We recently took a long hard look at the Toshiba Regza 40ZF355D, a TV with an ultra-thin bezel and came away incredibly impressed. Now JVC has arrived on the scene with its LT-42DS9, hoping to nick Toshiba's slim-line crown.
The 42DS9 is a high-end TV, offering 1080p support with a bunch of picture-processing modes and a price tag that's about the same as the Toshiba. Can the JVC better the picture quality on the thin Tosh?
It has to be said: this TV is a truly stunning sight. Unlike the Toshiba, the JVC is also incredibly shallow too, but not in a Shoreditch hipster way. If you look at the side, you'll notice the TV virtually disappears. If size-zero styling is important to you, you'll definitely impress people with this super-slim model.
The front of the TV doesn't contain much in the way of distractions from the screen's clean lines. On the right hand side, there are some touch-sensitive controls for adjusting the volume and channel. These are among the most responsive touch controls we've used, and they look great, too.
Like Paris Hilton has Nicole Richie, the 42DS9 has a slim remote control powered by two AAA batteries. We quite liked the style of the remote, and it's easy to use, although the navigation directional controls can be fiddly.
At the back of the TV, you'll find the usual arrangement of inputs. There is one slight oddity, though: the component and Scart sockets are concealed under a removable flap. We can see the logic to this, because many people might not use them, but it's going to be hassle if you decide to wall-mount your TV. Still, the three HDMI sockets are at the bottom, facing down, which means they're easier to access and won't interfere with a wall mount too badly.
The 1080p JVC supports 24p movie mode for smooth movie playback. We've come to expect this on high-end TVs, but we're always pleased to see it included. Our tests confirmed very smooth motion on Blu-ray movies, proving everything was in order.
We're not looking at menus as excellent as those we've seen on the Panasonic Viera TH-37PX80B and LG 50PG6000, but we can't really fault the overall ease of use of the JVC's menus. The setup was easy and the TV takes care of pretty much everything. We did notice that it didn't find BBC One and Two after an auto search -- this is the first TV we've reviewed that's struggled to track down a signal in our test environment.
Once we turned off most of the TV's advanced picture settings and dropped the backlight down to its minimum setting, we found the picture to be very watchable. At 42 inches, the JVC is hovering around the maximum to which we'd like to see Freeview pictures stretched. Although compression was more obvious, it helped to sit a decent distance away, leaving us with positive thoughts.
Although the picture on the JVC is good, we did notice that the backlight was uneven. There is no excuse for this -- it's a major bugbear for us. On dark movie scenes -- say, the start of Serenity, set in space -- it can be very bothersome. It's entirely possible that you might not notice it, however, especially if you tend to watch lighter content.
Sound on the 42DS9 was impressive for such a thin set. We don't usually expect much from thin TVs in the oomph department, but this one manages to pump out clear, deep sound. We found the sound levels on HD DVDs were very low, but this seems to be a side effect of the audio encoding. Freeview was incredibly punchy. It goes without saying that movie fans should invest in external speakers, but for regular viewing, the built-in speakers will do very nicely.
On HD DVD and Blu-ray movies, we were impressed by the smoothness of the on-screen motion. It's not as spectacular as the 120Hz, 5:5 pulldown-capable Toshiba 40ZF355D, but it's a likeable image and smooth enough to please all but the harshest critic.
There were also generous amounts of detail in the picture. Casino Royale looked brilliant, with all the original grain and noise intact. The previously mentioned opening scene of Serenity on HD DVD looked good too, with good colour, smooth motion and plenty of detail. If it wasn't for that pesky backlight, we'd be completely smitten.
The super-skinny remote isn't a total disaster, but it
feels cheap. The TV isn't the most sprightly in responding to its commands, either. It's not a patch on those from
Panasonic and Sony, which have much faster remote response times.
The uneven backlight on this TV spoils an overall strong performer. We liked the Freeview and HD picture performance of this set, but can't totally forgive the uneven illumination, which will bother most people at some point.
The best competitor for this TV is the Toshiba's 40ZF355D. It does a better job with HD, has an unobtrusive backlight and costs around the same. You have to decide how much size really matters.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday