So far as the UK is concerned, standard CRT TVs simply don't 'do' high definition. Compatibility with the upcoming brave new world of HD broadcasting is exclusively the remit of plasma, LCD and DLP rear-projection technologies.
Er, except that apparently it isn't. Sat before us this very second is JVC's HV-32D40BK CRT TV and playing on it, perfectly happily, is a high-definition (1080i) tape of Alien. Well, would you Adam and Eve it...
Two key things allow the HV-32D40BK to deliver its HD party trick. First,it has component video inputs configured to handle HD (in PAL or NTSC forms). Second,it's able to 'map' the HD signals to the screen courtesy of DIST - or Digital Image Scaling Technology, to give it its full name.
In essence, DIST uses line interpolation to double the number of scanning lines in the picture, ending up with a 1250i image that's easily able to accommodate a 1080i HD feed - and in doing so, might just give the HV-32D40BK a very enthusiastic fanbase.
However, before that fanbase starts planning annual Las Vegas reunions, there are two very important shortcomings in the HV-32D40BK 's HD capabilities.
First, there's no digital video connection, likely denying you compatibility with the full range of HD sources from Sky's upcoming broadcasting service, or upscaling DVD players.
Second,the TV is only compatible with the 1080i (50Hz or 60Hz) HD format, not the 720p one.This is a particularly crushing blow, given that Sky has said it expects to deliver most of its HD services in 720p form. In other words, your only source for HD feeds - for the near future,at least - will be limited to imported digital video players and tapes and the often-esoteric feeds from the European satellite HD-1 service.
Perhaps it's as well,then, that its HD talents are not the HV-32D40BK's only claim to fame. For starters, it looks peachy. Its gloss black and matt silver finish is hardly unique, but it's carried off with more panache than usual.Connectivity is decent too,adding,among other things, a trio of Scarts to the key component jacks.
Meanwhile,the DIST processing will work with any source you throw at it,upping the perceived sharpness and resolution of an ordinary TV feed,for instance.Also on hand is JVC's Super DigiPure Pro system, designed to improve colours, contrast,contours and the clarity of fast-moving objects.
The set also carries progressive scanning, picture-in-picture facilities capable of showing 12 pictures at once - oh, and the small matter of a built-in digital tuner.This is backed up by a very nicely presented electronic programme guide, too,which keeps a small version of the currently selected channel in the left corner while you browse.However, depressingly, the programme guide is not compatible with Freeview's seven-day EPG service and doesn't let you sort programmes by gender.
Happily,the HV-32D40BK's high-def picture is pretty tasty - once you've got it set up right.This means setting the contrast to around 50 per cent, the brightness rather higher than usual (certainly above 50 per cent), and the SuperDigiPure system to Min.If you don't follow these basic settings,you'll find the image too dark and troubled by over-stressed edges and noise.
Correctly calibrated, though, it's impossible not to be hugely taken by the amazing amounts of detail in the HD picture. Sure,we've seen similar detail on HD-capable LCD and plasma TVs,but such pristine,natural-looking textures simply don't exist on any non-HD CRT TV.
HD footage is also an excellent showcase for the HV-32D40BK's impressive black-level response. The DIST system also impresses by seemingly introducing no digital artefacting.Even rapid HD motion looks crisp and clean.
Colours,too,enjoy that key combination of vibrancy with natural tones,and there's plenty of tasty greyscaling subtlety in dark areas.
However, the HV-32D40BK isn't quite so fabulous with lesser picture sources.With feeds from its own digital tuner or an RGBconnected Sky digital receiver,one or two gremlins appear - seemingly caused by elements of the Digipure/DIST processing not being so comfortable with lower source resolutions.
Colours, for instance,take on a less natural,more muted tone as a touch of green seeps in, especially near the edges of peoples' faces. There's also noticeably more noise in the picture,at least some of which seems down to extra digital artefacts generated by the TV's various picture processing systems. For instance,skin tones can seem to be appearing from behind a fine mesh at times and edges can look overstressed.
You can reduce these two problems by turning off the Digipure processing,but doing this kind of defeats the whole object of the TV, and leaves you with a rather soft picture. Opting for the Min level of the Digipure processing is far preferable to the frankly nasty Max setting,but the problems still remain to some extent.And before you ask,no, the set's provided noise reduction circuitry doesn't do a satisfactory job of suppressing the problems, not least because activating it causes new issues with softness and image blurring.
One final little niggle is that the HV-32D40BK's screen is rather prone to reflections from your living-room.
The HV-32D40BK's sound is very good.Particularly striking is the sheer width of the soundstage, which spreads far and wide without losing cohesion or a believable sense of space.Vocals remain clear at all times too, while things are rounded off by a more than respectable frequency range that delivers high trebles without severe harshness and reasonably deep bass without compression or speaker distortion.
Overall, though, the HV-32D40BK is a touch disappointing. Its noble HD intentions are severely hamstrung by its lack of either digital connectivity or 720p compatibility. Its digital tuner is let down by a lack of seven-day EPG support. Finally, its basically good picture quality is dealt a blow by concerns about how the image processing works with non-HD sources.Oh well - at least the £800 price tag seems fair. John Archer