A barrage of publicity following the shutting down of the analogue transmitters of two Carmarthenshire villages implies that the Government is firmly committed to its nationwide shutdown of analogue TV. Which adds resonance to any new IDTV coming on to market. So the arrival of JVC's latest 32in LCD TV with built-in digital tuner couldn't be more timely.
The LT-32D50BJ also couldn't be more easy on the eye. Although the combination of glossy black screen frame and silver outer frame/main chassis isn't exactly original, few manufacturers carry it off with such panache.
Connectivity on this JVC screen is a mixed bag. On the plus side, there's a set of component video inputs able to handle analogue high-definition and progressive scan sources. There are a couple of Scarts too, plus the digital aerial input, and a CAM slot for updating the TV's digital capabilities. But, perplexingly, there's no digital input of any sort, so the sets will not only be incompatible with Sky's high-definition broadcasts but not work with HDMI enabled DVD players, making them thus unworthy of the new industry-approved 'HD Ready' logo.
Going the DISTance
On the plus side, JVC's DIST (Digital Image Scaling Technology) picture processing system, for boosting the perception of detail levels in pictures (among other things) has come on very nicely - so it's pleasing to find it included here. The feature is now subsumed within a new 'Dynapix' umbrella name, though that also takes in tricks such as advanced colour management processing and JVC's Super Digipure system for smoothing motion, stopping edges looking overstressed during bright, high-contrast scenes, and making them clearer with low-contrast scenes.
Many of the sub-sections of Dynapix are individually adjustable within the LT-32D50BJ's pretty onscreen menus, and together with extra goodies like LCD lamp adjustment, a Movie Theatre mode for improving movement in films, and Picture Management for automatically adjusting the contrast and brightness to suit each particular scene, the LT-32D50BJ offers a sophisticated collection of picture tweaks indeed.
The picture flexibility of the JVC LT-32D50BJ is considerable, but if you're not careful, you can mess things up. So to get you started, here are the key settings I found to work best during my evaluation period. Picture Mode: Standard; Bright 1: about 55 percent; Contrast: About 50 percent; Bright 2: About 50 per cent; Colour temp: Normal; Digital VNR: Low; Super Digipure: Min; Movie Theatre: Auto; Colour and Picture Management: Both on.
Sound hasn't been forgotten in all the video shenanigans, though, with BBE processing and Active Hyper Bass among the quoted highlights.
Then there are the set's digital features. Naturally the screen is compatible with digital Teletext where available, and there's also Favourite channel listing support, plus a nicely presented electronic programme guide that is quick, and maintains a small version of the picture in the top left corner. The EPG has some rather serious limitations however, in that it doesn't support the seven-day listing system (just the old now/next approach), and has no genre searching.
In terms of specifications, the figures quoted bode well. The panel boasts an HD-friendly native resolution of 1,366 x 768 for starters (though this makes me rue the missing digital connection all the more). The claimed contrast ratio of 1,000:1 sounds good too.
In general use, the LT-32D50BJ doesn't disappoint. The picture is luminously bright, searing off the screen, and this contributes to a high contrast level.
Colour reproduction is enthusiastic. Its well saturated images make the real world seem heinously drab by comparison. The set shows the world in the joyously technicoloured way I'd ideally like it to be - especially with DVD and analogue high-definition sources.
The amount of fine detail on show is outstanding. Every pore or hair on close ups is clearly visible, with the texture of background scenes almost tangible. The viewing experience from this screen is intense, involving and solid - especially as images are seldom softened up by any smearing commonly caused by poor LCD response times.
Even digital tuner pictures manage to look sharp, belying the softness that characterises many digital channels. So far so good. But the LT-32D50BJ isn't perfect. The screen struggles to find a decent black response. The black level tends to bottom out during dark scenes.
So, for instance, the opening shots of the interior spaceship in Alien (HD via analogue component inputs) tend to look distinctly greyed over in their darkest nooks and crannies. This indicates that there's a slight detail shortfall in dark areas that not even some exemplary grey scaling and the ever-present effervescence of the lighter end of the colour spectrum can wholly compensate for.
The LT-32D50BJ's audio talents are substantial for the vast majority of TV viewing, thanks to a punchy bass and a clean, open treble range. But the speakers under the screen are not quite potent enough to keep up with the demands of a full-on action movie, as raucous moments tend to sound cramped and unfocussed, with dialogue getting lost.
The LT-32D50BJ is a likeable LCD TV that at times - predominantly with digital TV fare - can deliver eye-popping pictures.
But there's no point in trying to disguise the fact that it's hampered by its missing digital TV input (and you will curse this within 18 months, believe me) and you're short-changed when it comes to black level. Close then, but no digital cigar.