Our review sample came with two full-length feature films--U-571 and Terminator 2: Judgment Day--as well as a sampler of Galaxy Quest, all of which looked absolutely fabulous and sell for around $35 each. In an A/B comparison with our Dish Network HD feed, the JVC delivered clearly better picture quality. However, it should be noted that we didn't get a chance to compare the JVC's output with a transmission of Mark Cuban's HDNet on DirecTV, which offers a full-bandwidth broadcast that is superior to other HD feeds on DirecTV. As far as audio performance goes, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks on these films sounded quite good, so we had no complaints there.
To record an HD transmission, you have to run a FireWire cable from the JVC deck to a set-top-box HDTV decoder that's equipped with FireWire. Blank D-VHS tapes cost from $15 to $25 depending on their capacity, and you can store up to 4 hours of HD programming or 24 hours of analog material on a single D-VHS tape, which can have a capacity up to 50GB.
We tried connecting a discontinued Panasonic TU-DST50W terrestrial HDTV decoder to the JVC but had no luck recording. It turns out that our first-generation Panasonic isn't compatible with the JVC deck, but the second-generation Panasonic TU-DST51W should work. JVC recommends coupling its deck with Samsung's SIR-T165 set-top HDTV decoder.
JVC recommends coupling its deck with Samsung's SIR-T165 set-top HDTV decoder, which is due out in August and will sell for $799. When we receive Samsung's box, we'll update this review, but for now, we will say that the recorded sample content that we have seen is quite impressive, with virtually no loss in quality from the original source. Also, we had no trouble recording standard DirecTV programming to VHS and S-VHS tapes.
More software, please
The DH3000 D-Theater deck is unquestionably an awesome performer, and we applaud any piece of equipment or format that further enhances the HDTV-viewing experience. That said, as of this writing, there are just a handful of movie titles available. We searched at JVC's official D-VHS site, DVHSmovie.com, and found a mere 39 titles available for sale.
This JVC carries a price of $1,299 but can be had on the Internet for significantly less Even at that discounted price, this JVC is far from a bargain, especially when you consider that HD DVD may supplant this tape-based technology within a few years. But if you have the bucks to burn and want the ultimate in picture quality today, you won't be disappointed.