30th Apr 2005 | 23:00

Who needs a Freeview box?

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

This LCD is happy with Freeview pictures, but lacks contrast and digital inputs

Clockwork TV is dead: it's time to ring in the new era of digital broadcasting. And this set from JVC certainly has enough bells on it do help you do just that. With the analogue TV switch off now happening (albeit only in Wales so far), the BBC is advertising the merits of Freeview more and more - but with two annoying mistakes.

First, it keeps banging on about '£50' Freeview boxes, when a decent one will actually cost you more. Second, Auntie never mentions that instead of yet another box in the lounge, you can now buy TVs - like this 32in LCD - with a Freeview tuner inside.

First impressions are good. The LT-32D50BJ's classic black screen frame/ silver outer frame combi, while not the most original of designs, would certainly sit well in any living area.

Missing links

Furnished with a high-definition-possible 1,366 x 768 panel, we had hoped that the LT-32D50BJ came primed with digital inputs, but alas both HDMI or DVI are missing links - there's only component video and a duo of Scarts to hand. While component video may be enough to carry some of Sky's HD broadcasts in 2006, it's pretty unlikely that you're going to see much in HD on this screen. HD-Ready it ain't.

Picture quality, though, should benefit from a handsome (claimed) contrast ratio of 1,000:1, not to mention JVC's Dynapix picture processing technology, of which its DIST (Digital Image Scaling Technology) feature has proved its skill with detail enhancement in the past.

Other Dynapix tricks include colour management processing and a Super Digipure system. Jagged edges, blurred effects over motion and contrast-lite scenes should be the victims. Freeviewrelated features include digital teletext and a well designed (but only now/next) electronic programme guide.

Bright eyes

Pictures from the LT-32D50BJ are very bright, with colour reproduction particularly impressive. Freeview images showed both these plus points (more on this later), while high-definition material and scenes from our Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind test DVD benefited from even brighter colour saturations.

Detail (in bright scenes) is also a strong point - every strand of Clementine's red hair was visible, against equally textured backgrounds. And forget about image lag with fast-moving scenes (a common problem to LCD TVs) - there isn't any.

Freeview pictures really impressed us. Despite the inherently soft nature of these broadcasts, they were as sharp as we've seen them on the LT-32D50BJ. It might sound strange to say in a group test of Freeview tuner-equipped LCDs, but performance with such pictures is often disappointing. Here, though, the low-bitrate broadcasts shine.

Sadly, however, it's not all good news - the JVC falls down on black reproduction. A grey mist dominated dark areas of our test disc, resulting in a loss of detail. For example, during the scene where Kirsten Dunst's Mary runs out into the street after her clumsy pass at Dr Howard, we noticed how much the image suffered from a lack of true black and detail when compared with well-lit footage.

Audio is a similarly mixed bag. While the JVC's speakers serve up plentiful amounts of punch for Freeview programmes, DVDs are a different matter - dialogue frequently faded into the background during our test disc. Well-equipped and skilled with Freeview broadcasts, the LT-32D50BJ has plenty to offer, but the lack of digital inputs and limited contrast could ultimately leave you feeling a little short-changed.

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