JVC HD-70G886 D-ILA HDTV
You know what? This is a big TV—deceptively big. The cabinet that surrounds the screen is so thin that, at first glance, the display doesn't appear that large. In our studio, it's sitting next to a 55-inch display that I'm reviewing for an upcoming issue, and it is positively dwarfed by the 70-inch JVC. Compared with a 50-inch plasma, which would be a fair comparison from a price standpoint, the HD-70G886 has nearly twice the overall screen area, and it has almost three times the area of a 42-inch display. Kinda makes you want to second-guess that plasma purchase, doesn't it?
The HD-70G886, along with JVC's entire RPTV line, uses a technology called LCOS, or Liquid Crystal on Silicon. (JVC calls it D-ILA: Direct-drive Image Light Amplifier.) You can think of this technology as the result of a gene-splicing experiment with LCD and DLP. While it has similarities to the other two RPTV technologies, it is quite different. (That's right: the other two. CRT RPTV is pretty much dead.) Polarized light shines on a panel of liquid crystal, which has a mirrored backing. If the video signal calls for a pixel on the screen to be dark, the liquid crystal that corresponds to that pixel twists to block the light from getting to the mirror. Liquid crystals never completely block all of the light, though, so a second polarizer blocks the light that each darkened mirror does still reflect on its way out. The end result is that the pixel appears dark on the screen.
In an LCD, there are electronic address elements alongside each pixel (resulting in the screen-door effect so common to LCDs). On an LCOS chip, the address electronics are positioned behind the mirrored layer, which allows the pixels to be closer together. They are closer together than even DLP mirrors. The result is that there's no noticeable pixel pattern on the screen, unless you are really, really close. Why don't more companies use LCOS? If you ask JVC, they just smile and shrug. Apparently, they're the only company that can get enough LCOS chips to work and still produce the displays within a decent price range. Sure, Sony has a few LCOS products (known as SXRD in Sony speak), but, at the moment, they are a lot more expensive.
Back to the Topic at Hand
What little there is of the JVC's cabinet is quite attractive. JVC made what would otherwise have been a boring box into a curvy, sexy centerpiece for a room. The unit is also quite thin for the technology, at just over 20 inches deep. This makes it one of the thinnest RPTVs we've reviewed, in addition to having one of the largest screen sizes.
As is the trend with many TVs these days, the HD-70G886 is very bright. I measured 130.1 foot-lamberts, which is thankfully not as bright as the JVC HD-61Z575 D-ILA HD monitor that I reviewed in the December 2004 issue, which was 166 ft-L. A screen this size at that light output would be bright enough to see from space, or at least bright enough to blind your pets. So, at 130.1 ft-L, it's plenty bright. One side effect of this brightness is a fairly high black level. At 0.140 ft-L, it is lower than most of the flat-panel LCDs we've reviewed but higher than almost everything else. While the full-on/full-off contrast ratio is 929:1, which is quite good, the ANSI contrast-ratio measurement is far lower. This is most likely because the light parts of the image reflect around the inside of the cabinet and wash out the dark parts of the image. With actual video, this was less noticeable on most selections. With a really bright image, any black in the image seemed high. Logically, darker scenes didn't have this problem and, as a result, looked fairly dark.
Process Me a Picture
Processing seems to be the weakest aspect of the HD-70G886's performance. With test patterns, it didn't seem to pick up the 3:2 sequence at all. Using actual video, with the Natural Cinema setting on, the TV took a long time to pick up the sequence. In the Natural Cinema's auto mode, it took even longer. A fair amount of jagged edges were present in the video processing (with Natural Cinema off or in auto mode). With the flyover scene at the end of chapter 12 of Gladiator, the rooftops had noticeable jagged edges. I plugged in the Bravo D2 upscaling DVD player, which removed almost all of the jagged edges. The Bravo made imaging a little sharper, as well. While test patterns seemed to indicate some edge enhancement, it wasn't apparent in actual video material.
Not all of the JVC's processing was bad, as evidenced by a gray ramp (title 18, chapter 6 of Video Essentials). The gradation was very smooth, with only a slight amount of noise. While you can fix (OK, bypass) the set's processing to a large extent by using a good scaler or a scaling DVD player, you can't get around a display with noisy or stepped gradations. The HD-70G886 also has two aspect-ratio modes (and an additional mode only available with 480i/p) if your HD material doesn't fit the screen correctly.
Thanks to the HD-70G886's light output, actual video material really pops off the screen. When I turned down the detail control, it didn't affect the perceived detail, but it did reduce the visible noise (not that there was a lot to begin with) to make for an extremely clean image. The smoothness that I've seen in other LCOS displays is readily apparent here.
HD is obviously very detailed. I was concerned that, at 70 inches, the screen would be too big for 720p. But, because the pixels are so close together, it's not really an issue. If you sit too close, the image will start to look soft before you notice pixels. I used FireWire (JVC calls it iLink) to connect a JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS deck. The TV recognized the D-VHS
deck once I'd turned it on, and I had total control through the TV. (The TV's remote is also preprogrammed to work a JVC VCR.) As I flipped back and forth between the digital FireWire signal and the component analog signal, I saw a very slight increase in detail with the digital connection.
Pictures From the Air
The HD-70G886's internal ATSC tuner also works great, and the channel scan was among the fastest I've seen. It pulled in all of our local HD channels with just a cheap indoor antenna. Surfing between channels was about average. Our local PBS affiliate used to show beautiful HD loops for most of the day. Then someone at the station must have discovered multicasting, and now they have 28-1, 28-2, and sometimes even 28-3, so the beautiful HD is compressed all to hell and looks pretty terrible. Thanks, KCET! Rudy Maxa and his European travels looked blocky. Compared with how I've seen this station look on some displays, though, the HD-70G886's smoothness and lack of noise almost made this station watchable again.
While its build quality is good, the HD-70G886 is fairly loud. The fan noise is audible during any quiet passage of a movie. To make matters worse, the remote's lovely blue backlight makes a weird whining sound. This isn't the first remote that I've heard make this noise. The first was a Toshiba display from our February 2004 issue. I've only heard the sound from blue backlights; some are quieter, and some, like this one, are fairly loud. Otherwise, the remote is pretty good. You can turn off the backlight (and its sound) from a dedicated glow-in-the-dark button (this is the only way to do backlighting). Along with several buttons to access tweaky home theater–type stuff, there is a button that lets you directly access the Theater Pro mode, the TV's most accurate picture mode. Sadly, there are no direct input-access buttons, but you can rename the inputs to make selection that much easier.
If you're looking for a huge display that you can watch at any hour of the day, the HD-70G886 should be on your list. While its processing performance is a little disappointing, it's not a deal breaker, given the price of scaling DVD players. Just keep in mind, the screen is larger than it appears in pictures.
• A ginormous screen
• Very small footprint for an RPTV
• Crazy bright