Hitachi UltraVision 42HDX60 Plasma Monitor
By Ron Goldberg
The plasma market has become so crowded with cut-rate panels that it often becomes difficult to separate the technological wheat from the chaff. Hitachi's new 42HDX60 positions high-end engineering and a rich feature set as the cornerstones of its value proposition. From the perspectives of performance and convenience, it's not likely to be confused with many products in its class.
The 42HDX60 is part of Hitachi's "Director's Series," and is the flagship PDP in its size category. The 42-inch panel features 1024 x 1024 resolution, and is designed as a two-piece system. The accompanying "Control Center" is an outboard component about the size of a set-top box that includes two NTSC tuners, handles scaling, switching and processing, and connects to the monitor with a single cable. The Control Center accepts inputs from five A/V sources via 3 component video connections, a DVI port, RGB input and three analog S-video/composite connections. External gear can be operated from a single remote via Hitachi's "AV NET" control system. A second, simpler remote for every day use is also provided. The Control Center can output 20 watts of SRS TruBass-enhanced stereo audio (not surround) through a pair of slim, side mounted stereo speakers that Hitachi provides with the unit. While in most situations the customer will opt for an outboard audio system, Hitachi provides enough audio oomph here so that this system can be self-contained, as in a bedroom.
Two features bear particular mention. The first is ALiS—Alternative Lighting of Surfaces—a technology co-developed by Hitachi that displays continuous vertical channels of phosphor material within the pixel grid. With ALiS, entire video fields are displayed at once, even from an interlaced feed. The system, which is now in use by other brands as well, minimizes interlaced artifacts, eliminates visible grid patterns and also reduces energy consumption, which has the happy effect of making the product last longer. The second feature of note is Hitachi's VirtualHD technique, which upconverts incoming signals to 1080 progressive. According to Hitachi, VirtualHD 1080p offers several benefits over conventional 1080i processors, even when the final display is 1080i. The 1080p processing operates at twice the vertical resolution, meaning that for every incoming (non-1080) signal, the processing calculates both the odd and even 540 fields, as opposed to conventional processors, which are limited to calculating only one 540 field for each 1/60th of a second. The advantage of the higher vertical resolution can be seen as reduced "stair-stepping," because the interpolation is more precise.