If you want the Holy Grail of HDTV, you're going to look for a 1080p model that can deliver the highest high-definition resolution available today. Currently there are less than two dozen big-screen rear-projection television (RPTV) sets on the market that claim to attain this level of resolution. Narrow your choice to RPTVs with three imaging chips, each containing 1,920x1,080 pixels, and you'll find only two brands: Sony and JVC, both of which use LCoS technology. The JVC HD-61FH96 reviewed here competes directly with the Sony KDS-R60XBR1. The JVC costs a bit less than the Sony and delivers an excellent picture, although its performance with standard-def sources leaves a bit to be desired. That issue aside, if you're looking for a high-quality 1080p set and can handle a few operational quirks, the JVC HD-61FH96 should be high on your list. One of our favorite things about the design of the JVC HD-61FH96 is that its shiny black cabinet is engineered to fit the biggest-size screen into the narrowest area. Unlike many of its competitors, the stereo speakers are wisely located beneath the screen area, which in turn is surrounded by a narrow bezel. We prefer this layout, and we noticed more set makers moving to this type of configuration in upcoming 2006 product lines. Of all the 1080p RPTVs out there today, the JVC appears to have one of the highest screen-to-front-surface-area ratios in the industry; other sets, such as the HP MD6580n and the Sony KDS-R60XBR1, have significantly wider sides. Overall, the JVC measures about 57.4 by 41.1 by 18.4 inches (WHD) and weighs 108 pounds.
The gray remote control has backlit buttons, but it lacks direct input control as well as a separate picture-control button. We also noticed that it takes an excruciatingly long time to change inputs. In another questionable design move, JVC makes you scroll tediously through the onscreen menu to get to the function you need to change. With an eight-page menu, that can take a while, although at least the menu returns to the last page you used when it's called up again. As a top-of-the-line television, JVC's HD-61FH96 is packed with features. Its primary claim to fame is a Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) imaging engine, and JVC calls its proprietary design HD-ILA. JVC has been at the LCoS game the longest, and this series, which also contains a 56- and a 70-inch model, is the company's third-generation LCoS RPTV line, the first with 1080p resolution. As we mentioned earlier, LCoS, unlike DLP, utilizes three separate imaging chips with 1,920x1,080 pixels each, and those discrete pixels pay off in the lab. Unlike many DLP sets we've tested, the JVC resolves every pixel of 1080i sources (see ). As with all other fixed-pixel displays, all sources, such as standard TV, DVD, and HDTV, are scaled to fit the native resolution.
The JVC HD-61FH96 offers an ATSC digital tuner and CableCard for tuning encrypted digital and analog cable channels without a set top box. It also features twin side-by-side pictures, a variant of picture-in-picture, but unfortunately the split windows can display images from the set's built-in tuners only; they can't display content coming over any other input.
The JVC HD-61FH96 has a good selection of aspect-ratio modes, and the number accessible depends on the source's native aspect ratio and scan rate. When viewing standard-def sources, you get four aspect-ratio choices, including one that stretches the sides of a 4:3 image more than the middle to fill the screen. With high-def sources, you get three choices, including two zooms. There is also a fourth mode called Slim, designed to horizontally shrink native 4:3 content that has been stretched by the broadcaster to full screen so that it can be viewed undistorted as 4:3. We were never able to test this mode, though it would sometimes show itself to be available with unstretched HD 4:3 material.
There are two color temperatures to choose from in the main menu: Low and High. Low is around 6,600K, while High measured 7,600K, creating bluer whites. The Theater Pro button provides a third choice; it claims to be factory preset at D6500K, the industry standard, though out of the box, it was a little too high. Overall picture presets include Theater (engaged by pressing the Theater Pro button), Standard, and Dynamic. We recommend sticking to Theater Pro for the most natural, accurate image.
The JVC HD-61FH96 has a plethora of inputs, including two HDMI digital inputs, one of which has assignable analog audio (necessary if your source has a DVI output). Like those of most other 1080p HDTVs, the JVC's HDMI jacks can't accept 1080p sources. For analog video sources, there are two component-video inputs; three rear composite video with L/R audio; and two S-Video jacks. All of the analog rear-panel video jacks share input slots, so if you use both component inputs, for example, you'll have access to only one composite/S-Video connection. In addition, you'll find another set of composite/S-Video inputs mounted on the side of the set. There's also a CableCard slot that functions well, delivering all of our subscribed cable channels with an HD cable box, as well as a VGA-style PC input for computers; 1,024x768 is the maximum resolution.
JVC also includes two iLink S400 (IEEE 1394) jacks, but we quickly discovered they're designed to handle only DVHS recorders. Our IEEE 1394 hard drive recorder was not recognized by the HD-61FH96, and according to a JVC spokesperson, neither would other present or future devices such as upcoming Blu-ray HD disc recorders. Overall, the image quality of the JVC is very good, and we were impressed by its sharp images. Unlike many 1080p HDTVs we've seen, the HD-61FH96 was able to resolve every pixel of a 1080i multiburst test pattern from our Sencore VP403 signal generator. The JVC also properly deinterlaced 1080i sources, putting the full 1080 lines on the screen with every frame. A number of 1080p HDTVs, such as the , process only one field at a time, displaying just 540 lines of picture information for every frame.
JVC employs an iris to enhance contrast ratio. The blacks are not the deepest we've seen, but they're dark enough to view content comfortably with the lights out. Where the JVC really shines is its ability to reproduce low-level dark detail such as in scenes from Batman Begins. Throughout the movie, the caped crusader was never obscured by the dark background.
The JVC HD-61FH96 also delivers very detailed and clean high-definition images, without dithering found on many other 1080p displays. Low-level transitions from dark areas to black are smooth, without any false contouring. Geometry is excellent, and focus remains constant from edge to edge. The Natural Cinema button provides a good starting point for high-quality images with its near-6,500K color temperature out of the box.
We also looked at how the JVC handled composite, S-Video, and CableCard standard-def sources and found that the set left something to be desired. According to the 2:3 pull-down test from the HQV benchmark, its film-cadence sensing was slow, making fine detail in images occasionally twitter or shimmer. The HD-61FH96 also did a fair to poor on diagonals, producing jaggies instead of small straight lines. Better results could be obtained by using an upconverting DVD player that has faster film detection.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7,077/7,160K||Average|
|After color temp (20/80)||6,300/6,550K||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 601K||Average|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 123K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.623/0.321||Poor|
|Color of green||0.299/0.654||Average|
|Color of blue||0.144/0.051||Average|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|