The Monster TV Face Off Hitachi 61SWX10B

Hitachi 61SWX10B Rear-Projection HD Monitor ($4,000)

Unfortunately, when you have 10 TVs to talk about, you don't get very much space to talk about any one of them. Therefore, I must forego my otherwise brilliant and witty introductions. At 61 inches, the 61SWX10B is the third largest set in the Face Off and certainly qualifies as big. Assuming you can get it through your door, you should have no trouble connecting it to your system, as it has plenty of inputs on the front and back.

You should also find the system reasonably easy to use. The remote is pretty big and contains lots of small buttons, but it's also backlit and well laid out. The remote can control seven other devices, as well. There is a direct-access button for each of the TV's inputs, which is a major bonus, especially for anyone using a macro-based remote like the Philips Pronto. The onscreen menu is kind of big and ugly but redeems itself by getting out of the way when you want to make adjustments.

Another bonus is that you can use the menu to tailor the picture the way you like it. Both color and scan-velocity-modulation (SVM) enhancements can be disabled, giving you a more-accurate picture with more-accurate color and finer detail. The black-level-enhancement function seemed to have little effect. I found the set's color decoder to be more accurate with the Auto Color turned on. Still, the picture had a bit of a green tint, thanks to the factory calibration of the gray scale (see measurements). Hitachi claims to have corrected this on production models and is willing to send a technician out for those people who've already bought the set and find the current settings to be objectionable.

The color balance definitely had an impact on the judging panel. Adrienne said simply, "I just can't get past the color." Maureen agreed strongly, and they both felt that the darker DVD scenes were too green. Everyone on the panel felt likewise. Chris (aka Big Papa) also pointed out that the black level seemed a bit unstable. Claire liked the way this made shadows seem more black than they do on other sets, thus giving dark images more dimension, although it did make those same shadows lighter with brighter images. Big Papa thought that the Hitachi's line doubler was OK. It detected 3:2 reasonably well and eliminated most motion artifacts. Ron felt that, with proper calibration, the set's other attributes make it worth looking at. He particularly liked the set's accurate color decoder, although he thought NTSC images were a tad soft. Geoffrey, the Kid, also thought the TV had promise and pointed out that HD images looked really sharp. In fact, nearly everyone agreed that this set would have ranked number one in its group and might have at least gone on to the last round if it had a better factory calibration.

The 61SWX10B ranked fairly well overall, landing within the top half of the pack and ending up second in its particular group. Ron "Mr. HD" Williams even mentioned that it would be his top pick. With or without Hitachi's corrected factory color-temperature setting, this display needs some TLC by a technician with a color analyzer (the calibration method of choice). Still, the base chassis' sharp HD picture and accurate color decoder make it worth looking into.—MW

61SWX10B HD Monitor $4,000
Hitachi Home Electronics
Dealer Locator Code HIT

HT Labs Measures:Hitachi HD Monitor

The top chart shows the gray scale of the Hitachi HD monitor as set by the manufacturer, in the most accurate menu setting possible. The set measures an extremely low 4,000 Kelvin with dark images and leans toward 7,500 K with brighter images. According to Hitachi, they will send a technician to your home to make adjustments to the gray scale if you find it objectionable. After making adjustments using the Photo Research PR-650, the gray scale can measure within 200 K of D6500, the accurate setting, across the entire range. The bottom chart shows that the primary colors of the display's CRTs are OK; the red and blue colors closely match those specified by SMPTE. Green leans reasonably yellowish, which means that the display will reproduce most of the colors available in the system. The gray scale, shown in the middle of the triangle, goes from being greenish-red before calibration to being fairly accurate (the middle red dots) afterward. The light output was approximately 35 foot-lamberts with a white window and 44 ft-L with a full-white field. This indicates a very strong power supply. The display has poor DC restoration: Dark portions of the image get brighter as the image gets brighter. Both scan velocity modulation and the color decoder can be made reasonably accurate from the user adjustments. A service technician can improve the color decoder further from the service mode. The comb filter does an OK job of eliminating dot crawl. There is some but not much. The TV displays at least 500 horizontal lines (per picture height) with NTSC sources, as measured using the resolution pattern from the Ovation Avia test DVD played on a Sony CDP-650D DVD player.—MW/GM