Last year, JVC was the first company to come out with an LCD that boasted a 120Hz refresh rate, a feature that's supposed to reduce blurring in fast motion. In 2007 the follow-up 120Hz models are found in the company's flagship LT-X898 series. The largest member of that series, the 47-inch LT-47X898, occupies the focus of this review, and while we liked many aspects of its picture quality, as usual, we found the 120Hz rate's antiblur properties difficult to detect. In other ways, this JVC falls squarely into the middle of the 1080p pack and comes at an attractive price, although sticklers for natural-looking primary colors should probably look elsewhere.
The glossy black frame, angled speaker panel, and pedestal base of the LT-47X898 look remarkably similar to another 47-inch JVC 1080p HDTV we've reviewed recently, the LT-47X788. The only external differences between the two include the color of the strip between the frame and the speaker (the 788's is silver while the 898's is black) and the finish of the stand (matte for the 788, glossy for the 898). Once again, we found its overall look moderately attractive and appreciated the ability to turn off the blue indicator LEDs. One strange design quirk, however, is that the TV's controls are located on the back of the panel, so they're more difficult to access.
The large remote control for the LT-47X898 felt good in the hand, although people with smaller paws might have to stretch to reach the nether keys. At the very top, we found five discrete buttons for directly selecting inputs, a great addition that we feel every remote should incorporate. There are rocker buttons for both volume and channel, although they are positioned horizontally, which is unorthodox and feels unnatural. In the middle of the clicker lies a directional pad surrounded by high-traffic buttons such as Menu, Favorite, and Aspect--we occasionally confused one "ring" of keys for another, which is a fault of their too-similar placement and location. The clicker is fully backlit, a nicety found on fewer and fewer TV remotes.
JVC's old-fashioned, text-based menu system is almost a joke at this point, compared to even the most budget HDTVs' menus. We found it particularly annoying on this set because of its myriad picture controls, which require a great deal of scrolling to access. The only good thing we can say about the menu system is that after you set up the TV, you probably won't have to use it much.
At the top of the JVC LT-47X898 spec sheet, you'll find 120Hz processing. Designed to reduce motion blur that can sometimes be seen on standard 60Hz LCD sets--it's not common to plasma and other HDTV technologies--120Hz processing doubles the refresh rate, cramming essentially twice as many frames into the same temporal space. (See Performance below for details on how it affects--or doesn't affect--picture quality.) Like the Mitsubishi LT-46144, the LT-47X898 does not perform additional smoothing of film-based material, sometimes called de-judder, which is offered on sets from Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba, for example.
The JVC incorporates a native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, otherwise known as 1080p, which is the highest available today. With 1080i and 1080p sources, the set can display every detail while other sources, such as 720p HDTV, DVD, standard-def TV, and computers, are, as usual, scaled to fit the pixels.
As we've come to expect from JVC HDTVs, the LT-47X898 lacks the independent input memories found on most manufacturers' sets. Instead, it offers a solid selection of adjustable picture presets--six in all--that happen to share more than one input in a rather haphazard way. Specifically, the first HDMI and the first component-video inputs share settings (the picture settings in each of the six presets--Theater, Memory 1, Standard, and so forth--are the same for both inputs), while the other two HDMI inputs and the second component-video input also share settings. With the six adjustable presets, however, the LT-47X898 still has ample picture adjustment memories to satisfy all but the most inveterate tweaker.
Unlike its less expensive, non-120Hz brother, the X788, the 120Hz X898 offers a slew of picture controls beyond the usual contrast (which JVC calls "picture), brightness, and the rest. There's a set of sliders for red, green, and blue gain control over color temperature, which allowed us to tweak the grayscale beyond the two presets (see Performance for details). There are also extensive color management controls, which, in our experience, didn't help much.
Natural Cinema affects 2:3 pull-down, so we turned it on and left most of other numerous controls turned off for critical viewing of high-quality material. These include Dynamic Gamma and Smart Picture, both of which adjust the picture on-the-fly; two noise reduction controls; and a room lighting sensor that adjusts the picture according to how much ambient light it detects. The extensive Theater Pro II menu contains even more sliders, including DSD Detail, which had no effect we could discern; horizontal and vertical sharpness, which introduce edge enhancement and should be reduced all the way for high-quality material; another noise reduction control; and controls for "bright area" and "dark area color." As always, we've published our full picture settings for a darkened room in the Tips and Tricks section above, and more details can be found in the Performance section.
The JVC lacks a specific control for energy saving, although its backlight slider is actually dubbed "Energy Saver." Reducing it can indeed cut down on energy consumption, although it will also result in a very dim picture. For our Juice Box "Power Saver" results below, we did just that, reducing the slider all the way, which cut wattage by about 50 percent, saving about $45 per year over the default settings.
We appreciated that the JVC included a "Full Native" aspect ratio mode among the healthy five selections available for HD sources. With 1080i and 1080p material, that mode displays their full resolution, mapping them to the set's 1,920x1,080 pixel grid without any scaling or overscan.
What we didn't appreciate, however, was that whenever we turned the TV off, switched inputs, or even used an external switch (such as an AV receiver or HDMI switcher) to change sources, the aspect ratio mode defaulted back to Full, the widescreen mode that does introduce scaling and overscan. We doubt many users will remember to switch aspect-ratio modes every time they turn on the TV, and it's quite inconvenient to have to do so anyway; the JVC should, like just about every other set we've tested, remain in the last aspect-ratio mode the user set. With standard-def sources, the LT-47X898 allows four choices. Like many new HDTVs, the set skips picture-in-picture.