Hitachi UltraVision 42HDX60 Plasma Monitor
The menu system is legible and easily navigated through a small thumbstick on the main remote control. Selecting a menu class brings up the sub-classes and choices, and navigating your way backward or forward through the settings is an intuitive and consistent process. Especially thoughtful is an on-screen reference readout of each input's picture and sound settings as you're making changes. Whoever is making adjustments to the picture and sound can immediately see (on each input) what the values were before the new adjustments were made. Some customers object when the installer locks them out of the ability to make any preferential settings. The 42HDX60's indicators let them tweak to their heart's content and easily return to the original values.
The actual remote system is also very nicely designed, with clear, logical function layout. The AV NET system includes codes for many popular components, but many higher-end brands that might logically accompany a monitor of this one's stature are conspicuously missing from the code list, and the remote cannot learn new codes. In fairness, most custom install jobs that would include a monitor like the Hitachi will have a third-party remote in any case, but it seems a shame to put this much effort into a good remote and remote system, only to have codes for brands like Broksonic and Soundesign instead of Lexicon and Rotel. The addition of a second "EZ" remote is a nice touch, and it might even end up as a favored accompaniment to a more complex universal remote in day-to-day operation.
In designing the 42HDX60, Hitachi has clearly aimed its sights high in terms of what's possible from a 42-inch PDP, circa 2003. There are so many preference adjustments available that it's difficult to describe the picture potential in its entirety. Using standard NTSC setup adjustments, the monitor exhibited smooth, supple, film-like pictures with almost no visible artifacting. On every digital source, the picture was exceptionally satisfying, with excellent black-level performance, great detail and outstanding color. The 1080i content was everything for which a viewer could hope. On the D-VHS release of U-571, you can feel the ocean around you—every bubble and swirl is vividly present. On Ice Age, every strand of digital fur was clearly to be seen. DVDs are similarly well-served on the Hitachi, as the VirtualHD circuitry helps present a picture that's admirably film-like. The amount of detail, and the uniformity of difficult tasks like object edges, are both dramatic on this set. Put this unit side by side with a lesser panel, and it won't be hard to see the difference.