I know this is long and for those TL;DR members I apologize, but I feel the explanation needs to be lengthy:
I received my refurbished X55R last night. I just want to say that I am extremely impressed. I spent about 6 hours last night viewing a wide variety of mixed content with it. This will be my 5th JVC projector that I've owned. In chronological order it has been a RS10, RS20, X3, X30, and now this X55R. Each one has had its own subtle picture quality increase over the previous model. I just sold my Planar PD8150 DLP projector which I have lauded as my favorite overall projector out of the 25 I've owned for quite some time now. Out of all 5 JVC projectors the two favorites that I've had are the X3 and now this X55R. The key reasons behind this are because both of them have had perfect convergence without the need to use the convergence shifting software and both had a fantastic lens sample. Pixel delineation/focus is simply astonishing for a 3 chip solution at this price point. If you get lucky enough and get a JVC unit with a good lens sample and great convergence it will be a definite step up in perceived sharpness (and pixel sharpness) over any .65" DMD DLP projector and as sharp as most .95" DMD projectors with the exception of a few key projectors from Runco, Marantz, and Samsung. In the under $10000 market you'd be hard pressed to find a noticeably sharper image. With video content the .95" DMD models from the companies I've mentioned will only look slightly sharper in appearance with actual content. I feel lucky that my unit is so well converged but have seen other JVC units that didn't fare so well and in comparison looks much softer overall. YMMV and keep that in mind with this review as this is one of main reasons I think this specific unit compares so well to the PD8150.
What I find funny (and most likely more of a coincidence) is that the X3 and X55R were both refurbished units. Oddly enough the other three that were "A-Stock" non-refurbished units had softer lens samples and less than ideal convergence. Let's chalk this up to coincidence, but with that said, for anyone worried about buying a refurbished unit from JVC you really shouldn't as I find JVC to be particularly good when it comes to QC during their refurbishment process. I'm a huge advocate for those interested in buying a refurbished/b-stock JVC.
Now I still feel there are a few key advantages the PD8150 has over this X55R. Like I said before, each generation has brought a small refinement to the image over the previous generation so these advantages are fairly small and would only be seen with a direct side-by-side comparison or those with enough experience with a good DLP projector to know from memory. Many argue ANSI contrast is a trivial thing and shouldn't be taken seriously when comparing two projectors. I call BS on this because brighter scenes definitely do look more "3D" and dimensional on a projector that has a substantially higher ANSI contrast ratio. This is the case when comparing to the PD8150 or one of the Marantz models or even the Sharp Z20K. Without that side by side comparison the X55R still looks amazing with brighter content by itself, but from memory I've definitely seen better. Whether that matters to you is subjective as most people who buy these projectors are buying it for opposite reason; low APL performance. There is absolutely no substitute for great native on/off contrast performance and these JVCs have that quality in spades. This reason alone is what intrigues me about the JVC as it does to many. As much as I love the great DI performance on the PD8150, clipped whites during particularly low APL scenes stick out like a sore thumb and look rather odd in comparison to it's almost always natural looking picture. Not having spent a lot of time with one of Sony's newer SXRD machines I'm wondering if during low APL scenes where the DI is used to the fullest they also suffer from clipped whites to compensate for such a decrease in brightness?
Motion handling on the RS20 was the main reason I decided to sell it and give the PD8150 a chance. I guess the technical term for what I saw with the RS20 is called "motion induced contouring". This issue gave the image a blurry look with certain types of motion. To me, this artifact was over the top with the RS20 and other models previous to the RS35. JVC has made some large strides to reduce this as much as possible and while motion handling isn't perfect I think that, for 24p content at least, the performance is adequate enough to not be annoying like it was on the RS20. I've heard reports the e-shift processing, and I think more importantly, flashing the image twice as fast with eshift enabled increases perceived motion handling performance. I have not spent a lot of time with eshift yet and saw no obvious motion handling improvements with it enabled. That isn't to say there aren't any improvements, as this is something that only time will tell me if there is. While we're on the topic of eshift, I think Kris Deering's review of the X55R is spot on in regards to eshift. Like him, I don't really notice a whole lot of refinement to the image with it enabled. I do have a fairly small screen (by todays standard) at 80" wide. Maybe the effect is more pronounced as you increase picture size? If you like the lack of pixel structure it definitely gets rid of it without adding any noticeable artifacts to the image. Though, like with motion handling, this will be one of those things that will be revealed to me as I spend more time with it enabled.
There is one issue that I keep seeing pop up with these new generation JVCs (RS40 and newer). There is a fair amount of image noise present in the picture. If I go up to my screen there is a fair amount of "dancing" noise. This noise is sometimes visible during real world content. I'll have to take a video and try and capture what I'm seeing. This was there with the X3, X30 and now the X55R. This is something that is not there with the PD8150, Marantz or Sharp projectors. They offer a much cleaner stable" looking picture because of it. I'm assuming the noise is being created by the image processing going on inside the projector. The noise was there with sharpness set to 0, CMD off, and all other image processing features turned to off or 0. It's something that is just there and doesn't seem to be defeatable. This one should be an easy fix whenever JVC decides to do a full overhaul on the projectors design which I'm assuming will wait until they release a true 4K model.
To sum this up I have to say that the overall package you get at the price they're asking for is quite staggering. While I think JVC can improve a few areas by designing a better (read more expensive) light path/optics it would be hard to do this without their products going up in price by a large amount which I'm sure is the opposite of what they're looking to do. I think their upcoming UHD model would be a perfect time to do this though. By making their D-ILA panel slightly thinner they could increase motion handling performance to an ever better level. While this would lower the potential on/off contrast of the panel they could design an even more efficient wire grid polarizer and light path to compensate. Better motion handling would also make 3D performance much better with less ghosting and reduce other artifacts like flicker. The lens, while great already, could use an upgrade which would hopefully raise ANSI contrast. If they were to hit somewhere around 500:1 I think most people, including me, would be extremely happy with this kind of a performance upgrade. I think these three improvements alone would all but kill DLP as a viable reference solution for front projection and shut up people like me, who still fight for DLP because of these advantages, for good. For now, I think I'll stick with this projector as I see no immediate reason to switch back to a DLP projector like the PD8150. Are there differences? Sure, but my specific X55R brings the performance so close that I don't think I'll be missing those slight advantages enough to push me back to the DLP side. This is something only time will tell. For now, I'll be happy being addicted to the drug known as high native contrast!