Until quite recently, 50 inches was pretty much the hot screen size for plasma TVs. But with LCDs now growing past that (and with big rear projectors now disappearing), plasma makers are stepping up their offerings at the 60-inch mark. Sure, there's a handful of even larger sets - all the way up to Panasonic's 150-inch monster - but for most people, 60 inches is currently as big as it's likely to get without using a projector.
The Short Form
|Price $6,000 ($7,000 list) / hitachi.us/tv / 800-448-2244|
|In this big-screen TV with an equally big price, Hitachi's engineers deliver a fine picture by doing it their way.|
|•Reel60 film-mode processing really works
•Very flexible picture controls
•Wide range of aspect-ratio options
|•Disappointing black-level performance
•No pixel-by-pixel display mode
•Built-in HDTV tuner
•Inputs: 3 HDMI (ver. 1.1); 2 component-, 4 composite-, and 1 S-video; RF antenna/cable; CableCARD; SD card; RS-232
•59.5 x 37.5 x 6.25 in; 162 lb
At around $7,000, Hitachi's flagship plasma TV, the Director's Series P60X901, is clearly up at the top end of the market. It's said to offer 1,920 x 1,080 resolution (despite some ambiguity about this in the set's documentation), and to further justify the premium price, Hitachi has incorporated some proprietary features. Most notable is something called Reel60 technology. Recently, increasing a TV's screen refresh rate (to reduce judder) has become popular in premium flat-panel TVs, but Hitachi has gone one better. Rather than simply repeating a frame, as is done with a standard 3:2 pulldown arrangement, Reel60 interpolates a new frame based on the adjacent frame information. This is supposed to result in much smoother motion, especially during slow camera pans.
For a set this big, the P60X901 has a remarkably thin-looking black bezel framing the screen. But when you look more carefully, you'll see that this is because the actual image area doesn't start until you get a couple of inches inside the edge of the glass panel. Despite the set's 162-pound bulk, wall mounting remains an option, although you'd better make sure you've got a couple of hefty wall studs to screw into.
The back panel offers two HDMI 1.1 and two component-video inputs in addition to the usual ones. While this at first glance seems skimpy, there's another HDMI input behind a flip-down panel on the front of the set. It should be noted that the P60X901 doesn't handle xvYCC or Deep Color, though this is inconsequential with most currently available video sources.
One nice touch is that the Hitachi comes with two remotes - the usual full-function one and a more basic one that's a bit easier to navigate for everyday use. The main remote has many of its important buttons arranged in a pair of concentric rings, making them tough to differentiate, and this is compounded by the lack of button illumination. Once you do get into the onscreen menu system, however, you'll find that it's well laid out and extremely comprehensive. Delving deep into the exhaustive picture-control options, a knowledgeable user with test gear can fully calibrate the set, even without access to the service menu.
I was happy to see a prominent Aspect button on the main remote that lets you cycle through the P60X901's many aspect-ratio options. The choices available depend somewhat on the input and signal format in use, but the 16:9 modes do include a zero-overscan setting - though this isn't actually a dot-for-dot mode, as all incoming signals are fed through Hitachi's PictureMaster HD V video processor for scaling.
The Day Dynamic picture preset is the out-of-the-box default setting, but I found that Night gave the most accurate gradations from light to dark in our darkened test lab. The black-enhancement control seemed to do little except crush black-level detail by adjusting the gamma, so I left it off. Each of the three different types of noise reduction available did reduce noise, but only at the expense of fine picture detail. I found that lowering the sharpness control enough to eliminate edge enhancement was far more effective at cleaning up the image.
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