The NEC V801 In Use
For our HDTV test setup, we use an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player connected directly to the monitor. All Blu-ray discs are played in the Oppo’s Source Direct mode, which means any necessary video processing is performed by the V801 rather than the player.
Contrast is a huge factor separating good HDTVs from great ones. Our favorite test of contrast is Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. It’s filled with dark murky scenes that provide a torture test for a display’s ability to render shadow detail. An average TV will look flat and lack definition. The V801 does an excellent job thanks to its low black levels and correct gamma. In the opening sequence, when Harry and Dumbledore are walking together in a nighttime setting, you can see details like roof shingles and bricks very clearly, while blacks remain rich and deep. The black bars aren’t quite invisible in our completely dark room, but they come close. With a small amount of ambient light, the bars disappear. While this monitor won’t dethrone the best plasma, it looks better than the vast majority of consumer LCD televisions we’ve seen.
With this first title, we discovered the V801’s one weakness. While it will accept a 24p signal from a Blu-ray player, it converts it to 60p before output. Obviously 60 is not a multiple of 24, so there are visible motion artifacts in any film-based content unless you set your player to output 60p. These artifacts manifest as brief stuttering at scene transitions and a slightly too-fluid sense of motion as extra frames are inserted to equalize the cadence rate. It’s a small issue, but the majority of dedicated HDTVs will display 24p content at a frame rate that’s a multiple of 24, like 120 or even 240 frames per second.
Another thing we look for in a home theater display is how it handles a noisy video. The Blu-ray edition of The Last Samurai is a great test for this. It’s not a particularly good transfer because it’s loaded with noisy images and edge enhancement. NEC's V801 impressed us, though. Even the edge enhancement, which comes from the disc not the display, doesn’t look too obnoxious. Noise is kept to a minimum even with the reduction slider set to zero, which means some processing is happening. This Blu-ray looks pretty bad on most TVs, but the V801 handles it very well.
To test the V801’s color rendering ability, we turned to the excellent Blu-ray transfer of Seabiscuit. This film is shot with lots of warm vibrant tones as it successfully recreates the era of The Great Depression. It’s quite easy to spot a TV with under- or over-saturated color here. Cueing up a scene with lots of pretty fall colors and bright sunlight, we lost ourselves in the entire movie. It looks that good. Color is rich and vibrant with a really nice natural look. The all-important fleshtones look just right without excessive redness.
Now we’ll move on to our traditional benchmark suite.