JVC 61-inch HD-ILA HDTV

The Short Form
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 57.375 x 41.125 x 18.625 inches WEIGHT 103 pounds PRICE $4,700 MANUFACTURER JVC, jvc.com, 800-252-5722
Plus
•Exceedingly bright picture. •Accurate color after adjustment. •No visible pixels at normal viewing distance.
Minus
•Unable to show deep black. •Bowing on 4:3 programs.
Key Features
•61-inch (diagonal) 16:9 screen •native 1,280 x 720-pixel resolution •D-ILA (LCoS) light engine •side inputs composite/S-video with stereo audio •rear inputs HDMI; 2 FireWire; VGA-style RGB, 2 component video (1 HDTV-capable), 2 S-video, 3 composite video, all with stereo audio; 2 RF antenna/cable (1 DTV) •rear outputs composite/S-video with stereo audio; optical digital audio
For as long as people have been watching TV, televisions have had to compete with light coming from windows or lamps. The amount of light in a room has a more direct effect on how you perceive the picture than any other factor, for the simple reason that TVs produce light too. If you adjust your TV properly and watch in a dark room, you'll see its best image possible. But as soon as you turn on the lights or open the blinds, the picture gets dimmer and you see a lot less of what's coming off the screen.

Today's pixel-based plasma, LCD, DLP (Digital Light Processing), and LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) rear-projection televisions (RPTVs) are much brighter than their tube-based predecessors. And the brightest of the bright are JVC's HD-ILA models - high-definition sets that employ the company's Direct-drive Image Light Amplifier technology, a variation on LCoS. The 61-inch HD-61Z886 is no exception: it's a veritable beacon, putting out more light than any other RPTV I've ever tested. More brightness means that the image retains its impact better in well-lit rooms. On the flipside, watching TV with the lights turned low - still the best way to appreciate HDTV and DVD - can cause eyestrain over long periods of time if the set is too bright.

The HD-61Z886 represents JVC's second-generation of D-ILA rear-projection sets. We reviewed the company's first, the HD-52Z575, in January. JVC incorporated a new processing chip in this model but used essentially the same light engine and 1,280 x 720-pixel display chip. (RPTVs with a new 1080p D-ILA chip are due from JVC this fall.) D-ILA differs from standard LCD in that the light from a projection lamp reflects off a layer of liquid crystals on the chip instead of passing through the chip. JVC estimates 6,000 hours of life for the user-replaceable lamp (they cost $250).

The remote control's gray plastic case and cluttered labels won't start up conversations around the coffee table. And while I liked its button differentiation, full backlighting, and overall size, it has some annoying qualities in everyday use. For example, JVC did away with the previous remote's direct input buttons - you now have to call up an onscreen menu, meaning that it takes a few long seconds to switch inputs. Three aspect ratio choices are available with HD sources, four with standard-def.

The HDTV tuner and CableCARD are new to this model, allowing you to enjoy off-air digital broadcasts and digital cable channels without external boxes. Speaking of the JVC's digital tuner, it performed well, grabbing and holding more stations than the one inside our Dish 921 satellite receiver.

SETUP The JVC hosts a full array of inputs, including two FireWire (a.k.a. i.Link) ports for gear like the company's own D-VHS recorders. I made a couple of off-air HDTV recordings using a D-VHS deck, and the FireWire interface worked perfectly. One cool advantage of this setup is that the deck can record via the TV's tuner while you watch something else from another input. 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.

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