Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs LCD HDTVs
Written by Adrienne Maxwell   
Monday, 01 December 2008

Given the iPod’s huge impact on nearly every segment of the home entertainment space, it’s surprising that TV manufacturers have not embraced direct iPod integration en masse. Sure, many have embraced the integration of digital media in general, through USB ports, memory-card readers, and streaming media. But few have taken an iPod-specific approach. Maybe that’s because many of the big names in TV also sell Windows-based PCs, and they’d really prefer you stream your music and videos via that platform. Whatever the reason, JVC has decided to buck the trend and develop a complete line of LCD HDTVs that feature an integrated iPock docking station through which you can listen to your music library and watch your videos, including copy-protected content purchased from the iTunes Store. The integrated approach seems convenient enough, but is it really a better solution than a standalone dock or the Apple TV?

Features and Set-up
TeleDock is the name JVC has given to its integrated iPod dock, and the TeleDock line of LCDs includes four models ranging in size from 32 to 52 inches. The LT-47P789 is a 47-inch, 1080p model with an MSRP of $2,199.99. Remove the TeleDock feature, and these TVs would probably qualify as JVC’s entry-level models, since they lack advanced features like 120Hz technology or the company’s new Super Slim cabinet design. The LT-47P789’s aesthetic is decent but nothing to get overly excited about; the TV sports a glossy black cabinet, a matching rectangular base, and two speakers that run along the bottom. Take a closer look at the large JVC logo that sits in between the two speakers, and you’ll realize that’s the TeleDock in its folded-up position. Manually lower the dock into place, add your iPod, and you’re set to go.

The TV’s left side panel includes controls for input, menu, channel, volume, and power, as well as a USB port for JPEG playback only. The back panel features three HDMI, two component video, one S-video, two composite video, and one RF input to access the internal ATSC, NTSC, and Clear-QAM tuners. There’s no PC input, nor does the LT-47P789 offer picture-in-picture functionality. The supplied remote is a bit bulky for my small hands, but its buttons are laid out in a logical manner. It lacks backlighting and puts mostly black buttons on a black background, but at least the button names are white. Near the top of the remote, you’ll find five input buttons: The first three are dedicated to the HDMI inputs, while the other two scroll you through the remaining input options.

The LT-47P789’s video-setup options also reveal its step-down nature. The menu lacks many of the advanced controls you’ll find in a higher-end LCD, such as precise white balance, gamma, and color management. The basics are here, though: four picture modes (standard, dynamic, game, and theater), three color-temperature options (cool, natural, and warm), digital and MPEG noise reduction, and a 100-step adjustable backlight, to name a few. You also get a few specialized settings, like dynamic gamma, general color management, and “smart picture” to automatically adjust image brightness – all of which I turned off. For each input, you can set different parameters for each picture mode. I tried following my normal video-setup procedure with the LT-47P789, using test patterns from Video Essentials and Digital Video Essentials (DVD International) to set color, tint, brightness, contrast, and sharpness, and I got some troublesome results. I chose the Theater picture mode and the Warm color temperature, which with test patterns was still cooler than the reference 6,500 Kelvin. I had to set the color abnormally high to make the color-bar test pattern look right, and I had to turn the contrast (called picture) way down to prevent the TV from crushing whites. Also, the TV’s black level floats and is dramatically affected by overall picture brightness, which makes it very difficult to set the brightness control properly. Edge enhancement is a concern if you set the sharpness (called detail) control too high, but it was not a problem at the minimum setting through the HDMI inputs (through the component inputs, some edge enhancement still exists at the minimum detail setting). At the minimum backlight setting, the LT-47P789 still produces a nice amount of light output but only an average black level. With black and gray test patterns, the screen had some uniformity issues, with the sides being brighter than the center.

The TV has a solid number of aspect ratios, including four options for SD sources (panorama, cinema, regular, and full) and five for HD sources (full, panorama zoom, cinema zoom, slim, and full native). The full native mode shows 1080i and 1080p sources with zero overscan. 

Over in the audio realm, the LT-47P789 includes four preset sound modes (speech, jazz, classic, and rock), plus a user mode with a five-band equalizer to tailor the audio output to your liking. There’s also a generic surround mode, with options for movie, music, news, and mono. The TV does sport an optical digital audio output, and you can dictate whether you want to send PCM or Dolby Digital to an external sound system.

Television and Movies
Given the issues I encountered during video setup, I entered my real-world evaluations with some skepticism about the LT-47P789’s performance. With Blu-ray and HDTV content, it was immediately evident that the TV needed further picture adjustment. Those awkward settings that looked right with test patterns were not right with real-world content. Colors were oversaturated, and blacks and whites (especially blacks) were still being crushed. Using my reference LCD as a guide, I further tweaked the color, brightness, and picture (contrast) controls, and ultimately I was much happier with the results. When set up properly, the LT-47P789’s color actually looks pleasingly natural. Blue leans a bit cyan, but otherwise the color points are close to those of my accurate reference display. Greens, in particular, don’t have that cartoonish, neon quality that we see so often in flat panels. As for color temperature, the JVC’s Warm mode is still somewhat cool with brighter content: Bright whites have a bluish tint, and there’s some red push in skintones, but it’s not excessive. With darker content, the LT-47P789’s color temperature is more accurate: The nighttime skies in The Corpse Bride (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), for instance, did not veer overly blue but had a neutral palette.

With HD sources, the TV has excellent detail. And, even at a minimum backlight setting, it’s capable of great light output, which makes the TV a good fit for a brighter room. These factors, combined with the pleasing color, enabled the JVC to excel with HDTV signals – especially sports programming and brightly lit sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother and The Office. These traits also paid dividends with brighter scenes in Blu-ray discs like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), Ghost Rider (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), and Kingdom of Heaven (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment). In the processing realm, the LT-47P789 passes the 1080i video and film tests on the HD HQV Benchmark Blu-ray disc (Silicon Optix), which means it correctly deinterlaces 1080i content and picks up the 3:2 cadence in film sources. With my Blu-ray player set for 1080i output, the JVC cleanly rendered the staircase in the opening of chapter eight of Mission Impossible III (Paramount Home Video), which can be filled with moiré if a TV’s processing is sub-par. At the end of the chapter six of Ghost Rider, there’s a clear shot of the front of an RV, whose grille can also show moiré. The JVC didn’t render the grille as cleanly as my reference display, but otherwise it did a nice job with 1080i film content. Likewise, it ably handled my 1080i video-based test: a DVR recording of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Whereas many TVs struggle with all the diagonal white lines and stripped shirts in this demo, the JVC’s performance was on par with the better models I’ve seen.

When I moved to standard-definition content, the LT-47P789 did a solid job upconverting 480i DVD and SDTV signals to its native 1080p resolution, producing a fair amount of detail. However, it was a bit less reliable in the deinterlacing department. With the HQV Benchmark DVD (Silicon Optix), the JVC was a little slow to pick up the 3:2 cadence, and it couldn’t pass many of the advanced cadence tests. With my Gladiator DVD (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) demo, it didn’t produce any blatant moiré, but there were more jaggies in the many diagonals of the Coliseum archways. Likewise, while it passed the torturous Venetian blind test in chapter four of The Bourne Identity (Universal Home Video), the TV created more jaggies than usual in my demo. During casual viewing of SDTV and DVD sources, though, I didn’t notice a lot of artifacts, but you may want to mate the TV with a good progressive-scan or upconverting DVD player just to be safe. Digital noise was occasionally evident in darker-colored backgrounds and light-to-dark transitions, but it wasn’t excessive; the digital noise reduction control does a nice job reducing noise without softening the picture. The MPEG noise reduction, meanwhile, clearly softens the image and should be avoided.

Next, I reached for my iPod to try out the TeleDock. The TV does not automatically detect the insertion of an iPod and launch the necessary onscreen control interface. You must press the remote’s iPod button, which pulls up a simple onscreen menu with options for Music Play, Music Shuffle Play, and Video Play. The Music Play function launches the first song in your song library and will play the entire catalog sequentially, while Music Shuffle Play shuffles through your song library. Likewise, the Video Play option begins with the first video in your video library. Using the JVC remote’s transport controls, you can play, pause, or stop tracks, fast-forward or rewind, and skip tracks (using the left/right arrow buttons). During music playback, the TV screen shows artist, song, and time information; I’d like to see an option to have the screen go black to save energy. Unfortunately, the onscreen menu isn’t advanced enough to display your actual iPod menus, so you can’t select playlists or search for specific songs or videos. Navigating video content is a less-than-intuitive process. The owner’s manual is vague on the subject, but through trial and error I figured out that the remote’s up/down buttons move you through video categories (movies, TV shows, music videos) while the left/right buttons move you through episodes. If you’ve loaded many different TV shows onto your iPod, there’s no way to easily jump to the next show within the TV Show category; you have to skip through every episode of one show to get to the next show on the list. JVC has provided a workaround to address the limitations of the onscreen menu: Pressing the remote’s PCON button gives you the ability to manually navigate the iPod directly from the device itself while still using the JVC remote to control volume, stop, pause, etc. If you wish to view photos stored on your iPod, you must be in PCON mode, and you can only view the photos as a slideshow. Overall, the PCON method does give you more navigation flexibility, but it also means you have to physically walk over to the TV to change selections, which defeats at least one benefit of the integrated dock.

When accessing iPod content, you can scroll between the TV’s different picture and sound modes, but you can’t make any fine adjustments. Obviously, image quality is highly dependent on the quality of the source material in your iTunes library. Episodes of Californication and House that I purchased from the iTunes Store looked pretty good – they were certainly cleaner and possessed better detail and color than I get through my standard iPod dock with S-video output. The iPod display screen has its own four aspect-ratio options (regular, full, 4:3 mini, and 16:9 mini), none of which correctly fills the entire screen without improperly stretching the image. If your iPod is set to output video in widescreen mode, you’re going to get a window box with bars on every side; there’s an aspect ratio to stretch the sides but not one to zoom in on the window to fill the whole screen – even though this mode does exist in the TV’s general aspect-ratio options. On the plus side, the TeleDock charges your iPod while docked.

The Downside
The LT-47P789 exhibits some common LCD issues. This TV does not use 120Hz to reduce motion blur and render smoother movement with film sources. With test patterns from my FPD Benchmark Software Blu-ray disc, the LT-47P789 showed obvious blur in most of the moving patterns, and I noticed some green trails behind characters in darker patterns. I’ve seen other LCDs that exhibit more blur; still, if you’re sensitive to blur, you will likely see it in faster-moving sports and action programs on this TV. As with many LCDs, the JVC’s viewing angle is average; the picture is watchable at wider angles, but it loses a lot of depth and saturation when you move just 45 degrees off axis.

The LT-47P789’s black level isn’t as deep as you’ll see in the better high-end LCD panels, so the picture lacks that extra depth and richness that accompany a truly deep black. Especially with DVD and Blu-ray content, blacks are gray, and darker scenes can look slightly washed out. Plus, the screen-uniformity issue I noticed with test patterns, in which the outer edges of the screen are brighter than the middle, was evident with darker DVD demo scenes from Ladder 49 and Lost: The Complete Second Season (both Buena Vista Home Entertainment). More problematic than the overall black level are the TV’s floating blacks. When dealing with scenes that are mostly dark, like the smoke-filled rescue in Ladder 49 (chapter 10) and the opening of The Bourne Supremacy (Universal Home Video), the LT-47P789’s ability to show fine black detail is average; however, when both bright and dark images are on screen at the same time, black detail is consistently crushed. For instance, in a scene from Heroes on NBC HD, one character’s face was slightly in shadow, with a bright light behind it. All of the fine details in the face (which were evident on my reference display) were crushed. This issue isn’t as pronounced with brighter HDTV shows that use basic lighting, but it takes on greater significance when we’re talking about DVD and Blu-ray movies with lots of rich, complex shading. These black-level, uniformity, and shading issues make it difficult for the JVC to compete with higher-end panels as a true theater display.

More so, I sometimes noticed a ghosting effect, in which traces of images would remain on the screen. After I ejected one of my Silicon Optix test discs, I could still see a trace of the SI logo on the screen. In the final scene of a C.S.I. episode, ghosts of the scene remained as the show faded to commercial break. This isn’t a plasma TV, so it’s not a phosphor issue that can lead to burn-in. It looks more like the TV’s processor is holding the image, so the traces do go away when something new is put up on the screen. Still, it’s an odd issue that I’ve seldom seen to this extent with an LCD.

The LT-47P789’s HDMI inputs do not accept 1080p/24 signals. This used to be a common trait, but I rarely encounter a new TV that does not accept 1080p/24. Since the JVC can’t do different frame rates, like 120Hz, the ability to accept 1080p/24 isn’t as important. It does mean that, when shopping for a Blu-ray player, you need to make sure you get one that has good internal processing to output a 1080p/60 signal.

Finally, the TV doesn’t remember to stay in the full native aspect ratio with 1080i and 1080p content; for instance, if you turn off the TV or if you switch to a 480i or 720p channel and then go back to a 1080i channel, the TV defaults back to the full aspect-ratio mode. You have to constantly remember to switch back to full native, which is frustrating.

The idea of integrating an iPod dock into a TV makes perfect sense. However, in this case, neither the TV’s performance nor the TeleDock implementation is as good as it could be. Both are solid offerings, but both have some definite flaws. The TeleDock can provide a better-looking image than an external iPod dock with S-video or composite video output only, it has a convenient integrated form factor, and it allows for basic control of your iPod with the TV remote; however, the onscreen navigation system lacks the flexibility and intuitiveness you’ll get from an external device like the Apple TV or DLO’s HomeDock products. As for picture quality, the LT-47P789 requires careful setup but can render an attractive image, with natural color, excellent detail, and good overall contrast. It’s not an ideal theater display, but the LT-47P789 is a solid choice for use as an everyday or second-room TV, especially for someone who watches a lot of HDTV. If we go strictly by the $2,199.99 MSRP, the LT-47P789 must compete against higher-end 120Hz models that offer better all-around performance; however, the real-world price is closer to $1,500, which is more realistic for this TV’s performance and features.
Manufacturer JVC
Model LT-47P789 LCD HDTV
Reviewer Adrienne Maxwell
Diagonal Screen Size 43 to 56-inches

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