JVC QP-F70AL review

An extra speaker helps the JVC stand out

Our Verdict

if you find it discounted and think you can live without a HDD, there's still plenty to enjoy

The QP-F70AL stands out from the crowd by virtue of being a 6.1 system. The extra rear centre speaker should create a more natural surround experience, and place overhead effects directly behind the listening area.

With smart twin main units and four elegant 'tall boy' speakers, the JVC is also arguably the best-looking setup here. The units boast silver and chrome-effect styling, complemented by a blue backlight.

Disk disappointment

The QP-F70AL can record onto both DVD-RAM and DVD-R/RW discs - two of the three rival recording formats - but sadly it doesn't boast a HDD. A serious limit to recording flexibility, this seems a little unreasonable at £1,000.

Still, it does offer a good set of features when recording to disc. As with the other systems here, there are four main recording modes - XP (1hr), SP (2hrs), LP (4hrs) and EP (6hrs) - plus there's a Free Rate option that can boost recording time to 8hrs. The system can also automatically optimise the recording mode to suit the space available. VideoPlus makes light work of timer recordings, and Live Memory allows you to watch the beginning of a programme while it is still being recorded (when using DVD-RAM discs).

At first glance, connections seem to cater for many requirements. There are prog scan-capable component outs, three Scarts, various audio ins and outs and a DV input for a digital camcorder. But closer inspection reveals a significant problem - the absence of an RGB Scart input. This means a digibox can only be connected via S-video or composite - leaving you with lower-quality video signals for making recordings.

Still, the QP-F70AL's audio options are among the most impressive in this test. It can handle 6.1 Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES soundtracks in addition to regular 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS, along with boasting Pro- Logic II and DTS NEO:6 for stereo sources. It can't play DVD-Audio discs, however - another disappointment at the price.

Scart attack

When it comes to recordings, the system is of course hampered by the lack of an RGB Scart input. That said, recordings from a digibox box connected via S-video were still impressive - fast-moving football from Sky Sports didn't show any sign of break-up or artefacting. What's more, our Desperate Housewives recording was still watchable in the lower-quality recording modes - if a little softly focused.

Thankfully there are no connections problems to hold the JVC back when it comes to pre-recorded DVDs. Pirates of the Caribbean looked particularly striking on our test-bench plasma TV via the component video outputs - the red coats of soldiers were retina-searingly vibrant and every detail aboard the undead pirate ship was frighteningly vivid.

The QP-F70AL is one of the strongest audio performers in its class. Surround effects from our test DVD are accurately placed - the sword-fight sequences were smooth and detailed - while the subwoofer backs up action-packed moments. It's difficult to quantify how much the 6.1 sound adds to a movie experience, but every now and then an effect passed behind us and we were glad the extra speaker was there.

There's a lot to recommend the QP-F70AL. It's one of the few one-box systems to offer 6.1 sound, its DVD pictures are very impressive and recordings are almost as good. Yet a couple of things let the side down - most notably the lack of a HDD and RGB Scart input. Which means that, at £1,000, this setup looks a bit costly. Still, if you find it discounted and think you can live without a HDD, there's still plenty to enjoy.