Note: When this review originally posted, it was based on a review sample that JVC claims did not represent the televisions on the market. The company has since replaced it with two review samples, the latter of which did perform better. Accordingly, we raised the set's ratings and revised the section.
Competition is heating up in the rear-projection HDTV arena, fueled by microdisplay technologies that use LCD, DLP, and LCoS technology. Now there's a new abbreviation to remember. JVC has developed a display technology it calls D-ILA (Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier), which the company says is a more robust variant of LCoS that uses nonfading, inorganic compounds. For the first time, D-ILA is available in a rear-projection configuration: the HD-52Z575. You can find this 52-inch HDTV for a few bucks more than 50-inch microdisplays such as the Samsung and the Sony , and in terms of image quality, it generally matches up well with those sets. Videophiles will be bothered by its imperfect geometry and lighter blacks, especially compared to those of DLP sets, but many viewers will find its brightness--an asset in well-lit rooms--worth the trade-off.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.The JVC HD-52Z575 is attractive enough, with a 52-inch diagonal screen and a black border, which helps increase the perceived contrast ratio of the picture. Beneath the screen is a silver panel perforated by small speaker holes. Also underneath is a chrome-plastic semicircle hiding the power button. The remaining controls are stashed on the right side of the set.
At only 84 pounds, this is one light 52-inch TV, even by microdisplay standards. Its 16-inch depth is average for the category, as is the need to put it atop some sort of riser to get it to eye level. JVC offers a matching stand (model RKCILA5S, $499).
Interacting with the HD-52Z575 reminded us of stepping a year or two back in time. The menu system uses the most primitive-looking onscreen text and icons, and it required us to scroll through multiple screens to find many of the options. The remote has lots of small buttons somewhat haphazardly arranged, but at least every key is backlit. We did appreciate the dedicated key for each input, which made jumping from source to source a cinch.The JVC HD-52Z575's onboard options are average at best. While most major manufacturers of big-screen HDTVs include built-in HDTV tuners and digital-cable-ready (DCR) capability in their top-of-the-line 2004 models, JVC does not. That's not a huge deal if you're used to a cable or satellite box, but it's a major omission if you want the "just TV" approach.
JVC's D-ILA engine offers a native resolution of 1,280x720, which exactly matches the resolution of 720p HDTV. All other resolutions, including 1080i HDTV and standard-definition sources, are converted to fit. Unlike most rear-projection DLP sets and some LCoS designs (notably from Philips), the JVC uses three chips instead of one, for increased color fidelity and elimination of rainbow color-wheel artifacts.
The set does include a picture-in-picture feature that displays two same-size images next to each other (it can't display two component or HDMI sources, however). Five preset picture modes are onboard, although the set lacks independent input memories. We also counted five aspect-ratio choices for standard-definition sources and, happily, three for high-def.
The HD-52Z575's connectivity is a bit disappointing for a TV at this level, mainly because the component inputs share a slot with one or two other jack types. One rear input offers a choice of component or S-Video or composite-video jacks; another offers component or composite. Two more inputs, one front and one rear, are standard A/V jacks with S-Video. The set also includes an HDMI port for connection to so-equipped HD receivers and DVD players or, with an optional adapter, to DVI-equipped gear.