Hitachi 42HDS69 42-inch Plasma HDTV

Today's well-equipped home theater has so many pieces of gear that it's sometimes hard to keep track of them all. There's the cable or satellite box, the DVD (or Blu-ray or HD DVD) player, maybe a VCR or DVD recorder, often a separate DVR, such as a TiVo, and, increasingly, at least one game console. If that list comes close to describing your A/V rack, then the Hitachi 42HDS69 42-inch plasma HDTV might be just what the home theater doctor ordered. It has more HD inputs than we've ever seen on a plasma TV, or on just about any HDTV for that matter.

What We Think
Though it's stylish and delivers a respectable picture, the main appeal of this affordable plasma lies in its best-in-class array of HDTV-compatible inputs
I've always considered Hitachi's simple yet elegant plasmas some of the best-looking around, and though the 42HDS69's silver trim doesn't strike quite as classy a chord as the all-black finish of the company's other models, it's still darned attractive. Burnished silver strips run along the top and bottom of the panel, framing a single, uninterrupted pane of glass that fronts the screen and its black border. Because of its side-mounted silver speakers, this plasma is wider than most, but unless you're trying to fit it into an entertainment center, that shouldn't be an issue.

Where Hitachi did cut corners is in the one place I don't really mind: the remote control. The bland gray wand is just half a notch above what comes with a no-name plasma, although it does include all the keys I look for, arranged in a passably ergonomic fashion. Even so, it begs to be replaced by a universal model - you know, one that can command that bulging rack of gear.

SETUP When it came time to lash the 42HDS69 to my test equipment, I enjoyed more than enough connections to go around. This plasma offers three HDMI digital ports and three inputs for component-video HDTV, along with a pair of A/V inputs that accept composite or S-video.

Keep in mind, though, that you can't connect to all of these inputs at once, because three of the five input slots are doubled up. For example, you can connect both a component-video source and an HDMI source to the ports labeled "Input 5" on the TV, but you'll see the component-video source only if the HDMI source is turned off. The same goes for Inputs 1 and 2 on the back panel, where two HDMI inputs override the two S-video inputs, which in turn override the composite-video inputs. Still, even with these caveats, and despite the lack of a VGA computer input, the 42HDS69 has more connections than just about any other HDTV out there. And regardless that it's an entry-level model, it also includes a CableCard slot, an increasingly rare option among late-model HDTVs.