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LT-42SL89 Build Quality and Use

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Flat screens are getting more svelte as manufacturers are vying for the attention of consumers. JVC's line of Procision HDTVs sport one of the thinnest profiles on the market. The LT-42SL89 is the 42" model in the line and is only 3" at the thickest and 1-1/2" at the thinnest. They did this reportedly by "optimizing the light-diffusing plates and light-reflection sheets, as well as improving their overall composition." The real question is how well this super slim display performs. At a MSRP of $1899, the price seems very attractive.

First Impressions and Build Quality

JVC_inbox.JPGThe super slim JVC LT-42SL89 arrived in the smallest box I've ever seen on a display. It was barely bigger than the display itself. What was nice about it was that it was easily manageable by the delivery driver. It also seemed to be well enough braced and protected for travel. My only concern was that the small thickness of the box would not stand up well to inertial forces around tight corners. Of course, any driver that would just lean your new display against the wall of their truck without securing it is just going to find a way to break it no matter what box it is in.

Like many displays, the base and the display were not connected. The suggested method is to lie the unit face down on a stable table (legs on the corners) on top of a soft blanket, slide the base in, and secure it with the provided screws. The base for the JVC went on easily enough. If you plan on wall mounting the unit, JVC provides some covers for the base post holes. The inputs and outputs are all on the back. The HDMI inputs are actually inset and the connections go up rather than the rest that enter straight into the unit from the back. If you are planning on wall mounting this unit, you are definitely going to want to use the HDMI connection as it will allow you to get the unit much closer to the wall. If you use a component connection, you're going to have to factor in the length of the connection and the bend in the cable (or use right angle connectors) because of the placement of the inputs. I'd much prefer to see future iterations of these slim panel displays with all the connections on the bottom.

JVC_input2.JPGThe unit itself felt very solid and well constructed. The bevel around the screen is nearly as small as some of the ones I've seen on rear projection displays at only an inch on the top and sides. It truly is amazing how small these displays have gotten. At just over 50lbs with the 9lbs stand attached, it is very easy to move it about, even by yourself. Of course, you should probably get a friend just in case but with the LT-42SL89, that friend could be your 14 year old daughter. The bottom of the unit sports a blue LED that illuminates when the unit is on. Luckily, you can lower the intensity of the LED or even disable it from the menu. Even on the highest level, it isn't all that bright which is very nice. Personally, I wouldn't mind an option to have it illuminate only when the unit was off. I had the LT-42SL89 sitting on top of my Diamond Case TT-400 Credenza during the review period. I was pretty shocked to find that the power cord was permanently attached. When wall mounting a display, it is imperative that you be able to use an aftermarket power cord. The non-removable power cord could make wall mounting a challenge for some.

The first thing I (or more specifically, my kids) discovered about the base was that the display rotates on it. It was nice when my wife was in the other room and I could rotate the display up to 45 degrees toward her but not so nice when I had to readjust it every time I left my kids alone with it. I would definitely have appreciated some sort of locking mechanism on it. The silver post the display sits on is very high tech looking and sleek. The base plate is wide enough to ensure stability without being so large that it demands a large stand. The bevel and base are glossy black with a thin gray stripe across the bottom. On the right of the unit on the gray strip are the touch controls which are sensitive but discreetly labeled (i.e. the kids never found them). The only issue I had with the front controls was that while they were sensitive to the first touch, the second and subsequent touches seemed to require a moment or two delay. The solution is to hold the button down which will eventually cause it to scroll more quickly for most functions. A nice feature is that you can disable the front buttons from the Setting menu. Of course, if you press too hard the display will swivel on its base. Your best shot is just to use the remote like I did.

Set-Up & General Use

JVC_input1.JPGSetting up the display is really fairly easy. Once you have the base connected (or have it installed on your wall mount) it is just a matter of plugging the power cable in and connecting your inputs. The LT-42SL89 sports three HDMI inputs, a PC input, and two analogue inputs that have component, composite, and analogue audio inputs. One of the analogue inputs also has an S-video input, plus there is one analogue audio input for all three HDMI inputs (one for all three, not one each). There are single analogue and TOSLink audio outputs along with a coaxial F/cable input for your cable or OTA signal. To the side (still on the back) is a headphone output and a USB input for high resolution picture viewing.

Setting up the display for me was much harder than it should have been. I have a Comcast cable Motorola box connected to a Denon AVR-2307CI via HDMI. The receiver sends the picture up to my display also using HDMI. Displays make the rounds through here from all sorts of different manufacturers. I've never encountered a problem before. JVC broke that trend with a display that wouldn't recognize the incoming video signal. When I connected directly to the display (either via HDMI or component) I got a picture. When I used the Denon to pipe up my Denon DVD-3910 or Toshiba HD-A2 (which both connect to the receiver through an Oppo HM-31 HDMI switch), I got a picture. When I simply connected devices through my AV receiver I got no picture. I called JVC tech support who said it was either the cable box or my HDMI cable (both patently not the case). In the end, I could get it to work only when I plugged the cable box into the Oppo switch and even then, only occasionally and when I turned the cable box on last. It was a problem I've never experienced before. JVC's solution of connecting directly to the display would have worked, though it would have required that I pump the audio either from the display or the cable box to the receiver separately - defeating the whole purpose of the "one cable" HDMI solution. I also noted that switching from input to input was a hit or miss proposition. When going from component to HDMI (both connected directly to the display and not through a switch or receiver), I'd sometimes find that the HDMI input wouldn't lock on and I'd have to switch around to let it try again. Usually it would sync up on the second or third try.

This issue aside, the remaining setup of the LT-42SL89 was as easy as cake. As usual, the unit was set in "torch" mode (dynamic) with the brightness cranked. The default display settings for everything but Theater are very blue - and Dynamic is the worst of the lot. It is imperative that you switch the display to "Theater" mode as soon as possible so that you don't get used to "Blue Man Group" setting. The thing that you'll notice pretty early is that your calibration for any one of the HDMI settings becomes universal to all HDMI inputs. This is true for both the component and composite inputs as well. While I'd have to admit that the only setting that looks right is Theater anyhow, one of the joys of having more than one input of a type is supposed to be that you can calibrate each separately.

I personally like the number of inputs on this display and find them more than adequate. Three HDMI and two component should be enough for anyone. For those of use that use a receiver or processor for video switching this is probably 2 HDMI and 1 component more than we need (provided there are no connectivity issues). For the rest of the world, it should be more than enough. One thing that I found a bit deficient was that the component inputs wouldn't accept a 1080p signal. When I connected my Xbox 360 via component, I found I had no picture. A little research uncovered that the components could only accept up to 1080i. The HDMI inputs, on the other hand, could accept 480i inputs which is a bonus. If you have a display that does a good job of deinterlacing, this is a must.

Where this display really excels is with the aspect ratio options. JVC offers no less than eight different aspect ratios. While this may seem like a lot, it doesn't when you are using it because some are tied to the type of incoming signal:

High Def 16:9:

  • Full - Displays 95% of the aspect picture (edges cropped with a forced overscan)
  • PanoramaZoom - Picture is stretched to eliminate side bars
  • CinemaZoom - Zooms in on center part of picture eliminating the black surrounding bars
  • Slim - Shrinks the 16:9 screen to 4:3
  • FullNative: Displays 100% of the aspect picture (no overscan)

4:3:

  • Panorama - Optimally stretches picture to fill the screen (top will be slightly cropped)
  • Cinema - Zooms in to the 4:3 picture to fill the screen (more cropping than above)
  • Regular - No modifications to the picture, black bars on the sides
  • Full - Stretches picture to fill the screen (no cropping)

The most important ones are the Full Native, Cinema Zoom, and Slim for the 16:9 channels and Regular and Cinema for the 4:3. The Cinema Zoom and Cinema both eliminate the surrounding black bars on shows that are both 4:3 and letterboxed (it happens on high def stations too as any fan of the Sci Fi channel can tell you). The Full Native is nice is that you get to see every pixel of your high def show though this will sometimes introduce a line on the top or up the right side with cableTV sources. This is part of the video data stream that you aren't supposed to see. Regular is important for 4:3 shows is that it is the only way to watch the shows without any sort of distortion. Lastly, Slim is by far the best thing ever for 16:9 shows that have been unnaturally stretched by the channel to fill the screen (think TNTHD, A&EHD, etc). While it doesn't work for the channels that have used a modified stretching technique (where the sides are stretched more than the middle) but works perfectly for those that are stretched uniformly. I honestly think that this one aspect ratio should be standard on every new display that comes out and would welcome a firmware update on any and all other displays. I love it. I want to marry it.

One problem I encountered was that the 1080i aspect ratios would default to Full. As long as you were clicking around HD channels, it would maintain whatever aspect ratio you had selected but as soon as you hit a 480i signal and then switch back to 1080i, it would reset to Full. This is obviously a choice JVC made as the 480i aspect ratios remained regardless of what you did. I'm not really a fan of this.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

Seth=L posts on August 22, 2008 15:26
I had a JVC SD tube set until recently, it was a great tv. I have also owned a couple JVC receivers, one was good, the other was FANTASTIC!
GlocksRock posts on August 22, 2008 15:17
Maybe I'm just not old enough to have had experience with those things, but I do know JVC's car audio was mostly garbage.

I still hope they do well and start making better stuff.
gene posts on August 20, 2008 18:28
I've never been a fan of anything JVC makes.

It's puzzling to me b/c back in the day, they made some fine CRT tvs IMO. I also thought their VCR's were the tops.

They had a few good years with AVR's but later liquidated their audio side of the business. It now seems they are attempting to revitalize their audio side but at a much lower end scale. Companies go through cycles and they are IMO a prime example of it.
GlocksRock posts on August 20, 2008 16:18
I've never been a fan of anything JVC makes.
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