Hitachi UltraVision 42HDX60 Plasma Monitor
Analog source material through the analog (S-video) inputs was less impressive than the digital. While color and sharpness were still first-rate, the black-level tracking wasn't nearly as good as on the digital inputs. More so than almost any other digital display I've seen, the 42HDX60 is unforgiving to poor source material. For better or worse, analog VCRs, cable boxes and laserdisc players still play a big part in many, if not most, home theaters. Living with a display like this one will likely spur many customer upgrades to digital cable, satellite and D-VHS, just as a pair of high-end speakers will often spur an upgrade in amplifier or source components.
At a time when many manufacturers—not to mention un-named OEM suppliers—are flooding the market with cheap(er) plasma panels in an effort to satisfy demand, many in the trade are already reluctantly getting used to the idea of "cheaper, not better." In particular, there are some pretty lame 42-inch panels out there, incapable of HDTV resolution, indifferently designed and manufactured, meant to sell at Wal-Mart or Internet prices. Hitachi has clearly taken a different route with the 42HDX60, designing and positioning it as a premium product, with all that implies.
From a performance standpoint, this unit can rightfully be compared to the best panels in its class—the Runcos and Pioneers of the world. From the consumer's standpoint, the Hitachi is capable of satisfying both videophiles, with its wealth of technologies and tweaks, and mainstream households, with its switching and self-contained audio capabilities, not to mention the swivel base, which in the right situation, would be a major selling point. From the C-tailer's perspective, the Hitachi offers a trusted, supported brand that is protected from Internet and other cut-rate sales.
In this day and age, the plasma market has already divided itself into two camps — the good ones and the cheap ones. While Hitachi clearly has the clout and resources to compete on the low end, it has taken the high road with the 42HDX60, and offered a no-compromise product that looks great and has just about every feature a consumer could ask for (and then some). If you've been looking for a plasma brand that you can take seriously, and that takes your customers seriously, Hitachi has made a very compelling case for itself with this product.