU-Escent module with a blue laser diode array and yellow phosphor wheel to generate the red, green, and blue signals for the native 4K, 0.69-inch D-ILA imagers. The projectors are rated at 20,000 hours to half-brightness, and also enjoy the usual laser advantage of rapid start-up and shut down. On my DLA-NZ7 sample I timed 32 seconds to seeing the D-ILA logo on screen and about 40 seconds to a picture from a live source. The projector goes dark immediately upon shut down and typically runs the fan for about 10 seconds more.

As with previous JVC line-ups, the top model has the largest lens (a 100mm, 18 element/16 group in this case), hand-picked components, and the highest rated contrast ratio, which is 100,000:1 native and “infinite” dynamic. Of course, “infinite” is a term used here to describe a state in which the projector receives a black signal and fully shuts down its laser, but the actual lowest possible contrast with any signal above black will be based on some minimum idle brightness.

JVC DLA NZ7 top

The step down models are the DLA-NZ8/RS3100 at $14,999 (2,500 lumens, 80,000:1 native/infinite dynamic contrast), and the subject of our review, the DLA-NZ7/RS2100, which will go for $9,999 upon its expected release at the end of October. It puts out 2,200 lumens and offers 40,000:1 native/infinite dynamic contrast. By comparison, Sony’s least-expensive laser model, the VPL-VW915ES, costs twice as much.

Notably, besides an advantage on price, these JVC’s leapfrog the competition in two key areas. To begin, all the new models have full 48 Gbps bandwidth HDMI 2.1/HDCP 2.3 ports, which makes them the first projectors we’ve seen that are fully compatible with 4K/120 Hz signals from the latest gaming consoles, not to mention future-looking for even higher resolution signals up to 8K/60 Hz. Gaming is further supported by the same Low Latency Mode feature that has appeared in prior JVC models. On the NZ7, I measured a low input lag of 36.0 milliseconds with Low Latency engaged on a 1080p/120 Hz signal, or 36.5 ms with 1080p/60 Hz. For sports, action flicks, or other less lag-sensitive viewing, frame interpolation is provided with the Clear Motion Drive feature.

Critically, the top two models (DLA-NZ9 and DLA-NZ8) feature a new version of e-shift dubbed e-shiftX that applies four-phase pixel-shifting running at 240 Hz to the native 4K panels, resulting in another first in a consumer projector: full pixel-count rendering of 8K video with no need to toss any signal information. The step-down NZ7 applies JVC’s previous two-phase/120 Hz e-shift to enhance 4K or 8K signals beyond native 4K resolution. This feature, minus the compatibility with 8K signals, was previously reserved for JVC’s top-of-the-line DLA-NX9.

8k eshift 800px
The pre-existing two-phase 8K e-shift technology found in the DLA-NX9 is in the new NZ7. A more advanced four-phase 8K e-shiftX technology that operates at 240 Hz is found in the DLA-NZ9 and DLA-NZ8.

Beyond the new laser engine, the updated HDMI connectors, and the e-shift, the projectors all carry over JVC’s Frame Adapt frame-by-frame or scene-by-scene dynamic tone-mapping and the Theater Optimizer enhancement. Furthermore, they now also offer HDR10+ compatibility along with HDR10 and HLG. Gamut is rated at greater than 100% DCI-P3 with engagement of the internal Cinema Filter in the two top models. For the NZ7, which lacks the Cinema Filter, the company claims only “Wide Color Gamut (DCI Coverage).” You’ll find the results of my color volume measurement in the Performance section below. All the new models are ISF-licensed and offer JVC’s own Auto Calibration if you add an appropriate color meter to a Windows PC with the company’s free downloadable software.

The lens on the NZ7 is a 65mm all-glass affair with 17 elements in 15 groups. As with the larger 100mm lens, it’s a carry-over from JVC’s existing NX lineup. The wide 2X zoom throws a 100-inch 16:9 image from approximately 11 to 22 feet. (You can see the throw range for your preferred image size with the ProjectorCentral DLA-NZ7 calculator.) It offers generous ±80% vertical/±34% horizontal lens shift, and there are 10 lens memories for use with a constant image height setup for a 2.35:1 ‘Scope screen. There are also anamorphic aspect modes for an outboard lens.

Cosmetically, all three models are similar to the existing line, with a fairly large chassis and a design that brings in cool air from the back and expels it from a pair of vents that straddle the lens. The DLA-NZ7 measures 19.7 x 9.2 x 19.9 inches (WHD) and weighs 49.5 pounds. It accommodates shelf- or inverted ceiling mounting for either front or rear projection. One of the benefits of a large chassis and lack of a lamp here is exceptionally low fan noise. The NZ7 is rated for 24 dBA in Low laser mode using the standard averaged factory lab measurement in a soundproof chamber. I took casual measurements from five feet in front of and two feet below it, which mimics a close ceiling mount and in this case also happens to be exposed to the exhaust fans. In a room with a 27 dBA noise floor, the fan noise with the LD Power laser setting in its Low or Mid position was a quiet hush that measured 37.1 dBA. It climbed to a slightly louder 38.6 dBA in the High position, which also offered a slightly higher pitch to the sound, but it was still easily masked by most soundtracks. And unlike a number of other laser projectors I’ve tested, there was no high-pitched electronic whine associated with the Blu-ESCENT engine. This is a quiet projector that can live near its viewers.

JVC DLA NZ7 remote

The jackpack is on the rear panel along with a second IR receiver and a keypad you can use in place of the remote. Beyond the pair of modern-day HDMI ports, you get a few control connections: RS-232C, RJ45 LAN, and a 12v trigger output. A USB Type A port is strictly for firmware updates; it won’t play content from a flash drive. There’s also a 3-pin Mini-DIN 3D sync output for one of JVC’s RF 3D emitters, such as the PKEM2 ($99). An emitter and compatible glasses are required for Full 3D playback.

The remote control is the same compact, 7-inch wand JVC introduced when it launched its 4K lamp models. It has bright backlit legends on the buttons, but doesn’t have as much direct access to picture adjustments as JVC’s older full-size remotes, and the flat buttons are all adjoining so they can’t really be discerned by feel. Still, most of what a tweaker will want is there, including buttons to change the Picture Mode, Color Profile, and Gamma Settings, plus the lens controls and memories. For most of my evaluation I used the full-featured remote from my JVC DLA-X790, which worked perfectly and made life easier.

Performance

Those familiar with JVC’s current line-up will recognize the organization and most attributes of the prior menu system. To begin, there’s a helpful control that allows you to set the projector to go into the picture mode of your choice when it recognizes a given signal type, whether SDR, HDR, or 3D. For SDR, there are just two picture modes, Natural and Cinema, plus some customizable User modes that start out mimicking the Natural mode. You can engage one of 7 preset color temperatures, tune the grayscale with 2-point RGB Gain and Bias controls, or adjust the color space with the RGBCMY Color Management controls. The gamma settings are extensive, and include a wide range of presets as well as the ability to create your own customized setting with separate controls to independently adjust the brightness of the overall image (Picture Tone), the Dark Level, or the Bright Level, for either White or any of the three primary colors.

For SDR, neither of the two available presets on our sample looked great out of the box, even after I performed a firmware update during the course of my evaluation that addressed some other image quality issues I’ll discuss later. Natural mode, which has traditionally been JVC’s tuning for a classic Rec.709/D65/2.2 gamma target, offered subjectively balanced color but exhibited a noticeably warm red cast in whites and skin tones, and was too bright and washed out for my 92-inch 1.3 gain matte white screen before making any adjustments to tone down the light. The Cinema mode was more accurate out of the box to its already warm 5500K default color temperature. I found that setting the projector to its 7500K color temperature subjectively gave it the most neutral whites, and without imposing any excess blue tint that the label implies. Sure enough, I confirmed later that this setting measured fairly close to a dialed-in 6500K white point.

I’ll cut JVC some slack here—we’re talking about an early production sample of a brand new laser projector family. Given the company’s history of excellence in years past, it won’t surprise me to find that things are even more fine-tuned over time, perhaps even before models reach the market at the end of October. JVC says these projectors will remain a work in progress until their official release date. Still, absent of any additional updates, your best bet for an accurate SDR image short of full calibration is to call up the Natural mode and make the simple change from 6500K to 7500K color temperature in the menu. With the latest firmware revision as of this review (v0.92), this resulted in a fairly accurate grayscale and nearly spot-on color points. I also set the Gamma to 2.4 instead of the default 2.2 to better suit my dark room environment and take greater advantage of the NZ7’s excellent contrast.

Of course, anyone spending $10K or upwards for a projector should plan on investing in professional calibration. Eventually, I did just that, calibrating the Natural mode for an accurate D65 grayscale, 2.4 gamma, and Rec.709 gamut. Measurements with Portrait Displays’ Calman Ultimate color calibration software, a Murideo Six-G generator, and an X-Rite i1Pro2 photospectrometer showed that the default 6500K Natural and User mode white point was sitting above and off-hue the D65 target, slightly oversaturated and straddling the line between green and red on a CIE color chart. It measured 5340K at 100% white, which explained the too-warm cast.

Fortunately, the DLA-NZ7 calibrated beautifully for grayscale, and also tuned up well for the color points that define the color space, demonstrating generally excellent tracking across the less-bright saturation points between 20% and 80%. The post-calibration grayscale errors were 2.4dE or under from 10% to 100% brightness, while the color point errors were nearly all at or below 2.0dE. This is excellent performance, and it showed up on the screen. (dE or Delta E describes the accuracy of a display’s grays or colors. A dE under 3—some say under 4—is considered indistinguishable from a perfect result.)

The default when the projector sees an HDR10 signal is its HDR10 picture mode, which has its own HDR10 color temperature setting that also targets the neutral industry standard D65 (6500K) white point. As with SDR, this can be tuned with RGB Gain and Bias settings. You have a choice in the basic HDR10 picture mode of two Tone-Mapping options, an Auto setting that reads the metadata on HDR discs for a coarse tone-map adjustment but makes no attempt at dynamic tone-mapping, though it allows some tuning with a 11-step Mapping Level slider (-5 to +5). It defaults to a BT.2020 color space. (Other color space options include BT.709 and DCI.) You can use the Color Management system to tune the color points for the primaries and secondaries as you can with SDR. If you set the Tone-Mapping option in the HDR10 picture mode to HDR(PQ), you’re flying solo and adjusting the tone-map manually. As with previous JVC projectors, you can select White, Red, Green, or Blue and adust overall Picture Tone, Dark Level, and Bright Level for each.

JVC DLA NZ7 front

The other HDR picture mode options include Frame Adapt or Pana_PQ. The latter was introduced in earlier projectors to provide a baseline for the outboard tone-mapping solution in Panasonic’s UB series UHD Blu-ray players. As with SDR, there are also three user-definable Custom modes. Frame Adapt HDR, JVC’s dynamic tone-mapping system, is obviously of greatest interest here for its ability to optimize images on the fly on either a scene-by-scene or more aggressive frame-by-frame analysis. The beauty is not having to worry about making adjustments to account for the wide range of mastering on HDR titles.

For any mode, including the SDR modes, you can opt to use or leave off the Dynamic Control setting, or “Dynamic CTRL” in the menu. The NZ9 and NZ8 each have two apertures, one in the lens and one in the light path, while the NZ7 has just the one in the lens. But according to JVC, these are not dynamic and can only be adjusted manually during setup to match your environment or on the fly to accommodate darker content. However, all three models do modulate the laser as needed in much the way the company’s lamp projectors relied on a dynamic aperture to assist with black level on dark content. The Dynamic Control offers two settings besides off, Mode 1 and Mode 2. They work in a manner somewhat similar to the Auto 1 and Auto 2 iris settings in JVC’s lamp models, with Mode 2 providing the finest degree of control and the most aggressive action when it encounters brightness changes in the content. Mode 1, by comparison, works less fast and is more subtle. I’ll say more about this feature below, but happily my initial concerns with its performance were addressed in the firmware update I received, and JVC says it’s likely to be further improved before the projector’s release.

The default for the three-position LD Power laser setting in the HDR picture modes is High, though I got a noticeable improvement in overall contrast with the Mid setting on my screen at its relatively small size and 1.3 gain. This change added some depth to the black while still providing enough range on the Contrast control to punch up the peak white to meet my somewhat aggressive tastes for highlights. Although the 6500K color temperature setting in HDR suffered the same too-warm cast I saw in the SDR modes, changing it again to the 7500K setting helped get it closer—still a touch red, but within spitting distance. Before any other calibration beyond these tweaks, the Frame Adapt mode with the dynamic Frame by Frame tone-mapping option and 7500K color temp setting offered a highly watchable picture with nice punchy highlights and solid blacks.

JVC DLA NZ7 BLU Escent
JVC’s BLU-Escent light engine uses the blue laser-diode module shown here and a yellow phosphor wheel to achieve all the primary colors.

Eventually, I temporarily put the Frame Adapt mode into its Static tone-mapping setting for calibration and evened out the RGB balance on the grayscale. I performed only modest changes to the color points to get them a bit closer to the 50% BT.2020 saturation points typically used by the Calman software to calibrate HDR TVs. This was where the DLA-NZ7 showed its color gamut limitations. Keep in mind this is the only projector among the three new laser models that lacks a Cinema Filter to achieve full DCI-P3. Green in particular couldn’t reach out far enough, and post calibration the projector showed some unevenness in DCI-P3 saturation sweeps inside of BT.2020. Color volume measurements, taken in either the Frame Adapt or HDR10 picture modes, showed that the NZ7’s color gamut reached 82.6% DCI-P3, 55.8% BT.2020, and 123.4% Rec.709. Still, whether we’re talking about pre-cal or post-cal settings, color accuracy for HDR was mostly excellent and just a touch below the dead-on performance of the tuned-up Natural mode, albeit with obviously better dynamic range and wider gamut. Post calibration, I usually watched HDR in the Frame Adapt mode with the Frame by Frame tone-mapping option.

As a final note on calibration and settings, I should comment on the Dynamic CTRL setting for the laser that’s intended to mimic a dynamic iris. Prior to the mid-review firmware update JVC sent I had resigned myself to not using this feature. It often had the effect of reducing overall contrast whenever it was active in either its Mode 1 or Mode 2 setting, for either SDR or HDR. It would typically make the image either slightly brighter or darker depending on the content, but always it seemed to be to the detriment of dimensionality. To make matters worse, whenever any menu was called up, the image behind it would temporarily revert (to what it looks like with the Dynamic CTRL set to off). That made it impossible to make additional image adjustments when this feature was active since exiting the menu resulted in the image noticeably shifting again—though for a moment it functioned for a rough A/B comparison until the menu came up. Admittedly, this kind of shifting also takes place to some extent with my DLA-X790 lamp projector on some dark scenes if you call up a menu when the automatic aperture is engaged. But it is never as dramatic and annoying as I saw with the NZ7. Perhaps it’s because in the X790 that feature controls a mechanical iris while the Dynamic CTRL in the NZ7 is actually manipulating the light source along with its signal processing.

The new firmware didn’t affect the latter issue with the menu interaction, which is primarily obvious on dark scenes. But more critically, after the update the worst detrimental effects of the Dynamic CTRL on overall contrast were gone and it became a more useful tool for darker movies or those with a lot of scenes with low average picture level. Post update, engaging the control offered a more straightforward trade-off of some peak brightness in exchange for a darker black. For example, shots of starfields and the expanse of space in the various sci-fi flicks I watched benefited from the deepened black at the expense of some sparkle on the stars. Nonetheless, use of this feature is definitely discretionary.

SDR Viewing. 1080p SDR images were just stunning on the NZ7. The opening sequence from the Blu-ray of Gravity, with its many views of dark space and mixed images with bright highlights (white space suits and white and foil-covered spacecraft) really showed off what great black level can do. To begin, the calibrated whites were bright, crisp and exceptionally neutral—it was impossible to detect even a slight bit of unnatural pink warmth or excess cool blue in them. Even the bouncing white Oppo logo against a black frame from my disc player’s screen saver just looked…white.

JVC NZ7 Gravity
The bright highlights of the white spacesuits against the blackness of space in Gravity showed off the contrast capabilities of the JVC DLA-NZ7. (Photo Credit: Warner Bros.)

Gravity presented excellent material to play with the projector’s laser Dynamic Control and proved effective here. Mode 1 noticeably deepened an already excellent black level and added dimensionality to the black of space and the letterbox bars, with only a barely detectable sacrifice in brightness. By comparison, Mode 2 tamped down the peak whites more noticeably, while also being more prone to obvious pumping artifacts and severely reduced brightness on demanding content like the white-letters-on-black-background title cards that start this movie. Mode 1 got through those with only the barest hiccup on the third and last title card, though it did noticeably take down the brightness of the letters. I saw the real payoff on a shot that shows the diminishing outline of an astronaut in a white suit tumbling into the distance of a dark starfield. Engaging Mode 1 provided the best compromise by taking down the black of space while retaining just enough pop of the sun’s reflections off the space suit and brightness in the stars. Mode 2 delivered a seductively attractive deep black but pulled too much punch from the highlights.

I checked all my go-to scenes from the very colorful La La Land, and the NZ7 aced them all. The subtly varied skin tones among the female protagonist Mia (Emma Stone) and her two roommates sitting beside her on a bed were well delineated, as was Mia’s fair skin against the more ruddy complexion of her love interest Seb (Ryan Gosling) while the two walk around a movie studio lot. The highly saturated and often repeated red, green, blue and yellow colors that comprise this film’s Oscar-winning set design were all punchy eye candy, and in one shot where Mia lies back on some deep red pillows, I looked for but saw no hint of laser speckle, which can be apparent with some laser projectors in red and magenta objects. Although speckle typically exists to some degree in all laser projectors and is affected by the screen material, it was virtually undetectable with this projector, even with my face near the screen looking into color bars and full-screen patterns that best reveal it.

Post calibration, overall dark movies also displayed well and never once suffered from any noticeable haze, thanks again to the deep native blacks of the D-ILA imaging chips. A shot in The Revenant of a Native American boy sleeping against a tree trunk in the dark woods revealed all manner of detail in the bark, in the shadowed side of his face and dark hair that was outside of the moon’s illumination, and in his barely lit clothing. Nature scenes throughout the movie rang true; I observed accurate-looking foliage and rock canyon walls, and seeing the sky and morning sun coming up over a river next to a brown prairie made me want to walk into the scene.

Scaling of good 1080p Blu-rays was clean and noise-free. I experimented with the 8K e-shift on 1080p content and in the vast majority of scenes it provided only the most subtle change from normal viewing distance, even on scenes with a lot of sharp detail. What I could detect with my nose against the screen, or sometimes further back, was most typically a softening of edges on some objects when e-shift was activated. This is not unusual with pixel-shifting, and the results weren’t much different later when I moved over to watching 4K; if anything, the feature made the softening more noticeable. The reality is that the pixels from true native 4K LCoS chips, which already enjoy a high fill factor (tight spacing) by design, are pretty much impossible to detect without magnification at normal screen sizes. So the smoothing and blending of pixel edges provided by pixel-shifting really starts offering a diminishing return at higher resolution. There might be a different reality when displaying 8K signals, which I wasn’t able to try.

HDR Viewing. I imagine Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending Interstellar to be the kind of film Kubrick could have made instead of 2001: A Space Odyssey if he’d done that movie a few decades later. Whatever its strengths or faults as cinema, it’s a nice piece of HDR eye candy, particularly the scenes shot in space. Post calibration, the slight rosiness I’d initially detected in the white space suits and the white ship interiors was well neutralized, and skin tones had a more natural look as well, with nice delineation between the fair-skinned Anne Hathaway and the darkly tanned male lead Matthew McConaughey. The pale blue medical scrubs they wore as they got ready to bed down for suspended animation were a familiar color, and exhibited no excess cyan or green. Blacks were deep and highlights punchy. Later, when the crew went through a wormhole, the riot of bright, swirling colors leaped off the screen. In this and most other content I know well I saw excellent color accuracy, though I did notice, for example, that a bright yellow dress worn by Mia in La La Land that was perfect in the 1080p Blu-ray was a bit oversaturated and leaned a touch orange in the HDR version. Perhaps it’s something I could have fixed with additional calibration.

First Man, the Neil Armstrong biopic that follows the famed astronaut through the Apollo program, is a challenging HDR transfer with lots of shadowy scenes inside dark spacecraft and dimly lit interiors. Thanks again to the NZ7’s deep native blacks and the excellent light management from the Frame Adapt HDR mode, I have rarely seen it look better. Scenes with low average picture level, such as the opening sequence when Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) flies an X-15 rocket plane to the edge of space, dropped the projector’s black level to where the black letterbox bars nearly disappeared and allowed it pull all manner of shadow detail from the cockpit. When flashes of bright sunlight poked through clouds or lit up the pilot’s face inside his helmet, the projector reacted and the highlights popped while the shadow detail in darker areas remained visible. Never in these shots, nor any inside the dark LEM during the moon landing sequence, did I see any distracting haze due the projector’s inability to dig deep enough into black. Shots of the sun-lit lunar landscape with the dark of space above it were absolutely spectacular. There was a deep, inky black above the horizon—one I could make even blacker if I chose to sacrifice some brightness by closing the aperture a bit. But with the calibrated settings the sun’s light on the undulating, pockmarked landspace brought out waves of gray and brown and even some blue in the terrain, along with bright punchy white highlights where the sun caught the rock. The depth was absolutely tremendous and mesmerizing.

JVC NZ7 Meg
The dynamic tone mapping on the NZ7 was able to suitably handle the brightly mastered HDR transfer of The Meg. (Photo Credit: Warner Bros.)

As I always do with HDR projectors, I pulled out my UHD Blu-ray of The Meg, an action flick in which the enemy is a giant prehistoric shark (as in, better get a much bigger boat). This disc is a 4,000-nit peak HDR transfer with a high average picture level over 1,000 nits that clearly demonstrates how a projector handles bright outlier content. Happily, the DLA-NZ7 handled it with grace after some minor adjustments to take the Brightness control down a few clicks to restore some depth to the black. The dynamic tone-mapping successfully tamped down the sunlight hitting the ocean surface to prevent severe clipping and retain the texture of ripples in the water. Likewise, low-hanging clouds over the ocean horizon had their depth retained.

One very tough-to-display shot in this movie (near the beginning of Chapter 6) is a full length aerial shot of a mostly white research vessel with sunlight striking the water behind it. Some projectors will fully blow out detail on the water behind the vessel and obscure the textured surface, while others will clip the detail in the brightest parts of the boat’s hull. With the NZ7 you get to see both as well as a decently dark painted black at the bow-end of the hull. It’s impressive dynamic range. In the next chapter, a very bright shot looking up from underwater at a clear Lucite shark cage being lowered into the sea with the sun behind it presents another tough challenge. The NZ7 revealed all the detail in cage structure and the lighting circling its floor and ceiling, while avoiding the banding artifacts that’s often seen on this shot in the transition from the bright cage to the darker underside of the boat.

Finally, I threw on some HDR animation just for fun. I’m fond of the scene in The Secret Life of Pets in which Gidget, a puffy white Pomeranian, enters into a full blown mom’s-away-from-home party scene in which a neighborhood full of dogs, cats, birds and other pets have taken over the place with all manner of games. The creators worked hard to give objects natural looking color, so things like the green felt of a pool table and the white porcelain of a toilet looked pleasing and familiar. But everything was delivered in ultra-punchy, saturated colors. I couldn’t get enough of it.

3D Viewing. JVC sent along a 3D emitter and pair of their glasses so I could check out some 3D. The DLA-NZ7 has an Auto 3D setting that will put up a 3D image when it sees one at the input, but there is no dedicated 3D picture mode and you can set up any of the SDR modes for this purpose. I used one of the SDR User modes for this, which automatically defaulted to my calibrated settings for grayscale and Rec.709 color management. From there, it was a simple matter to boost brightness by taking the LD Power setting for the laser from its default Mid to the High setting. I also set gamma to 2.4, and played with the Contrast, Brightness, and Picture Tone settings to taste for whatever content I was watching. A separate 3D menu provides additional settings to force side-by-side or top-and-bottom format if needed, and separate sliders to tune the parallax and crosstalk cancellation.

The NZ7’s brightness provided nice punch with 3D, and I found colors to be essentially true given my calibration for SDR, with only the usual darkening of the image and slight green skew when I put on the glasses. Spiderman: Homecoming demonstrated natural fleshtones, crisp and essentially neutral whites in clothing, and natural looking gray stone and foliage respectively in the Washington Monument and the surrounding grass lawns as Spiderman comes to save the day. Dark scenes were also rendered well, with decent shadow detail.

3D animation was a total blast on the NZ7. A trailer for Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted was incredibly bright, stupendously sharp, and very colorful. I saw only some modest motion artifacts on very quick pans that would challenge any projector, though setting the Clear Motion Drive control helped a bit.

Conclusion

I admit to being a little nervous when I first fired up the laser-driven JVC DLA-NZ7. It exhibits an obvious green cast in the white D-ILA logo that first appears on screen before the signal source—something I don’t see in the same crisp white power-up logo on my lamp-based DLA-X790 reference projector. And you can look into one of the exhaust vents at any time the projector is active and see a green glow behind the cooling fan. Hmm…was this was a harbinger of bad things to come?

Fortunately, it wasn’t, and though there were some minor issues with grayscale accuracy in the default picture modes, the NZ7 calibrated beautifully and ultimately delivered the kind of performance I hoped for, with deliciously dark blacks, highly accurate color, and the effective dynamic tone-mapping that has defined JVC’s successful lamp-based projectors. Based on the company’s history, it should have come out of the box looking better, but I have little doubt that the default tuning will improve over time. In the meantime, making the modest adjustments I described above provided a simple fix for those who don’t want to pay for professional calibration.

At this point, there is no direct competition for a laser-driven home theater projector of this quality at the $9,999 price point; one would need to consider Sony’s LCoS-based VPL-VW915ES at $19,999. JVC’s new step-up model, on the other hand, is the DLA-NZ8 which, at $14,999, adds the four-phase pixel-shifting for 8K content and, more critically for image quality, doubles the NZ7’s rated native contrast to 80,000:1. Assuming that projector actually performs with a commensurate improvement in contrast, this could very well become the sweet spot in the new product family.

JVC DLA NZ7 frontleftangle

On the other hand, if your budget is stuck at $10K, there’s a consideration today about whether to jump on the NZ7 or grab a lamp-based DLA-NX7, JVC’s current and highly popular mid-line projector, before it disappears for good. Despite sharing the “7” in their model designations, these are not comparable products in performance specs. While the NX7, at $8,999, sacrifices the laser and future-proofed HDMI ports, it shares the same 80,000:1 contrast ratio as the new NZ8. If contrast and black level remain your number one criteria and you’re not married to the idea of eliminating lamp replacements, there’s an argument to be made for it. Keep in mind, too, that despite the convenience and stability of laser light engines, they are typically limited to 20,000 hours life with, in most cases, no cost-effective path to laser replacement. A lamp projector can potentially be pushed much longer with new bulbs.

Of course, if you’ve got your heart set on a state-of-the-art laser projector with an amazing picture and modern amenities that will carry you into the future like HDMI 2.1 and 8K signal capabilities, not to mention the ability to play games at 4K/120Hz, you can’t do much better for the price than the DLA-NZ7. It’s a high performer, an incredible value in its laser projector class, and a sure pick for ProjectorCentral’s rare Editor’s Choice Award.

Measurements

Brightness. Unlike many projectors, the JVC DLA-NZ7 does not have a specific picture mode designed to make its brightness spec, but some adjustments to one of the SDR modes has the effect of placing it into its brightest output. Specifically, setting it to one of the SDR User modes, then selecting the Off position for Color Space and the High Bright color temperature, results in maximum light. With these settings, the projector measured 2,213 ANSI lumens, just over its 2,200 lumen spec. However, these settings result in a heavy green cast that most viewers would find unacceptable with any real content.

Measuring all the presets in their default settings but with the LD Power laser setting at its High position provides a more realistic picture of what users will encounter day-to-day. The measurements for all the modes with the three LD Power settings are below. Note that when the HDR Frame Adapt mode is set to Frame-by-Frame analysis, the full-frame 100% white pattern used for measurement triggers a boost in output vs. the Scene-by-Scene setting that is reflected in the chart. This was not observed while viewing content.

JVC DLA-NX7 ANSI Lumens

SDR MODE HIGH MID LOW

User 1-High Bright 2,213 1,784 1,275

Natural 1,441 1,161 669

Cinema 1,609 1,297 927

User 1…User 3 1,445 1,165 659

HDR MODE
HDR Frame Adapt (Frame by Frame) 1,722 1,388 992

HDR Frame Adapt (Scene by Scene) 1,410 1,136 812

HDR 10 1,382 1,114 760

Pana_PQ 1,722 1,388 992

User 4…User 6 1,428 1,151 823

Zoom Lens Light Loss. Moving the long 2X zoom from its widest position to its longest telephoto position resulted in a 28.8% loss of light output. While significant, this isn’t unusual for such a long zoom lens. As always it behooves users to position the projector as close to the screen as possible to preserve light output, especially for a large screen.

Brightness Uniformity. The lens exhibited good uniformity, resulting in measurements of 87.0% at wide zoom and 83.4% at long zoom.

Input Lag. The DLA-NZ7 has a Low Latency switch in its menu that is available in all picture modes and must be engaged for videogame play. With Low Latency on and e-shift pixel shifting turned off I measured a low of 36.0 milliseconds of input lag with a 1080p/120 Hz signal using a Bodnar 4K lag meter. 1080p/60 Hz measured 36.5 ms. 4K/60 Hz signals (3840×2160) measured 44.7 ms. This is acceptable input lag for casual gaming but probably too slow for competitive games that require fast response time. Note that the projector also accepts 4K/120 Hz signals from the latest gaming consoles, but I was unable to test that response time with the Bodnar meter. With Low Latency turned off (along with e-shift), 1080p/60 input lag was a very high 163 ms.

Fan Noise. As noted in the review, the DLA-NZ7 is a relatively quiet projector. It is rated for 24 dBA in Low laser mode using the standard factory lab measurement that averages four readings around all sides of the projector in a soundproof chamber. My casual measurements taken five feet in front of and two feet below the projector, essentially in line with the exhaust fans, resulted in a reading of 37.1 dBA with the LD Power setting in its Low or Mid setting (in a room with a 27 dBA noise floor). The High laser setting measured 38.6 dBA and was a bit higher pitched but was easily masked by soundtracks. Engaging the High Altitude mode drove noise to 43.3 dBA at a noticeably higher pitch, but was still surprisingly tolerable; you might get away without acoustically isolating the projector if it can be place a modest distance from viewers. Also, there was no high-pitched electronic whine that accompanies some laser engines.

Connections

JVC DLA NZ7 connections

  • HDMI 2.1/HDCP 2.3 inputs (x2, 48 Gbps)
  • 3D sync output (Mini Din 3-pin)
  • 12v DC/100ma trigger output (3.5 mm)
  • RS-232C control (D-sub 9-pin)
  • USB-A (service only)
  • LAN control (RJ-45)

Calibrated Settings

Calibrated image settings from any third-party do not account for the significant potential for sample-to-sample variation, nor the different screen sizes and materials, lighting, lamp usage, or other environmental factors that can affect image quality. Projectors should always be calibrated in the user’s own space and tuned for the expected viewing conditions. However, the settings provided here may be a helpful starting point for some. Always record your current settings before making adjustments so you can return to them as desired. Refer to the Performance section for some context for each calibration.

SDR Settings

Content Type: Auto

Picture Mode: Natural

MORE SETTINGS

LD Power: Mid

Dynamic CTRL: Off or to taste

Aperture: -1

Contrast: 0

Brightness: 0

Color: 0

Tint: 0

Color Profile: BT.709 (or Auto)

Color Management: On

Red:

Hue 2

Saturation: 1

Brightness: -2

Green:

Hue 4

Saturation: 0

Brightness: 0

Blue:

Hue: 0

Saturation: 0

Brightness: -4

Cyan:

Hue: 0

Saturation: 0

Brightness: 0

Magenta:

Hue: 2

Saturation: 6

Brightness: 1

Yellow:

Hue: -1

Saturation: 0

Brightness: 1

Color Temp: 6500K

Gain Red: -47

Gain Green: -25

Gain Blue: -3

Offset Red: 5

Offset Green: -11

Offset Blue: -2

Gamma: 2.4

MPC/e-shift

8K e-shift: Off (or on to taste)

Graphic Mode: Standard

Enhance: 5

NR: 0

BNR: 0

MNR: 0

MOTION CONTROL

Low Latency: 0ff

Clear Motion Drive: 0ff

Motion Enhance: Low

HDR Settings

Content Type: Auto (HDR10)

Picture Mode: HDR10

MORE SETTINGS

LD Power: Mid

Dynamic CTRL: Off or to taste

Aperture: 0

Contrast: 28 or to taste

Brightness: 0 or to taste

Color: 0

Tint: 0

Color Profile: BT.2020 (or Auto)

Color Management: On

Red:

Hue 6

Saturation: 11

Brightness: 0

Green:

Hue 15

Saturation: 2

Brightness: 0

Blue:

Hue: 1

Saturation: -1

Brightness: 0

Cyan:

Hue: -3

Saturation: 0

Brightness: 0

Magenta:

Hue: 12

Saturation: 3

Brightness: 0

Yellow:

Hue: 0

Saturation: 13

Brightness: 0

Color Temp: HDR10 (6500K)

Gain Red: -43

Gain Green: -32

Gain Blue: -25

Offset Red: 5

Offset Green: -9

Offset Blue: 7

HDR Processing: Frame by Frame (or Scene by Scene)

Theater Optimizer: Off

HDR Level: 0 (or to taste)

MPC/e-shift

8K e-shift: Off (or on to taste)

Graphic Mode: High-res 1

Enhance: 5

NR: 0

BNR: 0

MNR: 0

MOTION CONTROL

Low Latency: Off

Clear Motion Drive: Off

Motion Enhance: Low

For more detailed specifications and connections, check
out our JVC DLA-NZ7 projector page.

To buy this projector, use Where to Buy
online, or get a price quote by email direct from Projector Central authorized dealers using our E-Z Quote tool.

This Article was first published by Projector Central.

Published by Projector Central

September 19, 2021

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