Saturday, May 3, 2008


HI-FI, Sterio, Home Theater, Audiophile, Amplifier, Speaker

Like a Volvo; boxy, but good. I have to say this TV surprised me, although, to be honest, it really shouldn't have. At first glance, there is nothing to set it apart from the innumerable other LCDs on the market. It has a narrow black bezel, it's thin, it's bright, has a remote, turns on; you know, all that stuff that LCDs usually do. Then I started throwing test material at it, and it started doing things that LCDs typically don't but JVC TVs typically do. And I mean that in a good way.

But First. . .
Not to sound harsh, but this TV has a nice personality—the kind of TV that other TVs bring along to make themselves look prettier. I lied, that was pretty harsh. It's not that it looks bad, it's just kinda. . . blocky. The remote is from the same end of the gene pool. It looks like it should light up, but it doesn't. I'll forgive everything about the remote, however, because it has direct input access. Granted, the buttons are just labeled V1 through V5 and don't tell you what each input actually is (like HDMI 1), but I'll take it. Interestingly, the V3 input is what JVC calls a "Smart Input." This means you can plug in a composite, an S-video, and a component source all in V3, and the TV will select whichever one is active. So, if your receiver doesn't transcode (convert everything to one type of output), you can run all the output wires to this input, and the TV will display what's playing without your having to change the video input. Simple, yet convenient.

The menus, in typical JVC fashion, are, shall we say, utilitarian. I know menu aesthetics don't matter, but when you're paying several grand for a product, you want the user interface to look cool. You get controls for most of what you'd want, including color temperature, noise reduction, and Energy Saver mode.

Green, or Just Not Bright
You'd expect something called Energy Saver mode to adjust the backlight. At least, that's what I'd expect it to do. And in fact, to some degree, it does. The energy-saving aspect of the Energy Saver mode is really just an energy limiter. It limits how bright the LCD will display. No matter what mode you enable or disable (including Smart Picture and Dynamic Gamma), the LT-47X788 tracks the incoming video signal and dims or brightens the picture depending on how bright or dim the image is. Thus, our full-on/full-off contrast-ratio measurements are completely unrealistic, as this type of tracking fools the test. You wish a flat panel had an 11,370:1 contrast ratio. The concern for this kind of brightness riding is that you'd see the image pulse when the brightness level changes. I saw this happen occasionally, but it wasn't as noticeable as you'd expect. If it bothers you, you can turn down the Energy Saver mode to lower the maximum brightness, but you can't turn off the feature entirely.

If you look at the measurements as a whole, apart from the misleading full-on/full-off numbers, you can see that the panel itself is rather impressive. A black level of 0.010 foot-lamberts is excellent for any TV. LCDs almost always have a nearly identical ANSI contrast rating and full-on/full-off, so if we extrapolate on that, the LT-47X788's 1,753:1 is well above average for an LCD. With actual video, nonetheless, the results aren't quite as impressive as the numbers suggest. Because the panel is constantly riding with the video signal, you rarely, if ever, get 0.010 ft-L. It looks much higher. Color is pretty accurate, with green being slightly undersaturated. It's interesting that a TV company would err on this side (instead of oversaturated), but the result is a more accurate-looking display than most.

But the Real Treat
Where this LCD performs like a JVC is in the processing. Very few companies pay such close attention to video processing as JVC. Since the beginning of our 1080i deinterlacing tests, nearly every JVC display has passed with flying colors. The only other company that pays this close attention and has such a success rate is Pioneer, and their displays are a lot more expensive. Sure enough, with the HQV Benchmark HD DVD, the LT-47X788 deinterlaces 1080i correctly and picks up the 3:2 sequence with 1080i on both types of HD inputs. Check Gary Merson's HDTV feature on page 42 to see how few TVs actually do this correctly.

With 480i, the JVC picks up the 3:2 quickly with synthetic material. However, with the Gladiator test clip, it's oddly slower and even loses it at one point. This is probably just a quirk; with other DVD content, it looked fine. With the rotating-bar pattern on the HQV DVD, the JVC was excellent. It went well into the green before major jagged edges appeared. This is far better than most displays. The waving-flag scene, which tests video processing (as opposed to the 3:2 tests for film processing), is above average, although I've seen better.

Scaling 480i, like with the often used Fifth Element clip, was a little noisy and not as well detailed as I've seen. I set the built-in digital video noise-reduction feature to Auto, which helped with the noise and didn't seem to further soften the image much. That said, you'll see more detail from your DVDs with a good upconverting DVD player.

The LT-47X788 is capable of reproducing a one-pixel-on/one-pixel-off pattern with both HDMI and component inputs. Two disappointments are some slight banding and noise that, in this case, are interrelated. With the component input, there are steps instead of a smooth ramp from light to dark. The space between these steps has some noise. So, with regular video, shadows will seem noisier than brighter areas, which typically have very little noise. The dip in the gray-scale tracking at the low end (as you'll notice in the measurements box) becomes visible with certain content, which I'll get to in a minute.

As is typical with LCDs, there is some motion blur. The LT-47X788 doesn't have 120-hertz refresh or any of the new fancy backlighting technologies, but JVC claims a 4.5-millisecond response time. As I wrote about in the GearWorks column in the July 2007 issue (also online), response time is only one aspect of the motion-blur problem. So while the LT-47X788 isn't quite as good as panels with these new technologies (or any plasma, for that matter), it is better than most of the old-school 60-Hz designs. Still, if you are sensitive to motion blur, LCD isn't for you.

Also typical of LCDs is poor off-axis viewing. Slide off a little to the side or, even worse, up or down, and the black level comes up, and the color saturation goes down. It's not too bad for an LCD, but if you have a wide seating area or want to mount your TV high up, plasma would be a better choice.

The Terror That Flaps in the Night
The HD DVD of Batman Begins offers several scenes to test this panel's attributes. Liam Neeson's beard during chapter 2 subtly loses detail as he sways back and forth. When he's still, you can make out each strand; when he moves, not so much. This scene, and those that follow, go from light to dark quite often, but any pulsing of the backlight was hard to notice. However, your mileage may vary, depending on video content. The poor gray-scale tracking is visible a few chapters later, in a scene in which Mr. Wayne consoles young Bruce. In this fairly dim scene, Wayne's face is noticeably redder than the darker background or the brighter-lit Bruce. But these are just the negatives. On the plus side, the image is relatively free of noise, quite punchy (and bright), and, for the most part, the color accuracy is quite good.

All told, this display shows JVC's care in processing, exhibits strong performance from the glass, and includes all of LCD's usual trappings. In other words, it deinterlaces 1080i correctly, picks up the 3:2 sequence with 1080i, has decent video processing, and has a decent black level and contrast ratio—even if you take the electronic trickery out of the equation. Sure, it still has some motion blur and poor off-axis performance, but so do all LCDs. Therefore, as I mentioned, this TV surprised me, but it really shouldn't have. It's a JVC LCD.

• Processing the way it should be
• Excellent black level

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