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JVC HD-61FN97 Review

Highs

  • Excellent picture quality; remote is simple to use; lots of features

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 10

Lows

  • HDMI 1.2a instead of 1.3; deeper cabinet than most RPTV's; lacks backlighting on the remote
For the TV and movie fan that wants the "big picture" for TV and movies, the JVC HD-61FN97 is an excellent choice.

Summary

JVC was one of the first companies to announce a true next-generation large television display for the upscale consumer with its D’Ahlia rear-projection MicroDisplay TV back in 2001. Since that time, the company has been on an odyssey to produce high quality MicroDisplay rear-projection HDTVs. JVC is the only rear-projection television company to feature Direct-drive Image Light Amplifier (D-ILA) technology. D-ILA is a version of a LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) type of device that uses a three-chip process (one for red, one for blue, one for green) offering full 1,920 x 1,080 (1080p) resolution and has superior features, such as high contrast ratio, high efficiency, smooth image, and high reliability under intense light. Overall, the technology offers excellent displayed images packaged in a somewhat smaller and lighter cabinet.

HD-ILA Technology

Instead of using conventional and aging CRT (Cathode Ray) tubes that were found on virtually all rear-projection televisions just a few years ago, D-ILA technology is placed on a small silicon chip, which measures only 1.22 inches. The D-ILA Hologram Device is capable of producing high-resolution HDTV images of more than 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. Overall, these D-ILA devices have the capability of displaying over 3,000 lines of resolution, with images in excess of 2,000 x 1,340 pixels and a high contrast ratio of up to 10,000:1. They also have the capability of producing a brightness level of up to a whopping 12,000 lumens.

The core of the HD-61FN97’s D-ILA projector is a tiny, reflective 0.9-inch CMOS chip that directly addresses a miniature Image Light Amplifier (ILA). Accordingly, the projector separates the signal from the source into red, green, and blue picture components and passes them through a thin film layer onto a reflective single LCD panel. Since it’s a reflective (rather than transmissive, like LCD) technology, the light bounces off a mirror-like layer underneath the pixels. Since the light does not have to pass through a pixel-driving transistor, it is able to achieve a higher aperture ratio (claimed to be 93 percent by JVC). Reportedly, standard LCD panels only pass about 40–60 percent of light because LCDs work by sending the light through the liquid crystal layer. Each resulting image is then converted photo-electronically and illuminated by a high-density arc lamp.

Because D-ILA is very bright, it does not require dimming the lights in the room (like all front projectors) to obtain better-contrasted images. Also, unlike the standard 3-beam CRT projectors, D-ILA is able to deliver clearly defined images from corner to corner without having to converge and focus the image. In addition, the D-ILA Hologram device uses vertically-oriented liquid crystals for better blockage of light when a pixel is turned “off,” thereby producing a more solid black and a higher contrasted image overall. And, by filtering approximately 1.32 million pixels and almost 4 million dots onto its ultra-compact 1.22-inch device, which is six times the pixel density of a conventional LCD, higher resolution images are obtained.

JVC HD-61FN97
Image Courtesy of JVC

Features and Design

The JVC HD-61FN97 is a 61-inch widescreen (16:9), rear-projection, high-definition television. It features a true 1080p Full HD Widescreen D-ILA (Direct-drive Image Light Amplifier) Device—JVC’s exclusive three-color D-ILA chip technology (1920 x 1080), with more than 2 million pixels per chip, provides flicker-free Full HD images that are brilliant with high contrast.

This set includes integrated ATSC/NTSC/QAM tuners and is Digital CableCARD-ready. A built-in ATSC tuner allows you to receive over-the-air digital terrestrial broadcasts. A clear QAM tuner allows you to receive unscrambled digital cable signals. The CableCARD slot eliminates the need for a set-top box to descramble local cable programming (depending upon cable operator availability).

Key video features include 5th Generation D.I.S.T. (Digital Imaging Scaling Technology) with GENESSA 1080p picture processing, which is JVC’s proprietary video processing that detects and seamlessly upscales any video source to display at 1080p. GENESSA provides 32-bit “turbo” powered picture processing for faster and more efficient sampling to reduce jagged edges and increase the resolution of all sources. Another key video feature is the Advanced Optical Iris. According to JVC, this new iris ensures that light output and contrast ratio are optimal for each video status setting, with a contrast ratio of more than 10,000:1.

The set also includes a 5 Point Color Management System (CMS). CMS compensates for color range limitations and ensures that colors are reproduced with dimension and vivid detail—colors are true and never tainted by surrounding or similar colors. The HD Range Digital Super Detail Circuitry (DSD) keeps the picture completely focused for both still and highly active images. Also, the Natural Cinema mode employs 3–2 Pull Down technology to drastically reduce the jagged edges that normally occur when film is converted to video. Lastly, the HD-61FN97 utilizes an 110W Super High-Pressure Mercury lamp, which is user-replaceable.

Standard convenience features include an all button illuminated universal remote control, Smart Picture Technology, 5 Video Status Modes (500K/Standard/Game/Theater/ Dynamic), 7 Selectable Aspect Modes, Auto Demo, Smart Sound, Smart Captions, Channel Label/Video Input Label, Favorite Channel Memory, Hyper Scan High Speed Channel Surfing, Return+, Sleep Timer, Front Panel Lock, Noise Muting, Split POP with Twin, Freeze, and Index. The set includes an exclusive sound package that features 20 watts total audio power, A.H.S.+ for advanced voice processing and simulated surround sound, vocal enhancement on/off in menu, bass reflex, and a Parametric Equalizer and MaxxBass for maximum bass response.

All input and output terminals are gold plated. Input terminals include dual 1080p HDMI w/HDCP Digital Video Inputs, an RS-232C, a DCR CableCARD slot, dual IEEE1394 FireWire Ports, a PC Input as Input 3 (D-Sub 15 Pin), a Smart Video Input, 2 Auto Sensing Component Video Inputs, 2 S-Video Inputs, 4 AV Inputs, and a Center Channel Input. Output terminals include an Optical Digital Audio Output and a Variable/Fixed Audio Output. All jacks are gold plated for better conductivity and high level connections for all devices. Lastly, there is an RS-232C input for remote custom-installed home systems.

JVC HD-61FN97
Image Courtesy of JVC

Housed in an attractive dark gray/black cabinet featuring silver trim around the screen, the HD-61FN97 gives the appearance of a flat-panel TV from the front. And, with a reduced depth of 19 inches, this set can be placed into a cabinet or placed onto its optional 2-shelf matching base (RK-CEXM7, priced at $499 USD) that is big enough to store all of your gear, including a center channel speaker. A 55-button illuminated universal remote is included also.

Testing and Use

The best way to evaluate a high-definition TV is to watch HD programming, and the JVC HD-61FN97 allows for easy toggling between NTSC and ATSC signals (via the D/A button on the remote), handling all HD signals quite well from broadcast to cable to satellite and beyond. Displayed images were clean, smooth, and quite natural-looking, with excellent contrast and brightness levels. Consistently, colors were very vibrant and lifelike from all signal sources (off-air, cable, satellite, HD DVD player, and Blu-ray Disc player).

Since my DishNetwork ViP 622 satellite box also has an ATSC tuner included, I was able to toggle back and forth between cable HD, satellite HD, and over-the-air HD signals quickly, so I was also able to easily compare ATSC vs. QAM vs. satellite signals. Personally, I thought that the ASTC signals looked slightly cleaner and more robust from my roof antenna than they did from either cable HD or satellite HD signals. That said, however, both cable and satellite provided me with all of my local channels in HD, so it’s a tradeoff. In each case, the JVC HD-61FN97 produced sparkling HD signals.

Certainly, the HD-61FN97 produced high-definition images from my EchoStar Satellite HD set-top box via an HDMI connection with Monster Cable’s M Series M1000HD HDMI cable viewing HDNet, DiscoveryHD Theater, HBO-HD, StrarzHD, and Showtime-HD, among other HD channels. Colors were vibrant, lifelike and looked quite natural. Watching original programming like The Tudors (shot in HD) on Showtime, for example, makes it very apparent that you are watching HD as the program source, because it has a more film-like appearance in HD than SD. While noise and digital artifacts are somewhat visible in SD, they’re nonexistent in HD; as you toggle back and forth, it really becomes apparent. In HD, the images truly come to life, as they appear somewhat flat in SD. Think of it as comparing images that are 2-dimensional to those that are 3-dimensional. In HD, the images “pop” right off the screen.

JVC HD-61FN97 RemoteOf course, premium movie channels also broadcast the audio portion of the program in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, which further enhances the viewing experience. Programming like Lost allows you to become part of the island, with its myriad of different sounds on ABC-HD. On HBO-HD, The Sopranos looked absolutely stunning (maybe a bit too realistic for some tastes!). Of course, the same could be said of C.S.I. Miami on CBS-HD, or Heroes on NBC-HD.

Of course, in the evaluation of any next-generation television, you need to attach an HD DVD player and/or a Blu-ray Disc DVD player to obtain the possible visual images from a video source component. For this evaluation, I used both the Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD player and the LG Super MultiBlue BH100 player, which plays back both Blu-ray and HD DVDs; however, in this instance, it was used strictly for Blu-ray movies. HDMI connections were used for all, with the Monster M1000HD HDMI cabling. All types of program material—from animation to action-packed, special effects-laden films—including standard DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray were employed.

The images reproduced on the HD-61FN97 were quite spectacular, especially with recent “blockbuster” movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (BD), Casino Royale (BD), Ghost Rider: Extended Cut (BD), Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut (BD), Blood Diamond (HD DVD), Miami Vice (HD DVD), The Matrix Trilogy (HD DVD), and Peter Jackson’s King Kong (HD DVD), among others. Animated films, like Chicken Little (BD), Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, (BD), and Happy Feet (HD DVD) looked terrific also! Standard-definition DVDs—including the recently released Walt Disney’s The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh: Friendship Edition, along with Mary Poppins: 40th Anniversary Edition—looked simply stunning. Musicals like the That’s Entertainment Collection and Celtic Woman: A New Journey are also very telling. Other films, such as Underworld: Evolution (BD), for example, are perfect films to put on a MicroDisplay HDTV because some of these displays have trouble with black and dark scenes. The images were very, very film-like in their presentation, capable of displaying different shades of black. The bottom line was that the displayed optical disc images were especially compelling and lifelike; dark areas of the screen were not washed out or gray-looking.

I also put on the new Silicon Optix’s HQV Benchmark test discs for Blu-ray and HD DVD, which add various tests—including those for “jaggies.” Essentially, “jaggies” are produced if a display cannot properly lock onto an image and the image blurs slightly. Good examples are how the viewing stands look as a speeding race car drives by or the American flag blows in the breeze. I am happy to report that the JVC HD-61FN97 performed much better than average here also.

Conclusion:

JVC is one of the few companies that continue to produce MicroDisplay rear-projection TVs. Personally, I am a fan of these rear-pro models, and they offer a terrific value for the money. For the TV and movie fan that wants the “big picture” for TV and movies, the JVC HD-61FN97 is an excellent choice. If you were in the market for a 61-inch, 1080p flat-panel TV (either LCD or plasma), it would cost more than twice the price of this set. So, I ask: why go the flat-panel route? If you’re not hanging anything on the wall, it really doesn’t matter. Put this set on a base (with storage for all your gear), and it looks like a flat-panel from the front anyway. Also, MicroDisplay images look good in a well-lit room.

The displayed HD images from satellite (EchoStar), cable, and over-the-air broadcasts (via antenna) appeared quite natural and lifelike. Contrast and brightness were quite good. HD-ILA is now in its fifth generation, and it’s one of three rear-projection micro-display technologies currently available (and JVC is one of two companies—the other is Sony—that offer 3-chip LCoS-type technology). The 1080p images from next-generation optical disc formats like HD DVD and Blu-ray looked exceptionally good also.

Is this set perfect? No. It’s a little bigger than most rear-projection MicroDisplays today. Also, it does not include HDMI 1.3a, but only a handful of 2007 TV models do anyway, and it won’t detract from your overall viewing experience (as cable TV, satellite TV, and many next-generation optical disc players don’t yet include HDMI v.1.3a).

Pros:

• 1080p screen resolution
• Excellent picture quality
• Fully featured
• Easy-to-use remote

Cons:

• Deeper than most micro-display rear-projections at 19 inches
• HDMI version 1.2a—not HDMI version 1.3
• No backlighting on the remote

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