When it comes to TVs, £800 is a magic number -- if you're planning to spend £1,000, it leaves some cash in the kitty for some speakers or an HD DVD or Blu-ray player to complement your new HD Ready TV. JVC is the latest company to venture into this price point with the LT-42DA8BJ (although you can find it cheaper online), but is a 42-inch LCD too much of a stretch for the money?
The JVC is finished in a silver colour with a black bezel, which is a departure from the current fashion of piano-black screens.
The remote control does look a little cheap, and it isn't the most comfortable to hold either. On a more positive note, the buttons are all large, which means for those of us with less than delicate hands, hitting the right button isn't going to be much of a problem.
The LT-42DA9BJ offers a pair of rear HDMI sockets and a single component video in, which is probably just about enough for most people. We'd always like to see three HDMI inputs on a large-screen TV, but we're also realists and understand, especially on budget televisions, that this isn't always possible. You can see a full list of the inputs and outputs on our specs page.
The LT-42DA9BJ is a basic 720p screen, offering support for input material up to 1080i, which is downscaled to fit the screen. The newer, less common 1080p format is not supported. As you would expect, Freeview is built in, as is an analogue tuner, for those areas where digital isn't available, or for people who simply prefer analogue.
It's disappointing to see that JVC has opted not to include a VGA connector on this television. The manual suggests for connecting a computer you should obtain a DVI/VGA-to-HDMI conversion cable. While this is a workable solution if you have a computer with DVI, it's a little irritating if you want to hook up a media centre full-time, as you'll be reducing the number of useable HDMI sockets.
The JVCs Freeview tuner features an eight-day programme guide, so you can see what's going to be on during the next week. The handy 'genre search' feature allows you to only display a specific type of programme. So, if you're in the mood for a movie, you can search the schedules for films. Sadly there isn't an 'avoid all programmes with Jade Goody' button.
The LT-42 should get some credit for having sensibly named inputs when you cycle through them onscreen -- we've noticed on some televisions inputs are simply labelled from 1 to 6, say. The JVC makes it clear onscreen that input 4 is HDMI 1.
The LT-42DA8BJ's Freeview picture quality was generally good. We did find that on moving objects there was sometimes evidence of jagged lines. When fed an upscaled DVD, however, these lines went away. This is disappointing, especially when other LCD screens seem to be making significant improvements in their Freeview performance.
On our Samsung DVD player, which can upscale to 1080i, we were very happy with the picture quality. While it wasn't up to proper high-definition quality, it was certainly impressive.
HD DVD looked good. There was a decent amount of detail in the image, but we did feel that with the backlight turned down there wasn't enough detail in darker areas. There was minimal motion judder, although the early scenes in Serenity do show up a little jerkiness. Nothing to worry about really, though.
Generally, while there wasn't much wrong with the picture quality, the TV is let down by an over-zealous backlight and a very shallow viewing angle. This meant that in a darkened room, watching a picture with dark areas, we were able to see the backlight shining away. It didn't seem possible to reduce the brightness to an acceptable level either, which meant even on the lowest settings the picture looked a little washed-out.
Sound was pretty good. It seems every time we review a large-screen TV we complain the sound isn't similarly 'big' and the LT-42 is no exception here. Watching Freeview was fine though, and speech was nice and clear. We found while watching HD DVD that the sound was a little more muffled, which is quite possibly due to the downmixing process. For the best sound on movies, you'll need to spend money on a surround-sound system.
We're pleased to see 42-inch TVs on the market for such a sensible price. If you want a big screen, but don't have the inclination (or wallet) to spend a lot of money, the JVC LT-42DA8BJ may very well suit you.
There are some good televisions about for a similar price. The Toshiba Regza 42C3030 is around this price (read our review of its 37-inch sibling, the 37C3030D) and you can get one of Samsung's 42-inch plasmas for a similar amount.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide