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NuVision NVU55FX5LS LED HD Television Review

by The Review CrewMay 30, 2010

Edge-lit LED TVs – that being a slightly-modified style of LCD panel — are finally starting to come into a bit of a wide-berth adoption stage, slimming down and finding spots on retail counters for purchase contemplation purposes.  The technology has progressed to a degree where those panels are finally going to start coming down off of shelves and into the home, since the cost is slowly whittling to a reasonable level.  Nuvision, however, realize that there’s a direct vein into a market of flat-panel connoisseurs, which results in their high-end, highly-refined array of television sets – as with the Lucidium 55” LED panel, the NVU55FX5LS.  And, without question, the quality is excellent, with a splendid picture, aesthetic appeal, and a myriad of self-aware refinements with both inputs and external picture enhancement.  However, the sticker shock may set you aback, with the set arriving at a cool $5999.99 list.  “Therein, as the Bard would tell us, lies the rub”, as NuVision’s excellent quality persistently battles the substantial investment.

Out of the Box:

One inarguable fact about the NuVision is that it’s both a) an aesthetically attractive piece of visual equipment, and b) surprisingly light for its size.  It’s worth mentioning out of the gate that this television, though in the upper echelon of pricing, does not include a base/stand for the unit out of box.  In order to display it on a free-standing piece of furniture, a purchase of one of their somewhat easy-to-install bases will run $199.99. When the TV itself finally slides out of the box, difficult if handling the setup process without the assistance of professional installers, it’s a rather attractive affair.  The set isn’t quite as razor thin as seen from some edge-lit LED televisions floating around, but the 1.5” width is still stunningly sleek.  What’s even more impressive is the fact that – and this is considering with the stand installed on the bottom – the 55” set only weighs 50 pounds. 

The finish around the rim, available in stock black and a limited edition silver coloring (black reviewed here), has a cold metallic feel to its brushed, textured aluminum border; appealingly boxy and very elegant. Adorned at the lower left-hand side of the unit, the company’s signature “Ū” becomes the only real visible element on the front of the screen – aside from the power indicator  button at the other end, which toggles a very mute red for standby mode and a pleasingly lowkey blue when in use.  Power buttons, channel toggles, and the rest of the typical buttons are located on the right-hand side panel in a slim row, with smaller-than-pea sized buttons embedded within.  Since most of the navigation will be done with the remote, most assumedly installing it as a mounted device, the placement shouldn’t dramatically bother anyone.  Along with the set, Nuvision includes an easy-to-setup foldout guide for installation, a rather light and basic manual, and the HDTV remote.
Expectedly out of a high-dollar connoisseur unit, NuVision’s array of inputs/outputs is pleasingly robust on the NVU55FX5LS. Four HDMI 1.3 inputs are naturally the central draw, offering just the right number to the rear – enough to cover most bases, especially when considering an HDMI-capable receiver will likely factor into the equation.  One RGB component input is also available, along with a standard composite jack, an S-Video input, and a D Sub 15 PC input for the panel’s usage as a 1920×1080 computer monitor at 60 Hz.  We’ve also got an audio headphone jack, a NuControl connection (that looks like an Ethernet control, yet it’s specifically for IR / RS-232 communication).  Oddly, one or two things are missing from the television that are available on lower-priced models, such as an SD card port for viewing images and a Toslink Digital Audio out port.
 
Remote:

It’s been ages since I’ve been thoroughly impressed with a company’s remote, and NuVision’s slickly designed and functional device is pleasing; especially if a Crestron, Harmony or other universal remote will not be in use.  Measuring just a hair over six inches, it’s an average length and width – with a nicely-balanced weight to it. The element that’s oddly satisfying about this control device comes in the black, matte wetsuit-like material on the bottom that allows for a little bit of an extra grip in the hand.  At the top and bottom, the remote carries the same style of brushed metal material as around the television.  And, pleasantly, the black buttons do have a very soft yet readable white backlight.

At the top of the remote, we’ve got a simple array of source toggle buttons, which include: TV and Comp 1 and 2 for basic functionality, then 4 HDMI buttons, VGA, AV 1 and 2, as well as Input and Pictures.  Directly underneath that, the signature spindle direction pad is made available for Channel / Volume changing with Menu, Guide, Mute, and Display buttons at the four diagonal corners.  Below that, several picture adjustment buttons are available that interchange PIP functionality, as well as the aspect ratio of the on-screen material.  With these buttons, adjustments can tailor to 4:3, Panorama, Zoom, and 16:9 ratios, with 16:9 pretty much as the “home” button.  Here’s a nifty add-on about these buttons: when they’re pressed and the transition between the two aspect ratios takes place, they don’t clank along and simply move from ratio to ratio, instead expanding and contracting with a stretching or compacting motion.  Underneath those, we’ve got the standard 1-9 keypad and a Sleep button, a useful Day/Night brightness toggle, a really slick Freeze button to freeze-frame the material on-screen (which works without any noticeable delay), a Previous CH toggle and the Enter button.

Setup:

Pressing the Menu Button opens up a small – physically, not contextually – box at the center of the screen that makes several options available to tailoring the viewing experience.  Image Settings allows for adjustments to be made to Brightness, Contrast, Color, Tint, Sharpness, Color Temp (Warm, Normal, Cool, Vivid), as well as the Advanced Features that start to get into Backlight gauge, DNR (Dynamic Noise Reduction), MPEG DNR, Gamma, and the motion adjustments – FFM from Off to High, Game Mode (On/Off), and FX5(On/Off). 

Audio options for this unit, controlling the meager speakers on the set, tailor the Balance, Equalizer when the Surround function is set to Off, Audio Language, type of audio that streams from the Digital Audio Out (Dolby Digital, LPCM), Line Output, and Lip Sync tailoring.  OSD languages for this model are available in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, adjustable in the Functions settings.  Also under the functions settings, we can alter the style of Zoom Mode, Overscan amount, Input Label for the sources, and HDMI audio.  Also adjustable under this setting are two separate PC adjustments, one for VGA signal (Video or PC), and PC Mode Adjust to tailor the placement of the PC image.  It’s worth noting that the core sound from the set itself aren’t terribly robust, sporting very little bass and a muffled, marginally satisfying quality – therefore, a secondary audio source is highly recommended.  Then again, we are working with a 1.5” thick television, so the limitations in size do come into play.

Digging a bit deeper, we’ve also got a Color Calibration menu (available via a password from the manual) which allows for further tailoring to the visual experience.  It opens the gate for Picture Adjust for global video tinkering, White Balance mixing that shapes Gain and Offset within dependent RGB channels, Blue Enable for color calibration via blue filter devices, and Factory Reset.  After running Spears and Munsil’s hand-forged disc, the display was scaled down in sharpness to roughly 30, which mostly balanced out a slight amount of oversharp edge halos, while the Brightness was scaled to 65 and the Backlight downshifted almost all the way down.  The set’s attributes aren’t dialed completely up like many other big-box company sets, and that’s a welcome change. 

Performance:

NuVision’s NVU55FX5LS 55” LED television comes with a wealth of precise engineering underneath the hood, building it into a formidable set that fights vigorously to justify its high-ticket price.  Their NiDO IV Full 10-Bit processor arrives with 1080p@24/60 capacity at 120hz, with options for its FX5 and Forward Frame Motion, 3:2 / 2:2 / 5:5 cadence detection, and their own NuColor x.v. gradient registry for rich contrast and punchy color.  These attributes were sent through lengthy tests involving home media, broadcast, and gaming elements, along with a thorough run-through with Spears and Munsil’s Blu-ray test disc on JVC’s XV-BP1 Blu-ray player, and NuVision’s set was certainly up to task in justifying their claims at prestige.  Price taken out of the equation, you’re not likely to find a more ample consumer-level set than this.

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First, broadcast television was given a spin with a series of HD and SD content via both HDMI and component, and the results were highly satisfying. Elements from Fox’s Fringe, late-night talk show programming, The Big Bang Theory and some NFL action were all broadcast(or recorded via DVR) in HD on the set, both with the FFM / FX5 enhancements activated and without.  120hz technology has reached a mainstream level, to a degree, with the 240hz motion becoming the upper echelon.  Bear in mind that these enhancements primarily aid the likes of sports television and live broadcasts – giving a more fluid motion that, in other contexts and at other frame rates, simply appears odd to the eye. 

Watching the likes of NFL games, the Craig Ferguson Show, and a recorded performance of So You Think You Can Dance benefitted greatly from the tech in making them pop with a 3D appearance, some benefitting more than others based on the native content. However, it’s a decision that’s been in the hands of the consumer to this point by electing either to activate or turn off the ability to choose for themselves — something NuVision has preserved with the ability to toggle the motion controls.  Watching in regular-old HD provided a splendid viewing experience as well, rendering crisp images with pleasing tight detail.  Ultimately, when not watching any sports action, the motion controls were toggled off – aside from the FX5, which offers a pleasing punch in image stability during motion.

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Blu-ray imagery looks astounding in Nuvision’s LED, tested via JVC’s XV-BP1 and Sony’s Playstation 3.   The gamut’s been throttled forward with many different types of media, from predominately digital photography to aged film stock.  Discs were tested at both the “native” frame rates and with the motion-enhancing toggles flipped on, naturally with those toggled off at the end of it all since they detract from the nature of the director’s intended visual style. Test discs included Universal’s Inglourious Basterds, Criterion’s Wings of Desire, and Sony’s District 9, each one carrying different aspect ratios and different consistency of aesthetic.  And, with each, this LED packs quite a natural punch as a cinema display.

Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglourious Basterds tested the capacity for 2.35:1 content on the panel.  Show with an Arriflex camera on 35mm film, the film’s a high-contrast, rather densely textured piece of work, and the NuVision’s television represents the Blu-ray content to smashing degrees.  Depth and dimensionality were the key drivers to this disc’s successes, which showed off immense textural detail in close-ups and the wooded area where the Basterds acted out their more grueling sequence, along with the compelling interior sequences in both the Nazi hall and the beautiful movie theater late in the film.  Colors all popped on the LED screen, black levels remained rich without seeping into non-visible territory, and the details present were all preserved stunningly.

Shifting things up drastically, Criterion’s disc of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire tests a more difficult style of film on the panel.  Though a striking film (a personal favorite), it’s also grainy and predominately black-and-white in nature – giving the set a prime chance to really show off what it can do with pure white levels and drastic fluctuations in contrast.  It was certainly up to task; through the film’s splendid layer of film grain, it showcased immensely pleasing grayscale images, staying stable and strong with nary a detail fading into darker sequences.  Not to spoil anything regarding the movie, but the color sequences later in the picture also looked rather stunning in their drab yet poignant context. 

Wrapping things up for the high-definition rundown for this panel, Sony’s crisply rendered disc for Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 tested the waters for pure, often digitally-shot 1.78:1 material with a snappy RED One camera.  With that in mind, the picture harks mostly to densely-textured dilapidation within the South African slums, along with complex computer-generated imagery for the aliens – “prawns” – in the film.  NuVision’s set handled the cinematography to exceptional degrees, offering up some of the more tightly-rendered details in the shaky-camera movement that an LCD has offered up.  Along with that, District 9 also tosses in some rougher footage and some stock, archival TV content in for posterity, and the set manages to keep those stable and the color palette accurate. 

Several DVDs, upscaled via the same Blu-ray players tested (generally the JVC XV-BP1), also did a pleasing job on the NuVision LED. Kathryn Bigelow’s film The Hurt Locker looks great at 1.78:1 on the television, maintaining a level of standard-definition grain that’s highly pleasing.  Contrast levels and details stay natural to the film’s intent, some of which were hazy and other that were highly crisp.  The Zoom feature, interchangeable for size in the internal menu, offered a pleasing blow-up of Grosse Pointe Blank’s non-anamorphic DVD, keeping it fairly stable and relatively attractive. 

Historically, traditional LCD televisions haven’t faired terribly well as gaming monitor due to response rates and motion, but most of those days are behind us now that technology has refined itself to become open to consoles.  NuVision’s 55” LED, however, doesn’t skip a beat when throttling forward with gaming – both in 720-1080p and in 480i/p. To test this, Sony’s Playstation 3 (reviewed here) was given a workout via HDMI, while Nintendo’s Wii console operated on a progressive-scan capable level with RGB component cables.  All consoles were operated with and without the motion-enhancing FFM and FX5 capabilities in use, as well as with the Game Mode toggled both on and off.  Mostly, all of the motion-enhancing features offer meek enhancement to the image, with only a few notably minor occurrences. 

Gaming on the Playstation 3 was, in a nutshell, stellar.  Hammering through Burnout Paradise offered a smooth and explosive experience, with the refresh rate offering a smooth driving experience that’s only a few steps away from appearing completely realistic.  Color gradation also gets worked out quite a bit in that title, and the splashes of color – all within a whirlwind of motion – looked great on the set.  On the flipside of things, the dark and grimy Fallout 3 offered more of a subtle yet densely textured experience with a few strategic explosions and motion-intensive runs.  Oddly, the FFM enhancements shows a bit of pleasing enhancement with the first-person content in Bethesda’s title, making billowing fire, explosions, and general running through the tunnels and such less jerky and crisp to the eye.  When it comes to aliasing, NuVision’s set does neither a good nor bad job – wearing a few jaggies on its sleeve that are acceptable but not terribly pleasing.  On a whole, from navigating through the PS3’s XMB and withstanding hours of gaming, it’s a satisfying large-scale HD gaming monitor.

480i/p gaming, however, wasn’t quite as readily appealing. Naturally, the lower-resolution games will appear far more pixilated and jagged in comparison, something that NuVision’s set obviously can’t avoid it.  It’s simply a bad mix – a large LCD television with lower-resolution graphics.  With that expected discrepancy out of the way, the NuVision set doesn’t exactly do the likes of the Wii console very much justice, presenting drab colors in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and pixilation aplenty during World of Goo.  Aliasing was prevalent everything, and the NuVision doesn’t do the content any favors.  Activating the FFM and Game Mode did make motion seem a bit smoother, but in all the experience is merely passable.
Positives: Outstanding Picture, Robust Black Levels, Crisp HD Colors, Rich with Inputs, Very Attractive

NuVision’s 55” NVU55FX5LS is, undoubtedly, an excellent flat-panel LED, one that’s impressive both as a 120 Hz-enhanced model and as a “standard” HD flat-panel piece of equipment.  It offers a beautiful picture in high-definition, one that carries an aptitude for contrast and robust black levels to fine degrees.  Colors absolutely pop from the screen, yet they’re controlled to a natural degree when they need to be.  As a Blu-ray cinema screening panel, it’s exquisite; handling both big-budget pictures and independent classics, the level of richness in its ability to replicate the home cinema impresses to incredible lengths.
 
Along the same lines, it works great with high-definition gaming consoles, expressing very admirable refresh rates and fine replication of motion.  Furthermore, it’s working with a healthy amount of inputs that’ll satisfy most with their variety, including 4 HDMI 1.3 ports and PC VGA/Audio ports to ensure that this will stand strong as the central item in a home theater. Finally, it does all this while carrying attractiveness about its chassis that helps it out as a pleasing addition to a living room or screening room.

Negatives: Price, A Few Missing Features, Mediocre SD Gaming, Passable Speakers

With current 55” Samsung, Toshiba, and LG models performing to healthy degrees at roughly half the cost, it becomes slightly more difficult to throw a vote clearly behind this athlete of a flat-panel screen.   Is the performance stellar?  Without a doubt.  The question you need to ask yourself is if the quality and aesthetic value outweighs the price difference of mass market models.  In that, it’s worth mentioning some of the middling negatives about the set, such as neglecting to include a SD Card input and a Toslink output (though, again, a coaxial jack is included with the mix for digital audio).  And, though it’s partially expected, standard-definition gaming isn’t really bolstered forward with this set’s capabilities.  Finally, the speakers aren’t really robust on their own.  But, again, these are secondary elements that partially steer away from the set’s central focus, which is handled proficiently.

Final Thoughts:

In short, you get what you pay for.  NuVision’s NVU55FX5LS 55” LED set offers an exquisite home theater experience, whether we’re acknowledging the enhanced 120 Hz technology or not.  Whether you’re a cinema fan, a TV enthusiast, or a high-definition gamer (preferably a combination of the three) this set will certainly satisfy those with sharp eyes and a knack for quality.  The television isn’t so much about what all it can do, since it’s not overwhelmingly elaborate with its mechanics, but more about what it does well.  And it performs extremely well — which is a good thing, because the investment placed in the set isn’t something to scoff at.  Weigh the options heavily and take a look around at the other edge-lit LED televisions available, but know that there’s a clear and definite boost in quality when investing in NuVision’s splendid set.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.