The detail part of the Picture Master system also earns its keep, displaying high definition pictures with a sharpness and clarity that’s as good as anything we’ve seen from a plasma screen. Standard definition images, too, look crisper than is common on a TV this large.
But from here on in we get to the various picture problems we hinted at earlier, some of which we really do feel could be down to the ALIS system.
The most upsetting shortcoming occurs with the P50T01U’s black levels, which look surprisingly washed out compared with the dynamic efforts now being delivered by the latest plasma offerings from Panasonic, Samsung and Pioneer. The scenes on the surface of the comet (asteroid surely – ed.) in Armageddon (yes, I love Armageddon, so there) seem to be played out against a backdrop of gentle grey mist rather than the expected blackness and endless scale of outer space.
To be fair many LCD screens fare far worse in this respect, but the Hitachi certainly disappoints against a number of plasma rivals – and this contrast issue is definitely one of the image features that we’re starting to associate with ALIS.
Another is a rather muted look to colours. We said before that the P50T01U’s colour toning is very good, and so it is; but at the same time the picture just doesn’t enjoy the same dynamism that we’re accustomed to seeing from the best plasma and especially LCD TVs out there.
Also very disappointing is the P50T01U’s susceptibility to one of plasma technology’s oldest problems: fizzing noise over horizontal motion. This can be particularly clearly seen over skin tones, such as those on show during the tracking shots across close-ups of the key characters at the start of The Fellowship of the Ring. It affects standard definition more than high definition, but HD certainly isn’t immune.
Another issue affecting standard definition is noise, with many digital tuner broadcasts looking rather ‘alive’ with subtle dot crawl.
With its extravagant feature count, glamour-puss looks, reams of connections and really quite astonishingly low £1120 price, we really, really wanted to like Hitachi’s P50T01U. But while it’s probably just about worth considering if you’re really obsessed with getting the maximum screen size return for your buck, if it was our money we’d be trying to save a bit more to step up to something rather better. And our message for Hitachi would be that maybe just maybe it’s time to kiss ALIS good night…