The Good Accurate primary colors and color decoding; delivers every detail of 1080i sources; solid feature set includes CableCard and picture-in-picture.
The Bad Reproduces a lighter shade of black than other high-end LCD TVs; relatively inaccurate color temperature in dark areas; PC input has limited resolution; cannot accept 1080p sources.
The Bottom Line Although not quite up to the picture-quality standards of the stiff 1080p competition, the 40-inch JVC LT-40PN97's price and feature set still make it worthy of consideration.
JVC has never been grouped among the most respected high-end HDTV manufacturers, but the company is making a bid for more props with the release of televisions that, judging from the spec sheet, have everything in common with the elite brands of the world. Its HD-56FN97 56-inch LCoS rear-projector was one example, and another is the LT-40FN97, a 40-inch LCD that anchors the company's higher-end 1080p series. This set offers an extensive list of features along with 1080p native resolution, and indeed, it can display every detail of 1080i HDTV sources. Its picture quality does fall a bit short of that of the other high-end LCDs we've tested recently, however, exhibiting less aplomb in dark areas, along with a bit more blue. Nonetheless, the JVC LT-40PN97 is among the least expensive 1080p models available, and this, in addition to its strong feature set, should be enough to win some converts. Basic black is the color scheme on the JVC LT-40FN97. A glossy black frame surrounds the screen and sits atop a matte-black bottom section that houses the speakers. A blue light illuminates to indicate that the TV is on, and another lights up the JVC logo--thankfully, they can both be dimmed and turned off. The set is a bit more staid in appearance than many of its competitors, but we don't have any complaints with the way it looks. This 40-inch LCD measures 39.4x29x12.8 inches including stand, and it weighs 68.2 pounds. If you want a two-tone look, you can go for the otherwise identical LT-40FH97.
Our design complaints begin with JVC's remote and menu system, which the FN97 shares with past JVC televisions. The bland, gray clicker is completely backlit, but we found its crowd of similarly sized buttons difficult to navigate. Button placement is far from logical in many cases: the useful Aspect key, for example, is stashed way up at the top near the power button, while the nearly useless Guide is given a prominent spot near the directional keypad.
JVC's menu system looks like something from a mid-'80s VCR, not a modern HDTV. While its contents are easy enough to understand, we didn't like that navigating from section to section required scrolling downward through menu after menu. We were also frustrated by the time it took to switch from one input to the next, especially considering that you can't jump over unused inputs. As a 1080p display, the JVC LT-40FN97 boasts a native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, the highest available today, and enough to display every detail of 1080i HDTV sources. All other sources, whether HDTV, DVD, standard-def, or computer, are scaled to fit the native resolution.
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