After years in the projection minor leagues, JVC suddenly brought its D-ILA projection technology into the premier league with the introduction of new wire-grid polarising technology on the DLA-HD1. That technology revolutionised the sort of black-level response that could be expected from a reasonably affordable projector.
As the first proper next-generation wire-grid machine, we were fascinated to see what JVC's DLA-HD350 -- priced at around £3,400 -- could do, and hoped it would take the company's burgeoning technology up another gear.
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 DLA-HD100 predecessors. The on-screen menus are excellent, for instance, and include motorised vertical/horizontal image shifting, zoom (with a x2 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 three provided memory slots. What's more, the number of adjustments that can be made with the HD350 is 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 good is the provision of three aperture adjustments, so that you can change the amount of light the projector lets through its lens. This gives you a degree of choice over the image's contrast/brightness balance.
The single best thing about the HD350, however, is its picture quality. Its all-important black-level response, for instance, is even better than that of the HD1. Dark scenes look almost completely devoid of the customary grey-misting effect that blights practically every other sub-£5,000 projector. Plus, even the blackest corners contain unprecedented amounts of shadow detail, ensuring that they look three-dimensional and 100 per cent natural.
What's more, all this is achieved without any need for the sort of dynamic-iris systems used by many rival projectors -- certainly all LCD and SXRD models. This means that the HD350's dark scenes look utterly stable, with none of the usual brightness 'stepping' that you get with dynamic-iris models.
We were also hugely impressed by the sharpness of the HD350's high-definition pictures. The amount of HD detail the projector reproduces is frequently stunning, and it's 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. 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 on-board Silicon Optix HQV Reon-VX processing, 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.
It would have been good to find among the HD350's connections a D-Sub PC port and a 12V trigger output.
It's also a shame to find such an otherwise ambitious projector not providing an extensive colour-management system.
In terms of picture quality, although the HD350 is much improved over the already-excellent HD1, there are a handful of rival projectors in the same price bracket that deliver greater brightness levels.
Also, while the HD350's colours are hugely 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 colour-management sophistication 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.
Edited by Charles Kloet