JVC LT32DS6 review

JVC joins the high-definition LCD battle in style

Our Verdict

A truly masterful set, with incredible clarity of detail

For

  • Fantastically detailed picture

Against

  • Blacks not quite deep enough

The future is going to be bigger, brighter and far more detailed, and it's almost upon us. We're talking about high-definition TV, of course, and this new LCD set from JVC is one sure-fire way of making sure you benefit from it.

JVC's designers have gone for a dark screen surround that contrasts nicely with the matt-silver chassis and an attractive, swivelling desktop stand.The looks are tasteful, rather than arresting, but there's the odd nice touch to set it apart from the rather homogeneous assortment of HD Ready flatscreens on the market. Our favourite is the hidden LED that casts a chic, diffuse blue glow onto a small area above the speakers.

On which subject, JVC has opted to arrange its four-driver system underneath the set, rather than sticking them on either side.This makes for a compact-looking TV and avoids the 'jug-eared' appearance of sets with sidemounted jobs. Wall-hangers with audio separates might have preferred detachable units, though. Still, the whole shebang fits together nicely and the aesthetics do the all-important job of suggesting high-end spec behind that pretty fascia.

The electronics and sockets are all built into the set, so there's no need for an external multimedia unit.This has the advantage of ensuring proper plug 'n' play credentials, but again, those who'd like to wall-mount the screen might be aggrieved at the potential mess of trailing wires that this arrangement could create.

The features most likely to make you feel like a chat with your bank manager are high-def readiness (via HDMI and a resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels), a built-in digital tuner and JVC's DynaPix processing suite.

The latter includes the famous DIST (Digital Image Scaling Technology) and DigiPure wizardry that matches pictures to the screen's resolution and ensures they are awesomely detailed, prettily coloured and possess plenty of contrast.

Ease of use

Setting up the LT32DS6 is easy.The automatic channel scan on the digital tuner takes just a couple of minutes to find and arrange the full Freeview experience.Once installed, each channel comes with a handy info bar that tells you what you're watching and what's on next, as well as other natty and pointless information like signal strength.

The tweaks are accessed through a thoughtfully designed and intuitive menu system that forsakes Philips-style graphical flash for simple, unambiguous navigation.The picture section gives you a comprehensive selection of sliders to muck around with, including two for brightness, and JVC has been big enough to permit you to switch off most if you prefer. Sound is similarly well served and both have the obligatory handful of presets.

JVC's previous LCDs have often hovered on the verge of true greatness, but just failed to attain it. This is the first with full HD spec, though, and the company is clearly aiming for top honours.

The initial signs are very encouraging. Freeview footage, which pleases and offends in equal measure, rates among the best we've seen on LCD. Anything shot on a reasonable budget looks invigoratingly crisp and well balanced, and benefits from a surprising richness in tone. Noise is almost entirely eradicated and the general performance wouldn't shame a decent CRT. Cheap, nasty rubbish still looks awful, but that's because it's cheap, nasty rubbish and its flaws are all too evident on a quality panel.

Standard definition DVDs via component heaps on plenty more of the good work.The Last Samurai, for example, looks wonderfully involving with its challenging palette getting an impressively accurate rendition. Most of this film is set outside, without any CGI enhancements, and this type of material can often trip up sets that can blithely render garish effects but struggle with 'real' things that have to look spot-on to convince.

With the JVC, the verdant hues of the Japanese hills are subtly textured and inflected with a colossal variety of hues and shades to create a finish that is incredibly life-like yet effortlessly cinematic. Prodigious detail adds to the effect, with enough background info and all-round resolution to make sure that what you see is resoundingly three-dimensional and all the more life-like for it.

Witness the grand battle scenes towards the end of the movie, for example: the wide shots of the body-strewn battlefield are picked out in awesome clarity, right down to the last sword-skewered corpse.

High-definition source material is better still. Our test footage of the egregious Yes in concert was horrifyingly clearly resolved, with every pore on frontman Jon Anderson's face plainly visible. It's difficult to describe what this quality of source looks like on a screen this good, other than to say that it just looks really... real. It's like having a miniature version of the Seventies prog-rockers in a fish-tank in your front-room.

As with just about every LCD, though, the JVC's ability with blacks is a chink in its armour. The deepest aren't quite solid enough and there's a tendency to fail to distinguish between varying shades, as evidenced by The Last Samurai's night-time ninja attack. Still, it's all supremely watchable and until a really black-savvy crystal set comes along,we won't regard it as a significant flaw.

Audio is also decent, with plenty of oomph and detail up and down the range. Our sample was susceptible to an audible speaker-buzz, but we suspect this was due to a knock in transit rather than an inherent flaw.

This is a splendid set and establishes JVC as a heavyweight in the new HDTV arena. More parsimonious buyers might gravitate to the far cheaper Hitachi 32LD7200, but this doesn't provide a digital tuner, justifying the JVC's price. When all is said and done, the LT32DS6 is emphatically equipped to take you into the immediate high-def future and beyond.