If you don't have the budget to go for the premium-priced rear-projection sets such as Sony's SXRDs or Samsung's 1080p DLP models, then a 720p-resolution model makes a solid alternative. One example, JVC's 2006 entry-level line of LCoS rear-projection TVs, now represents the company's third generation, and thankfully, JVC has significantly improved their performance. The 56-inch JVC HD-56G887 is a bargain by big-screen HDTV standards, with the ability to produce a surprisingly decent picture without costing a bundle. On the outside, the JVC HD-56G887 is a relatively basic-looking box. It has the two-tone cosmetics of many current big-screen microdisplay designs, with a black bezel surrounding the screen on all sides, a bit of silver trim that is nearly invisible on the left and right, and the speaker housing placed below the screen and finished entirely in silver. The company also offers an identical version in black, the JVC HD-56G787.
The JVC HD-56G887's dimensions are comparable to those of other 56-inch rear-projection sets, neither notably bulky nor compact. Overall, it measures about 52 by 31.1 by 17.4 inches (WHD) and weighs 92 pounds. This set is a tabletop design, so plan on getting JVC's matching stand, model RKCILAM6--or another A/V stand--to raise it off the floor about 18 to 24 inches.
JVC's remote control is a clumsy, busy affair with what seems like a zillion buttons, although at least they're differentiated by size and shape. Only the most basic keys have glow-in-the-dark illumination. The archaic-looking internal menu system is fairly straightforward, but we found it annoying that you have to scroll vertically to access all the pages. As the company's entry-level model for 2006, the JVC HD-56G887, along with all screen sizes in its line, has a native resolution of 720p (1,280x720 pixels). That's enough to display every pixel of 720p HDTV sources but not as high as more expensive 1080p HDTVs, which will deliver sharper pictures with 1080i HDTV material. All incoming resolutions, including HDTV, computer, and standard-def, are converted to fit the available pixels. The HD-56G887 uses an LCoS-based light engine, which does not cause the rainbow effect that's visible to some viewers of DLP-based displays.
Like almost all big-screen HDTVs, the JVC HD-56G887 offers an ATSC tuner, but it lacks the CableCard found on step-up models, not a big omission in our book. There's also picture-in-picture with inset and side-by-side modes and an option to freeze the image onscreen. Aspect-ratio modes include four choices for standard-def and three for high-def sources.
JVC includes some useful picture-tuning features and some not-so-useful ones. Color Management adversely affects color decoding and should be left off as the decoding is quite good otherwise (see Performance). Smart Picture changes white and black level on the fly depending on picture content, and for optimum picture performance, it should also be disabled. Conversely, Dynamic Gamma produces a slightly better gamma curve when engaged, so we recommend that you do so.
There are four adjustable picture presets--namely Dynamic, Standard, Theater, and Game--but just two selectable color-temperature settings, High and Low. Unfortunately, the only way to be able to have different picture settings for different sources is to change the picture mode manually at each input. This arrangement is inferior to true independent memory per input, and it caused us some headaches during setup.