JVC got off to a flying start in the LCD TV game with its impressive 'InteriArt' debut range. But that was quite a while back now, and since then many rival brands have blazed new trails of design and picture quality - making us wonder if the first of JVC's new kids on the LCD block, the 17in LT-17C50BJ, stands as tall.
It's darned attractive at any rate, proudly bearing a glossy jet-black screen frame, offset cutely by an outer frame and speaker-bearing section clad in silver.
Connections have a big but pleasant surprise in store: a set of component video inputs able to take a progressive scan feed (though not a high definition one). More unusually good news comes from the inclusion of a 15-pin PC jack and a subwoofer line out, while we were also chuffed to find that both the provided Scarts can take RGB.
Things come back down to earth with a hunt for features on the 17C50BJ. Aside from the already-covered PC and progressive scan talents, noise reduction and adjustment of the brightness of the backlight are really the only interesting things we spotted. Let's not forget, though, that this screen only costs £600.
After a so-so bout of setting up - slightly spoilt by some hard-to-read onscreen menus - the 17C50BJ's performance proves the proverbial game of two halves.
The 17C50BJ is in its element with bright scenes. Colours are extraordinarily vibrant, blasting out of the screen and blistering your eyeballs with their intensity. Even better, they marry this intensity with overwhelmingly natural tones.
Bright scenes also show off the 17C50BJ's hugely impressive fine detail, with even the most subtle of textures effortlessly - and noiselessly - portrayed. The facts that colours are extremely well-disciplined about sticking within their proper borders, and that even starkly contrasting edges are presented with zero haloing, also go a long way in marking up this performer's score card.
A final good - though not quite spectacular - point about the 17C50BJ is the response time, as it suffers less with smearing over movement than many budget 17in rivals.
While the 17C50BJ is well above average with bright scenes, it takes a tumble when the going gets dark, due to a noticeable lack of contrast. It's seriously difficult to get anything resembling a good, deep black out of this screen, as dark scenes are overcome by the familiar greyness seen on countless low-contrast TVs before. Matters aren't helped on the 17C50BJ by what appears to be slight light spillage from the LCD lamp.
This all means dark images look much more one-dimensional and hollow than their bright counterparts, as well as looking low on background detail. Crucially, we've definitely seen small rival screens handle black levels better in recent times.
Even by the generally uninspiring standards of most 17in LCD TVs, the 17C50BJ's sound is pretty poor. There's absolutely no bass at all, leaving the soundstage terribly thin and prone to harshness. The puny speakers distort and phut at even minimal cranking of volume, too. These factors all affect ordinary TV viewing just as much as a rambunctious movie soundtrack. You can use the provided subwoofer output, but it's hard to imagine a sub that would integrate tonally with a sound as tinny as that delivered by this TV.
In the end, then, the 17C50BJ isn't quite the giant leap forward for JVC we'd hoped for. It looks pretty and is nicely priced - especially given its PC and progressive capabilities - but issues with contrast and weedy sound are hard to ignore. John Archer