It's one thing to compare the published specs of two different high performance projectors like the Sony VPL-VW385 ($7999) and the JVC DLA-RS640 (also $7999) on paper, but it's another to actually compare both products side-by-side in person! Fortunately, we have both projectors on display in our showroom, which made the comparison easy. On October 30th, we spent an entire day pitting the two top projectors against each other at our demo theater here in Colorado Springs.
Before we get to the results, it's worth noting that the Sony VPL-VW385 at $7999 is essentially the same projector as the Sony VPL-VW285 (the famed "4K for $5K" projector stirring up so much buzz), only with the benefit of an automatic iris to bump up dynamic picture contrast. Native contrast on the VW285 and VW385 are the same, so we thought the VW385 was an ideal test candidate since it is essentially two projectors in one. :)
Similarly, the JVC DLA-RS640 ($7999) used during our test is practically the same unit as the JVC DLA-RS540 ($5999), only with hand-selected optics and DILA chips for the ultimate "tweaked" performance. However, as you can tell by clicking on the links, the RS640 and RS540 have almost identical specs and feature sets. Much like the Sony VW385 served as a stand in for the VW285, the RS640 serves as a stand in for the RS540.
Both projectors were put into what should be their highest performing "out-of-the-box" picture modes, according to their respective manufacturers. At this stage, we thought it fair to compare them out of the box as this is how most people end up installing them (in our experience, most people do not spend the extra money for a professional calibration).
According to most online reviews, both pieces offer very good performance right out-of-the-box. Both projectors were compared one after the other on our Stewart StudioTek130 reference screen. We were able to compare the pictures sequentially and immediately by simply blocking light from one while examining the picture from the other.
We shot out the Sony VW385 and the JVC RS640 side by side for almost the entire day with a variety of 4K / HDR content. There was a bit of Blu-ray thrown in as well.
As anticipated, it became a battle of Sony's true 4K resolution vs. JVC's "eShift" 4K, plus high dynamic contrast (Sony) vs. high native AND dynamic contrast (JVC). Here is what we found:
JVC Pros: Outstanding contrast, deep, deep blacks. Sharp and detailed image. Very impressive HDR "pop." Would play “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” without problem (“Billy Lynn” is 4K HDR with a 60P frame rate)
JVC Cons: Out-of-box color looks a little over saturated, slight red cast to the picture (at least compared to the Sony), not as much fine detail with native 4K material (noticeable when watching at less than two picture heights)
Sony Pros: Able to resolve very fine details in textures and patterns, good HDR implementation with minimal clipping of blacks or whites, good contrast, decent blacks, proper color saturation out-of-box.
Sony Cons: Slight blue cast to the picture out of box (as compared to the JVC), would not play “Billy Lynn” unless bit depth was reduced to 8 bits.
The difference in image contrast was obvious in almost every single shot, which is where the JVC excelled. As a result, the JVC image had more “pop” and a greater sense of three dimensionality. However, with fine details like clothing texture and street signs in the distance, etc, the Sony was sharper when we walked up to the screen. However, most of the "fine detail" differences disappeared at a typical seating distance.
There were four of us present for the shootout.
Personal thoughts from John Schuermann, owner of The Screening Room:
"I think most people would prefer the JVC image (as did all of us), as during the shootout the most common observation was that the Sony looked “flat” in comparison to the JVC. When it came to fine details, the Sony did reveal fine textures more readily, but in most cases you needed to walk right up to the screen to see them. The JVC E-shift 5 seems to be an upgrade over previous iterations, and the new “HDR” preset presents a wider color gamut than the Sony while retaining brightness and contrast.
So, while the Sony has true 4K resolution at $5K and $8K price points, the JVC at almost the same price points has a wider color gamut and deeper contrast - plus will accept a 4:4:4 60P 4K HDR signal, which the Sony will not. This is due to the fact that the JVC models will all accept 18 Gbps inputs, while the Sony units are limited to 13.5 Gbps - until you get up to the flagship Sony VPL-VW885 laser projector, at $24,999. (NOTE - we found out that the Sony VW885 laser also features "new improved" SXRD panels with greater native contrast than the panels found in the Sony VW285, 385, and 675)."
That said, we don't think you would go wrong with either of these projectors - it's more a matter of picking which picture performance parameters are more important to you.
As always, we are happy to answer questions and discuss our thoughts and impressions in depth, so feel free to contact us for more details!