I was a little disappointed by the JVC's lack of individual input memories, a feature found on most big-screen HDTVs that allows each input to independently retain custom settings for things like contrast and color. A quartet of adjustable video presets help alleviate the loss, however, since each one can be manually associated with an input.
Setting up the JVC revealed a couple of characteristics that are common to most pixel-based sets but still worth noting. First, the TV performed best when fed video through its HDMI input. I noticed a bit less noise and significantly better detail than I saw with component-video sources. Moreover, my HDMI-enabled DVD player delivered better detail with DVDs when I set it to upconvert to high-def (720p) rather than standard 480p. In other words, my DVD player did a better job of upconverting DVD resolution to high-def than the TV itself.
PICTURE QUALITY After calibrating the set's 720p input, I settled in to watch the amazing House of Flying Daggers DVD. Not only a visual and auditory treat, this excellent transfer from film can really challenge an HDTV. The initial sequence in the "Entertainment House" was a riot of color and fine detail, from the pink and blue stencilwork patterns on the floor and the rainbow glass in the window walls to the flower-covered kimono of Mei, the blind dancer/martial artist. As she walked through the hallway, I examined the wealth of features visible in the carved pillars and the intricate blue, gold, and green designs on her kimono, all of which the JVC reproduced clearly. Colors looked vivid, and the set's natural color balance was apparent in the tan skin of Mei's client and in her own white-powdered face.
During the dimly lit prison sequence that followed, I began to realize that, like most of the LCoS-type sets I've seen to date, the JVC didn't handle darker scenes as well as bright ones. The depth of black in the darkest areas wasn't as deep as on DLP and LCD sets I've tested, and there was also less detail in shadows. As Mei feels the torture device, for example, its shadowed wood faded into dimness too quickly, obscuring some of the grain. When I increased brightness to reveal the darker gray parts, the black areas became too bright, washing out the image. Turning on the set's Dynamic Gamma control didn't help much, either. I eventually settled on sacrificing some shadow detail to get the dark areas as black as possible.
The JVC kept up with all of the fast action of the big fight in the fields, and afterward when twilight fell during a shot of a fog-shrouded forest, I noticed that the white of the fog remained mostly even across the screen. The TV also did an excellent job of competing with ambient light while still displaying the full range of detail in white areas. Its brilliant picture could be a real asset if your typical viewing environment is a light-filled living room.
Switching over to HDTV, I plugged my HDMI cable into a Scientific Atlanta HD cable box. ESPN-HD's coverage of the NBA playoffs looked impressive, again characterized by vivid color and a bright, striking image. I could make out patterns in the clothing of people in the stands, and the classic parquet floor of Boston's Fleet Center was clear enough to count the knotholes. While detail was good, it wasn't quite as sharp as I've seen on other HDTVs - at the camera's full zoom, for example, I couldn't make out pinstripes on some of the Pacers' uniforms (see "in the lab").
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