Minisystems tend to be a forgotten relic of an older era, but they shouldn't be--sometimes they're just the right size for a bedroom or den. The JVC UX-G70 is toward the high-end of these systems, but that's because it offers a little bit extra in the features department: a five-disc changer that plays CDs and DVD movies, a USB audio input, an auxiliary A/V input, and DVD-Audio compatibility. It's not the best sounding (LG LF-D7150), the most stylish (Philips MCD702), or the cheapest (Philips MCD515) DVD minisystem, but its mix of excellent features and good-enough performance will probably be enough for some to pay the slightly premium, $250 list price for the UX-G70.
The overall design of the JVC UX-G70 is pretty standard for these shelf systems; it's not attractive, but it's not ugly either. The majority of the front panel is taken up by a silver console, which has a brushed-metal look. Surrounding the silver console is a glossy black finish that also surrounds the LCD screen near the top of the unit. Right below the LCD is a bright blue light; luckily it can be turned off using the Dimmer button on the remote. If the UX-G70's understated design isn't for you--and performance isn't your main concern--check out the multitiered design on the Philips MCD702.
The UX-G70 is a standard three-part shelf system. There are two speakers measuring 9.88x6.56x9.19 inches (HWD) on each side of the central head unit, which houses the disc changer and all the controls. The head unit itself isn't wide, but it's deep; its measurements run 9.88x6.9x16.2 inches (HWD). Discs are loaded into the five separate trays, which can be open and closed via the front panel controls. Below the disc tray is a flip-down panel which houses some additional connections.
The remote didn't win us over. There's very little differentiation between the tiny buttons, and anybody without perfect eyesight will probably have difficulty reading the correspondingly miniature labels. To make matters worse, many buttons have two labels each--one for the main function and a second "shift" option written in green that can be accessed only while pressing the shift button in the lower left-hand corner. Most of the shift options are seldom used, but we wondered why the more-important direct access controls for the different disc slots--Disc 1, Disc 2, etc.--were relegated to shift buttons. The remote can control a TV as well, but it's probably better to just pick up a cheap universal remote to handle most of those functions.
The JVC UX-G70's main function is to play CDs and DVDs using its built-in five disc changer. The five-disc changer utilizes an internal-cartridge design, so there's no problem with swapping discs in while others are playing. In addition to CD/DVD playback, the UX-G70 can also handle MP3, JPEG, and WMA files burned onto CDs and DVDs. And while the UX-G70 plays DVD-Audio discs, its two speaker design means the increasingly obscure high-end audio format can be played only in stereo. Note that DVD-Audio cannot be transmitted over the optical output, and the UX-G70 lacks analog multichannel outputs. The UX-G70 also includes an AM/FM tuner.
JVC claims the UX-G70 can deliver 120 watts to each of its two channels--it's definitely less than that, but the UX-G70 can get moderately loud. Like almost all of these systems, the UX-G70 comes with plenty of digital sound-processing modes to "enhance" the sound. The Sound Turbo II boosts the lows and the highs, but we preferred to leave this--as well as the other modes--off. There's also a mode called 3D Phonic that's designed to create a faux-surround effect from two speakers. It doesn't really compare to dedicated virtual surround devices--you're better off getting one of those if you're looking for more conspicuous surround sound from two speakers.
For a minisystem, the JVC UX-G70 boasts impressive connectivity. It's got the standard DVD player video outputs (composite, S-Video, and progressive/component video), so it can connect to virtually any television. For audio there's a subwoofer out, which is a really nice option for those desiring a little more oomph on movies and music. There's also an optical digital audio output, which is capable of outputting both PCM and Dolby/DTS bitstream audio to any A/V receiver. Rounding out the rest of the rear panel are the AM/FM external antenna jacks and spring-clip speaker connectors.
If you just looked at the back panel, you'd be wondering why there aren't any inputs. That's because they're all up front. Flip down the panel on the bottom of the unit, and you get a 1/8-inch headphone minijack, an A/V input, a USB audio input, and a minijack input/output. The USB audio input might look unfamiliar, but it's really a hidden treasure. We've raved about this feature previously in standalone receivers like the RX-D702, and for good reason. Connect your computer using the right USB cable, and you'll be able to play any audio that plays on your computer over the UX-G70; DRM doesn't get in the way since it acts like a standard USB speaker. It's really that easy: There's nothing to manually install, and the computer automatically configures itself to output over USB. It worked for us every time, on both Windows XP and Mac OS X computers.
The UX-G70 definitely has some nice features, but it's not comprehensive. For instance, DivX fans will want to check out the aforementioned LG LF-D7150 or the Philips MCD515. Additionally, the LF-D7150 has a digital audio input, and the MCD515 has tape deck. None of the features is necessarily better than the others, but different users have different media priorities.
We loaded up the UX-G70 with some CDs to test out its audio performance, especially compared with some of its competitors: the Philips MCD515, the Philips MCD702, and the LG LF-D7150. We started out with Jimi Hendrix's Axis: Bold as Love, to see how these little system could handle some heavy rock. The UX-G70 easily outclassed the MCD702, which sounded pretty wimpy comparatively. Overall, we thought the UX-G70 came in just a little behind the LF-D7150; it sounded a little more sterile than the larger LG. Of course, they all still sounded like shelf systems, and anyone serious about audio quality will want to step up to a separates system. At this point the MCD515 and the UX-G70 sounded pretty close, so we moved onto Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue. Both systems handled the disc fine, and we were reserved to merely say that they sounded different; neither one was better than the other. If you prefer a more neutral sound, go with the UX-G70; the MCD515 was slightly more lively.
We also took a quick look at the video-processing capabilities of the UX-G70 on DVDs. It was comparable to other DVD minisystems in this price range that we've tested, which means that it really doesn't compare with standalone DVD players. We quickly ran it through some tests from Silicon Optix's HQV test suite, and it failed most of the tests. It couldn't pass the full resolution of DVDs, and the other deinterlacing tests looked ugly. To be fair, it didn't look any worse than the competitors. That being said, the overwhelming majority of viewers will find the performance to be perfectly acceptable, especially if they're viewing on smaller (less than 30-inch) TVs. Just don't expect the built-in DVD player to perform as well as more expensive standalone units. Considering how poorly the player handled deinterlacing tests, it may be worthwhile for HDTV owners to set the component-video output for interlaced instead of progressive (click here or see the Tips and Tricks section for more details).
The UX-G70 is definitely a strong candidate in the DVD minisystem category. For a price similar to other systems we've tested, it has several unique features: a five-disc changer, and USB-audio and DVD-Audio playback. We also thought the sound was adequate for this type of system, although those looking for the best sound will want to go with LG's LF-D7150. The styling wasn't a strong point, but it's certainly not an eyesore. If $250 is too much for your budget, check out the Philips MCD515, which offers less features but similar performance.