JVC’s current NZ line includes the JVC NZ7, NZ8 and NZ9 projectors – as well as their differently named counterparts such as the RS2100, RS3100 and RS4100 available through the custom install market in the USA.
The current line-up also includes the NZ3 which is a DLP projector, as opposed to an LCOS projector, and the NP5, which is a lamp based projector.
While JVC has not announced their plans for their next-generation projector line-up, we can make some educated guesses regarding their plans for both expected hardware and software features based on:
- How successful their current line-up is
- The current state of technology
- JVC’s general movement with regards to the market with each successive line of projectors
- Some hints dropped by JVC
I will be using the names NZ5, NZ70, NZ80 and NZ90 for the new projectors, but JVC has not announced their names. However, these names are a fair guess based on how they named their X-series upgrades.
A New Low-End Unit
Let’s tackle the elephant in the room: the NP5 has not been a best-seller for JVC. It was introduced at a higher price than the NX5 and with basically the same performance – minus of course the fact that it is receiving the Dynamic Tone Mapping updates that its higher-end siblings do, due to the upgraded FPGA chips it inherited.
The main draw for the NP5 was the lower price of entry compared to the laser units but with higher reliability than the NX5. After all, we would all like to forget the HDMI board failure issues with the NX line-up.
However, keeping both a lamp based unit and laser based units running using regular firmware updates is not economical, especially considering the lacklustre demand for the NP5. I would expect JVC to axe the NP5, and either introduce a laser unit at a lower price: the NZ5 without eShift, or lower the price of the NZ7 further for a lower entry into the market.
I believe this lower-end unit, will still have a blue-laser-phosphor based light source either with a P3 cinema filter (NZ7) or without (NZ5). I don’t believe JVC will do both, it will be either or. If I had to guess which way the low-end unit will go, I think it will be an NZ5 without a P3 filter and eShift to allow lowering of the cost, and inventory. The reason for why this actually makes the design easier and inventory streamlined, we will have to also look at the higher-end units.
New High-End Units
Laser Light Source Upgrade
There is a lot of talk about RGB laser projectors, especially in the “laser TV” or UST (Ultra Short Throw) segment. However, we need to realise the following:
- JVC is not using an off the shelf laser assembly (such as ALPD), but has done their own design.
- RGB laser implementation in the off-the-shelf mass market laser assemblies is just beginning to get to a stage whereby laser speckle is not a concern, or suppressed to a point where 99% of people and on 95% of screen materials it isn’t noticeable.
- JVC’s products are not cheap laser TVs. They have a much higher quality bar to hit and therefore the above isn’t quite at a point where it is suitable for a JVC projector – unless they really surprise us with their own design.
- Product development for the new line would have started straight after the release of the NZ series.
- JVC is here to make money. They will drop-feed technology generation after generation to offer an upgrade path for people. This is also required to keep development costs down and get a return on investment, as developing such products isn’t cheap.
Ok, so with the above in mind, let’s see what they might have in store.
RGB laser for JVC is at least two generations down the line, if not 3. I believe the next generation laser line-up will use a blue / red laser assembly. The main advantage of using a blue / red laser assembly is that it is able to reach the P3 gamut without a P3 cinema filter. This means that watching HDR in full P3 gamut will not cost light output and HDR will look around 30% brighter as a result. This is an excellent brightness gain and looks great on a spec sheet.
So the higher end line-up – with at least the NZ8 (new name NZ80) and NZ9 (new name NZ90) – will likely launch with such a laser assembly and will finally be WCG (Wide Colour Gamut) by default. I imagine JVC will work extra hard to make sure they can hit at least 100% P3, if not 105%.
The NZ7 (new name NZ70) will either be price reduced and kept or will take the place of the NZ5 with the downgraded features we discussed earlier.
New LCOS Panels
I do believe that JVC is working on new consumer UHD 4K panels as opposed to their current 4K ones. However, it is only a 50 / 50 chance that these will be ready for the next-gen line-up (NZ5 / NZ70, NZ80, NZ90) because developing new LCOS panels takes many years. It is also possible that JVC only thought of doing this after they saw Sony shift to UHD 4K.
There’s a myriad of advantages of switching to UHD 4K including:
- 15-30% improvement in light output at native UHD 4K output
- Sharper images due to not having to scale between slightly different resolutions so consumer 4K content would look sharper due to 1 to 1 pixel mapping
- Adjusting the optical path for the new panel sizes might allow the same lenses to project a slightly sharper image.
- As we have seen with Sony’s projectors, the cooling and size requirements reduced when they shifted over to the new panels. So JVC could either use the same chassis and increase the lumens across the board, or design a new smaller chassis. Since JVC prefers to use the same chassis across many generations, it is likely they would keep the same chassis and increase lumens instead.
- Somewhat reduced processing requirements as the smaller panels would need less pixels to be processed. This reduced processing could either mean less powerful FPGAs – especially for the low-end units – or using the extra power for new features.
Now the question is whether JVC will release a new panel size AND a new laser assembly at the same time. It is entirely possible that a new panel is coming but it will be introduced with RGB laser two generations downstream as opposed to in the next gen line-up. Alternatively, JVC could use the new panels as a step-upgrade towards RGB laser, and delay that to 3 generations down the line.
With or without the new panel size, I believe JVC will increase the lumens for all units by around 10%. This is also to aid in improved laser dimming performance by having more laser diodes. This will likely be done with the addition of the red laser diodes without the increase of blue diodes. With this, it is likely the new brightness will be as follows:
- NZ70 at 2400 ANSI lumens OR price reduced NZ5 at 2200 ANSI lumens
- NZ80 at 2700 ANSI lumens
- NZ90 at 3300 ANSI lumens
JVC always tries to improve contrast performance for their projectors. However, there’s very little that can be done with these current DILA chips. To improve contrast, JVC would need to decrease the inter-pixel gap even more. However, it is so small already that pixels are hard to make out, which in a backwards kind of way affects perception of sharpness.
I think the only place to move to from here would be to switch to a UHD 4K panel, which could still take up the same amount of silicon area but with larger physical pixels. Larger physical pixels (not projected pixels) could increase the ratio of pixel to grid area and therefore improve contrast. However, that would be the opposite approach to Sony’s, and will not yield a brightness increase (due to keeping the same efficiency) when switching to UHD 4K, but could yield a contrast increase of up to 30%.
A larger physical pixel size would have other advantages including:
- Allow panel alignment to be tighter using the same tolerances / without retooling
- Panel alignment being less sensitive to heat so would move less as the unit heats up / switches laser modes
- Focus might also shift less due to heat
- Possibly better sharpness of the image
Of course, there are other ways of increasing contrast in the current chassis if a totally new panel design is out of the question including:
- Smaller tweaks to the light path
- Tweaks to the polarisers of the LCOS chips
- Tweak to the lens assembly
We shall see what JVC has cooked up, if anything. if physical changes don’t yield an actual contrast increase, JVC can use upgraded laser dimming to help with perception of contrast. We will talk about this under the software upgrade section.
I did not mentioned the possibility of using local dimming by stacking more than one chip akin to the Christie Eclipse. This is because it is not possible to do so at the current chassis size, and requires a complete re-design. It also incurs a huge efficiency penalty due to the brightness loss. Christie threw massive laser power and cooling blocks at the problem, but JVC cannot do that for a consumer product. The only way this tech will come to consumer products is if they improve both laser and light path efficiency. Alternatively, they need to figure out a way that they could use only one chip for dimming after the combined colour image, but that sounds fraught with alignment problems.
I don’t see JVC overhauling the lens without upgrading the chassis, and that’s unlikely to happen. However, since there’s been much written about how Sony’s lenses are higher quality, JVC might do either of three things:
- Tighten up the tolerances. This isn’t necessarily easy but doable at a cost.
- Introduce new coatings to minimise CA (chromatic aberration). Possible but again not easy unless they have a knowledgable partner.
- Introduce the NZ9 lens into the new NZ80 with the brightness and slight contrast difference being the only differentiator between the two higher-end units. This might be a more likely scenario if blue/red or RGB laser is introduced slowly in the highest end unit first. Alternatively, JVC could widen the brightness gap more between the more units, such as giving the NZ90 3500 lumens, and hand-selected parts. This would also allow JVC to use “binned” lenses in the NZ80 that don’t quite make the cut for the NZ90, therefore reduce the overall production cost of the higher-end lens somewhat. In this scenario, JVC needs two lower end units to do the same with, so we would need both an NZ5 and an NZ70 with the NZ5 getting the binned lenses.
HDMI 2.1 QMS
This one is both a HW and SW upgrade but we will tackle it here.
I do expect JVC to support QMS (Quick Media Switching), which will allow the changing of frame rates without having to re-negotiate the HDMI handshake. This is absolutely massive for projectors as they will finally behave like flat-screen TVs without the long blacking out interval between frame-rate switches.
This does need all the playback chain to support QMS, but I think this is such a low-hanging fruit that it would be an easy-to-implement customer delighter. If it doesn’t come next gen out of the gate, I expect JVC to plan for the hardware to be upgradable for it with a firmware.
In light of the above, let’s see what are the possible software upgrades.
This is a no-brainer, however JVC has let it slip that Frame Adapt HDR Gen 2 is backwards ported or “borrowed” from their next generation line-up. Ultimately, we would expect Frame Adapt HDR Gen 2 in its full glory on the new units with possibly more configuration options, or higher bit depth processing.
One area of possible research is how black floor is mapped for HDR. As the issue of highlight clipping is resolved and would be behind us, I believe the focus will get back onto how near-black detail is handled and for it to be a bit more dynamic.
I also think JVC might allow us to amend the base gamma used for HDR finally, at least that’s my hope.
There are two issues that JVC did hit with their current-generation consumer laser projectors, both of which seem to be hardware limitations with the current line-up:
- They were planning to have the laser turn off completely on a black frame but for some reason decided against it during the last stages of firmware development. It could be due to the delay this has or some sort of issue with warm-up and colour shift. However, this seemed to be a hardware limitation that they hit and could not work around satisfactorily.
- Secondly, LD Mode 2 has some pretty bad pumping as it lowers and brightens – at least on the lower-end NZ7 and NZ8 – and I am wondering if this is a limitation of the physical laser driver and how individual laser diodes can be driven.
I am hoping that JVC has figured out the issue with both of these and can provide full fade to black and an improved LD Mode 2 with much smoother action.
eShift and MPC
JVC always tries to provide improved eShift processing with each new line of projectors. I think this will be the case with the new line as well.
This might include better scaling or better sharpening algorithms. In addition, I think we will see the return of contrast-adaptive sharpening (Clear Black) if JVC is able to increase processing power or borrow it from somewhere else (such as not driving full cinema 4K).
I would love to see AI-based image upscaling, sharpening and de-noising (aka Reality Creation) but I don’t expect to see this until 2 – 3 generations down the line, if at all. JVC, please do surprise us.
Sony is a market leader in this area and this is due to the massive amount of money they have for image processing research from their flat panel division, not their projector arm. This is something JVC has no access to unfortunately.
Digital Focus Optimiser
Sony’s Digital Focus Optimiser tries to sharpen the image in an uneven fashion across the screen to make up for a lens that doesn’t have the same focus across the whole surface. JVC might introduce something similar, although I give this less than 30% chance for the next generation.
Automatic Aspect Ratio Switching
I don’t think this will be ready out of the gate, but I do think JVC will focus on aspect ratio switching with a firmware update during the lifetime of the new line.
This might include digital processing only (more likely), or calling up of lens memories automatically (less likely). For example, I have top masking. So if the projector would be able to map the image to the bottom of the screen at all times, removing the bottom black bars, I wouldn’t have to change lens memories for different aspect ratios, only change my masking.
Dolby Vision requires the approval of Dolby and those discussions have been stalling, most likely due to the fact that Dolby requires very set parameters for projector setup, which cannot be guaranteed on a long-throw projector. Hence Dolby has not approved Dolby Vision for long-throw projectors.
Whether this might change in the future is anyone’s guess, but it will likely come with the same limitations as JVC’s HDR10+ implantation, which are:
- Pre-determined screen sizes only (Dependent on the projector model, max 110″ to 115″ 16:9 for HDR10+ at the moment shooting from as close as the zoom allows)
- Only 3 brightness levels
- Disabling of a lot of the calibration controls including the CMS or selection of gamut (including the use of the cinema filter for extended colour)
- Disabling of MPC options to the bare minimum
- Disabling of CMD options
I would like to see a show of hands for how many people actually use the current HDR10+ mode on their JVC projectors! While it is certainly interesting as a curiosity, I have a 125″ screen which is outside the range of setup options for this mode. Setting this mode up differently than mandated by the HDR10+ consortium means you are no longer getting reference playback so I would question whether this is a good idea.
What’s more, I am very hard-pressed to see much difference between the HDR10+ version and JVC’s Frame Adapt version of the same content. Maybe I am blind but honestly, there’s literally no difference when set up correctly. I had to take photos for my own use and even then I can point to exposure differences but could not see a difference when switching back and forth.
I honestly think that a Dolby Vision implementation is only going to make sense if it can be used on more than a 110-115″ screen at full laser power at max zoom, and without disabling MPC, CMD and WCG, otherwise I see very little point. You are better off feeding the JVC with LLDV using an HD Fury and applying DTM on top of that.
I know people are still holding out for Dolby Vision natively. I honestly hope that Dolby and JVC can come to an agreement and it won’t be such a limiting setup as I’d hate to be right, but only time will tell.
However, I’ll say this: Dolby Vision will make a LOT more sense with either dual (red / blue) or triple RGB laser, and a higher brightness approaching 3000 or exceeding 3000 lumens without a cinema filter brightness loss penalty. So if it is coming, I would expect to see it on the NZ80 and NZ90 first.
We will find out what will make the cut and what won’t. However, I do expect JVC to give us a larger hardware upgrade at each hardware refresh, with their new 3-yearly release schedule, as so far they delivered large hardware upgrades as the longer release cycle allows.
If JVC keeps the previous cadence, we expect the new units to be announced around Apr – Sept 2024 and released in Oct 2024, with more general availability in Feb 2025.
I would expect pricing to be around the same as today. However, I would hope that JVC will try and hit a lower price point with their bottom LCOS unit, the NZ5 or NZ70, but I expect a blue-phosphor only release for that unit to hit that lower price point.