After years as a small player in the home theatre projector market, JVC suddenly brought its D-ILA technology to prime time with the introduction of the DLA-HD1. This revolutionized the sort of black-level response that could be expected from a reasonably affordable beamer.
As the first proper next-gen model, we were fascinated to see what JVC's DLA-HD350 — priced at AU$6,499 — could do, and hoped it would take the company's burgeoning technology up another gear.
Design and Features
For a large projector, the HD350 is surprisingly attractive, thanks to the glossiness of its black finish and its distinctive, stretched diamond shape.
The HD350 is much easier to set up than its HD1 and HD100 predecessors. The onscreen menus are excellent and there are motorized vertical and horizontal lens shifting, zoom (with a 2x optical range) and focus options, as well as keystone correction for straightening out the edges of images.
Technophobes can take heart from a mostly well-conceived set of image presets, while tinkerers can save the results of their endeavours into any of the three provided memory slots. What's more, the number of adjustments that can be made with the HD350 are much higher than with the HD1, and every extra tweak enhances the prospect of you being able to get pictures looking exactly as you want them to.
Particularly handy are the three aperture adjustments for changing the amount of light the HD350 lets through its lens. This gives you a degree of choice over the image's contrast and brightness balance.
It would have been good to find among the HD350's connections a PC input and a 12V trigger output for projection screen automation.
It's also a shame to find such an otherwise ambitious projector not providing an extensive colour management system.
The single best thing about the HD350 is its picture quality. Its all-important black-level response, for instance, is even better than that of the HD1's. Dark scenes look almost completely devoid of the customary grey misting effect that blights practically every other sub-AU$7,000 projector. Even the blackest corners contain unprecedented amounts of shadow detail, ensuring that they look three-dimensional and 100 percent natural.
What's more, this id achieved without any need for the sort of dynamic iris (DI) systems used by many of its competitors — certainly all LCD, DLP and SXRD models. This means the HD350's dark scenes look utterly stable with none of the usual brightness "steppings" you get with DI equivalents.
We were also hugely impressed by the sharpness of the HD350's high-definition pictures. The amount of HD details the projector reproduces are frequently stunning and brought to the screen without being accompanied by grain or other noise.
More good news concerns the HD350's colours, which look notably richer and more dynamic than those of the HD1's. This makes images much more eye-catching and cinematic, as well as more natural, since the HD350 seems able to portray a wider section of the visible colour gamut.
The HD350 also runs remarkably quietly, produces brighter images than the HD1, and, thanks to the onboard Silicon Optix HQV Reon-VX video processor, delivers unusually satisfying standard-definition pictures that hold up even at prodigious image sizes.
Finally, with all the HD350's many positives in mind, it's worth adding that it's exceptionally good value.
In terms of picture quality, although the HD350 is much better than the already brilliant HD1, there are also a handful of rival projectors in the same price bracket that output higher lumens.
Also, while the HD350's colours are amply satisfying, there are one or two similarly priced DLP models whose colours look richer still.
Finally, we detected the occasional rogue tone from time to time which made us rue the lack of a colour-management function all the more.
Although JVC's DLA-HD350 lacks one or two key features that make the more fully specified DLA-HD750 model look hugely appealing, it's still a stunning performer for the money.