I usually disable any videoenhancement circuitry, but they weren’t objectionable on this set. With last year’s model, SMARTPICTURE, which changes contrast according to the average picture level, could make enormous changes in light output. On the HD-56FH96, its operation was subtler; still, it sometimes caused small but noticeable fluctuations in picture level. I left it on anyway. DIGITAL VNR (video noise reduction) was highly effective in its AUTO setting and only slightly softened the picture.
The whole video-setup procedure is very much like the 720p model. With broadcast material, COLOR often had to be reduced to about -5 (though test patterns measured perfectly at 0), but other user controls were very close to ideal at the default 0 position. DETAIL could sometimes be run as high as +15 with no objectionable artifacts, especially with 1080i sources. Once it was set up properly, I was impressed with the picture of the HD-56FH96.
HD on this set is undeniably striking. The Voom HD channels from my DISH 942 receiver/DVR have never looked better. Even black-and-white movies looked superb with stunning smoothness and (in THEATER mode) very little color tint due to grayscale inaccuracies. Overall color balance was excellent. Colors themselves were mostly excellent with unusually vibrant blues. Greens were good for a modern display, meaning they were less offensive than most.
HD with JVC’s built-in digital tuner was equally impressive. Blacks always fell somewhat short of “inky black” despite JVC’s new iris, but they were dark enough to make CSI and other darker network HD programs look excellent; in fact, the blacks were 80% lower than the JVC 720p set reviewed earlier. They were also 67% lower than the 55-inch Hitachi 55HDX61 plasma but still significantly higher than the Sony KDSR60XBR1 SXRD RPTV reviewed in Issue 64. Of course, sports looked spectacular, in part because of this set’s remarkably high light-output capability and the fact that it doesn’t make playing fields either squirm with video noise or scream with dreadful lime greens.
With an interlaced component connection, DVD showed just how good the component inputs are and just how well JVC’s scaler performs. Star Trek: Insurrection can look really bad with poor deinterlacing, edge enhancement, and 3:2 pulldown, but it was clean and impressive on this set. Vanilla Sky was rendered with absolutely no false contouring. Its dark scenes had acceptable (but not particularly exceptional) detail. Cruel Intentions was displayed with an unusually good mix of detail and smoothness. Flesh tones were particularly convincing. This DVD is not forgiving of excess red, either in a set’s grayscale or color decoder.
Finally, the HD-56FH96 scored better than most on regular old low-res cable. This was due in part to good scaling and excellent noise filters.
In THEATER mode, I noticed occasional shifts in color temperature from nearly ideal to noticeably greenish. Measurements were made with the set on its best behavior. This may have been a problem with my review set.
I wasn’t completely enthusiastic about the 720p set, but I am very enthusiastic about this one. Finally, JVC has found black levels to complement the excellent light output and great color rendition of the earlier model. Vdeo noise and artifacts have been reduced, and the overall picture has detail with a certain smoothness that’s undeniably beautiful and totally involving.
I wish I still had the Sony SXRD set I raved about as “the best you’ll see this year” for a direct comparison. But even lacking such a comparison, I feel confident that this JVC can make a picture that’s just as compelling except on the darkest program material (where it’s still not bad), and it can go a whole lot brighter if you really want it to. Plus, it doesn’t have tacky speakers on the sides making it larger than it needs to be. So now I have to say, “these sets—both the Sony and the JVC— are probably the best RPTV pictures you’ll see this year.” This one, except for a few important operational caveats, is mostly right up there.