As the Ultra HD category begins to firmly establish itself in the TV market, we're seeing prices fall and new entrants arrive on the scene with their first UHD offerings. Vizio recently shook things up with the introduction of its P Series, with the 65-inch Ultra HD model now carrying a street price of around $1,800.
JVC aims to make a similar splash with its new Diamond Series DM65USR. Just like the company's 1080p TVs, this UHD model is aggressively priced to sell through retailers like Amazon, Costco, and AVID dealers. For $1,799, you get a 65-inch UHD TV that features a full-array LED backlight with local dimming, CrystalMotion Pro 240 technology to reduce motion blur and film judder, built-in WiFi, a supplied Roku Stick to access various streaming media services, and JVC's new integrated smart TV platform...although that last one comes with some big caveats that we'll discuss in a moment.
How does the DM65USR stack up to its competitors in terms of its performance and features? Let's find out.
Setup and Features
In the design department, the DM65USR eschews the traditional black in favor of a brushed silver (almost champagne-colored) bezel and matching, non-swiveling, triangular stand. There's about a half-inch of bezel around the top and sides of the screen and an inch along the bottom. Compared with my reference and more expensive Samsung UN65HU8550 UHD TV that sat beside the JVC throughout the review process, the DM65USR's build quality feels less substantial, with more plastic parts. The TV has two down-firing speakers, and it weighs 52.4 pounds. Because it uses a full LED backlight system, the cabinet is a bit deeper (2.7 inches) than that of most edge-lit designs. This is a compromise I'm more than happy to make to get the improved performance of a full-array LED backlight, but I'm getting ahead of myself...
The supplied remote is a dual-sided design with a standard TV button layout on front and a horizontally aligned QWERTY keyboard and touchpad control on back. Flipping over the remote automatically activates the back-panel controls. The remote seems to use a combination of IR and RF control. Some commands like power, input, volume, and the navigation arrows require line of sight with the TV, while others like menu and home can communicate without line of sight once you have paired the remote with the TV during the setup process. The remote lacks backlighting on both sides and puts a lot of tiny, black, similarly shaped buttons against a black background, which makes it very difficult to use in a dark room.
The DM65USR's connection panel includes five HDMI inputs, four of which support HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 copy protection to ensure compatibility with the upcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray format. The fifth HDMI input is HDMI 1.4 with MHL support, which allows you to connect and power the supplied Roku Stick. The connection panel also includes a shared component/composite input, an RF antenna input, a stereo analog input, optical digital and stereo analog audio outputs, two USB ports for media playback, and a LAN port, should you prefer a wired network connection to the built-in WiFi.
The DM65USR offers a full complement of picture adjustments, beginning with six picture modes (standard, vivid, sports, movie, game, and custom). Advanced adjustments include: a 100-step adjustable backlight, plus an ambient light sensor that lets you automatically tailor brightness to the room environment; two- and 10-point white balance controls to fine tune the color temperature; a color management system to adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness of all six colors; five gamma presets; the ability to turn the local dimming on or off; noise reduction; and more. The CrystalMotion Pro menu includes options for low, medium, high, and off. All of the CrystalMotion Pro modes use frame interpolation to reduce blur, which also eliminates judder in film sources to create a smooth-motion effect.
On the audio side, setup tools include bass, treble, and balance controls, plus lip sync and EQ adjustment. You can enable XinemaSound 3D, with specialized sound modes for Movies and News, as well as a XinemaSound Leveler to minimize volume discrepancies between sources. The dynamic ability of the DM65USR's speakers is actually quite good, and the overall sound quality is fuller and less hollow than you'll hear from many flat-panel TV audio systems.
Regarding the DM65USR's smart TV functionality, as I mentioned above, you actually have two options. As with the previous JVC EM55FTR 1080p TV that I reviewed, this model comes with a Roku Stick that plugs directly into the HDMI/MHL port on the side panel and allows you access to all the services that Roku offers. Just hit the Home button on the remote to go directly to the Roku Stick's input, connect the Stick to your wireless network (a wired connection is not an option for Roku usage), and set up a Roku account if you don't have one. Roku offers a highly intuitive interface and a huge selection of apps, which makes it a great smart TV solution...except for one minor problem. The Roku Stick doesn't support Ultra HD streaming, so you only get the standard, non-UHD versions of the Netflix and Amazon Instant Video apps. This wasn't a concern with the 1080p EM55FTR TV, but it is a concern for the Ultra HD-capable DM65USR.
Presumably, this is why JVC also added the new integrated smart TV platform; too bad they forgot to add some actual apps to go with it. Hit the JVC button on the remote, and it brings up a wheel-like interface where you can choose between three options: 1) Inputs allows you to jump directly to any of the TV's inputs; 2) Browser allows you to surf the Web, with icons for bookmarked sites; and 3) My App features icons for Browser (again), TV Settings, MultiMedia (to view personal media files), and All Apps. One might think that the "All Apps" section would include a library of apps like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, et al, but no--all I found were repeated icons for Browser, MultiMedia, and TV Settings. I guess JVC thought it was better to be redundant than to have the page be completely empty. I did one software update during my time with the JVC, and I really hoped it would add some apps to this page, but it didn't.
According to JVC reps, the DM65USR does have HEVC decoding built in, thus the TV could support UHD streaming through Netflix and Amazon; however, the company had no official comment on if/when those apps would be added. Until that day comes or Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives on the scene, your Ultra HD viewing options are virtually nonexistent...unless you buy the $700 Sony FMP-X10 media server, which Sony has supposedly now opened up to be compatible with any UHD TV.
Regarding other elements of the smart TV platform, Web browsing worked well using the QWERTY remote; the TV supports Flash, and pages loaded pretty quickly. The MultiMedia tool allows you to access personal music, photo, and video files via connected USB or DLNA devices. I liked the design of the MultiMedia interface: it's clean and colorful. However, it's not very intuitive to navigate between music, photo, and video folders (depending on how your files are organized), and I had a lot of trouble playing movie files that normally play without tissue through other TV's media players. I got "unsupported video" errors with many--but not all--MP4 and M4V movie files in my collection (sometimes, I got audio but no video; sometimes I got no playback at all), while MOV and M4V videos taken with my Sony camera and iPhone played back just fine. With that being said, the Roku Stick offers several media-streaming apps that will get this job done, although you'll have to use a wireless instead of wired connection to do it.
I began my performance evaluation as I always do--by measuring the different picture modes exactly as they come out of the box to determine which is the closest to reference standards. As expected, the Movie mode fit this bill, offering up solid pre-calibration numbers. The color temperature measured a bit too warm (or red) at around 6,000 Kelvin (6,500K is the goal), and the gamma average was a dark 2.6, with a gray-scale Delta Error of 12.55. Anything over 10 is considered below average. However, I quickly surmised that the local-dimming function (which is turned on by default in most of the picture modes) skews the gamma results at the dark end of the spectrum and thus skews the gray-scale Delta Error to look worse than it is. Just turning off the local dimming for measurement/calibration purposes brought the Delta Error down around 4.5 and produced a gamma average around 2.1. Five of the six color points had a Delta Error under three with no adjustments made, which is very good, while the blue point was a little less accurate with a Delta Error of 5.6. See the measurements section on page two for more information.
Given the DM65USR's lower price point, the target shopper may be less likely to calibrate this TV, so it's good to see that the pre-calibration numbers are solid. However, I would encourage you to spend some of the money that you saved on the TV purchase to have a professional calibration done: careful setup and picture adjustment can yield very good results. I was able to dial back on the reddish color temperature and achieve a much better color balance across the board. The "mid-dark" gamma preset produced a gamma average of 2.22, and the color management system allowed me to further fine-tune the color points to be even more accurate. I will say, though, that the CMS didn't work as precisely as it should. It offers good control over the color brightness, but the saturation and hue controls can do more harm than good. When I adjusted the blue color point, the end result had a lower Delta Error on paper, but it looked completely wrong in the real world, with a blue that looked turquoise. I ultimately reset the blue mode, dialed in the color brightness as best I could, and left everything else alone...and the result, while less accurate on paper, was much closer to my reference display. It's also worth noting that this TV clips below-black and above-white information, which can make adjustment of the brightness and contrast controls a little more challenging.
The DM65USR's full-LED backlight system provides two performance benefits. First, it allows this LED/LCD to be very, very bright. I measured a maximum light output of 116 foot-lamberts in the Vivid picture mode, but even the Movie mode produced 101 ft-L when I pushed the backlight to its highest setting. So there's a great deal of flexibility to dial in the light output to suit your viewing environment. The DM65USR's screen is reflective, but it's slightly more diffuse than that of the Samsung UN65HU8550, so reflected objects weren't as clearly visible in the screen. The DM65USR's screen did a good job of rejecting ambient light to preserve image contrast in a brighter room.
The second benefit, thanks to the local dimming, is that the DM65USR can produce a deep black level and does a good job rendering fine black details. In a head-to-head comparison with the edge-lit Samsung UN65HU8550, the JVC consistently produced a deeper shade of black in demo scenes from Gravity (chapter 3), The Bourne Supremacy (chapter 1), Flags of Our Fathers (chapter 3), and The Guardians of the Galaxy (chapter 2). The JVC's blacks also had less of a blue tinge than the Samsung's, and the JVC had better screen uniformity; the black bars in 2.35:1 movies remained an even black, whereas the Samsung has light leakage at the corners that affected the black bars. The DM65USR has 32 zones of dimming, which is good but not exceptional. I did notice some glow around bright objects, like white text against a black background, but I didn't find it to be a significant drawback. As I mentioned above, the local dimming affected the gamma in my measurements; with real-world sources, it does appear to limit brightness within the darkest scenes. The Samsung TV consistently did a better job of preserving bright elements in a dark scene, to produce a better sense of image depth and overall contrast. The difference was slight but noticeable.
In the processing department, the DM65USR was a little slow to properly detect 3:2 in film sources (both 480i and 1080i), and it failed all of the video and assorted cadence tests on my HQV Benchmark and Spears & Munsil test discs--resulting in jaggies and moire. Also, I found that the Samsung produced a slightly more detailed image when upconverting all sources to its native UHD resolution. Again, the difference was subtle. I would recommend that you let your Blu-ray player handle the deinterlacing and upconversion; in my case, I set my Oppo BDP-103 player's output to 4K and fed that signal directly to the JVC with no issue. The DM65USR serves up a clean image with very little digital noise.
The CrystalMotion 120 that JVC uses to reduce motion blur in its lower-tier TVs doesn't work very well, as I reported in my review of the EM55FTR. Here, JVC's blur-reduction tools work much better. When enabled, CrystalMotion Pro 240 produced clean lines to HD1080 in the resolution pattern on my FPD Benchmark disc. As I said, all of the CrystalMotion Pro modes use frame interpolation, and even the low mode is not particularly subtle in its smoothing effect on film sources. So, if you don't like the smoothing, soap-opera effect of frame interpolation, you'll want to leave CMP turned off, as I did. On the plus side, even with CMP off, the DM65USR showed some clean lines to HD720 in the test pattern, which is above average for an LCD.
Although I could not test the DM65USR's performance with streamed Ultra HD content, I was able to view some native UHD video samples stored on a USB flash drive, as well as UHD samples fed by a non-consumer-oriented Sony server. Not surprisingly, this native UHD content looked great: razor-sharp detail combined with the excellent contrast of this full-array LED panel made for some real eye candy. Only two picture modes are with UHD content (Standard and Game), so you'll need to perform a separate calibration if you use the Movie mode for all your other sources.
Click over to Page Two for Measurements, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...