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Few plasma brands have managed to combine budget prices with good performance levels as successfully as Hitachi. So it’s no surprise that it’s one of the ‘big three’ (along with Pioneer and Panasonic) currently involved in a major joint campaign to convince the public that when it comes to home cinema, plasma rather than LCD is the way to go. Shame, then, that Hitachi’s latest plasma offering, the 50in P50T01U, doesn’t do a better job of backing the pro-plasma arguments up.
Aesthetically it’s a decent looker, going for a matt black bezel rather than the common high gloss, and offsetting this with a tasteful and subtle tapered silver outer trim. It’s a nice touch about the design, too, that you can rotate the TV on its desktop stand via the remote control – handy in living rooms with multiple seating positions.
The P50T01U’s connections are mostly impressive, too. The two HDMIs and single component video input might only be par for the course, but you also get three Scarts, a digital audio output for passing on multi-channel audio received through the HDMIs, a CAM slot that reveals that the TV has a built-in digital tuner, and two options for the direct playback of digital photographs: a USB port and an SD card slot. Our only connection quibble is that there’s no dedicated D-Sub PC port, leaving you having to use one of the HDMIs for computer connection.
The generally good first impressions continue with the P50T01U’s specifications, as we find a sky-high contrast ratio claim of 10000:1, compatibility with the 1080p/50/60 formats via the HDMIs (though the 1080p/24 format about to be offered by one or two high end, high definition disc players is not an option), and a high native resolution of 1,280 x 1,080.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this resolution does not correspond to the P50T01U’s clearly 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. But the key to this apparent conundrum is the panel’s use of Hitachi’s Alternate Lighting of Surfaces (ALIS) technology.