JVC LT-FH/N97 review: JVC LT-FH/N97

We began by setting up the LT-40FN97 in our dark lab and adjusting the picture controls accordingly. The Theater Pro mode provided a good starting point, although we reduced the backlight control all the way to get as deep a shade of black as possible and modified the JVC's light output to around 35 footlamberts--comfortable for our lighting situation. Even in the Low color temperature mode, the set evinced a relatively blue grayscale in dark areas, a surprise since JVC is usually very accurate in this mode. We did calibrate the color temperature using service menu controls, but we weren't able to improve it much over the defaults (see the Geek box). For our full user-menu level picture settings, check out Tips & Tricks above.

We were able to directly compare the JVC LT-40FN97 to competing sets, including the Samsung LN-S4096D, the Sharp LC-46D62U, and the Westinghouse LvM-47W1, all 1080p LCDs, along with the Panasonic TH-50PH9UK, a 50-inch plasma. Watching the excellent-looking Aeon Flux Blu-ray disc via the Samsung BD-P1000 at 1080i, we noted that the JVC delivered decent black levels for an LCD, about on the same level as the Westinghouse, but that black areas of its picture weren't quite as deep as on the others. The letterbox bars, the black of Aeon's skin-tight jumpsuit, her blue-black hair, and even her eyeball as she examines the drink in her cell--all appeared slightly lighter than on the Samsung and the Sharp, but still dark enough to satisfy most viewers.

The difference in black levels was less noticeable overall, however, than the difference in color. The JVC did have accurate color decoding, and its primary colors were perfectly acceptable, but the third ingredient, color temperature, was less than ideal in dark areas, tending toward too much blue. We noticed, for example, when Aeon sat in the circular window before the night sky, it appeared an unrealistic shade of blue instead of the lighter blue-gray we saw on the Panasonic. Her shaded skin was tinged a bit bluer than it should have been in this scene, and we noticed this touch of pallor in other areas where she appeared in low light. The black of the letterbox bars also appeared relatively blue.

In its favor, the JVC LT-40FN97 rendered plenty of detail throughout the film, keeping up with the rest of the 1080p displays easily. The strands of Aeon's hair were always visible, and when she almost falls into the blades of grass, their edges appeared razor-sharp. The texture of the lawn appeared realistic and natural, as did the stone walls of the garden. According to our Sencore HD signal generator, the JVC resolved every detail of a 1080i signal as long as it was set to Full Native mode. It's worth noting however, as we have with other 1080p 40-inch LCDs, that for most viewers the difference between 1,366x768 and 1,920x1,080 native resolution is very difficult to discern, and the JVC LT-40FN97 was no exception. When we looked very hard at the JVC from a close seating distance of about 6 feet, we did see slightly more sharpness in highly detailed areas such as hair and grass compared to the Panasonic plasma's picture, but again, the difference was slight and became more so when we moved further back.

Compared to the other LCDs, the JVC held its own when seen from angles other than straight on. The image did wash out slightly from off-angle, especially in dark areas, and it seemed to do so slightly more than the Samsung's and the Sharp's, but overall it wasn't a big difference. Of course, the image on the Panasonic plasma didn't change when seen from off-angle, although its big panel of glass reflected much more ambient light than did the JVC's matte-plastic screen. We also noticed that the upper-right corner of the JVC appeared lighter than the rest of the screen, a uniformity issue that became apparent in many dark scenes, such as when Aeon skulks behind the curtain of the theater.

We also checked out how the JVC handled 480i standard-def sources by connecting it to a standard DVD player via component-video and viewing some of the tests from the HQV disc. The set exhibited average standard-def performance by this measure; it resolved every line of standard-def and looked detailed enough as long as sharpness was set at midlevel. It didn't do a very good job of smoothing jagged edges from diagonal lines, however, and it engaged 2:3 pull-down detection--providing Natural Cinema wasn't turned off--relatively slowly, if accurately. Watching some of the disc's noisy low-quality video, the Digital VNR cleaned up the image nicely, as long as it was set to Min. The Max setting softened the picture noticeably, so it should be avoided along with Auto, which tended to choose Max anyway. The MPEG NR setting, for its part, didn't seem to have much of an effect at all.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 7,956/6,357K Average
After color temp 8,201/6,558K Poor
Before grayscale variation +/- 412K Good
After grayscale variation +/- 404K Poor
Color of red (x/y) 0.647/0.329 Good
Color of green 0.274/0.595 Average
Color of blue 0.144/0.056 Good
Overscan 0 percent Good
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
2:3 pull-down, 24fps Yes Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Yes Good

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