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Despite being a key member of the Blu-ray Disc Association (or more accurately a ‘contributor'), JVC has been pretty quiet on the Blu-ray front in the UK since the format first launched. In fact it's been completely silent, having launched bugger all in this country despite teasing us with prototypes at IFA and CES, so it's with a great deal of excitement and relief that we're taking a look at its debut Blu-ray product, the NX-BD3. JVC has opted not to go down the straight player route, but instead to come up with a swanky-looking three-speaker system which, as you'll soon find out, does a lot more than just play Blu-ray discs.
In terms of looks it's not called Sophisti for nothing, as the main Blu-ray/receiver unit boasts an elegant, seductive design with a gorgeous semi-translucent front section that offers a flirtatious glimpse of an illuminated blue arc. The buttons and info display also glow an alluring shade of blue and on the underside you'll find a flap that conceals a slot for SD and SDHC memory cards.
In the box are a robust active subwoofer and a pair of speakers, but there's more to the latter than meets the eye. They're the world's first speakers to use anisotropic (having different physical properties in different directions) diaphragms, which use cross-shaped vertical and horizontal dense areas to increase sound propagation by 10%, therefore reducing resonance.
What's more, each speaker contains a pair of drivers in separate enclosures, one of which outputs the front channels while the other sends out the surround channels, which is supposed to deliver convincing 4.1 sound from three speakers. It's impressive and all that, but it's a shame that manufacturers are so reluctant to throw a proper 5.1 speaker system in the box given the generally disappointing surround performance offered by most 2.1 systems - particularly when it comes to Blu-ray, which was born for multichannel sound. Hopefully JVC can buck the trend…
There are plenty of useful connections on the rear, including an HDMI 1.3 output, which supports Deep Colour and x.v.Colour, plus 1080/24p Blu-ray output and CEC functionality. It's joined by a SCART and component video output, which can output 1080i but defaults to 576p when playing DVD or Blu-ray. The optical digital input is also handy, as it matches the optical out found on Sky+ and other digital TV receivers, plus analogue audio input is provided for other external sources. You'll also find S-video and composite outputs and FM/AM aerial inputs for the on-board radio tuners.
The rear panel also sports an Ethernet port, which leads us neatly into the NX-BD3's unique selling point - it's the world's first DLNA 1.5 certified Blu-ray player, which means you can play back music, hi-def video and photo files stored on PCs and other devices hooked up to your home network. For this purpose, JVC supplies a copy of CyberLink Media Server, but you don't necessarily need to install it as the system also works with Windows Media Player 11. It's a great idea that gives the JVC a distinct edge over rival Blu-ray systems.