Mark Henninger looks at an aggressively priced 85″ FALD-LCD from Amtran, sold under the JVC brand name. Is it a contender in the sub-$10,000 85-inch UHD/4K TV category?
Were it not for the JVC brand’s cachet, I would not have made the trip to New York to see Amtran’s latest UHDTV, an $8000 85-incher featuring a 120 Hz VA FALD-LCD (vertically aligned full-array local-dimming LCD) panel. Amtran used to be a major supplier for Vizio, but not any more. Now, the company licenses the JVC brand name in order to compete in the UHDTV market. It is worth noting that there is no engineering connection between the JVC that builds projectors and Amtran’s JVC-branded TVs. The 85UXR is the company’s flagship product, offering significant bang for the buck in the 85-inch UHD/4K segment of the market. But is the 85UXR worth getting excited about?
The JVC demo took place at the Grand Hyatt in NYC.
The new JVC comes with a FALD panel featuring 64 local-dimming zones. It’s equipped with four HDMI 2.0 ports (10.2 Gbps) that support HDCP 2.2, as well as one HDMI 1.4 port with MHL capability that’s dedicated for use with an included Roku stick. The remote even has a Roku button on it, and it controls the Roku directly. Also on the remote is a handykeyboard that makes searching for titles and filling out passwords a breeze. The TV currently has no native apps, relying on the upgradeable Roku stick for a “smart” experience.
My interest in TVs aligns with the enthusiasts on AVS Forum—I generally pay more attention to raw video performance than bells and whistles. $8000 is an aggressive price for a 85-inch FALD TV, as long as it performs well. During my visit, I had an opportunity to watch several scenes from Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. Unlike some demos I’ve attended in the past, the rep was perfectly happy to adjust the TV’s settings. I had him switch from “normal” to “movie” mode, which notably improved color balance and contrast. In a darkened room, the letterbox bars stayed black, and the local dimming never distracted me.
Overall, I thought the picture looked good, as long as I viewed it head on. The optimum viewing angle was somewhat narrow, which is typical for TVs that use VA panels. The good news is that when viewed directly, the blacks were very deep, while halo/blooming artifacts were difficult or impossible to spot. Unsurprisingly, moving off axis significantly degraded both color saturation and contrast. The screen itself has a satin anti-glare coating that effectively suppressed room reflections without detracting from the picture.
In this image, you can see exposed lights reflected in the screen. Overall, the 85UXR did a good job of suppressing room reflections.
The 85UXR provides a 10-point color calibration, and Amtran claimed it could deliver some of the best color accuracy available. Unfortunately, it does not offer the ability to tweak its five gamma presets. Overall, choosing the right settings (movie mode, mid-dark gamma) provided a pleasing—and seemingly quite accurate—picture.
Audio was another story; during the demo, the rep touted the superior sound quality of the TV—a dubious assertion considering that the 85UXR uses rear-firing and down-firing speakers. The press release claimed it “offers a level of acoustic modeling and digital signal processing previously heard only with elaborate outboard speaker arrays.” It’s an unjustified claim; audio performance was not terrible, but even a basic soundbar would offer an audible improvement.
Upscaled 1080p content looked good; it was sharp without looking over processed. Native 4K content (100 Mbps H.264) looked great from my seat, which was about eight feet away from the screen. For what it’s worth, the 1080p Blu-raycontent looked nearly as good as the native 4K demo loop. In addition, 3D fans should take note that the 85UXR does not offer that feature.
Later in the demo, I checked out the TV’s motion-interpolation modes, which offer three different settings. When I first saw the 85UXR, the mode was set to medium, and I noticed some degree of soap-opera effect. With interpolation turned off, Blu-ray content played properly, without much visible judder. The TV looked its best with interpolation set to low—motion was natural, pans were smooth, and you could see the improved motion resolution. It’s nice to have a motion-processing option that isn’t heavy handed yet offers a resolution-improving benefit; the 85UXR delivered on that front.
The TV itself does not have the ultra-slim profile of an edgelit LED-LCD. On the other hand, it felt very sturdy—and it’s flat rather than curved (a plus in my book). The frame is made of metal, and it even has a pair of built-in handles that make it easy for two people to lift. According to Amtram, the design of the packaging makes it easy to install the TV’s base while it is in the box.
From what I saw, the 85UXR is a competent big screen TV with plenty of inputs, sturdy build quality, and a good-looking picture. Its 64-zone FALD local dimming works well, which is key to getting the most out of an LCD-based TV. At 85 inches, it’s large enough to take advantage of UHD/4K content when viewed from a normal distance.
I currently have no plans to review the latest, greatest TV from Amtran/JVC. However, if there were enough interest, I’d consider submitting a request for one, so I can put it through its paces. Please let me know if you think I should take a closer look at the JVC DM85UXR.