The debut range of InteriArt LCD TVs from JVC was impressive, but that was a while ago. Since then, othershave blazed new trails of design and picture quality, making us wonder what to expect from the first of JVC's new kids on the LCD block, the 17in LT-17C50BJ.
It's a real looker compared with most small-screen LCDs, 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 inputs able to take progressive scan (though not high-def). 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 provided Scarts can take RGB.
Things get a bit more 'real' when it comes to features. Aside from the already-covered PC and prog scan talents, noise reduction and adjustment of the brightness of the backlight are really the only interesting things we spotted. But let's not forget that this screen does cost only £600.
After a so-so bout of setting up, slightly spoilt by some hard to read on-screen menus, the LT-17C50BJ's performance proves the proverbial game of two halves. It is in its element with the bright scenes, such as Dodgeball's on-court scenes in the 'salacious 16' round, when the Average Joe's take on take on the Lumberjacks. Colours are extraordinarily vibrant, almost blistering our eyeballs with their intensity. Even better, they marry this with overwhelmingly and consistently natural tones.
Bright scenes also show off the JVC's hugely impressive fine detail talents, with even the most subtle of textures effortlessly - and noiselessly - portrayed. The fact that (a) colours are extremely disciplined about sticking within their proper borders and (b) even starkly contrasting edges are presented, with zero haloing, also helps.
A final good - but not quite spectacular - point is the screen's response time. It suffers less with smearing over movement than many a budget 17in rival.
While the LT-17C50BJ is well above average with bright scenes, it takes a tumble when the going gets dark. During the Dodgeball scene when White appears in Peter's dimly-lit hotel room to offer him $100,000 for the gym, there's a fundamental lack of contrast. It's 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 other low-contrast TVs. Matters aren't helped 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 and lessening the impact of depth-of-field shots. Crucially, we've definitely seen small rival screens handle black level better in recent times.
Even by the generally uninspiring standards of most 17in LCD TVs, the JVC's sound is pretty poor, with no bass leaving the soundstage thin. The puny speakers distort and phut at any sort of volumes, too - and these factors all affect ordinary TV viewing, not just a rambunctious movie soundtrack. You can use the provided subwoofer output - but it's difficult to imagine a subwoofer that would integrate tonally with a sound as tinny as that delivered by this TV.
JVC's LT-17C50BJ is not quite the return to form we had hoped for. Its great looks don't make up for its problems with contrast and sound but, given its PC and progressive scan capabilities, it seems a good value effort.