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JVC HD-61FN97 HD-ILA HDTV Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 September 2007
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ImageIf you are in the market for a rear-projection TV, chances are you have heard the terms DLP, LCD, SXRD and maybe HD-ILA. DLP’s commercials brag about “millions of tiny mirrors” that produce an HD picture with a spinning color wheel. Although the color wheels in single-chip DLP sets are getting faster and have more segments than they did just a few years ago, I believe the more moving parts that a TV has, the greater the chance for errors, such as the “screen door” and “rainbow” effects, as well as long-term maintenance problems. LCD direct-view TVs are currently the hottest thing on the market, but rear-projection LCD TVs never gained popularity and had a soft picture and weak black levels.

Sony’s current rear-projection technology is called SXRD and is a three-chip micro-display technology that uses liquid crystals instead of individual mirrors. JVC has their own “flavor” of this liquid crystal on silicone technology, called HD-ILA, which is used in their line of rear-projection HDTVs and front projectors.

The $2,995 61-inch JVC HD-61FN97 HDTV features three HD-ILA chips, each with 1920x1080 resolution, meaning there are a total of six million pixels in each set. JVC has had “1080p” television sets, but up until these fifth-generation models appeared, there were no native 1080p sets that would accept a 1080p signal from a source such as a Blu-ray player or next-generation HD DVD player. This is the first JVC rear-projection line that accepts 1080p at its native rate. There are also 56-inch and 70-inch models in this line, all with the same inputs and specs other than screen size. The FN series has gold connectors on the back and RS-232 inputs, whereas the slightly lowerpriced FH series does not, but they share the same specs otherwise.

Speaking of screen size, the 61-inch JVC has slimmed down over previous models, mainly due to a much smaller bezel around the screen. Previous JVC models had a large band around the screen that was well over an inch thick. This series has only about a quarter inch of black space, resulting in overall dimensions of 55-and-one-quarter inches wide by 40 inches tall and 19 inches deep. Despite the large screen size, the TV has a weight of only 99 pounds. The 56-inch version weighs 91 pounds and the 70-inch weighs 157 pounds.
Inputs are quite abundant on the HD-61FN97 with the only notable shortcoming being the fact that there are only two 1080p-compatible HDMI with HDCP digital inputs. If you don’t have an external HDMI switcher and have more than two HD sources, there are two component video inputs. To save space, JVC piggybacked composite and S-Video onto analog inputs one and two, so they are shared with the component cable inputs. Additionally, input number three can accept composite, S-Video, or a 15-pin VGA signal. The VGA input is a great option for connecting your computer directly to the TV to use as a computer monitor, but the fact that it’s on the back of the set, rather than under a hidden front door flap, makes such that I never found myself compelled to pull my TV out of the cabinet to hook up a VGA cable once I had gotten my system set up and installed into my wall unit. If you plan to use a computer on this TV frequently, I suggest hooking up a long VGA cable to the back in advance and coiling up the wire behind the TV, so you can easily pull it out when needed. Another option, if your computer supports it, would be to use a DVI to HDMI adapter. A Macbook Pro is capable of outputting a 1920x1080 signal to the JVC, whereas the VGA input will only accept up to an 800x600 resolution.

A cable card slot rounds out the back and allows you not to use a cable box. However, I have found cable card slots to be used quite infrequently. Most people with big screen TVs who are cable subscribers opt for the combination cable box/DVR, so that they can record shows in HD to watch at a later time.

Last but not least, on the back of the set, there are two FireWire I/Os, one RF antenna input, one RF for digital cable and ATSC signals, one monitor output with S-Video and composite video, a stereo audio output, and a digital optical audio output. For those of you with a video camera who want to plug in to the TV temporarily, there is a set of composite video jacks on the right side of the set that are easy to access.

The technical features of the set include single tuner, picture-in-picture and, if another tuner is used from a cable box or satellite receiver, the user can view two shows at the same time. To access this feature, JVC labeled their remote control with the very confusing button “Twin.” I think “PIP” or “picture in picture” might have been a better choice, but nonetheless, it has this useful feature that is loved by sports gambling addicts around the world. An internal tuner allows you to pick up over-the-air HD and standard-def channels, should you desire.

From a picture control standpoint, the JVC offers a bevy of features, most of which my calibrator opted not to use, but more on that later. The “Natural Cinema” mode automatically activates the 2:3 pull-down circuit when necessary, to smoothly convert film material that was filmed at 24 frames per second to 30 frames per second video. As a user, you will not need to change any setting for this, as the TV automatically senses when this circuit needs to activate and, when using the car race test scene on the Silicon Optix HD DVD disc, this TV’s 2:3 pull-down ability was very good.

New to this model is the inclusion of an adjustable iris for improved black levels, if adjusted properly in conjunction with the contrast control. JVC calls this iris control “Advanced Super Cinema Mode.” Internally, JVC touts the performance of their GENESSA “D.I.S.T” (digital image scaling technology) chip. According to JVC, this 32-bit, “turbo”-powered chip detects and seamlessly up-scales all SD sources (480i and 480p) and all HD sources (720p or 1080i) and displays at 1080p.

Other picture control options include JVC exclusive 5 Point Color Management, Intelligent Noise Reduction Circuitry, Block Noise Suppressor, Mosquito Noise Suppressor, 3D Y/C Digital Comb Filter w/ Component Cross Color Eliminator, Motion Adaptive Dynamic Gamma Correction and Digital Noise Clear Circuitry.

The remote is the same as it has been for the previous models of JVC TVs. It’s backlit and decent, but I’d recommend a programmable remote like a Logitech Harmony, so you can disregard many of the normally unnecessary buttons on the factory remote. Just keep it handy in case you need to do some tweaking to the TV.

In terms of built-in audio, the JVC is not bad at all. Two 10cm Oblique Cone Speakers with 10 watts per channel, JVC “Maxx Bass” technology and an AC-3 Digital Audio Decoder make for a TV that sounds quite good when you just want to plop down on the couch, turn the TV on and don’t want to hassle with listening through your full theater system. I found I do this most often at night when I don’t want to wake the neighbors.

As you would expect with a TV this size, the box it comes in is huge, but despite its awkward size, two able-bodied people can easily carry the TV. I wouldn’t suggest trying to bring it up a large stairway without professional help, but the entrance to my house has only a few small steps, so I was able to bribe a friend into helping me with this. We were able to get the set into my house, out of the box and in the place where my previous JVC model was in a matter of 15 minutes.

The connections on the back are clearly labeled and the included instruction manual is quite easy to follow. One important thing that anyone with a rear-projection TV should note is the importance of having the set on some kind of back-up battery system. If the power to your house goes out and you have a rear-projection TV (or front projector for that matter), the bulb can burn out instantly from overheating if the internal fan turns off. Whether you opt for a $99 APC battery back-up, or a $2,500 Pure Power APS power conditioner, which features battery back-up, I recommend you get something for your set. Also, you should never unplug the set until the fan has gone through the full cool-down cycle.

Now with the TV set up and about 40 hours of watching under the bulb’s belt to burn it in, it was time to calibrate the TV.

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