JVC's remote control is a busy, confusing affair, and it has remained unchanged for the last several years. Its design and layout leave a lot to be desired, but thankfully, it is fully backlit, making the inevitable search for the key you want easier in a darkened room. On the other hand, the internal menu system is relatively straightforward, although there are a multitude of pages, so you must scroll vertically to find all of the functions. Like most high-end rear-projection HDTVs the JVC HD-56FN97 boasts a native resolution of 1080p, which is the highest available today. There are a total of three HD-ILA chips, one each for red, green, and blue, each with 1,920x1,080 discrete pixels. This arrangement differs from that of DLP-based 1080p displays, which generally use a single chip and a color wheel to produce red, green, and blue. The JVC's 1,920x1,080 pixels exactly match the resolution of 1080i and 1080p HDTV sources and should deliver their every detail (see the Performance section below for more). Other sources, including 720p HDTV, DVD, and standard-def television, are scaled to fit the pixels.
This top-of-the-line HDTV is equipped with quite a few convenience features. There's single-tuner PIP, labeled Twin on the remote, which when combined with another tuner from a cable box, for example, will give you the ability to watch two programs simultaneously. A CableCard slot is onboard for those who want to bypass a cable box, although you'll also lose the programming grid, because the JVC lacks an EPG such as TV Guide. Of course there is an ATSC tuner for the reception of local off-air HDTV broadcasts. The number of aspect ratio choices is about average: four with standard-def sources and three wih high-def.
JVC offers a handful of picture-enhancing features, including an adjustable iris. This, in conjunction with the contrast control, will increase or decrease the light output of the display. A Natural Cinema mode engages or disengages the important 2:3 pull-down circuit. Unlike most other manufacturers that offer three preset color temperatures, JVC offers only two: High and Low, with Low coming closest to he broadcast standard.
Although it does offer four picture presets that can all be adjusted, we were disappointed that the HD-56FN97 didn't follow up with true independent input memories. The only way to customize your sources differently for each input is to remeber to associate one of the four modes with the input in question, which is a much less convenient solution.
Connectivity options are quite generous on the HD-56FN97. Two HDMI inputs head up the list of the most important video connections, with two component video inputs running a close second. As with some other HDTVs, the JVC doubles up on some of the inputs, although the HDMI ports merit their own dedicated input slots. Inputs 1 and 2 can be used for composite, S-Video, or component-video sources. Input 3 can be used for composite, S-Video, or a 15-pin VGA connections from a computer (1,024x768 maximum resolution). Two FireWire I/Os, one RF antenna input, one RF for Digital Cable and ATSC signals, one monitor output with S-Video and composite video, a stereo audio output, and a digital optical audio output round out the connections on the back panel. Finally, there is a side A/V input, with composite video only on the right side of the chassis.
JVC also makes an =" jvc_hd_56fh97="" 4652-6484_7-32037309.html"="">FH series of rear-projection HDTVs. The main differences between the two are that the FN models include gold-plated A/V inputs and an RS-232C port to work with custom installation. The company's FB series, meanwhile, is exactly like this HD-56FN97 except that it's silver rather than black. As we mentioned at the outset, the JVC HD-56FN97 didn't deliver quite the picture quality we've seen on some of the best 1080p big screens this year, although it certainly held its own. It turned in an excellent black-level performance, and details were very sharp. Color accuracy, on the other hand was just OK, with the JVC's primary color of green being the major culprit.
Out-of-the-box performance of the JVC HD-56FN97 was better than many high-end RPTVs after we simply selected Theater Pro mode and Low color temperature, the best starting point for those concerned with getting optimum picture performance. We also reduced the Iris control all the way. For our full user-menu picture settings, click the Tips & Tricks link above.
Overall color accuracy was a bit of a mixed bag. The grayscale still appeared distinctly minus blue, or slightly greenish, in Low mode, although after professional calibration, it was much improved. Grayscale tracking was decent (see the geek box), and color decoding was excellent with no red push whatsoever. Where the JVC is weak is in the area of primary and secondary color accuracy. In particular, the primary color of green looked way too yellow, making grass and other common green objects appear overly punchy or limey in color.
Video processing is reasonably good with 2:3 pull-down available in the Natural Cinema feature. We tested both the HDMI and component inputs for 1080i resolution and found that both delivered all of the resolution. The HD-56FN97 handled the 1080p output from the Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player without a problem via its HDMI inputs.
Black-level performance is one area where JVC has made some major improvements. The HD-56FN97 delivers deep, rich blacks, and that contributes to a significantly higher real-world contrast ratio. For black level testing, we used the excellent transfer on HD-DVD of Unforgiven. The opening scenes in which the crime is committed take place at night in a dark saloon. There was ample shadow detail, and blacks were rendered well although, when directly compared with the excellent Panasonic TH-50PHD9UK plasma in these scenes, the JVC fell a little short. Bright outdoor scenes looked really solid. Color saturation was excellent, and skin tones looked exceptionally natural.
Chapter four from the HD-DVD version of Training Day appeared remarkably sharp. In fact, this scene may be one of the best examples of just how good the HD-DVD format can look. The JVC definitely does it justice with awesome clarity and realistic color reproduction.
We hooked up a PC to the JVC's VGA input and the results were disappointing for a TV with 1920x1080 resolution. The maximum resolution the TV would accept was 1024x768, and even then the image didn't take up nearly the entire screen. We tried a few widescreen settings with no luck; the only other resolution that worked via VGA was 640x480.
|Before color temp (20/80)||5800/6100K||Average|
|After color temp||6425/6925K||Average|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 464K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 236K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.647/0.330||Good|
|Color of green||0.280/0.702||Poor|
|Color of blue||0.142/0.052||Average|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|