Hitachi 42HDT51 42-inch Plasma HDTV Page 3

PLUSCrisp images with natural color. Color Management feature for fine-tuning pictures. Excellent built-in HDTV tuner.

MINUSShadow depth lacking in dark scenes.

Later on in Elf, things take a dark turn and Buddy ends up on a bridge contemplating suicide. In this gloomy sequence, the shots of the bridge and cars passing on it showed some detail, but the shadows were closer to dark gray than true black. This made those images look somewhat flat compared with the movie's many brighter scenes. I also noticed some false contouring - bands of color instead of a smooth progression of dark to light tones - in a sequence from Master and Commander where the English ship retreats into the fog following a skirmish with the French. However, in most other movies and TV shows I watched it wasn't an issue.

An HDNet college match between Illinois and Gonzaga looked fabulously crisp on the Hitachi . When the action ended and the victorious Illinois players gathered on the court, I could easily make out the fluffy texture of a white terrycloth towel draped across a player's shoulders. And the bright red of their uniforms looked extremely lush without any bleeding or softening of detail in the folds of the material.

BOTTOM LINE With its slick design, even slicker motorized stand, and numerous high-end picture adjustments, Hitachi 's 42HDT51 has a lot to offer. And its highly capable built-in HDTV tuner and wide assortment of video connections sweeten the deal. Unlike plasmas past, this user-friendly TV is simple to set up and its picture looks great almost right out of the box. If that's not evolution, I don't know what is.

In the Lab

Color temperature (Standard mode) Low window (20-IRE) ....................... 6,387 K High window (80-IRE) ...................... 6,495 K

Brightness(100-IRE window) ............................ 27.5 ftL

After I selected its Standard color temperature and made only basic picture-control adjustments, the Hitachi 42HDT51 measured close to the 6,500 K grayscale standard - so close that calibration wasn't necessary. Grayscale tracking was good. The Hitachi was able to display both above-white and below-black signals via its HDMI input, and maximum picture brightness was about average for a 42-inch plasma TV. Picture overscan was 3% - also typical. The color-decoder check pattern on the Avia Guide to Home Theater setup DVD showed a 15% red push on the component-video input and 5% on the HDMI input. Both deviations were easily fixed using the TV's user-accessible Color Decoding and Color Management menus.

- A.G.