They call it D-ILA—"Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier." The technology involved is LCoS— "Liquid Crystal on Silicon"—and JVC has been hard at work on it for many years. Early LCoS efforts seen at trade shows were widely variable in picture quality and black level. It was said that manufacturing this technology was difficult, expensive, and inconsistent in results. JVC, however, had tremendous confidence in D-ILA and refused to let it go. Now, years later, digital projection at select movie theaters is done with JVC's professional LCoS projectors and manufacturing methods have improved to the point where a home version of D-ILA can be sold for a very competitive price—in the case of this 52” model, $3799 retail.
LCoS is bulb-driven, meaning that a user-replaceable light bulb should be able to restore like-new performance and brightness. LCD and DLP sets also use light bulbs, but none of these competing technologies can compare to this set in light output. This is the all-time hands-down leader in that department. And even if you don't need all that brightness, it's nice to know there's so much reserve available when the bulb grows weak or when ambient light levels are extremely high.
The 52G786 is a fully loaded HDTV. Included are both analog and digital (ATSC) tuners, CableCARD input, and an (HDCP-compliant) HDMI jack—features not often found in cheaper sets. With them, you can get HD right off the air (via an antenna), receive digital cable without an inconvenient cable box, and reproduce highest-quality digital video from your HDMI-equipped satellite box or DVD player.
The JVC offers several aspect ratios, including CINEMA ZOOM and HD PANORAMA, both of which allow you to fill the screen even when a station is broadcasting at an HD scan rate but showing 4:3 programming. Many sets, including some expensive plasmas, don't have this feature, forcing you to live with those dreaded black or gray bars on the sides of the screen. (For some reason, though, actually watching this set in 4:3 puts those hated gray bars on the sides of the screen, even though a D-ILA set isn't subject to screen burn.)
Various video preset modes can be called up on the remote, but you might have a problem identifying which button to use. JVC calls it VIDEO STATUS. Video inputs can be labeled, but accessing them is inconvenient and requires scrolling through a list. The set's internal speakers can be driven as a center channel by your A/V receiver. There are also an on/off timer and a sleep timer (activated by a button on the remote) with another button on the remote (DISPLAY) that checks the status of the timers. Picture-in-picture is available (you can watch 12
channels at once if you like). Twentyfour channels can be saved as FAVORITE CHANNELS. Signal strength for digital off-the-air stations can be checked with the ANTENNA LEVEL feature (important!), though it's several levels down in the menu system rather than on a remote-control button. A neat D/A button allows you to tune just digital or just analog channels. (Remember this button if you do the initial scan for channels and get none. You might be in the wrong mode!) When manually tuning digital channels, dashes are entered with the SUB button (17-2, 17-3, etc.) instead of via a conventionally placed dash button. Finally, a PC input allows direct connection to a computer (1024x768 maximum resolution). No warnings are given about screen burn.
I wasn't impressed with the owner's manual. While it initially looks simple and straightforward, it's often not, plus it contains several meaningless descriptions and translation irregularities. The remote, too, was confusing and definitely less intuitive than some others. Earlier JVC remotes were great. This one isn't, but you'll get used to it.
When you first turn the 52G786 on, you'll notice that it takes awhile to come up, and even after a picture is displayed the colors are all wrong until the set warms up completely (which takes as long as 10 minutes). When you do get a picture, it's gonna come up in DYNAMIC MODE and will be bright enough to sear your eyeballs if the room's dark. You're just not going to believe how bright this thing can get—and with no clipped whites or other overload distortions! To give you an idea of how bright, the 52G786 could measure eight times as bright as my reference Hitachi 55” plasma with small window patterns and 23 times as bright with full-screen white, though differences in light output will never look as large as the measurements indicate! Still, nothing I have tested approaches this sort of lightoutput capability.
While DYNAMIC will definitely impress you with sheer impact, I soon found the THEATERPRo button on the remote, which calmed things down considerably (though the JVC was still a bit brighter than the Hitachi plasma running full-tilt next to it), while also removing a huge amount of edge enhancement and dropping color temperature down from “way too blue" to fairly close to the D6500 standard. THEATERPRO, which puts the set directly into THEATER MODE, gave a picture that seemed at least similar in color, contrast, and overall "look" to the fully calibrated reference plasma sitting beside it. I was impressed with the factory default "0" video settings, which, except for color being a bit high, were close to ideal. That's a good thing too, since color saturation doesn't increase at settings beyond 0 (even up to 30) if you're in THEATER MODE. Another important item in the video menu is SMART PICTURE, which regulates contrast (overall light output) according to the average picture level. With this feature on (recommended), the JVC only looks "a little" brighter than everything else. Turn it off and Katie-bar-the-door. (DYNAMIC turns this off by default.)