JVC HD-52Z575 HD-ready rear-projection D-ILA monitor Page 2

Colors were rich and well saturated, though the Low color-temperature setting was clearly not low enough, nor did the gray scale seem to track accurately from dark to light. The picture had a slight green tint at the low end of the luminance scale.

Overall, though, high-definition images were nothing short of mesmerizing. Reruns of HD sitcoms with which I was very familiar, such as Everybody Loves Raymond, were brighter, yet with better color saturation, as if the studio lighting had improved, and the physical denseness and 3-dimensionality of the images was much improved over what I remember seeing with the Samsung. Transparency was also improved, probably due in part to what appeared to be a far lower video noise floor. Live and videotaped HD broadcasts had an extra helping of clarity, yet they were less crisp and edgy looking, and more naturally rendered. In every way, HD pictures were better, with the presentation coming closer to that of a good CRT—except in terms of black level. The HD-52Z575's 1080i/720p conversion was subjectively seamless on over-the-air HD broadcasts.

Standard-definition content was acceptable. DVDs looked filmlike—the visually stunning Winged Migration never looked like computer animation, as it sometimes does on rear-projection DLP. The picture was less crisp than DLP, but equally detailed. When I ran interlaced DVD into the JVC and called up various test patterns from Digital Video Essentials, as well as one highlighting jaggies from a test disc handed out by video-processing company Silicon Optix, 3:2 pulldown and other processing produced acceptable results that were no better or worse than from other sets I've seen at or near $4500.

The HD-52Z575's three-chip design didn't suffer from rainbow artifacts because it doesn't have a color wheel. But more than that, there seemed to be a sensation of greater image stability and less fatigue after long viewing periods, compared to color-wheel sets (though I'm not sure that either of those impressions can be objectively measured).

I found myself thinking that, taking into account both picture quality and industrial design, the HD-52Z575 was the best HDTV I've encountered—not that it didn't have observable faults. The final judgment would have to wait for a post-calibration evaluation, and more attention would have to be paid to objective measurements.

ISF calibrator Kevin Miller gave me a bit of bad news before beginning his work: Because the HD-52Z575's low-level IRE scale is not adjustable, that greenish tinge in dark program material that I'd noted and ignored would remain. That is one of the JVC's weak suits. While black levels in Dark City were rendered at least as well as by the best reflective-technology sets I've seen, the picture did take on a slight greenish cast.

The HD-52Z575's other visually significant problems were chromatic aberrations, screen grain, and "electric green" syndrome. There was also a bit of pincushion distortion, most noticeable in the slightly hollowed-out borders of 4:3 images, but this was quite minor, and no set I've seen has been immune to this. There was, as well, some added false detail, which I could see more clearly with test patterns than with movies.

When I put up a black-and-white crosshatch pattern, I saw significant green/red color fringing at the left and right edges of the screen. While such chromatic aberrations looked like CRT convergence problems, in a fixed-pixel display the culprit is the lens system and/or its physical relationship to the chip and/or light source. Many journalists at JVC's press event, me included, noted the fringing problem, and though we were told it would be fixed in production, apparently it hasn't been.

While this fringing was less than ideal, it was a nonissue when viewing color material from a normal distance. During CBS's hi-def broadcast of the US Open tennis tournament, the white lines on the court extended well to the picture's edges, yet the fringing was not visible unless I put my eyeball close to the screen. The fringing became more obtrusive with black-and-white films. So did the green tint at the low end of the brightness scale, and it was exacerbated by an apparent splotchiness, with greater concentrations of green in various areas of the screen—though this apparently varies from sample to sample. (I have compared notes on this issue with another reviewer.)

Grain was particularly evident when the camera panned daylight skies. In that case, I saw a distracting, stationary scrim of what looked like granulated sugar laid over the picture. This is a problem with most contemporary displays, caused by companies' using screens of higher and higher output in an attempt to produce brighter and brighter pictures.

The electric-green syndrome is also common in many contemporary fixed-pixel sets. It's not a major problem in the HD-52Z575, as was demonstrated by a recent New York Giants football game broadcast in 720p by Fox. Any sports fan shopping for a set who saw that game on the HD-52Z575 would have involuntarily blurted "Wrap it up! I'll take it!"

JVC's new HD-ILA sets aren't perfect—no technology provides all the answers, and beyond that, JVC's engineers were constrained by a price target and a market dominated by consumer ignorance about what constitutes a good picture. After all, on the sales floor, brightness is king. A screen of lower gain might have eliminated or attenuated the screen grain, but it probably would have put the HD-52Z575 at a competitive disadvantage.

In any event, except under only a few picture conditions, screen grain is a nonissue with the HD-52Z575. So are the chromatic aberrations, though since this varies somewhat from set to set, it might be more noticeable on some samples. Fans of black-and-white films will be more bothered. For the rest of us, the HD-52Z575's biggest fault is its gray-scale inaccuracy at the low end of the brightness range, which cannot be corrected by calibration.

One of the problems with reviewing rapidly evolving technologies is that you're trying to take a snapshot of a moving target. That's certainly the case with HDTV. This three-chip, 51-inch LCoS RPTV offers absolutely superb, though not faultless, visual performance that in most ways beats Samsung's 46-inch, single-chip HLN467W DLP set, at the same price. (The JVC's street price may be as low as $3500.) While the Samsung's gray-scale performance and freedom from chromatic aberration made it the JVC's superior in these respects, I concluded that the three-chip HD-52Z575 offers considerably better overall picture performance to those who watch mostly color films. There was far less video noise, smoother transitions from dark to light, more filmlike images from film, and more believable, stable, solid, 3-dimensional images from high-definition video. And it's a bigger picture for the same price.

It will be interesting to see how the HD-52Z575 stacks up against the batch of single-chip DLPs about to hit the market. From what I saw at CEDIA Expo 2004, the prices of DLP sets have dropped considerably, and the picture quality from some set makers has greatly improved. And with Sony about to launch a 70-inch, 1920x1080 RPTV based on their SXRD derivative of LCoS for $10,000, can a fully hi-def, $6000, 55-inch version be more than a few years away? Probably not.

As with computers, you can wait for prices to drop while features are added and perfor-mance improves, but meanwhile, you'll still be using a typewriter. I still prefer my stone-age, CRT-based, 65-inch Hitachi RPTV. But while the JVC HD-52Z575 has a few shortcomings, the gray-scale issue being the most significant, when I take into account size, price, appearance, and overall performance, my conclusion is unavoidable: As a real product in the real marketplace of consumers and consumer electronics, JVC's HD-52Z585 is the best HDTV I've seen.