Test Bench: Hitachi 42HDS69 42-inch Plasma HDTV

Unless indicated otherwise, all tests were performed via the HDMI input from an HD DVD player set to 1080i output.

Color temperature (Standard color temperature, Night mode before/after calibration): Low window (20 IRE): 6,461/6,233 K High window (80 IRE): 6,753/6,513 K Brightness (100-IRE window before/after calibration): 75.4/38.5 ftL

The Hitachi 42HDS69's Standard color temperature came relatively close to the 6500-kelvin standard in dark areas and got somewhat bluer in brighter ones, although not objectionably so, varying by an average of 578K from the standard. After grayscale calibration in the service menu it was much more accurate, varying by just 140K, although it still showed the same trend toward being redder in dark areas and bluer in light areas. In its default Dynamic picture setting the 42HDS69 generated a copious 75.4 footlamberts of light output, although for dim-room viewing I reduced that to a comfortable 38.5.

Using a checkerboard pattern, I measured a contrast ratio of 313 and an average black level of 0.11 ftL after calibration, which is less impressive than for some of the best plasmas I've tested but still okay. Although black level was constant regardless of the brightness of other areas of the screen, areas slightly lighter than black fluctuated, becoming abruptly darker on the Luma Levels pattern from Avia Pro when the increasingly bright side hit about 8%, then abruptly darker when it hit about 65%. This occurred in both Normal and Dynamic contrast modes.

Multiburst resolution patterns at 1080i via HDMI revealed that the Hitachi had difficulty resolving the highest frequencies along its horizontal axis and that lines were unstable along its vertical axis, even on 480-resolution patterns. Edge enhancement occurred unless the noise-reduction feature was set to High.

As I'd expect from any plasma, white field uniformity, geometry, and off-angle viewing were all excellent. Overscan in 16:9 Standard 2 mode, available only with 1080i and 720p inputs, was 0%, making the Hitachi ideal for viewing high-definition material with significant content extending to the extreme edges of the screen. Primary color accuracy for red was just slightly below average, blue was excellent, but green was significantly yellower than on most plasmas I've seen, although certainly not a deal-breaker. Color decoding for red was nearly perfect and green very good.

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