Seeing the Digital Light Page 4

When I played The Fifth Element, one of my standard reference DVDs, I was impressed by the Hitachi set's excellent color rendition -- flesh tones were dead-on accurate, and heavily saturated colors (like Leeloo's orange hair) came across vividly but without any softening of detail. With 3:2 pulldown engaged, the set's upconverter was a force to be reckoned with. In shots with vertical camera motion, straight lines looked completely solid, without any of the stairstep artifacts that the line doublers in many other HDTVs introduce.

When I switched over to the murky opening scenes of Gladiator, however, I was given a taste of DLP technology's current limitations. As the Roman warriors waged battle in the forests of Germania, the shadowy landscape came across as a flat, uniform dark gray, with no deep blacks. The compressed contrast range robbed the image of the 3-D illusion that came across so well in the movie's better-lit scenes.

Hitachi 55DMX01W
KEY FEATURES:
  • 55-inch (diagonal) 16:9 aspect ratio screen
  • Converts all incoming video signals to 720p format
  • Displays XGA, SVGA, and VGA computer signals

DIMENSIONS 51 1/2 inches wide, 40 inches high, 24 inches deep WEIGHT 202 pounds PRICE $12,995 MANUFACTURER Hitachi Home Electronics, Dept. S&V, P.O. Box 3900, Peoria, IL 61612; www.hitachi.com/tv; 800-448-2244

When converting 1080i signals to the DMD's native 720p, the Hitachi generated a faint noise pattern visible on flat patches of color -- a problem I corrected by setting our Dish Network 6000 HDTV tuner to convert all incoming signals to 720p. Displaying a high-def satellite transmission of The Talented Mr. Ripley, the Hitachi did a credible job of rendering the detailed wall decorations in the hotel Ripley checks into after assuming his murdered friend's identity. Unfortunately, the set had the same limitations with HDTV that I had observed with DVDs --

reduced contrast in scenes containing lots of shadows. One workaround I discovered was to increase the level of ambient light in the room, which helped to improve the set's apparent contrast. Although I'm used to watching movies in fairly dark rooms, I can't say that I minded the light. For once I could find the remote without groping about like a blind man.

If Digital Light Processing is TV's destiny, the Hitachi 55DMX01W rear-projection TV is a promising sign of things to come. Not only will it look great sitting in your living room, but it delivers exceptionally bright, finely detailed images and accurate color.

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