Test Bench: JVC HD-58S998 58-inch Slip HD-ILA 1080p HDTV

Color temperature (Theater mode, Low color temperature before/after calibration): 20 IRE: 6,562/6,212 K 30 IRE: 6,539/6,137 K 40 IRE: 6,360/5,981 K 50 IRE: 6,717/6,284 K 60 IRE: 7,040/6,650 K 70 IRE: 7,021/6,770 K 80 IRE: 7,107/6,752 K 90 IRE: 7,128/6,780 K 100 IRE: 6,978/6,712 K Brightness (100-IRE window): 69.6/46.9 ftL

The Theater video preset on the HD-58S998 automatically defaults to the set's Low color-temperature setting. This combination was the best out of the box for dark-room viewing. It delivered accurate grayscale at the dark end of the brightness range, but it tracked progressively bluer as the image got brighter and was ultimately 628 degrees kelvin over the 6500-K industry standard for neutral gray at the 90-IRE window. Ultimately, I was able to use the service-menu to get it to track more consistently across the grayscale and brought it mostly within ±300 K or so of the ideal, though a narrow "suck-out" that leaned toward red at 40 IRE couldn't be corrected. Still, even the out of box settings were very good for a factory default, and I think most serious viewers would be happy with the overall neutrality of the grayscale and not feel the need for an expensive ISF calibration.

The Theater mode's defaults for the basic settings - Contrast (called Picture here), Brightness, Color, Tint, and so forth - also proved very close to industry standards as verified by test patterns from our DVDs and video generator; in fact, they were spot-on in one of the two samples of the TV I looked at. Still, subjective viewing led me to turn the Picture and Iris settings down a good bit from their defaults, which firmed up the blacks significantly and corrected for exaggerated reds and slightly unnatural greens that were apparent prior to adjustment.

The blue and red color points were reasonably accurate compared with the HDTV standard, but green was undersaturated. Color decoding measured +5% for red after calibration and on-target for blue. Green measured -20%, but after calibration foliage looked appropriately lush and natural. A second sample I looked at - the same one that was dead on in its basic calibration - exhibited no color decoding error whatsoever out of the box, perhaps the first time I've seen that on a moderately priced rear projector.

The TV fully resolved 1080i/p and 720p test patterns via HDMI and component inputs and handled 1080p/60 signals from both our Blu-ray and HD-DVD players with no problems. On HDMI there was some modest noise at the highest frequencies in all the high-def patterns; more so with the component inputs. Picture uniformity on full-field gray patterns was essentially perfect, with no hotspotting, and I found the screen "grain" (common to all rear projectors) on the JVC to be about average, rarely calling attention to itself. Freedom from banding (false contouring), as observed using the banding test pattern on the Avia Pro test disc, was very good, though not quite as good as with the best RPTV I've seen. There was some obvious but fine banding in the gray portion of the pattern and slightly less in green; red and blue banding was difficult to detect. But banding was never evident while I was watching real program material rather than test patterns.

The JVC's most serious aberration was an obvious geometric distortion that makes what should be horizontal lines in the top two-thirds of the screen bend upward at their outer edges. Using a crosshatch pattern, I could clearly see the effect start at the bottom of the screen, grow obvious about a third of the way up, and worsen until starting to even out a bit (though never disappearing) near the top of the screen. The effect was apparent in both samples I looked at, and JVC confirmed that this is visible in all current production units, apparently a side effect of the concave projection mirror in the set's innovative light engine. Unfortunately, there is no physical or electronic adjustment that can correct for it. I found this distortion virtually impossible to detect while watching most full-screen program material, however. On the other hand, it was obvious anytime perfectly horizontal lines or graphics were laid across the screen, something that happens fairly frequently, whether in cable or satellite program grids, on-screen tickers or sports scoreboards, or in the modest black letterbox bars that accompany widescreen movies played back on a 16:9 TV screen. This puts the JVC at a disadvantage to virtually every other flat-panel TV or rear-projector today, most of which exhibit perfect or near-perfect image geometry. Viewers will need to decide for themselves whether this is a reasonable trade-off for the HD-58S998's attractive price, fine styling, ultra-slim cabinet, and ability to be hung on a wall or placed flush to one.

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