Picture detail and color gradation are typical plasma strong points, and in these areas the Hitachi didn't disappoint. On the Blu-ray Disc of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in the scene where our hero is being chased by the dragon, the fine detail in both the shapes and the colors of roof tiles was particularly impressive. The picture was especially smooth from corner to corner, with no visible uniformity issues.
In our dark viewing environment, the deepest black that the set could manage was really more of a medium gray - a bit disappointing, since this is normally an area where plasmas do well. Shadow detail was good, however, allowing me to catch subtleties in the faces and clothing of the audience on the Blu-ray Disc of Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds' Live at Radio City.
For checking out the Reel60 processing, Hitachi had suggested a certain slow panning shot in the hospital-room scene from the Will Ferrell vehicle Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. And indeed, the improvement over the regular 3:2 pulldown mode was quite dramatic, with an almost complete elimination of image judder. I did notice that the processing could get caught out momentarily from time to time, but overall it was a major benefit.
Watching an episode of Dr. Danger in 1080i from our HD cable box, I was again impressed by the naturalness of the colors, both in Dr. Arnot's skin tones and in the misty Yemeni mountainside where he was hiking (and getting injured). From my admittedly rather close viewing distance of about 7 feet, the Hitachi's picture looked just a touch soft compared with the needle-sharp images I've experienced on a few other sets, although from a more normal distance this would pass unnoticed.
Standard-def sources displayed on the P60X901 looked quite a bit better than average. When the set showed the dinner-party scene from Seabiscuit at 480i from DVD, the image was good enough to have fooled most people into thinking it was high-def. Standard-def cable, too, looked significantly better than on most other flat-panel TVs - depending, of course, on the quality of the source.
With sales of big rear-projection TVs falling off faster than contestants on American Idol, big flat-panel sets are rapidly taking their place. Hitachi's P60X901 gives you 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, and its overall image quality is excellent, with a bright, punchy picture that should work well in a room with a lot of ambient light. And while the set's black-level performance wasn't quite up to that of the best plasmas we've seen lately, Hitachi's Reel60 processing is a unique feature that shows just how much improvement a good judder-reduction technology can deliver.
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