Two Color Space settings are available: AutoStd/xvColor and Vibrant. The Auto mode had a wider color gamut and delivered primary colors that measured closer to the HDTV standard. It toned down the set's color saturation to create a more film-like image than Vibrant could deliver, but it also sacrificed some color details that added a sense of realism. Since Auto also disabled many of the TV's advanced color adjustments, I opted for Vibrant along with the D.Cinema color-temperature setting before making final picture tweaks. With these settings, color temperature tracked between 6,000 and 6,300 K across most of the brightness range - not much off the 6,500-K industry standard.
Besides the traditional Brightness (black-level) control, the P50X902 offers Gamma and Black Enhancement adjustments to help strike the right balance between deep blacks and clear reproduction of shadow details. I ended up setting Gamma and Black Enhancement to Medium and Middle, respectively.
After basic calibration tamed the Hitachi's slightly too warm and oversaturated flesh tones, high-def cable-TV programs looked great on its 1080p screen. NBC's broadcast of the Summer Olympics offered a steady stream of crisp, brightly colored images to watch. The reds in the uniforms of the U.S. women's basketball team looked natural and appropriately saturated, while rich blues, neutral whites, and amazingly sharp details could be seen in the sequined swimsuits of the Russian synchronized-swimming team.
The Blu-ray Disc of the romantic comedy Fool's Gold also looked sensational on the Hitachi. A wide shot of the Caribbean in the opening sequence was convincingly blue-green, and the bright yellows in the Hawaiian shirt worn by treasure-hunter Ben Finnegan (Matthew McConaughey) popped off the screen without looking unnatural. The set's blacks appeared to be solid, but just to make sure, I used an HDMI splitter to compare the Hitachi with a first-generation Pioneer Elite Kuro. On most programs, the Hitachi impressively matched the Kuro for color accuracy and contrast. But on very dark scenes - such as one in which Finnegan's ex-wife Tess (Kate Hudson) examines a shipwreck artifact on a yacht's deck at night - the Pioneer's superiority was apparent.
The Hitachi's Cinema 48 film mode - which performs 2:2 pulldown on 1080p/24-frame signals coming from a Blu-ray player and displays them at a 48-Hz refresh rate - did a great job of smoothing judder in a difficult pan-and-zoom sequence from Fool's Gold. (See the full Test Bench report on the next page.) And it handled standard-def material well - not the best I've seen, but also not the worst. There was no evidence of "jaggy" distortions on diagonal lines, and high-quality 480i and 480p DVD transfers delivered over a component-video connection looked clean with the set's noise-reduction processing turned off. (Since the Hitachi's NR and MPEG NR settings noticeably reduced picture detail, I left them off for most viewing.)
While its $3,695 list price is a little high, Hitachi's P50X902 represents a new level of performance and engineering prowess for the company. It can't beat Pioneer's plasmas (especially the '08 models) at reproducing deep-black shadows, but most people would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Throw in the Hitachi's superior, user-friendly menu system and remote control, plus the set's cool aesthetics and swivel base, and you've got a TV worth taking a good look at.
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