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JVC HD-61Z575 HD-ILA HDTV Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 March 2005
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ImageWhen looking for a large TV, the usual suspects that are on the top of most people’s wish lists are plasmas, rear-projection DLPs, rear-projection LCDs and the ever-growing but still very expensive large direct view LCD displays. One technology that is sometimes overlooked is LCOS, which stands for Liquid Crystal On Silicon. Essentially a hybrid of LCD and DLP, LCOS uses liquid crystals that are applied to a reflective mirror; the light is modulated by the liquid crystals as it passes through them. DLP, on the other hand, uses a reflective technology that bounces the light either towards or away from the light by tilting the mirrors. JVC uses a type of LCOS called D-ILA, which stands for Direct-Drive Image Light Amplifier, in their rear projection TVs and stand-alone projectors. D-ILA uses three chips, one for red, one for green and one for blue, unlike DLP’s spinning color wheel.

The HD61Z575 is the largest TV in the current JVC lineup of HD-ILA TVs. It features three-chip D-ILA technology and has a seemingly endless list of features, including four-point color management, dynamic gamma correction circuitry, an HDMI/HDCP digital input, dual auto-sensing component-video inputs and JVC's D.I.S.T 720p (Digital Image Scaling Technology) and 75 MHz Digital Super Detail (DSD) Circuitry. The set features four sets of analog inputs, along with an HDMI-compatible input with HDCP (High Definition Content Protection) that offers an uncompressed digital connection for the transmission and display of high-definition audio/video signals. An NTSC tuner offers split-screen and multi-screen PIP viewing. The native resolution of the TV is 1280x720 for true HD resolution and the available aspect modes include 16:9, panorama, full-screen and cinema zoom.

Despite being a 61-inch set, the HD61Z575 will fit into more living rooms and media centers than you might guess. Many wives or girlfriends may cringe when the delivery truck arrives with a TV this large inside it, but sports nuts and movie junkies will begin salivating. If you haven’t kept up on what has been happening in rear projection TVs, you will be hard-pressed to believe that the delivery man was actually able to pick up the TV box and drag it into my home all by himself. I had to take the hinges off my door for him to get it inside, but weighing in at less than 100 pounds, the days of needing to bribe a small army of friends or neighbors to help you move the TV if an S Video cable falls out of the back are over. Picking up this TV is a simple job for even two moderately strong people. The exact dimensions of the set are 41.125 inches tall, 57.375 inches wide and 18.625 inches deep, with a total weight of 98 pounds.
Performance was important to me when purchasing a new TV. However, in the real world, other factors sometimes end up weighing more heavily than how good the TV looks. In my case, I had a predetermined space that I needed to fit a TV into and I wanted to find one that was a perfect fit, so that I could maximize the media niche in my home yet still allow room for air to pass by on the sides and allow myself to get my fingers along the sides just enough to grab the TV should it need to be moved. Using my trusty tape measure at a handful of audio/video retailers around Southern California, I found the best combination of perceived picture quality and a TV that was a perfect fit for my theater in the JVC HD61Z575.

Initial Reactions
With the TV set up and ready with the from-the-factory settings, I began to plug various sources into the TV with mixed results. I have heard stories about people being incredibly disappointed with their huge rear-projection TVs. This is most likely because these types of TVs are very much source-dependent. Analog cable or a poor over-the-air standard definition TV signal can look awful. Have any old VCR tapes that you want to watch? Sure, they will play, but every piece of video noise and grain in the tape is going to get magnified and will stick out like a sore thumb on a such a fantastically resolute new TV set. Remember those little flickers at the bottom of the screen when the tracking is bad? Imagine those at twice or three times the size.

I got my satellite dish hooked up to the TV and was not blown away at first glance. First off, there is a difference to watching any direct view picture that requires a period of adjustment. During my first few weeks of owning the TV, I spent many hours trying to figure out if the standard def picture could be improved upon. Because my house has a central hub for all of the Internet and satellite connections, and a series of satellite switches, I changed out coax cables and connectors that were included with my basic satellite installation. This improved the picture incrementally, but what I finally came to learn was that when I want to get the optimum picture out of a standard def program from my Dish Network satellite service, I have to go into the set-up menus of my Dish Network HD receiver and tell it to specifically output 480p, then watch the TV on an S-Video input. This takes some extra time, so when I’m just channel surfing and flipping between SD and HD broadcasts, I keep the receiver in 1080i mode, which the TV down-converts to 720p through the HDMI digital input. The standard def picture suffers and looks a little blurred, but the HD looks amazing in most cases.

What this experience made me realize is why I visit so many homes that have HDTVs that look absolutely horrible. Combine the complexity of getting the correct output signal from the receiver to the TV with the fact that most people want to “fill up” their 16:9 aspect ratio TVs with 4:3 programming in stretch mode, and you quickly learn that there are many ways to make an HD set look pretty lame. The trick is to learn how to get the optimum setting and aspect ratio on the screen for each source.

Professional Calibration
Out of the box after finding the optimum setting for watching SD and HD programming, the set looked pretty good, and I lived with my own settings for a while. However, the next level of performance was achieved when ISF certified calibrator David Abrams came in to calibrate the set. He found the colors to be amazingly accurate straight out of the box and, after fine-tuning this, he next went to work improving the grayscale and black levels. One of LCOS’s weaknesses is its lower black levels and, despite being calibrated, there are simply some limitations to this technology and this, combined with a slightly weak video processor, causes moments in very dark scenes where the TV stumbles. On standard definition signals, when an image has a gradient that moves from dark to light, often you will see steps rather than a completely smooth transition from dark to light. This can also happen occasionally on HD broadcasts, typically in scenes with darker backgrounds, but it is rare.

Abrams also found that while my new TV comes equipped with technologies like Dynamic Gamma Correction and Digital Noise Clear Circuitry, the set performed better with these setting simply turned to “off.” Video technologies like these certainly make for an interesting demo at the store and make the picture look different when you select them, but that does not mean that they make the picture look better.

Doing my own research, looking at hundreds of sets in various locations around the Los Angeles area, I found time and time again that no matter how the TVs were set up, any time I ran across the JVC HD61Z575, the colors seemed to be more natural that those of the other sets around it. When the calibration was being performed, it turns out that the factory settings for color were almost spot-on to ISF specifications. This is not to say that all of these TVs will come this way, but this was definitely a factor as to why I found this TV to have the most realistic colors, compared to the DLP and LCD rear-projection sets I looked at in stores.

Another thing I learned during the calibration process was the obscene amount of light output this TV was able to achieve. This makes TVs like this stand out in the showroom vs. others, but ultimately too much light causes fine details to get washed out. Without touching a thing, the TV was outputting an average of somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 foot lamberts, which is a measurement of light output for a display. The ISF standard is 30, so out of the box the HD61Z575 was about five times too bright. Many people feel that ISF calibrated displays tend to be on the dark side and they adjust for only optimum room settings. My room gets a lot of ambient light during the day and I typically don’t like to watch at night in the dark, so Abrams adjusted the TV to average 50 foot lamberts. The brightness at the edges of the screen rolls off just slightly, as do most rear-projection units, but the amount is hardly noticeably to the untrained eye. The viewing angle is much wider than any rear-projection set that I have seen before, so much that I can sit at my kitchen table that is almost at a 90-degree angle to the TV and still see what is on the screen.

Each of the five video inputs has their own settings for picture and sound. After tweaking some internal settings in the service menu that affect the TV across the board, Abrams then went into each of the input menus and optimized the picture settings for each input. JVC has four picture options for each input, including “standard,” “dynamic,” “movie” and “game.” The “Movie “and “Game” settings were left as is and Abrams made the “standard” setting optimized for dark room viewing. I then took his settings and lightened them up a touch on the “dynamic” setting for watching during the daytime or when the room’s lights are on.

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