The task where most Blu-ray players seem to fall down, and quickly so, is when asked to properly scale standard-definition DVD content. Players usually fall into one of two camps: the first being those that deinterlace and scale DVD video well, using a licensed video processing chipset like ABT VRS, HQV Reon, or HQV Realta; and the second being those that do so poorly using an integrated or unknown processing solution. Since Samsung jumped-ship from category one to two in its 2009 step-up models, you have to go further up the price ladder to find the big name video processing chipsets. The XV-BP1 falls conveniently into neither of these categories.
Its video deinterlacing and scaling chipset(s) are unknown but handle odd cadences, bad edits, jaggies, and moiré in synthetic testing nearly as well as any other player on the market. All interlaced source cadences presented by the Spears & Munsil test disc were quickly recognized and properly deinterlaced except one, Time-Adjusted. Luckily, this cadence is typically only used when broadcast material is compressed or clipped to fit a certain time frame, usually making 3:2 pull down impossible to back out of. The chances of finding time-adjusted cadence on a commercially produced DVD are slim to none. All examples of bad-edits from one cadence to another were also properly detected and deinterlaced. Edge-adaptive deinterlacing also produced no jaggies in the passing range of two different test patterns presented. With the exception of the time-adjusted cadence, the JVC XV-BP1 again matches the performance of the Oppo BDP-83.
In real-world testing of both Blu-ray and DVD source material, the XV-BP1’s performance was nearly as flawless. DVD tests of panning crowd scenes like those found in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Gladiator showed no visible moiré. Animated comic book style cells like the Marvel intro of Spider-Man 3 were also free of jaggies.
Noise reduction is where the XV-BP1 shows one minor shortcoming. Some of the scenes in Gladiator and LOTR tested for moiré also show significant noise in both extremely dark shadow detail and extremely bright (nearing white) shadow detail. This is common for these discs and somewhat controlled by the XV-BP1, but more advanced video processing solutions do a better job of eliminating this “mosquito noise.” The XV-BP1’s handling of the noise is less my concern, as it doesn’t overly reduce noise at the loss of detail. Instead, I would like to see a variable noise-reduction setting in the menus, as is present on most other Blu-ray players in the price range. While jaggies and moiré from deinterlacing are not a concern with Blu-ray content, mosquito noise still can be, so finer control of the level of what seems to be an acceptable noise reduction algorithm would be greatly appreciated.
This brings me right into the other shortcoming of the XV-BP1, though more so when compared to more expensive players like the Oppo BDP-83 that I’ve come back to multiple times. The XV-BP1 is completely lacking in player-side video adjustments, so any picture adjustments will have to take place in the display or intermediate video processor.
I’ve made enough comparisons to my current reference Blu-ray player, the Oppo BDP-83, that I feel I should qualify why it’s come up so frequently and summarize how close the XV-BP1 really is. The BDP-83 excels in nearly every measurable and real-world performance scenario I’ve been able to come up with. It’s also well built, well supported, and well priced. It’s my point of comparison for any Blu-ray player I test. And the XV-BP1 has stacked up surprisingly well in the categories that matter for most folks shopping in the sub-$300 category.
Blu-ray image quality is uncompromised, and DVD playback is handled surprisingly well when compared to other similarly priced players. Noise reduction is a small blemish on an otherwise fine report card, but other Blu-ray players with better noise reduction controls fail to perform in other key areas. If you step away from build quality and the obvious lack of DVD-A and SACD playback, and consider a purely HDMI connection path, the XV-BP1 comes away as almost the Oppo’s equal in image quality and speed. It will satisfy non-videophiles and those looking for the best image they can find under $300. Whether you look at it as a poor-man’s Oppo, or just a great deal, the JVC XV-BP1 deserves your consideration. If you factor in that its street-price can be as much as half-off its MSRP, I don’t think there’s a current model with better value in terms of core performance the sub-$300 price point.
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Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.