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Results of the TSR Laser Projector Shootout

NOTE - If you’d like to discuss the results of this event or are interested in any of these projectors, please contact us at or call us at 720-377-3877. Also, we'll be hosting a webinar soon to present and discuss in detail what we learned from the shootout. If you’re interested in attending the webinar, but sure to sign up for our mailing list.

This was one for the history books! Not only was it the largest controlled projector shootout The Screening Room has ever put on, but it was also the most comprehensive shootout the TSR team has ever attended. As you'll see, TSR went to tremendous lengths to make sure this one was fair and definitive.

Most of the credit for the setup and running of the shootout itself must go to Kris Deering. Kris is the owner/operator of Deep Dive AV, a professional calibration and consulting service, and is also a technical editor and contributing writer for Sound and Vision magazine. Kris spent almost an entire week in the dark of our showroom meticulously calibrating each projector, with the final tweaking process open to both the Sony and JVC reps that attended the event. This manufacturer involvement was tremendously appreciated as it helped initiate a dialogue between the engineers who make these products and those of us who deal with them in the field. Kris and our crew were able to spend some “quality time” with each manufacturer and both Sony and JVC were very open to input about what all of us thought could be done to improve their products. All the content that was used for evaluation and all of the settings in each projector were agreed upon by all of the manufacturing reps and Kris to provide examples of a wide range of content to display the capabilities of all the projectors used in the event.

But there is also more to an event than what you see the day-of. And for that TSR’s own Steve Crabb, Dave Carty and Zach Faley did a fantastic job behind the scenes. They not only did most of the event scheduling and physical setup, but also promoted the event online so that interested parties had the opportunity to attend and participate. This effort brought in a huge crowd on Saturday (almost standing room only) and a big crowd on Sunday as well. Tremendous thanks goes out to all who attended, some of whom traveled great distances. We even had a few who sat through our event for both days and pitched in when it came time to set up and break down. We're looking at you, Mark Dalquist!

Photo courtesy of Chris Deutsch, JVC USA.

Since there were so many projectors to get through, we ended up breaking them up into three categories. Because it's practically impossible to fairly represent the subtle differences in image quality between these projectors with photos and video, we're going to share various personal subjective impressions of each of these projectors. The main article represents the "TSR team view" (Steve Crabb, Dave Carty, Zach Faley and John Schuermann), but we'll also be sprinkling in other attendees' impressions, including commentary from Kris Deering (notes from Kris will be in bold).

NOTES ON SETUP: All projectors were calibrated to 100 nits for the SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) test comparisons. Settings were reviewed with the manufacturers for the JVC and Sony projectors; Epson did not have a representative available for the event. The Sony and Epson projectors used their “dynamic laser dimming” to improve their contrast performance for ALL of the comparisons. Sony projectors had various enhancements enabled such as their Reality Creation enhancement, smooth gradation and their HDR Contrast enhancer. Epson’s projector used their dynamic contrast (laser dimming) as well as some of their sharpening features. JVC projectors were shown with native contrast (no dynamic contrast features were used) and all of their sharpening features were disabled. The NZ8/9 had their “e-ShiftX” enabled, but all enhancements were off. The JVCs used their “Theater Optimizer” HDR processing for HDR comparisons. For HDR comparisons, all of the projectors were shown in their higher light output (high lamp/laser, fully-open apertures (if available), no color filters used (for JVCs that featured it). Measurements for the calibration sections of each projector are reported for these conditions with the exception of dynamic contrast, which was disabled for the calibration session. All contrast measurements were taken in these sessions, off the screen, and represent the “native” contrast performance of the projector for that calibration session. – Kris Deering

TSR notes on setup: all projectors were shown sequentially on a 150" Scope Stewart StudioTek130 G4 screen, masked down to 120" diagonal 16:9 for the duration of the shootout. Source components were a Kaleidescape StratoS Movie Server and a Sony UHD Blu-ray Player. Throw distance was typically around 19'.

Let's get to it!

EPSON LS12000 vs. SONY XW5000ES vs. JVC DLA-RS1100 (aka the DLA-NP5)

TSR Crew: with bright content, all three of these projectors looked terrific. The bright scenes from GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE, FARMAGEDDON, and THE MEG all looked sharp and colorful, and it was often difficult to tell much difference between them. Eye candy like the day-glow city battle from GODZILLA VS. KONG looked stunning on all three, as this is the kind of bright, colorful, contrasty material that makes people go “wow.” And “wow” it did. A couple of people thought the Sony looked ever so slightly sharper on scenes with fine detail (like the roof on the farmhouse in the FARMAGGEDON clip, or some of Paul Rudd’s facial textures on the GHOSTBUSTERS clip). We saw what they were talking about – a slight sharpening that made fine details stand out a bit more. Per the discussion with the Sony reps, their Digital Reality Creation (DRC) sharpness enhancement was turned on, but at a low level (mutually agreed upon by Kris and the Sony reps). It’s worth noting that all detail enhancement processing in the other projectors was turned off. How much Sony's DRC affected sharpness we can’t say. However, we did not see much in the way of objectionable artifacts at the low, 20% level DRC was set to. John is particularly sensitive to edge enhancement artifacts, and thought Kris and Sony made the right call here, noting that this setting did create a pleasing effect without looking artificial.

As soon as darker material made its way on screen (ALIEN, BLACK PANTHER, GRAVITY, the darker scenes from FARMAGGEDON, etc) however, some rather pronounced differences became obvious. Even trying to be as fair and diplomatic as possible, to me it was clear that the JVC was appreciably - even dramatically - better than the Sony and Epson projectors.

It’s not just blacks the JVC did better with – it was everything that comes with having better on/off contrast capabilities. Not only did blacks become darker and richer, depth and dimensionality became clearly superior as well. In scenes like what you see in the above screenshot from ALIEN, the Epson and Sony projectors just looked “flat” and desaturated in comparison to the JVC. What was interesting was the reaction from the crowd.

“When the image for the RS1100 came up, the room collectively gasped. There was a lot of "oh wow, look at that" going on, and a lot of chatter. This trend continued throughout the day.” - AVS Forum User 900HP

After Kris let each demo scene play without commentary, audience members were allowed to call out specific shots or scenes to compare sequentially. Please note that our approach was to offer ZERO commentary of our own during the shootout, as we did not want to bias the comparisons. Whenever a dark scene was put up, we could literally hear gasps and exclamations from the crowd whenever we switched to the JVC.

“Each time Kris switched to the JVC the differences in depth, color and dimensionality in dark scenes were dramatic. In the space scenes from FARMAGEDDON and GRAVITY, it became obvious that the Epson really offered “grey levels,” the Sony offered “dark grey levels,” and the JVC offered “black levels” in comparison (I say in comparison, as even the JVC does not offer perfect, OLED-style blacks – one always has the black screen edge to compare to, and it was obvious that none of the projectors are capable of a true black).” - John Schuermann

Color reproduction was nearly identical with all three projectors, most of the differences coming down to varying approaches to HDR tone-mapping (NOT an exact science) and limitations of the color calibration tools in each projector. Motion handling looked about the same on all three. During HDR demos, color saturation looked the richest with the JVC, followed by the Epson, then the Sony.

Interesting too that some in the crowd thought that having a laser light engine would bring performance improvements of its own, but at the end of the day, it’s just a light source. We talked to two people in the crowd who came in to see the Epson and ended up being more interested in the lamp based JVC RS1100 / NP5. The advantage of laser is in long term reliability (or so goes the claim), but not necessarily in picture performance. That was pretty clearly demonstrated in this match-up.

Some comments on the individual projectors:

EPSON LS12000 ($4999 MSRP)

With bright material the Epson held its own against the native 4K offerings from JVC and Sony, offering a nice bright sharp image. Add a laser light engine and HDMI 2.1 to the mix and we understand why this has become such a popular (but hard to get) projector.

From where I was sitting (about 4 feet from the screen), the screen door effect of the Epson was surprisingly obvious. I say surprisingly since I had expected that the pixel shift capabilities would do more to mitigate this artifact, or that advances in LCD technology might have improved the “fill factor” of the pixels over the years. This is probably not a fair assessment, though, as I was seated far closer to the screen than most people would ever sit.” - John S.

From normal seating distances, the Epson had a slightly “coarser” look to the image compared to the JVC and Sony, but of course without a Sony or JVC to compare to, one would likely never notice it. Many were disappointed in the Epson’s black level performance, as they were really “grey levels.” This was not so noticeable in mixed content (where your eye is biased due to brighter elements also being in the frame), but in truly dark content, the Epson lacked depth and dimensionality.

Interestingly, I actually liked some of Epson’s HDR tone-mapping “choices” better than what I saw from the Sony, though some of that is subjective. But it was clear that the Epson had the poorest contrast / black levels of the bunch.” - John S.
When calibrated the Epson was no brighter than the RS1100. Also had worse color accuracy and SIGNIFICANTLY less contrast. This false notion that Epsons are so much brighter needs to die.” - AVS Forum User mpfranks
We’ve had a great deal of interest in the Epson LS12000 and I’m of two minds about how it performed. It held up better than I had expected (I was seated farther back and was unable to see the screen-door effect John mentioned) but it was still the projector I liked the least of the first three and of the whole shoot-out. If your budget cannot stretch past $5K the Epson is the projector for you –if you can make things stretch, then aim for JVC.” - Dave Carty
I was already familiar with the Epson as I had done a recent review of it for Sound and Vision magazine. I don’t know what the expectation of the crowd was for it, but I didn't think the Epson looked bad at all. I thought with the mid to bright content it did extremely well against both the Sony and the JVC. Post calibration results were very similar to the JVC and Sony for color accuracy and it was nice and sharp and intra-scene contrast looked great. Colors also looked great with both HDR and SDR content. When we got to the darker content I thought the difference between the Epson and Sony was pretty small overall and certainly more noticeable with the quick back and forth comparison than what you’d get if you only had the Epson to look at. Obviously with JVC’s much higher overall dynamic range, it didn’t fare as well in that comparison with the darker content we looked at.” - Kris Deering

Calibration Results

(Post calibration Max dE's — 3 or below is considered imperceptible, 5 or less is excellent for consumer grade display):

SDR (100 nits) (709 color gamut, BT1886 gamma target)

Color – Max 3, average 1

Grayscale/Gamma – Max 1, average 1

Contrast Ratio: 4800:1 (non-dynamic)

HDR (max output, 143 nits) (2020 color gamut)

Color (P3 inside 2020): Max 5, average 1

Grayscale – Max 2, average 1

Contrast Ratio: 4400:1 (non-dynamic)

JVC DLA-RS1100 aka the DLA-NP5 ($6,999.95 MSRP)

For many, this was the surprise of the show. From the feedback we received from the crowd, the contrast performance was so strong that just about everyone we talked to thought it was the clear “winner” of this first round. As mentioned previously, there were at least two people who came in interested in the Epson and strongly considered switching to the JVC. Originally, we were not going to include this projector as it was not laser based, but we're glad we added it at the last minute, as even without a laser light engine or the dual iris / color filter found in the higher-end JVCs, it did so well that in many ways it was in the similar league as the higher-end projectors here. In fact, in terms of contrast performance, only the two higher-end JVCs were any better. On the negative side, maximum brightness of the 1100 was not as high as the competition if not running in “best picture mode” (in best picture mode all three were somewhat comparable in brightness). It also looked slightly softer in a few shots than the competing Sony. JVC’s HDR tone-mapping solution also appears to be the best in the industry, but even it is not perfect and may require “user intervention” from time to time.

“In terms of overall performance, the RS-1100 would be the projector I would pick out of this batch. From the audience reaction, I think that was pretty much unanimous.” - John S.

Calibration Results

(Post calibration Max dE's — 3 or below is considered imperceptible, 5 or less is excellent for consumer grade display):

SDR (100 nits) (709 color gamut, BT1886 gamma target)

Color – Max 1, average .5

Grayscale/Gamma – Max 1, average .5

Contrast Ratio: 32,500:1 (non-dynamic)

HDR (max output, 143 nits) (2020 color gamut)

Color (P3 inside 2020): Max 4.5, average 1

Grayscale – Max 2, average 1

Contrast Ratio: 31,200:1 (non-dynamic)

SONY XW5000ES ($5999.99)

As noted in the overview, the Sony had a slightly sharper image in a few shots than any of the competition in this round. We were happy to see that Sony has also made great strides in improving their HDR tone-mapping performance, though it still requires a bit more “user intervention” than those with “automatic” solutions (even though those are not fully automatic). Big pluses for the Sony were brightness, sharpness, and a nice compact chassis. The lack of an HDMI 2.1 input may be a deal breaker for some, but unless you are an extreme high frame rate gamer, it probably won’t matter to you. Contrast performance was measurably better than the Epson but fell well short of the JVC. Note that both the Epson and JVC also offer full motorized control of their lenses (focus/shift/zoom) and lens memories whereas the Sony does not. In fact, the 5000ES has rather outdated and clumsy manual controls for zoom and focus.

“The Sony 5000ES was reminiscent of the more recent Sony projectors I’ve calibrated and evaluated once you get past the new chassis. Setup and operation are nearly identical short of the manual lens control. HDR performance has improved when it comes to how their tone mapping looks with more demanding content, but it still requires different user-selectable modes and other fiddling to optimize. The Sony 5000ES also looks to have an undefeatable amount of their “Digital Focus Optimizer” processing always applied to the image. This was noticed with the closeup shot of Paul Rudd’s face in GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE. Viewing the same content on the other two Sony projectors did not produce the same slightly sharpened look.” Kris Deering

Calibration Results

(Post calibration Max dE's — 3 or below is considered imperceptible, 5 or less is excellent for consumer grade display):

SDR (100 nits) (709 color gamut, BT1886 gamma target)

Color – Max 2, average 1

Grayscale/Gamma – Max 3, average 1.6

Contrast Ratio: 13,136:1 (non-dynamic)

HDR (max output, 131 nits) (2020 color gamut)

Color (P3 inside 2020): Max 3.1, average 1

Grayscale – Max 2, average 1

Contrast Ratio: 12,800:1 (non-dynamic)

SONY XW6000ES vs. JVC DLA-RS2100 (aka the DLA-NZ7)

For round two Kris lined up the Sony HW6000ES and the JVC DLA-RS2100. We don’t really have much to add here that we didn’t already cover in the assessment of the previous JVC and Sony models. Once again, the Sony looked slightly sharper than the JVC in some of the brighter scenes, but the JVC was substantially better in how it handled darker scenes (and we heard the same kind of “astonished” sounds from the audience when switching back and forth).

“During the bright scenes the two projectors were almost indistinguishable, but the darker the scene was, the better the JVC looked.” - Steve Crabb

We also noticed an uptick in overall “clarity” and mixed contrast with the Sony XW6000ES over the 5000ES. The Sony 6000ES has a different lens system that it shares with the XW7000ES, which is larger and also motorized. The picture just looked brighter and clearer overall, as if the 5000 had a bit of a haze to it. The JVC 1100 and 2100 didn’t look that much different to us – after all, most of the difference is in the light source (bulb on the 1100 vs. laser on the 2100).

SONY XW6000ES ($11,999.99 MSRP)

As noted above, the XW6000ES looked like what it was – an XW5000ES but with an upgraded lens and higher brightness. Mixed contrast and clarity were noticeably better than the 5000. Black level and overall contrast appeared about the same as the 5000ES (see Kris’s numbers for the measured performance). The XW6000ES seems to be the “sweet spot” in the Sony projector lineup – the upgrades in performance and features are definitely worth the increase in price. Those upgrades include a clearly better lens (pun intended), motorized zoom and focus, 500 additional lumens (2500 lumens on the 6000 vs. 2000 on the 5000, see Kris’s measurements for real world numbers), and 3D support.

Calibration Results

(Post calibration Max dE's — 3 or below is considered imperceptible, 5 or less is excellent for consumer grade display):

SDR (100 nits) (709 color gamut, BT1886 gamma target)

Color – Max 2, average 1

Grayscale/Gamma – Max 3, average 2

Contrast Ratio: 8,900:1 (non-dynamic)

HDR (max output, 143 nits) (2020 color gamut)

Color (P3 inside 2020): Max 6, average 2

Grayscale – Max 4.5, average 2.4

Contrast Ratio: 8,700:1 (non-dynamic)

JVC DLA-RS2100 aka the DLA-NZ7 ($10,999.95 MSRP)

This is essentially a rehash of what was said about the JVC DLA-RS1100 vs. the Sony XW5000ES, but the truth is that the differences were about the same. Even though the Sony 6000 has a better quality lens and higher light output, the JVC still performed considerably better with dark or mixed content. As before, the Sony looked a touch sharper in some of the brighter scenes but looked a bit flat and desaturated in darker scenes.

If it were up to us, the JVC is the projector we would choose.” - John S. and Steve C.

For those comparing this projector to the DLA-RS1100, with the DLA-RS2100 you upgrade to a laser light engine, higher brightness (2200 vs. 1900 lumens, see Kris’s report for real world numbers), 8K eShift, plus the ability to accept an 8K/60P input (the DLA-RS1100 maxes out at 4K120P).

Calibration Results

(Post calibration Max dE's — 3 or below is considered imperceptible, 5 or less is excellent for consumer grade display):

SDR (100 nits) (709 color gamut, BT1886 gamma target)

Color – Max 1, average .6

Grayscale/Gamma – Max 1, average .4

Contrast Ratio: 30,000:1 (non-dynamic)

HDR (max output, 123 nits) (2020 color gamut)

Color (P3 inside 2020): Max 3.5, average .7

Grayscale – Max 1, average .5

Contrast Ratio: 23,700:1 (non-dynamic)

The JVC DLA-RS3100 aka the DLA-NZ8 ($15,999.95 MSRP)

This one was kind of fun, since because this projector was in a unique price-class, we showed it solo. It offers several upgrades over the JVC DLA-RS2100 discussed above: even more light output (2500 vs. 2200 lumens, see Kris’s report for real world numbers), premium High-Contrast optics (for better mixed contrast picture quality), the addition of a color filter to get you to 99% coverage of the DCI / P3 color space (at the expense of about 20% in brightness if you choose to engage it), double the native contrast of the RS2100 thanks to a dual iris system and hand-selected D-ILA chips (that’s the marketing claim anyhow, check this against Kris’s measurements), and an upgraded four-way 8K eShift system that is capable of individually addressing 8K pixels (eShiftX).

Subjective opinions? Since this projector was shown solo, it was less of a “side by side” comparison as we did with some others. Interestingly, though, several people at the show thought that this was the projector where things really kicked up to another level.

“From my perspective, what I noticed most was an increase in the depth of dark scenes vs. any of the previous projectors. This is especially noticeable in the scenes from ALIEN and BLACK PANTHER, where again, there was a greater sense of depth and dimensionality, plus a greater “purity/clarity” in the overall image (likely due to the reduction in light scatter inside the optical block).” - John S.
“At our last shoot-out the overall “value-for-money” winner was the JVC RS2000 (NX7) which has proven to be our top selling projector delivering 80%+ performance of the top-of-the-line JVC for around $10K less. This time around the laser based equivalent the RS3100 (NZ8) follows closely in performance with its predecessor and though at a higher price point it still nets you that excellent performance with a similar savings from the top-of-the-line RS4100 (NZ9).” - Dave C.
The upgraded high-contrast optical block, color filter and extra light output of the RS3100 provide a noticeable step up in performance from the RS1100 and RS2100. The unit provides a top-tier image that comes close to the 4100, missing only a little light output and the 4100's top-notch lens. But, the overall package is incredible for the money, which is why this projector is hanging in my personal theater. - Zach F.

Show note for the upper JVC Line – With HDR playback, they were actually displayed at their minimum overall contrast performance, as they was optimized for high brightness vs. high contrast (see Kris’s measurements for context). Overall color gamut performance was also compromised as the available color filter was not put in place, so we were not able to see the greater color depth this projector is capable of, nor did we attempt to calibrate to hit 100-125 nits on the screen, which would have considerably improved overall dynamic range (note – this decision was made by JVC in collaboration with Kris). In other words, this projector can only go UP in performance, yet it still wowed most of the people there. Like the Sony XW6000ES, it hits the sweet spot of performance vs. price. The JVC DLA-RS3100 has the most feature “bang for the buck” out of the JVC lineup, assuming your budget can stretch to accommodate this model.

Calibration Results

(Post calibration Max dE's — 3 or below is considered imperceptible, 5 or less is excellent for consumer grade display):

SDR (100 nits) (709 color gamut, BT1886 gamma target)

Color – Max 2, average .7

Grayscale/Gamma – Max 1, average .6

Contrast Ratio: 31,700:1 (non-dynamic)

HDR (max output, 133 nits) (2020 color gamut)

Color (P3 inside 2020): Max 4.4, average 1

Grayscale – Max 2, average 1

Contrast Ratio: 30,000:1 (non-dynamic)