[img]http://hometheaterreview.com/images/NuVision_NVU42FX5.gif[/img]NuVision NVU42FX5 LCD HDTV Review
By Adrienne Maxwell
Given the current economic climate and the commoditization of HDTVs, it takes guts to go the luxury-only route these days. Pioneer tried it with its outstanding KURO plasma line, and we all know how well that turned out. If your name isn't Runco (and even if it is), you might have a hard time convincing consumers to take a serious look at your higher-end panels, sold through specialty retailers.
NuVision will not be daunted, however. If you haven't heard the name before, that's because you won't find NuVision HDTVs at your local Best Buy. This manufacturer offers a tailored line of LCD models (10 models as of this writing, with more to come), priced at the higher end of the spectrum and sold exclusively through custom channels. The 42-inch NVU42FX5 hails from the highest-end Lucidium FX5 Series, which also includes 47-, 52- and 65-inch models.
The $1,999 NVU42FX5 is a monitor only, meaning it has no internal TV tuners but does include integrated speakers. This 1080p display uses a traditional CCFL backlight with a 10-bit panel and offers 120Hz processing, with a 5:5 pulldown mode (called FX5, for "Film Times Five") and a Frame Forward Motion mode that uses motion interpolation to reduce blur and film judder.
In deciding which physical features to bestow upon this display, NuVision has made some assumptions. By omitting the internal tuners, the company is assuming you'll provide your own cable or satellite set-top box. This is a fair assumption that holds true for the majority of people, but it's not necessarily in line with the competition, which usually opts to include the tuners just in case. NuVision also assumes that you'll mount this panel on the wall; a stand is not included, but you can purchase one as an optional accessory for $120. The display has a straightforward aesthetic, with a gloss-black bezel and a speaker panel along the bottom. The speaker panel looks like it's detachable, but it's not. If you're going to take the monitor route and omit the stand, why not go one step further and make the speakers detachable to streamline the aesthetic for those who plan to use an external sound system?
The supplied remote control is obviously meant for use with multiple NuVision models, as it contains buttons that serve no purpose with this particular display, such as TV input, guide, and previous channel. However, the remote is cleanly laid out and earns major props for having dedicated input buttons and full backlighting.
The connection panel is solid, but not as comprehensive as you'll find elsewhere. You get three HDMI inputs, which are side-facing for easy access and accept both 1080p/60 and 1080p/24 signals. The side-facing panel also includes two component video inputs and one PC input, while a separate down-facing panel offers two A/V inputs, an A/V output and a special RJ45 connector for IR/RS-232 pass-through and serial control. Obviously, since the display lacks tuners, it also lacks an RF input. You still get a coaxial digital audio output that lets you pass HDMI audio through to an external sound system. The NVU42FX5 does not include a USB port, SD card slot or Ethernet port.
In terms of picture adjustments, the NVU42FX5 has the essential user-accessible controls, but restricts the more advanced options to a dealer-only menu. Upon my initial survey of the Image Settings menu, I was astonished by the absence of an adjustable backlight control, until I realized that this control is oddly relegated to a button on the remote called "Day/Night." Yes, that does mean there are only two user-accessible backlight levels. There is a separate Deep Black mode that automatically adjusts the backlight to suit the source content. The set-up menu also lacks direct access to the preset picture modes; again, you must use a button on the remote to cycle through the five options. You can choose between five preset color temperatures, one of which is labeled custom, which suggests the ability to directly access white balance controls. However, this is one of the features that are restricted to the dealer menu, which also includes more backlight settings, precise gamma adjustment and individual management of the six color points. Other user-accessible set-up options include basic color correction (on/off), noise reduction and a game mode to minimize delay.
As I mentioned, this is a 120Hz LCD and the Image Settings menu includes two set-up options. The FX5 control (on/off) engages 5:5 pulldown with 24p Blu-ray sources, in which each frame is repeated five times to produce slightly smoother motion than the traditional 3:2 pulldown method that's used with a 60Hz panel. For those who prefer the smoothing effects of motion interpolation (where the processor pulls information from existing frames to create new ones), the Frame Forward Motion (FFM) menu lets you choose between zero, low, normal or high levels of interpolation.
You can set different image parameters per picture mode for each input. The NVU42FX5 has four aspect-ratio options (4:3, panorama, zoom, and 16:9). There's no dedicated zero-overscan mode; instead, the set-up menu includes an overscan option that lets you choose between zero and zoom, which adds four-percent overscan and includes options to move the picture horizontally and vertically. (Pressing "Enter" and "3" on the remote also allows you to quickly access the zero-overscan mode.) Picture-in-picture functionality is available, with window and multiple side-by-side viewing options; you can't watch two HDMI sources simultaneously, but you can watch HDMI with component video or VGA.
In the audio department, the menu offers four sound modes, with a custom mode that includes a seven-band equalizer. SRS TruSurroundXT processing is available, as is the option to turn off the screen and listen to audio only.
The NVU42FX5's default settings really don't do this monitor justice, even in the more accurate Movie picture mode. Fortunately, a few simple tweaks make a big difference. (Presumably, a trained installer will handle this display's set-up, one of the benefits to going the custom route.) First of all, the sharpness control needs to be turned all the way down, as the higher settings add a lot of edge enhancement and extraneous noise to the picture. The lowest setting eases the edge enhancement without sacrificing fine detail. The NVU42FX5 is also set for the brighter Day backlight mode, which produces a higher black level and lessens the picture's overall contrast. The Night mode is the better choice, offering deeper blacks and better contrast, while still having ample brightness for a well-lit room. Also, the Deep Black mode is turned on by default; this mode consistently produced a lighter shade of black than I prefer, so I shut it off.
After making these few changes and performing a basic set-up, using Digital Video Essentials (DVD International), I popped in the Casino Royale Blu-ray disc (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and settled in for some comparisons between the NVU42FX5 and my reference Samsung LED-based LCD. Not surprisingly, this CCFL LCD didn't produce as deep a black as the LED model, but its black level was respectable for a traditional LCD and its overall contrast was actually quite comparable to that of the Samsung. The image had excellent depth and saturation, and the NVU42FX5's level of detail was exceptional, better than my reference TV. The movie's brighter scenes really popped, thanks to the NuVision's great light output. Colors had a pleasingly natural quality without looking oversaturated or cartoonish. The NuVision's warm color temperature appeared to be closer to the reference 6500K than the Samsung (which is somewhat cool out of the box). The warmer palette produced a rich, inviting image, yet whites looked white and skin tones looked neutral, with no red push.
I also watched Rocky Balboa on Blu-ray (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), which has a lot of dimly-lit night sequences, and I was impressed with the NVU42FX5's handling of these scenes. Both black level and black detail were solid, and the film's many light-to-dark transitions were smooth and clean. Again, overall detail was excellent.
I tested the monitor's video processing using my standard arsenal of test discs and demo scenes. It passed all of the 1080i tests on the HD HQV Benchmark BD (Silicon Optix), and it cleanly rendered the staircase descent at the opening of Chapter Nine of the Mission: Impossible III BD (Paramount Home Video). Likewise, I saw no blatant artifacts when watching 1080i HDTV content. HDTV certainly benefited from the NVU42FX5's good light output; even in a bright room, the picture popped. The screen is a standard matte LCD screen, so light reflections are not a concern.
In the standard-def realm, the NuVision did a good job upconverting 480i sources to the panel's 1080p resolution, producing a well-detailed image (admittedly, this is easier to achieve on a smaller 42-inch screen). The display moved ably from the dark opening sequence of The Bourne Supremacy (Universal Studios Home Video), which offered good shadow detail, to the bright, colorful chase scene through the streets of India a few chapters later, which looked rich, vibrant and well-detailed. Light-to-dark transitions in my standard demo scenes from Ladder 49 and Lost: The Complete Second Season (both Buena Vista Home Entertainment) were again smooth. The only minor hiccup with 480i content was in the deinterlacing department; for the most part, DVDs looked clean and free of artifacts, but the NVU42FX5 couldn't quite handle my two favorite torture tests from Gladiator (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) and The Bourne Identity (Universal Studios Home Video), producing a little moiré.
I experimented with both the FX5 and FFM 120Hz modes. Admittedly, the effects of 5:5 pulldown are subtle, but with my Pioneer Blu-ray player outputting 1080p/24, the camera pans in The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) were smoother and less juddery with the FX5 enabled. As for the FFM technology, I'm personally not a fan of motion interpolation, as I find that the results look highly unnatural. But lots of people seem to love it, and NuVision's FFM technology will deliver that super-smooth effect. Even the low mode produces very obvious results. I experimented with FFM using TV, DVD and Blu-ray signals, finding that it's best suited for use solely with 24p Blu-ray sources. With 60Hz TV and DVD content, the results were inconsistent, often causing image smearing and other artifacts.
As for motion blur, with FFM enabled, the NVU42FX5 cleanly rendered the motion patterns on my FPD Software Group Blu-ray test disc. For those who'd rather not use FFM, with the feature turned off, this monitor still produced less blurring than many LCDs I've tested; motion blur will be less noticeable on a smaller 42-inch screen anyhow.
As I mentioned, the NVU42FX5's black level, while respectable for a traditional CCFL LCD, doesn't compare to the best local-dimming LED-based LCDs. The NVU42FX5's black level is deep enough to produce good overall contrast, but dark areas of the picture aren't as black as what you can get from an LED model.
The tradeoff for the NVU42FX5's excellent detail is that a bit more noise is evident in the signal, compared with my reference display. This isn't much of an issue with higher-quality Blu-ray and DVD transfers or with the better-looking HDTV broadcasts (like CBS HD), but the NVU42FX5 won't do much to clean up or hide the imperfections in lesser-quality signals, even with the noise reduction set to strong. You probably don't want to sit too close to the 42-inch screen but, at a normal viewing distance, the noise isn't all that evident.
The last minor concern in the performance department is a common LCD drawback: viewing angle. The NuVision's viewing angle actually holds up better than that of many LCDs I've seen. Brighter TV content retains decent saturation at fairly wide angles. However, darker scenes don't hold up as well, as both black level and black detail are lost when you move off-axis.
The bigger concern with the NVU42FX5 is in the features department, where this display just doesn't compete with similarly-priced models. For one thing, user-accessible picture adjustments are limited. Granted, since this model is sold only through custom channels, the installer will be able to access the dealer menu to calibrate the TV, so the consumer really doesn't need access to these adjustments. Still, some videophiles love to tweak and would prefer to have the advanced controls available to them.
In regard to the connection panel, four HDMI inputs are quickly becoming the norm on higher-end models, and this model only has three. More importantly, many high-end panels offer perks like SD card slots and/or USB ports to play digital music, movie and photo files, as well as an Ethernet port for Web connectivity, media streaming and/or video-on-demand service. NuVision has included none of these features. Finally, the decision to charge extra for the base seems pretty nickel-and-dime when we're talking about a high-end panel. NuVision contends that most people don't use the stand when buying a panel that's 42 inches or larger, but I still think it should be a free accessory.
NuVision's NVU42FX5 has a lot to offer in the performance realm, but falls short in the features department. It has the versatility to attractively render both high- and standard-def content in a bright or dark viewing environment. It's ideally suited for the movie lover who plans to mate it with a 24p-capable Blu-ray player, as this combination best utilizes features like FX5 and FFM and lets you fully appreciate the display's strengths. If you are looking for a good performer and prefer the more personalized attention you can get through custom channels, visit nuvision.com to find a dealer in your area.