PICTURE QUALITY DVDs looked very good on the Hitachi using either its 540p or 1080i upconversion setting, but the picture improved even further when I hooked up a Bravo D2 player to its DVI input. In a scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King where Merry and Ara-gorn watch Pippin ride off into danger with Gandalf, the skin tones of the two gazing at their departing comrades looked completely natural, and so did the brown-orange landscape and the blue streams cutting across it. And in a later nighttime scene where Pippin worriedly looks out from a stone balcony in Minas Tirith, I could see plenty of shadow detail in both the towering walls of the castle and the dark, craggy mountains surrounding it.
To check out the Hitachi 's handling of HDTV, I tuned in to a consistently crisp-looking program, HDNet's World Report. Watching a news segment on alternative energy, I could clearly see the texture of the soil, rocks, and grass in a shot of a house built into a hillside. Picture detail seemed a step beneath the best (and far more expensive) DLP and plasma-based sets I've seen, but the difference wasn't all that dramatic. And the wide range of subtle green and brown tones in the desert plants and foliage confirmed what I had observed when watching the Lord of the Rings DVD - that the Hitachi 46F510 HDTV has outstanding color reproduction.
In a Raiders vs. Buccaneers game on ESPN HD, the clearly visible mesh of the players' uniforms really brought the action into my living room. The bright red numbers on the Tampa uniforms were vivid without being soft, and the green turf of the playing field didn't have the artificial look I've seen on some other TVs.
BOTTOM LINE With many HDTVs still at three or four grand and up, it's nice to know you can get a great-looking big-screen set for about half that price. Hitachi 's 46F510 doesn't hug the wall, and it doesn't have a lot of features beyond those videophile-friendly picture adjustments. But if you're looking to get into HDTV on the cheap, I can't think of a better place to start.
Color temperature (Night mode/Medium setting before/after calibration)
Low window (20-IRE) .............. 6,606/6,455 K
High window (80-IRE) ............. 6,088/6,539 K
Brightness (100-IRE window before/after calibration) 20.3/19.4 ftL
Hitachi's 46F510 provides four color-temperature presets: Black and White, Standard, Medium, and High. Of the four, Medium measured closest to the 6,500-K standard, tracking evenly through most of its grayscale but veering toward red near the high end. Calibration via the service-menu controls easily corrected this. After adjustment, the set measured within ±500 K through most of its range. (Calibration needs to be performed by a qualified technician with specialized equipment, so discuss it with your dealer before purchase, or call the Imaging Science Foundation at 561-997-9073.)
Picture geometry and focus were very good out of the box, and overscan measured about 4% on all sides, slightly higher than average. A color-decoding error (-10% green) was easily fixed using the Color Decoding adjustment in the user menu. DC restoration - the set's ability to hold a constant black level through shifts in average picture brightness - was excellent, with almost no movement visible on the Overscan Bounce pattern from the Avia test DVD. Screen uniformity was outstanding for a CRT-based display, with picture brightness holding fast over a wide viewing angle. - A.G.
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.