JVC DLA-NZ7 Laser Home Cinema Projector Review

Our trusted trade focused reviewer Richard Stevenson experiences the DLA-NZ7 from veteran home cinema servant JVC.

I have long been a fan of JVC’s D-ILA projectors and owned models going back to pre-HD resolution days. Pound for pound, I felt JVC’s bespoke Direct-Drive Image Light Amplification technology offered the best cinema performance, improving tone and black levels on LCD machines and circumnavigating colour banding with DLP. I even opted for a DLA-NP5 as my first 4K machine in the new cinema, but the bulb-based model could not punch the brightness I wanted for the larger room and larger screen. I ended up with Sony’s vivid WX-7000 before JVC’s latest laser-based goodies were available.

The JVC DLA-NZ7 is the brand’s opening soiree into a laser-engine-based native 4K D-ILA projector with a neat 8K trick behind its premium all-glass lens. Using pixel shifting technology that JVC calls e-shift, 8K content is split into two frames that are displayed sequentially, shifted half a pixel diagonally. The frame overlap produces a viable 8K image from a 4K panel, backed up by the NZ7’s twin 48Gbps HDMI 2.3 spec connections for 8K content and an onboard 8K scaler. The flagship NZ9 model boasts an even smoother 8K thanks to pixel shifting in two directions, called e-shiftX.

Under the hood of this large 24kg beast, the NZ7 is equipped with a 17-element, 15-group all-glass 65mm diameter lens, providing excellent uniformity of sharpness from corner to corner. As projector bulbs are becoming obsolete (soon to have an EU ban for their energy-using atrocities), the NZ7 has JVC’s BLU-escent laser engine at its heart, claiming to punch out a maximum 2,200 lumens brightness. It still sucks over 400W in use and is necessarily cooed by twin multispeed fans. JVC’s expertise shows here as those fans are very quiet and seemingly (to my ears) a less obtrusive tone than Sony’s laser models despite registering exactly the same sound level on my test meter in low fan mode.

There is a fully motorised lens shift and focus here, controlled from the JVC’s fucntional and pretty remote, and like most motorised systems it is very easy to ‘overshoot’ the focus mark. I still can’t understand why projectors don’t have autofocus to save installers squinting at pixels while tweaking a lens assembly with the momentum of a bus via a remote control, but JVC is not alone here. You do, however,get 10 lens presets with anamorphic scaling covering everything you could need for standard ratios, cinemascope and masked screens.

For awkward installs, where the projector has to be offset from the perpendicular screen-centre or cannot hang neatly at the top of the screen height, the NZ7 offers a very generous 80% vertical and 34% horizontal lens shift. Image focus and uniformity remain excellent even towards the extremes, and the 2x zoom lens gives plenty of fore-aft scope in a room. Having had a limited zoom projector hung directly over my head for many years, being able to install the projector at the back of the room without needing an IMAX-sized screen (or vice versa if moved forward) is very handy.

This brings me neatly to screen size. JVC recommends screen sizes between 60 and 200in and in anything but a fully dungeon-dark cinema room I would say the upper end of that range is ‘ambitious’. The 2,200 lumens maximum gets significantly reduced by setting the fan to low/eco mode and both JVC’s naturally smooth and rich image along with its dynamic tone mapping put further pressure on the realistic brightness at longer throw distances and with larger screens.

My screen is a 130in diagonal AT model with 0.9 gain and I am not sure I would go too big with the NZ7 in anything but a full black-out decor. There is scope to lift the brightness on the highest laser power / highest fan settings but the NZ7 picture is so rich and it runs so quietly on low, it would be a tough trade-off for me. Your customer mileage may vary.

When it comes to calibration, the DLA-NZ7 offers a range of controls within its menu system, it is ISF-licensed and uses JVC’s own Auto Calibration software. I have read some installer angst on the NZ7’s slightly limited flexibility and course calibration settings for truly granular image tweaking, but I managed a good picture, somewhere between drop-dead gorgeous and phwoar, very easily.

A good chunk of that visual wow-factor comes down to JVC’s class-leading dynamic tone mapping and Frame Adapt technology. Frame Adapt dynamically adjusts the tone mapping on a scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame basis, optimising HDR content on only the fly. While other brands now have similar technologies in their premium projectors, the NZ7 remains at the top of the game here for producing silky-smooth, cinema-like images with superb detail in high and low bright parts of the scene.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance, the wife’s favourite film for some reason, offers a cinematic canvas perfect to demonstrate the NZ7’s amazing shading and toning, bringing amazing contrast and detail to the auditorium dance scenes. Inky black backdrops, vivid stage lighting, superbly shot effects like the rain dance on stage, and, according to the wife, extremely well-crafted rippling torsos, are a real joy to behold (the picture, not to torsos to make that clear). I have seen 4K TVs that cannot deliver this level of high contrast smoothness and seamless cinematic grace. Bundle that with the NZ7’s deeply rich colours, natural skin toning and smooth motion processing, and this is a projector that begs for bespoke cinema room builds.

Side by side with the more expensive Sony installed here, the JVC gets frighteningly close to the much more affluent model in almost every respect. The Sony simply punches harder and brighter with more vivid colour. That makes it a better choice for bigger media rooms and multi-use lounges and with general high-impact content like sport. For a more bijou, bespoke cinema room with decor noir and a strict diet of Hollywood and less mainstream movies, the JVC would get my Oscar for its stunning cinematic performance.

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