The 1080p screen delivered sumptuous details, such as the subtle red-paisley swirls on Bond's gray cotton shirt as he rides the back bumper of a van, and I could see the small cuts and blood stains, and the fine blond hairs, on the back of his hand. Reproduction of blacks and shadow detail was very good, too, as in a scene a few moments later where a worker in the local embassy reaches for a panic button under the lip of his desk as Bond shoots the place up. I could clearly discern the pearly grain in the dark wood, despite its being cast in shadow in a room lit only by sun from the windows.
HD broadcasts looked superb, as on the HDNet show Get Out: Hot in Miami, for example, a travelogue hosted by two buxom models whose unscripted narration was so vacuous I could feel the air rush from the room whenever they spoke. But the eye candy was absolutely stunning, including fine details such as the blonde highlights in the brunette's hair and the fabulous reds, greens, and pure whites of their swimsuits (not to mention their varied skin tones) when the girls and a couple of Miami Heat cheerleaders take a ride on a Cigarette boat. Good-quality 480p fed to the TV from DVDs, such as the Legends of Jazz series, looked crisp and suffered only minimal noise, though the set's noise reduction didn't do much for 480i broadcasts.
Despite so much good coming from the HD-58S998, I did discover a notable problem with the set's picture geometry. I noticed early on that the grid lines in onscreen program guides, which should have been perfectly horizontal, were bending up slightly at the outer left and right edges of the screen. This effect started about a third of the way up from the bottom and worsened until leveling off a bit near the top of the screen. JVC sent along another sample of the TV that exhibited the same behavior, and the company confirmed that the distortion - a side effect of the concave mirror - appears to be in all current samples and can't be adjusted out. Fortunately, it's virtually undetectable when a program fully fills the screen from top to bottom. On the other hand, it's fairly obvious on program grids and whenever there are horizontal graphics near the top of the screen, as with the onscreen scorekeepers for sports events. It's also visible on letterboxed movies, where the bottom edge of the top bar bows downward as it meets the image.
BOTTOM LINE The HD-58S998 58-inch slim HD-ILA 1080p HDTV delivers accurate color, sharp picture detail, and solid blacks right out of the box, all in a striking, slender HDTV with a price that hammers any flat panel close to its screen size. Prospective buyers will have to decide for themselves whether this set's slick, sexy form factor is a reasonable tradeoff for its unusual bending distortion. Meanwhile, I'm hoping JVC can tame this issue in its upcoming 65-inch slim model and in future generations, thereby offering a perfect (okay, near-perfect) RPTV.
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