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").
When I flipped to a standard-def broadcast, I immediately noted a pincushion effect that I hadn't seen with widescreen programs. The gray bars to either side of the 4:3 image bowed inward halfway up the screen, as though the picture was being pinched at its midpoint. This is an effect of the TV's lens and can't be corrected through adjustments.
On the other hand, whether I was watching 4:3 or widescreen material, the HD-61Z886's individual pixels were all but invisible compared with those of 720p DLP or, especially, LCD TVs - a great benefit for people (including me) who like to sit close. The set's viewing angle is also very wide, so people sitting on the far sides of the couch can expect the same picture quality as someone sitting in the center.
BOTTOM LINE If you've been looking for the brightest RPTV on the market, look no further. With its contrast control maxed-out, the JVC could give you a tan watching the winter Olympics. People who spend a good deal of time viewing movies in darkened rooms will probably prefer DLP and even LCD RPTVs, which can deliver darker blacks and more realistic shadow detail. But for sports fans who fill their weekends watching daytime games in bright sunlit rooms, JVC's HD-61Z886 is pretty hard to beat.
In The Lab
|Color temperature (Warm color temperature and Theater Pro mode before/after calibration)
Low window (20-IRE) 7,689/6,609 K
High window (80-IRE) 7,922/6,469 K
Brightness (100-IRE window before/after calibration) 50.1/45.1 ftL
Selecting the Theater Pro mode engages the JVC's Low color-temperature setting, which nonetheless results in a picture that exhibited a relatively high color temperature. After calibration, its grayscale improved, varying by an average of 67° from one end of the scale to the other. (Calibration needs to be performed by a qualified technician, so discuss it with your dealer before purchase, or call the Imaging Science Foundation at 561-997-9073.)
Peak brightness before calibration was a relatively low 50.1 ftL because the HDMI input defaults to a low contrast setting. I measured a blazing 125 ftL with contrast at maximum, which still did not cause a loss of detail in whites. High-def and standard-def color decoding were good for red and significantly off for green (-15%), which was occasionally apparent in program material. Test patterns revealed that the JVC couldn't resolve every line of a 720p image regardless of input, but that's not uncommon in 720p RPTVs. The image was sharper using the HDMI input, and sharper yet using the FireWire input.
Geometry was marred by a pincushion effect with nonwidescreen programs, and red and green fringing was visible on convergence test patterns. Black-level retention was poor - blacks became brighter when other areas of the picture increased in brightness.
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