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JVC LT-X898 review: JVC LT-X898


David Katzmaier
David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming
David runs CNET's home entertainment division, where he leads a team that covers TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home audio. If he doesn't know something about the gear you use to keep yourself entertained at home, it's not worth knowing.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
13 min read

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 Good

Accurate color temperature and linear grayscale; video processing deinterlaces 1080i sources properly; solid uniformity across the screen; compact, no-nonsense styling; connectivity includes three HDMI inputs.

The Bad

Inaccurate primary colors; middling black-level performance; 120Hz does not smooth motion in pans and camera movement; defaults back to non-native aspect-ratio mode when switching inputs or powering down; ineffective color management system; kludgy menus.

The Bottom Line

Although the JVC LT-47X898 has a few strong points, inaccurate color puts it a couple of steps behind the best 120Hz LCD TVs.

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.

JVC LT-47X898
We can't imagine why JVC mounted the LT-47X898's controls on the back of the panel.

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.

JVC LT-47X898
The LT-47X898's main picture menu looks archaic compared with that of most HDTVs.

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.

JVC LT-47X898
Three HDMI inputs are the focal point of the LT-47X898's connectivity.

The JVC LT-47X898's connectivity is highlighted by three HDMI inputs, a number that's become the norm among higher-end 2007 HDTVs. Unfortunately one of those HDMI inputs shares a slot (Video 5) with the PC input, so you can't use both. There's also a pair of component-video inputs, both of which share slots with composite-video and, in one case, S-Video inputs, as well. Although all of this sharing reduces the total number of devices you can connect to the LT-47X898, the TV still has plenty of inputs for most people. The jack pack is completed by a single RF input for antenna or cable; a digital and an analog audio output; and an RS-232 port for connection to custom remote control systems such as Crestron or AMX. The LN-T47X898 doesn't have any easy-access side-panel inputs.

JVC LT-47X898
The LT-47X898's analog input bay doubles up on a few input types.

All told, the JVC LT-47X898 delivered solid if unspectacular picture quality, highlighted by an accurate grayscale, which made skin tones and other delicate colors appear more natural. Its black-level performance was about average for an LCD, but its major flaw was in primary color accuracy, which, unfortunately, can't be fixed by the set's color management system. As for 120Hz, it didn't have a very noticeable impact on LT-47X898's performance as far as we could discern.

Before critical viewing, as usual, we calibrated the JVC for optimal performance in our completely darkened testing theater. The best-performing picture mode, Theater, resulted in a dim 15 footlambert (FTL), so we turned the Energy Saver control up nearly all the way to achieve our standard 40, then adjusted black levels accordingly. Theater mode also defaults to the Low preset, in which the set's color temperature, as usual for JVC, was quite accurate. A few tweaks to the user-menu gain controls improved it further. Grayscale linearity was solid, although it did veer slightly into the bluish range in brighter areas.

As you can see from the Geek Box below, the JVC's primary colors were off significantly from the HD standard, which is surprising since the primaries of the non-120Hz JVC LT-47X788 measured much better. JVC does include extensive color management controls, but unfortunately we couldn't induce significant improvement when using them. Adjusting green tint, for example, the only control that affected the primary color of green (the set's least-accurate), did not bring it anywhere near the accurate range for the standard. The same can be said for red, and unfortunately there are no controls for blue. Two other controls for each color, called "axis" and "color," didn't affect primary color accuracy at all, and seemed to have little effect. In the end, we decided to disengage the color management system entirely and leave it at default values. For our full user-menu settings, click hereor check out the Tips and Tricks section above.

For evaluation, we compared the LT-47X898 directly with few other HDTVs we had on hand, including the aforementioned 60Hz JVC LT-47X788; and the Sony KDL-46XBR4, and the Mitsubishi LT-46144, both 120Hz LCDs; as well as the Pioneer PDP-5080HD, the Pioneer PRO-FHD1, and the Samsung FP-T5084, all 50-inch plasmas. This time we watched the Blu-ray version of Shooter, courtesy of the Samsung BD-P1200 playing at 1080i resolution.

The black level performance of the LT47X898 fell into the middle of the recent LCD pack. Black areas didn't appear as dark as they did on the Mitsubishi or the Sony, for example, but they were darker than on the LT-47X788 and the Pioneer PRO-FHD1. When Mark Wahlberg puts out the light at the convenience store, for example, his silhouette, the night sky, and the black bars below and above the image appeared brighter in comparison to most of the other sets we had on hand, which did rob that scene of a bit of realism. Details in the shadows around his head appeared a bit less distinct than on the better comparison sets, such as the Sony LCD and the Pioneer plasmas, but approximately the same as the Mitsubishi--again, about the middle of the LCD pack.

Color reproduction on the LT-47X898 had its good and bad points. In the plus column, as we mentioned above, its grayscale was quite accurate, and unlike the other JVC it did not tinge dark areas too red. Skin tones, especially in dimmer areas, appeared relatively realistic. As Wahlberg takes aim at a can of stew, the close-up on his face looked natural and nicely saturated, without the bluish tinge we noticed on the Mitsubishi, for example. When he confronts Kate Mara in her dark doorway afterward, her freckled face appeared convincingly flush but not overly so.

Primary color accuracy, on the other hand, left much to be desired. During the initial flyover of the river, the water appeared aquamarine instead of the dark cobalt shade we saw on the other displays, a sure indicator of the cyan-tilted blue primary. Skies were likewise too greenish, and green, for example in the winter conifers during one of Wahlberg's hikes, looked too bluish and unnatural next to the other displays. Overall, the LT-47X898 had some of the least accurate primaries we've seen lately, and next to the other sets, the difference was obvious. Even outside of a side-by-side comparison, the greenish blues, which are perhaps the LT-47X898's biggest flaw, would be noticeable.

As we mentioned above, the JVC does not incorporate any sort of "de-judder" technology, which is found in some other manufacturers' 120Hz LCDs sets, so as we expected, we didn't see any smoothing of motion in Shooter. For example, when the camera follows the red helicopter across the sky, the mountains in the background evinced the same kind of filmlike choppiness, seen on all of the other sets in the room--with the exception of the Sony, which does offer de-judder. We've complained that de-judder can make some scenes look unnatural, but as we said in the review of the de-judder-free 120Hz Mitsubishi, we do miss having the option.

As usual, we spent some time looking for motion blur, the elimination of which is the supposed principal benefit of 120Hz, and as usual, we had a difficult time spotting it. We watched both fast-action scenes from Shooter as well as a football game on NBC and a hockey game on HDNet. The one area where we saw what could have been evidence of 120Hz at work occurred during the football broadcast. When the camera followed a punt, the edges of the blue horseshoe of the Colts' helmet painted on the 50-yard line appeared very slightly sharper on the 120Hz JVC compared to the 60Hz JVC we had right next to it. It took a few presses of the instant replay button on our DVR's remote to verify, and even then, it was very difficult to discern. We also saw very slightly less blur trailing along behind the edges of the words from a ticker on ESPN. Again, we want to stress the difficulty we had just spotting these differences, and that in the vast majority of content we watched, the difference between the two side-by-side JVC sets' motion rendition was nonexistent to our eyes.

In "Full Native" mode, which the LT-47X898 had a hard time keeping engaged, the TV resolved every detail of 1080i and 1080p resolution sources. According to the HQV HD DVD, the set passed both of the 1080i deinterlacing tests, for video and film, and we didn't see any artifacts in the RV's grille during the Chapter 6 pan over the highway from Ghost Rider--our current real-world check of 1080i deinterlacing. As we saw with the Toshiba 52LX177, however, there was some interference in the video deinterlacing test's highest-resolution areas, which we can't help but blame on 120Hz, since the same test on the 60Hz JVC was clean. As always, it's worth noting that seeing any of these issues in program material is very difficult, as was distinguishing any difference in detail between the 1080p resolution sets and the 1,366x768 resolution Pioneer plasma.

In its favor, the LT-47X898 evinced some of the best screen uniformity we've seen from an LCD lately, and was just about tied with the Sony as the most uniform LCD in the room. In very dark scenes, such as a shot of Wahlberg driving at night, we did detect a slightly brighter, irregular area in the upper-left portion of the screen, but that's about it. The edges of the screen appeared closer in brightness to the middle than they did on the other LCDs, and we saw no horizontal banding. When seen from off-angle, the JVC's also maintained image quality fairly well, although like all LCDs we've tested, it did wash out somewhat in darker areas, and from extreme angles a tinge of red crept into the picture.

Our standard-def tests consisted of a suite of material from the HQV disc on DVD, and the LT-47X898 came in below average. It showed every bit of detail the DVD had to offer according to the color bar tests, although the details in the grass and stone bridge looked a bit soft. Displaying difficult diagonal lines in video-based material, the JVC did not do a very good job smoothing out the jagged edges, and as a result, the stripes on the waving American flag also showed jaggies. During the noisy shots of sunsets and skies, the Auto and Min noise reduction settings didn't seem to do much, and while Max did suppress much of the moving motes and other noise, it also softened details considerably. We also checked out the set's 2:3 pull-down performance and were disappointed when Auto, the default mode, took a full 1.5 seconds to engage film mode; we recommend leaving it in the On position unless you notice artifacts.

With PC sources delivered via one of the three HDMI inputs, the JVC turned in a fine performance, resolving every line of a 1,920x1,080 resolution DVI source, with crisp text and no overscan (again, best results are achieved in "Full Native" mode). As with previous JVCs we've reviewed, the LT-47X898's VGA-style analog PC input is limited to 1,024x768 resolution, which doesn't fill the screen--although it can be stretched, which naturally makes everything look softer. On the 1080p JVC, such a low computer resolution made text and other onscreen items look soft anyway, so as usual, we recommend going digital if possible. It's worth noting that many other 1080p LCDs do offer full resolution via VGA inputs, so JVC is behind the curve in that department.

Before color temp (20/80) 6,524/6,781 Good
After color temp 6,510/6,674 Good
Before grayscale variation +/- 197K Good
After grayscale variation +/- 149K Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.658/0.325 Average
Color of green 0.194/0.66 Poor
Color of blue 0.141/0.079 Poor
Overscan 0 percent Poor
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Yes Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Yes Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

JVC LT-47X898 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 300.78 219.68 154.6
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.32 0.23 0.16
Standby (watts) 0.76 0.76 0.76
Cost per year $91.80 $67.17 $47.41
Score (considering size) Poor
Score (overall) Poor



Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6
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